Nigeria will need to settle the indigenes versus settlers’ debacles of her citizens to attain profound progress in all indices of growths, Faruk Ahmed writes
My name is Faruk Ahmed Halliru Umar. I was born in Jattu, Etsako West Local Government, which has Auchi as its headquarters. Jattu is in Edo North of Edo state.
My great grandfather is from Ayogwiri. He fell in love and married a woman from Datto. Today, my family are the ruling families of both Ayogwiri and Idatto. And the Imams of both towns reside in the family.
My mother is also from Datto.
My grandfather, Halliru, also established a home in Jattu, close to its market. At this Jattu house is a mosque where five daily prayers are made, led by members of my family.
I emigrated with my father to Kano in 1992. Since then, I have lived most of my adult life in Kano than Jattu.
Map of Jattu, Edo state
Well, why am I disturbing you with this tale of my ancestors and Islam?
I am trying to establish that even though tales from my forebears indicate that they were converted to Islam, we, their progenies, were born into the religion and have been its practitioners since we learnt to walk.
That is, just as we have relations who are Christians and some who are still traditional worshippers.
‘Kamar tinya, kamar katanta!’
Please forgive the above proverb if it isn’t correct. My wife whom I might call a Hausa is the one that taught me it.
My point is this: just the way Edo North ancestors were traditional worshippers, Kano ancestors were also naked idol worshippers. That is, until Arab traders brought them the religion of Islam.
But even the Arabs do not have the monopoly of the religion.
Allah (SWT) says, “O mankind! We created you from a single man and woman and we made you into nations and tribes so that you may know each other. Indeed, the most honourable in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you…” (Suratul Hujurat, v.13).
Did Allah say the BEST among you is an Arab or a Hausa? No!!!!!
97 percent of Kano residents are non-indigenes
The aboriginal people of Kano are almost extinct today. They have intermarried with other settlers. Their present-day progenies have bloods which are highly diluted with the bloods of other states, regions or even countries.
That is why you see communities like Ayagi which had predominantly Yoruba settlers, Tudun Nufawa with the Nupes, Zangon Beriberi with the Kanuris and Yakasai with settlers from Jigawa, Yoruba, Igala and even Edo.
Map of Kano state
Today, the descendants of the inhabitants of the aforementioned places see themselves as Kano indigenes even though their ancestors weren’t.
If you want to get a concentrated Hausa person, you will have to search for Maguzawas. In places like Tudun Wada, Rano, Rogo and other southernmost cities. These maguzawas till today are either Christians or traditional worshippers.
And as legend has it, even the emirs of Kano are not indigenes. They were Fulani herders who grabbed the leadership of the city from its indigenous rulers through Islamic evangelism and the sharp point of steel.
Olu of Kano
When I shared the first draft of this article, Yakubu Adamu Geshere, called and asked: “Have you ever heard a lecture where the late fiery preacher Kalarawi said that an Olu (a Yoruba monarch) will soon be emir of Kano?” When I answered in the negative, he implored me to research the matter.
And this is what I found out.
The late mother of the current emirs of Kano and Bichi emirates, Hajiya Maryam Ado Bayero, was a princess from the Ilorin ruling class. BBC Pidgin reports that “Hajia Maryam Bayero na di daughter of di Emir of Ilorin, wife of di former emir of Kano”.
Even though the emirs of Ilorin are rumored to have Fulani heritage, the current crops of the rulers see themselves plainly as Yorubas.
If we are to go with the rulings of Kalarawi and people like Dr. Haidar Garba, one can safely say that “Two Olus are the current rulers of Kano and Bichi emirates”.
Chapter III of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria states that a person can become a citizen of the country either by birth, registration or naturalization.
Specifically, section 25 (a and b) states that the persons “born in Nigeria (before and) after the date of independence either of whose parents or any of whose grandparents is a citizen of Nigeria” are citizens of Nigeria.
The subsection (c) went further by incorporating those born outside the country so far either of their parents is a citizen of Nigeria.
And the mother of all graces was section 27(2)(g)(i) which stated that a foreigner who has “resided in Nigeria for a continuous period of fifteen years” can apply and obtain the citizenship of the country.
Now, if you will allow me to digress a little, Section 147 of the constitution ordered the president of the federation to appoint at least “one Minister from each State, who shall be an indigene of such State.”
