I have read Dr. Aliyu Tilde’s article here and Prof. Chidi Odinkalu’s response here. I must say that these are crucial pieces in a conversation about citizenship and belonging in Nigeria that we all should be having more often. I take issue with some of the points Dr. Tilde has raised in his piece and I am careful not to recount what Odinkalu and other speakers have already raised in this response to respected Dr. Aliyu Tilde.
First, I wish to know where Tilde got the idea of “North” and “South” for his conspiracy theory from. Are we supposed to believe that the proposal for residency instead of indigeneship comes from the south? Where exactly is the North? Governor Yuguda (that’s Tilde’s Governor) of Bauchi State is on record as willing to grant ‘Bauchi State Citizenship’ to all non-indigenes who live in Bauchi State for 7 years. Sokoto State is said (that in an International Crisis Group’s recent report) to have already abolished indigeneship and proposed as a model for Plateau State. So who is it that seeks refuge behind the walls of tribalism and ethnicity with whom Tilde has been campaigning and voting? To those asking “How many northerners reside outside d North compared with them [Southerners]”, I ask in return: is this North you refer to a single State or are you so backward that you don’t bother to cross your own State boundary?
It was not clear to me whether the website www.constitutionreview.org belongs to the Senate Committee on constitutional Review who I assume own the number 20052 or if it belongs to the Northern campaigner who sent Dr. Tilde the sms. But in either case, I would not vote since I suspect I am being lied to, for example, by being referred to a source of information that contains no information. My attitude is to think that the sms vote is one of those campaigns where the verdict has already been written before the votes are in.
But if there were a genuine referendum on the question of “state of residence” vs. “state of origin”, how shall I vote? I will vote YES to state of residence. I agree with Tilde that there is a gross oversimplification of the residency proposal. Some actually think of ‘residency’ as the new tribe – not as a new category for inclusive right of citizenship in Nigeria; but categories through which the non-resident ‘others’ would be discriminated against. That is something we need to debate about some more, but for now, let us campaign against indigeneity some more.
I could afford to vote NO to residency too, like Tilde since I come only from Pankshin, Plateau State where my mother lives and where all my known ancestors have lived and are buried. But across Nigeria there are many people who unlike me are considered migrants in the places they live even though they don’t have any roots in their alleged places of origin. This is the case for some Hausa people in Jos. These are the people always looking for old friends to sign attestations that they belong in the [only] places they call home. A YES to residency would be a vote for them today and for me tomorrow when I move maybe to Tilde in Bauchi State and can no longer point to the grave of my father as proof of my belonging.
Tilde is selling the warped view that the conflict in Jos, Plateau State created the problems of citizenship in Nigeria. On the contrary, it is the confusions in citizenship law and practice in Nigeria that created and is sustaining the Jos conflict. It is no coincidence therefore, that the conflict in Jos has become so intractable since our return to democratic rule in 1999. It is the realisation that ‘indigenes’ could make certain claims that non-indigenes cannot make that raises the competition about who is an indigene and who is not. If we take away the advantage and make indigeneity a wholly cultural matter that has no bearing on our national life and citizenship, it would fade away from consciousness and matter no more than the difference between those who join a cooperative and those who don’t. Let’s make it clear that Plateau is not the only state where there are/have been conflicts between indigenes and settlers – I will let you make the list. The recipe for the Jos conflict is present in all of our 36 states and, importantly, in the Federal Capital Territory.
I agree with Tilde, the rights of citizenship are many. And they are theoretically limitless since citizens in a democracy have the power to change the laws and add more rights to themselves. In my view, the rights of citizenship in a republic should suffice and we should not need any special privileges from states of origin as indigenes. The category of being indigenous should be useful only in cultural matters such as the propagation of a language and not a determinant to anything. Take away the precondition of indigeneity from the performance of national citizenship and we will see how many Aba based indigenes of Bauchi State would bother to visit Bauchi again. What pride is there in a child that would not answer his father’s name? It is the child’s pride in answering his/her own name.
I have a problem with Tilde’s analysis that speaks of North and South as though they are real. A few more months would mark the centenary of when Luggard merged the Northern and Southern Protectorates into one “country” and hoisted the Union Jack over it all. Admittedly, the colony was based on the Southern and Northern Protectorates; the Northern Protectorate might have been based on the Sokoto Caliphate etc. But how far back should we trace the categories of our analysis? Can we afford to go back to the point when the earth was all water and Odudua descended that celestial rope ready to pour forth the world from a snail shell? At some point, we need to shift forward our frame of analysis; Tilde sir, the Northern Region is defunct and there is no North (or South). If you set your compass from Lagos, the whole country is in the North and if you were to arrive Nigeria at Kano and set your compass, the whole country lies to the south. So let us borrow from Nkrumah’s dictum and face neither North nor South but forward.
“Let me – the North – be left alone. With my illiteracy, poverty, almajiri, ethnic conflicts, etc”. I am not sure if this is meant to be sarcastic or as a joke. But I will respond to it. The trick to appropriate the suffering of others from within one’s comfort zone and use it to seek advantage allegedly on the behalf of the sufferer is an old one. Nowadays, people easily see through it. Tilde is neither illiterate, poor, an Almajiri nor (to the best of my knowledge) an ethnic warrior. If there are people who are content to be left in this situation, they are not Tilde and Tilde is not them and should not speak for them. Except if it is the desire to lord over them – like the debased wife-beater who answers the door with a cosmetic smile and says all is well eager for the neighbour to go away so he can continue. But also, we have laws in Nigeria against illiteracy and against conflicts of all kind. Anyone who engages in them breaks the law and cannot reasonably ask to be left alone.
No sir, you will not be left alone because simply put; you do not live alone.
Nengak Daniel Gondyi
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