RE: CALLING THE ATTENTION OF MIDDEBELTERS TO OUR COMMON PROBLEMS
(Being a letter written to former Senate President, Dr. Iorchia Ayu, by AUGUSTUS ABUH, a Kano based Barrister-at-Law. 8th February, 2005.)
Immediately after the general election which your party clearly won I wrote congratulating you because it was your leadership ability couple with your experience that brought victory to P.D.P. Up till today, the oppositions are still struggling to hold a single convention since 1999. Once again, I say congratulations.
In that congratulatory letter I pleaded that you begin a meeting of the Middle-belt political and elective office holders because you and many others around you are capable of leading your own people instead of c continuing appendage to a group of enslavers.
I want to bring to your notice that it is possible for Nigeria to break up just like it happened in other places.
Sir, history attests to this. Since the signing of the UN charter in San Francisco in 1945, the state of Nation States kept on changing. As at 1945, there were about 50 Countries. Twenty years later, in 1965, the States have multiplied to about 100. Today, as I am writing, there are over 200 Countries registered as members of United Nations Organization and, may be, as I am still writing some States are in the process of formation.
I am not advocating for secession, neither am I supporting those advocating for secession. My concern is – What if in the process of all these manipulations and intrigues Nigeria ceases to be one; where lies the Middle-belt? What has the Middle-belt and her people benefited from the Federation called Nigeria? Even if the country does not break, shall our people continue to wallow in poverty and our people only remain farm centers where food is produced and moved to the North, South, East and West. For there is no part of this country that Middle-belt does not supply food.
The North has their agriculture developed to an enviable position through construction and maintenance of Dams, which are scattered everywhere in the North. There is good network of roads that helps the farmers to carry their goods to the towns and equally helps long vehicles and trains [in those days] to penetrate and lift goods from their farms. There have been developed commercial towns like Kano and Maiduguri, to mention but a few.
There is even Katsina Steel Rolling Mill. The Bank of the North, which we own together, had helped their businessmen to establish viable businesses because they are open to loans and facilities. These facilities are not open to our people since there are only few branches of the Bank of the North. Northern Nigeria Development Company, which is run with our money, had subsidiary companies only in their North.
The Eastern part of Nigeria with all their shout of marginalization has commercial centers and cities scattered all over; have industries and federal institutions scattered here and there in the zone: Onitsha, Aba, Umuahia, Enugu with its international trade flair, Federal Universities at Nsukka, Awka, Umudike, Owerri, International Airports at Enugu and, recently, Owerri.
The South-South of the Niger Delta has the petroleum already developed; have their human resources developed; have through petroleum resources made contacts with the world. Whether we like it or not, they are a force to reckon with. They can raise a standard army any day; they can muster human and material resources to harass the other parts of the country if they want. They have Federal Universities, other Federal Government establishments, International Airport, Export Processing Zone, Functioning sea port.
The most arable land for agriculture in Nigeria is found in the Middle-belt. But are they not largely subsistence? Is there any articulated agricultural programrne designed by the Federal Government aimed at developing agriculture in the Middle-belt? With all the waters in and around the Middle-belt, would it not have been easy to built dams in the Middle-belt? All the River Basin Authorities in the Middle-belt appears abandoned. Last year, the Federal Government earmarked N8billion to be spent on Hadejia Jama’are River Basin Development Authority. Yet, majority of what they produce are fruits, which are seasonal. All other products that look as if they are produced in Kano are only brought to Kano because of its large market.
The west has commercial centers scattered all over the places – industries, banks and institutions of great repute developed for them. They have entrenched themselves in every aspect of Nigeria today. There is no establishment, no parastatal and institutions that you will come in today that you will not see the West in an entrenched position.
They have captains of industries who have distinguished themselves in various ways. The reason is that they had a visionary leadership and articulated Government attention. They cannot be pushed aside anywhere in the world as it is today. There are Federal Universities, Sea port, International Airport, Road networks and the cocoa industry developed for them. Recently, the Federal Government has embarked on the development of bitumen in Ondo State, and plans are on the way for a liquefied natural gas plant in Ondo State by the Federal Government.
What have we benefited from the Federal Government as a people and as a group? What can we look unto today in the Middle-belt and say that it is the impact of the Federal Government, except large army of unfulfilled retired military and police officers.
The Middle-belt has the largest numbers of retired majors and colonels because our people must not be allowed to successfully complete their careers in the military or police before they are forcefully retired. The few that appear to have successful and fulfilled careers are those that agreed to deny themselves and remain forever in servitude to their Hausa/Fulani lords. Which state in the Middle-belt can boast of any resources or attractive city or commercial center or developed market?
Our people keep on running to the North where their lives are not safe; but because they must survive, they have no choice but to run there. No developed Airport in the whole of the Middle-belt, no developed Sea Port or even Waterways.
There is no Federal University in the Middle-belt that we can conveniently say that it has the capacity to admit our children. They are all over places with wonderful JAMB results kneeling for admissions, and changing names for admissions’ sake. Where is our rallying point? No attractive town except Jos, simply because of the good weather. Even that Jos, what is it today? Jos used to be zonal offices of JAMB, NITEL, but they have been removed in a circumstance one cannot understand.
Ajaokuta Iron and Steel Company, which would have been one light that lightens everywhere in the Middle-belt, has been allowed to be a victim of political manipulation. If that project has been in any other part of Nigeria, it would have been completed long ago. Yet, our leaders have refused to see reason to raise alarm over the issues.
The level of poverty in the Middle-belt is worse than any other part of Nigeria. Even when Federal positions are reserved for us in the Middle-belt, Hausa/Fulani settlers in the Middle-belt hijack them using their already connections in their home states.
Sir, we need a voice and we need a rallying point. Can you make yourself available? Can you arise and play the man for your people by speaking and acting? Can you come down from your exalted position and join force with your brothers to save your own place, the place of your birth and the home of your fathers from extinction? Heaven will remember you and history will smile at you.
AUGUSTUS ABUH, Kano-based Barrister-at-Law