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Wale Odunsi: The ‘Northernality’ of FCT Leadership
I have taken time to construct a comprehensive foreword to this article so that even those of us that arrived earth after/a few years before Nigeria independence will have a grasp of my point. Like they say, it is one thing to talk; it is another to justify the talk.
Prior to the attainment of independence, the desire of many Nigerians was to have a country devoid of injustice, where all citizens, will enjoy the rights, privileges and opportunities that the country offers. However as the clamour for independence deepened, the expectation of an egalitarian Nigeria was far from being realized.
By 1975, the issue of federal character had become a serious political issue. The setting up of a Constitutional Drafting Committee in 1977 by late General Murtala Mohammed’s government was part of the efforts to resolve the problems of inequality and marginalisation that were expressed by many Nigerians. Thus, as part of its proposals and in discussing issues of marginalisation, the Constitution Drafting Committee adopted the term “Federal Character” defined in the 1979 Constitution as: The distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote unity, and foster national loyalty and give citizens of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of gender, ethnic origin, cultural affiliation, language or religion which may exist and which in their desire to nourish and harness to the enrichment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN).
Consequently, the Federal Character Commission (FCC) was established by Act No 34 of 1996 to implement and enforce the Federal Character principle of fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of the FRN. The provisions of the 1999 Constitution in Sections 14 and 153 consolidated the establishment of the FCC for operation in a democratic system of Government.
In August 1975, the then Federal Military Government under Late General Murtala Mohammed convened a panel of experts, under the Chairmanship of the Honourable Justice T.A. Aguda, to study and advise on the desirability of retaining Lagos as the Federal Capital of Nigeria. Other members include; Dr Tai Solarin, Professor O.O. Ogan, Alhaji Mohammed Musa, Professor Ajato Gandonu, Chief Owen Fiebai, Col. Monsignor Pedro Martins. The terms of reference of the committee were: To examine the dual role of Lagos as a Federal and State Capital, and advise on the desirability or otherwise of Lagos retaining that role; In the event of the committee finding that the Federal Capital should move out of Lagos, it should recommend suitable alternative locations.
The panel’s recommendations for the setting up of the new Federal Capital City were accepted and the Federal Government then promulgated Decree number 6 of 1976 which created the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
Since the creation, it is wont for successive governments to install northerners as Minister of FCT (or Senior), reserving the position of Minister of State (or Junior) for the south; probably the only ministry with such stupefying record. A list of FCT ministers including their respective states of origin: John Jatau Kadiya (Plateau, 1979–1982), Iro Abubakar Dan Musa (Kastina 1982–1983), Haliru Dantoro (Niger, 1983–1984) Mamman Jiya Vatsa (1984– 1985), Hamza Abdullahi (Kano, 1986–1989), Gado Nasko (Niger, 1989–1993), Jeremiah Timbut Useni (Plateau, 1993–1998), Mamman Kontagora (1998–1999), Ibrahim Bonu (Borno, 1999–2001), Mohammed Abba Gana (Borno, 2001–2003), Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (Kastina, 2003–2007), Aliyu Modibo (Gombe, 2007–2008), Adamu Aliero (Kebbi, 2008–2010), Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed (Bauchi, 2010–present).
From the foregoing, the idea of making Abuja neutral to all parties is defeated. It is baffling that there exists such chauvinism, a complete disrespect for the loud-voiced federal character crusade. Taking another look at the names, four states had more than one indigene that at one time or the other held the post. More puzzling is the fact that only half performed above average and you wish to query the mania for such appointees in the first place.
Is it that the cabal that has been holding the country to ransom is also the set of people calling the shots of who-gets-what in that ministry? I challenge The President Jonathan to prove he is not scared of powers that be. He should, in the coming cabinet reshuffle, break the age-long jinx by appointing a southerner to oversee affairs of the nation’s capital – except someone wants to argue there are no competent hands from that divide.
We should endeavour to avoid acts capable of fuelling animosity. We have enough headches already. Dr Jonathan should take a holistic look at allegations from different quarters that there is general imbalance in federal government recruitment and appointment; it is a serious cause for worry. I have said it before, most heads of MDAs abuse their positions by giving a chunk of slot to their kinsmen, thereby disregarding the President’s directive to stick to due process.
Our founding fathers fought for the unity we enjoyed today; it will be a great disservice and dishonour if how we repay them is carrying on with obvious lopsidedness in governance as if it were normal. Government must (and be seen to) be impartial.
By ‘Wale Odunsi