ABUJA: Dilemma of a lost Heritage by Chigudu Tanko Theophilus - News and More

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Thursday 7 October 2021

ABUJA: Dilemma of a lost Heritage by Chigudu Tanko Theophilus



“We want all existing evils which go to make us degraded in the eyes of the modern world and our neighbor’s swept away with courage and determination without fear or favor. We are tired of marking time in the name of ‘fine tradition’.

(Extract from the 1950 letter of resignation from the public service by Aminu Kano, reproduced in Sunday triumph, 24th April 1983, p.6.


In recent times, one common maxim we have heard people say is, “Abuja is a no man’s land”; even the government does everything possible to make it so, and then validates such assertion with the mercenaries it often deploys to govern the Federal Capital Territory. Such instance can be drawn from the demolition exercise carried out in the FCT. This exercise has notbeen of any benefit to the indigents considering its mode of implementation and the picture it portrays to other Nigerians as though Abuja has no indigenes; and so, should be regarded likea land for all and sundry. However, the question is, were there no people in this part of the country as at the time the plan for the FCT was drafted for the land which is now the capital of Nigeria? 


With the creation of the Federal Capital on this part of the country came the problems of the indigenous people of FCT. Over the years, these people have been condemned and marginalized in their own land. They have been denied countlessrights and privileges. Oftentimes they cry and plead for the preservation of their heritage, but no one cares; they demand for their rights and privileges, but nobody consents. In fact, people now refer to the land which the indigenous people once proudly preserved their heritage as “no man’s land. This denial, discrimination and marginalization has not only distorted theirculture, but has also affected them economically, politically, socially and psychologically, to the point where a number of them have given up the fight for their rights and land.


However, one unique and loudly commendable attribute of the indigenous people of Abuja is that, regardless of the marginalization and harsh treatment meted on them by the government and other privileged Nigerians, they have remained peaceful and accommodative. This form of cruelty can only be likened to the case of “smiling and crying; as majority of themstill hope in the government to tend to their demands, a hope which may seem delusional, as all indications suggest they may need far more than that. 


The indigenous people of Abuja need to come to terms with the fact that, to reclaim that which belongs to them, it begins with them. In order to curtail marginalization, denial and discrimination, the people must rise up relentlessly in unison, and with one voice, exerting pressure on the demand for what belongs to them. There comes a time in every man’s life when he must choose to either be free or forever remain a slave; now is such time for the FCT natives.


Amidst the injustice meted to the indigenous people of Abuja, the most worrisome factor, is the continuous deliberate exclusion of the people in piloting the affairs of their state. While other states may boast of three Senators and numerous federal representatives, Abuja has only one Senator and twofederal representatives. The people, without mincing words,have been taken for granted and denigrated. In their own land of bountiful resources, a number of them live in squalor and sometimes even go hungry to bed when there is abundance toeat and spare. To make matters worse, the demolition exercise has rendered some homeless and seized their farmlands as well, leaving them with no choice than relocate to other communities where they become total strangers with no history nor heritage; while in more devastating cases, a number of them live, sleep and eat on the streets, staring hopelessly as the bulldozers and caterpillars level their homes to rubbles. Most frustrating, is the government’s reference to the demolition as a “resettlement exercise”. For whatever reason any resettlement exercise may be, the people are not against it, but against its poor implementation and so-called compensation that is not properly carried out


One thing the government needs to understand is that, no indigenous person(s) is against the restructuring of the FCT, instead, they agitate for appropriate integration into the system,rather than resettled out of their land. Like every other Nigerian, they wish to feel this sense of belonging and the attachment to their origin and culture. 


Recently, the most terrifying news making rounds, is the consequent plan to erase completely, the only most revered home of the indigents (Garki villageout of the metropolis. When this is achieved, the extinction of an entire race from theworld map will be complete. Sadly, the imminent relocation of this Gbagyi settlement out of the metropolis to wherever the government proposes, indicates that, the people will have to start new lives in strange lands; lands where they will be squatters to the original inhabitants; lands where they have no stories, no histories and no heritageThere is no worse form of killing someone than such alienation and infringement. 


Public officers and policy makers also pose as custodian of history, a knowledge with which they execute their duties; as such, the formulating policies which seek to relocate every settlement to strange lands—including historically relevant ones to the people— is a very wrong push on the prerogative of any people or race. The implication being that, more resources are wasted on the exercise which should be useful for development of the land intended to resettle the people. Essentially, Garki village—being the only settlement where the cultural heritage of the indigenous people of FCT is hoisted—deserves to be preserved and developed towards sustaining the culture of the people who embraced the nation and offered their land as a medium for integration. 