Allow me further to pose a question which Mr. Auwalu Aminu Abubakar asked me in the Kano Passionate Teachers WhatsApp group. He quipped, “What is the criteria of being indigene or non-indigene?”
This is a paradox!
Who is an indigene?
The constitution of Nigeria says you are a Nigerian citizen so far you are born to parents who are citizens of the country. But according to the constitution through the Federal Character principle, you cannot aspire to represent a state at local, state or federal level if your ancestors are not originally from the area.
That is, even if your forebears were born there and the state collects your tax payments.
So far you do not have the identical construct of the ‘indigene’ claimants of the area, you are not qualified.
But the question on the everyone’s lips is, “Who is an indigene?”
This is because most Nigerians emigrated from their ancestral homes to other places in search of greener pastures, settled and built a family. And some have lived in these new places for generations. Will you then deny them indigeneship?
The constitution was silent on this.
Indigenes v Settlers: Cause of communal clashes
Researchers have identified the issue of indigenes versus settlers as the main crux of the incessant inter-communal clashes that have plagued in Nigeria since independence.
And as Drs. Abimbola O. Adesoji and Akin Alao noted in their paper, Indigeneship and Citizenship in Nigeria: Myth and Reality, while the Beroms and Amos of Jos and its surrounding villages see themselves as the indisputable indigenes of the state, they view the Hausa-Fulanis as settlers or strangers. And so, when the latter aspire for political positions and succeed, “crises arising from a clash of interests occurred in the state at different time between 1994” to date, the authors said.
That is even though the Hausa Fulanis have lived in Jos for many generations.
This same scenario plays out in Kano where the Igbos, Yorubas and other non-Hausas can only aspire and win the councillorship of the Sabon Gari ward which is predominantly inhabited by ‘non-indigenes’. But these ‘settlers’ cannot aspire for a foot span outside their enclave.
Further examples are the rivalries that play out between the Jukuns and Tivs in the Wukari area of Taraba state, the Tivs and the Azara groups of Nasarawa state, and the supremacy battle between the Ifon-Osun, Erin-Osun and Ilobu communities over which group settled first in their area of Osun state.
Immigrants are blessings
Take the best, make them develop your city. Sieve out the bad ones and reorient them.
The above maxim is what take place in most advanced nations in the world.
The world’s most developed countries, United States of America and United Kingdom, have a high percentage of immigrants.
Today, Kamala Harris, a black American with Jamaican and Indian roots is the Vice President of the USA. Meanwhile, Sadiq Khan, a Muslim with Pakistani root is the mayor (governor) of London.
In Africa, the most developed country (South Africa) and the most populous country (Nigeria) have a high mixture of non-natives.
The present richest man on earth, Elon Musk, is a South African. But does he have the looks and name of natives like Nelson Mandela? No!
And where do Nigerians get cheap labour from and where does the Core North get the numbers that shore up their electoral values? Niger Republic settlers!
And then when you come down to Nigeria, you will find that the states with the best economy (Lagos) and that with the highest population (Kano) were still aided by ‘bakin haure’.
Between 1999 to 2007, former governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos state engaged best brains from neighbouring states to man critical ministries of his state. These included current vice-president Yemi Osinbajo (a native of Ogun State, justice ministry), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun state, works), Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti state, information) and more.
Most communities in Nigeria resist settlers from getting any gains in the name that those dividends are reserved for indigenes. Benefits such as education, appointments, political aspirations are hot cakes best served to the sons of the soil.
If a settler wants to enjoy these denied opportunities, he or she would have to claim indigeneship. That is before he or she is fished out by the locals in one way or the other.
But these segregators do not hesitate to claim outstanding settlers as their own.
In Kano for example, late heads of state, Generals Murtala Mohammed and Sani Abacha, Alhaji Isyaku Rabiu, Tanko Yakasai, have been claimed by the ‘indigenes’ of the state, even though they themselves have shown otherwise.
But the scenario of claiming worthy immigrants is not only committed by Kano indigenes. The west, most especially the Americans and the British, are notorious for the offense.
When the Nigerian boxer Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua won the WBA (Super), IBF, WBO, and IBO titles from December 2019 to September 2021, the western press praised him to high heavens as an accomplished “British-Nigerian”.
But if he had been a criminal, the headlines would have read, “Nigerian caught trafficking cocaine” or “Nigerian burgles a home”.
