Dogo: We need strong will to realise our goal
Elder Saidu Dogo is chairman of Northern States Elders Forum (NORSEF), Kaduna State. He is a past secretary general of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Northern States and Abuja. He spoke with SAXONE AKHAINE, Northern Bureau Chief, on why efforts at national integration have failed in Nigeria.
Since independence in 1960, attempts have been made towards national integration, especially, through constitutional provisions.
How far do you think the various governments have worked to realise the goals of national integration
I will say it is very unfortunate that the goals have not been realised as initially intended. If you look at the history of this country, you will discover that we have a tripod arrangement — the north, east and the west, with other areas, which were amalgamated in 1914. The colonial masters, unfortunately, made the amalgamation.
Nigerians should have seen to it that it was a good thing to be united. As you may have also seen in the course of history, various attempts have been made to bring the people of this country together, even through constitutional means, but the will power is not there to realise the goals. We still have this dichotomy. However, I believe that if the politicians had wanted this thing to succeed, it would have. The will power, that is the general problem we have in this country.
And then, some other issues cropped in, such as, the religious dichotomy. It is so unfortunate, you go to states, even in the North here, and where you have people of the same ethnic group, because of their religion, are discriminated against. And so, national integration seems to be thrown away. Nobody cares about it, such that today, you have somebody who is a non-Nigerian coming from another country, he will be accepted better because of his religion. And a Nigerian born and bred here, and of the same tribe, but because of the religious dichotomy he is completely discriminated against in his own domain. So, this is the problem we have in this country; and unless there is a will power on the side of the government to make a law and enforce it, on the need for unity of purpose and national integration among our people, all effort towards it will be futile.
For instance, every Nigerian has the right to live anywhere and any part of the country. And that is what we in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have been fighting for. You cannot have a child born in Kaduna and you ask him or her to go back to Imo State to collect indigene certificate. This is absolutely wrong. It is a stupid thing, because it doesn’t make sense. Barack Obama is the President of America today, but his father is from Kenya. His father was not American originally, but since that boy was born there, he became a bona fide American and he has all rights, and that is why today he is there as a President. Why can’t we do the same thing here? We are practicing Presidential system of government in Nigeria, which is adopted from United States. But, you see the lies and hypocrisy, that is the problems we have in this country.
Do you think the Buhari administration today, can integrate the nation such that the issues of inter-marriages and mobility among the diverse ethnic groups can be strengthened?
If there is the will power, like I said earlier, this government can easily do it. Let me say something here again, you have to prosecute offenders of the laws to make a point. If you don’t have the will power and you are not ready, then you are just wasting time. For instance, I had an occasion to have experienced an incident, where somebody, who was born in Kaduna here, that is, Kaduna South Local Council, and was given residency certificate different from indigene certificate. I was the secretary of CAN in the North then, and when we took the matter up, I went to the chairman of the council and asked him what rubbish was that. Somebody was born here and you are telling him that he is only entitled to residence certificate.
And I told him that we know of people who are not from Nigeria, they are here and they have indigene certificate. Do you know the implication? The man became scared and later gave him the indigene certificate. These are the type of things that should be stopped. We have an enabling law to prosecute people who are offenders; if we apply the laws this kind of problems will stop. You see, all the provisions to strengthen national integration are in the Constitution, unfortunately, are not prosecuted.
As former Secretary of CAN in the 19 Northern States, from your experience how does the religious dichotomy in the country work against national integration?
Let me be very frank, the issue of religion mostly in the North is something else. The North is supposed to lead by example, and by that, people from other parts of the country will emulate such efforts geared towards integration. But, I am telling you in Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, even Kaduna State where I come from, today, somebody who comes from Chad or Niger, who is a Muslim, will be more accepted here and integrated. Look, it is a very funny thing.
came to me from one council area; I won’t like to mention the person’s name. By then, I was the Secretary of CAN and he believed that I had the ears of the government, and he said I should help him get the caretaker committee chairman of a local government. And when he told me that…he is a friend and he came from that local government. Then suddenly he rang me and told me that his brother has become the President of a neighbouring country near Nigeria here. He told me that he was going for the inauguration and I told him that I would go with him, at least, as a mark of solidarity with him.
Then, I didn’t see him again. He had left for that country. This was somebody who wanted to be a local government caretaker committee chairman in Kaduna State, Nigeria. This is to tell you that he had already been accepted and integrated in Nigeria, though he is not a Nigerian. You can see the irony. Now, this is the problem of religion in the north. You will also see that in Kano, people that are Christians, who are indigenes, but have no other place to claim, are being discriminated against. That is what is happening in the north. Unless we correct what is happening in the north effort at national integration in the country will fail. Religion has made integration virtually impossible in the north.
What is your advice to the Federal Government if the dream of national integration is to be realised in Nigeria?
Let me be very clear on this issue. Thank God that President Buhari has been following the history of the nation since in the 1960s. He saw what happened. During the time of Sardauna, the premier was talking of the north. And there was no discrimination against any ethnic group or religion. In fact, the north was so successful to the extent that Ahmadu Bello University was rated as one of the best universities around. There were so many Christians like, Professor Ishaya Audu, a Fulani man, who is a Christian, and he became the Vice Chancellor. And he was given all the cooperation that he needed and brought the University to excel in all fronts. Most of the lecturers were also Christians. There was no discrimination and there was progress in the north. Suddenly, the religious aspects came in and look at what the north and Nigeria has turned into today.
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