In view of the above, there is a maxim stating that, where problems abound, solutions will also be available. As such, nohope is lost, that whatever may have been denied of the indigenous people of Abuja in the past and present, are still redeemable in the nearest future. But for the possibility of this hope to take a fruitful swing, below, are suggestions on ways to approach the subject.


First, unity of purpose amongst the indigenous people of the FCT—regardless of ethnicity— is paramount in imploring all factors key to achieving the struggle. To be candid, unity islacking amongst the indigenous people of FCT, and this has largely affected any form of agitation instituted by any one or group of peopleThis division amongst the people can be likened to cancer, considering how deep it has eaten into their psychologies. To come close to achieving this goal, the people must set aside their differences and put first the interest of generations to come, which they are responsible for. This bond will be the driving force behind the evolution of a people who have endured all forms of persecutions from a government which owes them beyond measure. A brief research revealed that, the unity of the people and their prospects of victory would be better served and achieved if they recognize the essence of raising their voices together, just like the musical allusion by Michael Jackson which says “There’s nothing that can’t be done if we raise our voices as one.”


Political participation is another factor that should be taken seriously if the indigenous people must achieve this feat. Often times, this aspect seems to be continuously neglected. This third world and contemporary age we are in now, demands seriousactive participation of individuals in affairs relative to the governance of their people. The fact is this, if we as a people fail to participate actively in the politics of our land, how then should we expect satisfactory representation? The cry of thepeople of FCT will only be heard when they have competent representatives representing them at all levels of government.


Poor leadership is another major factor which has contributed to the problems confronting the FCT natives. The degree of laxity exercised by the FCT leaders have stereotyped them before their counterparts and created a massive loophole for them to be over-ridden. Their failure to press on these issues for redress, has defeated the essence of their being elected into offices. It has largely contributed to the way people perceive them, and ittherefore further promotes disunity amongst them and their followers. Since the commencement of this fourth republic democracy, the Area Council Chairmen, House of Representatives and Senator have never come together in one accord to synergize and fight with one voice for the same cause. Rather, political and Party differences have kept them at par with one another; with every one of them trying to mind his business; not even the traditional leaders—as the custodians of culture—have made any reasonable attempt towards the preservation of the cultural heritage they are tasked to sustain. 


Although there exist some forms of disagreement within the traditional leaders of the FCT, which has further sub-divided the natives, it is time to put an end to such disunity and make concerted efforts towards the achievement of this cause for the greater good of the entire FCT natives and for the generations to come.

In this day and age, active participation in politics is essential for the development of any people, society or nation. In the light of events which have helped in shaping the present issues confronting the indigenous people of Abuja, there is need for the leaders—be they political or traditional— to utilize their positions and offices in challenging narratives which bear consequent complicity to the people who they lead or represent. It is in this light that it becomes important to participate in politics; that you exercise your right to vote and be voted for. 


In recent times, politics has brought immense disregard to culture, causing traditional rulers to lose relevance in their own societies, and making them lose the power to influence policies liable to threaten the preservation and sustenance of their own cultural heritage; which may not look good for the coming generations. Hence the need to project the cultures of the natives of Abuja to the world, again, and again, until there is no other talking point trending better.


Education ianother tool for the liberation of a person and a people or race. Before now, majority of FCT natives dinot consider education to be of any relevance to them, as they paid more attention to farming. But today the story has changed. The people now revere and acknowledge education as the only light capable of illuminating their future; which is why you hear and find voices today rising to the defense of their land with sound intellectual points


Education remains unarguably the engine or propellant of any nation’s development. Education is the basic tool for economic, social and political development…anyone working with this tool is working with, perhaps, the greatest tool ever invented by man.


In conclusion, it is necessary that both political and traditional leaders eliminate whatever differences that may abound amongst them, come together and form a quorum or committee mandated to reviewing whichever policy formulated in relation to the FCT and its affairs. These leaders are also to equip their youths intellectually and with the resources they may require for effective participation in the struggle. Students’ unions and other youth groups are some pressure groups that requires the support of the political and traditional leaders. These unions usually stand as representatives or proofs of literacy and civilization, and oftentimes the youth groups and students’ unions offset more drive into such struggles, with stronger determinations and defiance than most political office holders and traditional leaders. As such, a unity of purpose needs to be formulated by the FCT natives comprising of contributors from various status and skillsets for effective agitation. It is only by such unity with the consciousness of every FCT native that Abuja is their only land and heritage—and deserves to be defended—that this struggle can be achieved.


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