There are many people in the north, particularly Kano, who did their kindergarten, primary, secondary and even tertiary educations in the state alone without stepping a foot outside the boundaries of the state. Even when they are posted for national youth service, they scheme with corrupt officials to transfer themselves back to their states of origin or nearby states. And so, they have little to no world view of what is available around them.
These kinds of people abound in the southern and the northern parts of Nigeria.
A neighbour in Kano, Ali Ahmad, narrated how a youth from south south came to serve in the state. The parents of the girl were calling her intermittently to enquire about her well-being. “Hope those mallos have not killed you?”, “Are you okay?”, and so on, went their series of calls.
But what will surprise you, the lady in question was in good health and in a relaxed mood. She had to continually allay their fears that she was not in harm ways.
Pots calling kettles black
What might dismay you is that this ethnic proclivity does not stop with young men and women.
There is even a learned man who claims to hold a doctorate degree holder(!) that is among these ethnic jingoists. These people can’t see beyond their noses.
If not, how do you explain a person that says an Edo man shouldn’t complain of the problems in the education sector of Kano state since the southeast, south south and southwest states of Nigeria also reek of such problems.
Let me quote him: “(Educational retrogression) is not only in Dalaland (Kano). It’s a nationwide issue. In fact, it was imported into the state from the Cocoa and Coconut states. Most of the private schools are owned by such people who deliberately introduced malpractices to siphon our resources in the name of extra lessons and miracle centres. The earlier we realised the truth and act on it the better.”
This kind of people feel the cultural intercourse, political awareness and economic proliferations that resulted from the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 was a mistake. Hence, a physical wall of dichotomy should be built to permanently demarcate the south from the north of the country.
In today’s era of civilization and globalization!
Well, even if their dream is achieved, their cohabitants in their future regions will not still have rest of mind. This is because these supposed ‘indigenes’ will see the Idomas, Tivs, Igalas, Ebiras, Nupes, and so on as not ‘northern’ enough.
But one perplexing issue is that if you make a forensic DNA check on these ‘ethnic champions’, you could bet your 7K on the fact that you will find an ancestor whose blood has nothing to do with Hausa nor Fulani.
Citizenship of the US
The United States award certificates of citizenship or naturalization, not indigeneship certificates which Nigerian governments offer.
According to a document by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the benefits of its citizens include voting, bringing one’s family to the United States, obtaining citizenship for children born abroad, becoming eligible for federal jobs and even becoming an elected official.
And let’s say you asked, “Who is a US citizen?”
For one to become a U.S. citizen he or she needs to “take the Oath of Allegiance,” which entails giving up prior allegiance to any other nation. Then, one is also expected to support and defend the constitution and the laws of the United States.
So, if tomorrow, Malam Aminu Tanko naturalizes and becomes a United States citizen and he keeps a good track record, in the next ten years you could find him seating on the Resolute desk of the Oval Office overseeing the affairs of the United States of America from the White House.
Is this scenario possible in Nigeria? I would leave the answer to you.
Turning over a new leaf
Many scholars have cited the Federal Character which institutionalized indigeneship, as a relic which worked well after the Civil War from 1970s to 80s. But today, it is doing more harm than good.
And just as Dr. Adesoji puts it, “Like in many societies the world over, the indigenes-settlers’ syndrome in Nigeria is an age long problem.” And this problem has bloomed crises that “have defied all known logic.”
The Federal Character breeds mediocrity and politics of ethnicity. Instead of politics of excellence and development. And the mediocrity is affecting all sectors of the nation including education, health, finance, judiciary and the security.
Will a nation grow with such sectionalism?
So, how do we move forward? Firstly, the constitution should strike out the word ‘indigene’ from its syllables and in its place insert ‘citizen’.
How come a foreigner can attain citizenship of the country after 15 years of continued stay in the country? But a citizen of the country cannot attain indigeneship of his host community. Where he or she had lived for generations.
Secondly, there should be a practical implementation of the policies across all societies. Nigerians should see themselves first as fellow citizens, then any other consideration like tribe, religion can follow.
In this way, we can collectively move our communities, local governments, state and the nation forward.
Tomorrow, Malam Garba will not question Osaro’s pokenosing in the affairs of Kano state. This is because Osaro is also a citizen of Kano.