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Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu And National Integration
A political scientist once said that the problem with Nigeria is that people are made to feel like strangers in their fatherland, whereas chapter 11, paragragh 15 (1) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended, states that the motto of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress, while paragraph 15 ( 2) equally states that “accordingly, national integration shall be actively encouraged, while discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.”
Chapter 11, paragragh 15 (3) of the same constitution also states, inter alia, that “for the purpose of promoting national integration, it shall be the duty of the state to :
Provide adequate facilities for and encourage free mobility of people, goods and services throughout the federation; (b) secure full residence rights for every citizen in all parts of the federation and; (c) encourage intermarriage among persons from different places of origin or of different religious ethnic or linguistic ties.
Paragragh 4 provides that the “state shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the federation to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.
When the wise men that crafted the constitution put these provisions in the law of the land, their intention was to make Nigerians free to live and work without any let or hindrance in any part of the country, and by so doing achieve the much-needed national unity and cohesion.
As far back as the late 1980s, the then military governor of Niger State, Colonel David Mark, had similar vision for the country in a bid to ensure national cohesion and peaceful coexistence among the diverse people of the state when he proclaimed that anyone whose parents had stayed more than 10 years in any part of the state should be recognised as an indigene and therefore should attract all the benefits indigenes enjoy.
This proclamation continued until the indigene and non-indigene syndrome reared their ugly heads a few years back, thereby making those regarded as settlers to feel they are not part of the society where some of them had stayed for over 50 years without blemish and even investing all their resources. Sadly enough, the policy by the political leaders of the time made it possible for those described as settlers to pay the school fees of the indigenes because the non- indigenes paid not less than 1000 per cent of the school fees their indigenous counterparts paid.
It was not only in Niger State that this rape on the constitution was and is still being played out. Many states in the country both in the North and South are segregating against Nigerians in the payment of fees, employment in the civil service and other issues.
Some state governments will even go the extra mile to employ foreigners to take up positions in their ministries and departments when thousands of Nigerians qualified to take these positions are roaming the streets in search of jobs. A couple of years back, there was a case of a particular state in the North East which went to India to recruit scores of teachers in all fields to teach in its secondary schools, when Nigerians from most parts of the state were looking for teaching jobs.
This particular state government did not consider the cultural and the social backgrounds of those being brought in and the impact the action would have on its youths, while taking the decision.
That is how bad the situation has been in the nation’s drive for national integration.
This act of discrimination has not been in employment, indigene or non indigene syndrome alone. In most states of the country, the religious bias of a Nigerian is often used as yardstick for one to benefit from the state.
All hope is, however, not lost, at least, if the cheering news from Niger State is anything to go by.
Since assuming office, Governor Aliyu has not hidden his desire to use his position to achieve national peace and unity among the diverse people of the state. He has, therefore, thrown the doors of the state open to all Nigerians to do legitimate business and live peacefully and harmoniously and respect the culture and tradition of their host communities.
The first step taken by the governor was to abolish the different school fees regimes he inherited and ensure that indigenes and non-indigenes in the state had equal access to education which the government also made free for all those in public schools, notwithstanding their places of origin.
He went further to start the payment of the National Examination Council (NECO), West African School Certificate and Senior School Certificate Examination (WASC/SSCE) registration fees for all students in public schools.
The governor also stopped the contract employment system in the civil service. The policy introduced several years before Aliyu became the Chief Executive of Niger State, was designed to make non indigenes resident in the state not to be in a position to aspire to the highest level in their chosen civil service career. In abolishing the contract system policy, Aliyu said Nigerians should not be turned to foreigners in their fatherland.
When Governor Aliyu also introduced the graduate employment scheme, popularly known as the Talba Graduate Employment Scheme, he made it clear that it is open to all those resident in the state; who are ready to contribute meaningfully to the development of the state. It is on record that of the over 10,000 jobs given in the civil service by the government, under this scheme, not less than 30 per cent went to non indigenes.
Apart from his ability to always stand on the part of truth, national unity and peace during crucial national discourse, a posture for which he is now well-known by both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and members of opposition political parties in the country, Governor Aliyu set up an inter-tribal community relations committee and appointed senior special assistant, who is a non-indigene, as the head of this committee.
This is apart from a number of non-indigenes the governor gave political appointments as a way to further entrench the bond of brotherliness and friendship among the diverse ethnic groups in the state.
One policy of the government of Dr Aliyu, which the people of the state have continued to appreciate, is its religious tolerance posture. The government accords equal treatment to members of the two major religions in virtually all decision-making process.
For the first time in the history of the state, no fewer than six Christians are appointed into the state executive council even as an unprecedented number of Christians are sent to the Holy land in Israel annually.
Recently, the government took an unprecedented step when it released over N70m to the building committees of a mosque and a church in Minna. The mosque in the Tunga area and the church in the centre of Minna have been under construction for over 25 years but lack of funds had hindered their completion.
Today, by the grace of the Aliyu administration, these religious places of worship are now being used by adherents of the two religions. The projects have also added to the beauty of the capacity.
Chief Oyesikun, President of the Yoruba community in Niger State, and Eze Ndigbo, Ngozi Wahiwe, during a recent courtesy call on the governor, did not hide the feelings of the Igbo and Yoruba communities resident in the state when they told the governor that they appreciated all that the governor has been doing for non-indigenes in the state.
They promised to continue to work for the peace and progress of the state and admonished other governors to emulate Governor Aliyu, so that Nigeria can have the much talked about national unity and integration.
Laleye is Senior Special Assistant to Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu on Media Relations.Share