Federal Character: An Empirical Reality or An Abstract Theory?

The phenomenon behind the Federal Character Principle is the distinctive desire of the people of Nigeria to promote national unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation, through fairness and equity in the distribution of public posts and socio-economic infrastructures among the various federating units of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is in view of the diverse ethnicities, cultures and languages which exist and whose desire is to nourish and harness the resources of the land in enriching the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

This principle, which has been enshrined in the Nigeria’s Constitution since 1979, seeks to ensure that appointments into public service institutions fairly reflect the linguistic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity of the country. It has therefore become a norm that is expected to be imbibed across all levels of government, hence, any government that refuse to adhere to this tradition will be seen as being sentimental, nepotistic, bigoted, prejudiced and violating the Federal Character Principle by marginalizing the group that is being assigned a peripheral role in the government and whose region is suffering neglect in terms of infrastructure.

In lieu of the above phenomenon, we attempt a holistic comparison between Southern Kaduna and its northern counterpart by assessing the level of attention they each receive from governments in terms of siting of infrastructure and appointments as demanded by the Federal Character Principle.

In terms of infrastructure, Southern Kaduna is the most neglected region in the state and this is characterized by the relative absence of government sponsored projects and institutions when compared to the northern part. Take for example, in terms of quality healthcare facilities, the only major hospitals in the entirety of the Southern Kaduna region are the Kafanchan and Kachia General Hospitals whereas within Zaria and its immediate environs alone, we have the ABU Teaching Hospital (Shika and Tudun Wada), General Hospital (Giwa), Hajia Gambo Sawaba General Hospital (Zaria), Miba General Hospital (Sabon Gari), General Hospital (Kudan) etc.

In the aspect of higher institutions of learning, the only public institutions of higher learning in Southern Kaduna are the Kaduna State College of Education Gidan Waya, the Kaduna State College of Nursing Kafanchan, College of Statistics Manchok and of course the Kafanchan campus of Kaduna State University whose main campus is situated in Kaduna. In the northern part (Zaria to be precise), some of the public institutions of higher learning include Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Federal College of Education (FCE), Nigeria College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic, Nigeria Institute of Leather Science and Technology (NILEST formerly known as Leather Research Institute and CHELTECH), National Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), School of Nursing, Shehu Idris College of Health Technology Makarfi, Division of Agricultural Colleges (DAC), Shehu Idris College of Advanced Studies, Nigeria Air Force Training Command, Nigeria Military School, National Animal Production and Research Institute (NAPRI), Industrial Development Center (IDC) etc.

On issues of capital projects it is sadly unfortunate that none has been recorded in recent years in Southern Kaduna as opposed to the popular ones in the Hausa dominated northern area of the state such as the age old Zaria Water Project.

In terms of good roads, all the minor roads in the nooks and crannies of the Hausa dominated north of the River Kaduna up to Zaria and its environs are tarred while areas found south of the River Kaduna (such as Gonin Gora, Unguwar Romi, Sabon Tasha etc) down to the whole of Southern Kaduna senatorial district are mostly found in a muddy and untarred condition. It is rather shameful that the 1km road leading from the main road to KSCOE Gidan Waya campus has for the past five years been scraped and abandoned as debris of red earth in dry season and as a sea of mud in the rainy season. It was a project that was initiated by late Governor Patrick Yakowa shortly before his untimely death; it has remained like that up till date.

Another area where contempt for the Southern Kaduna people has been clearly showcased is in the aspect of safety of lives and properties in the region. It is very disheartening to know that for an area as wide as the whole of Southern Kaduna, the only military facility there is the School of Artillery located at Kachia. This implies that there is neither military nor Police barracks in the whole of the area and this means that in times of civil unrests, the people will have to wait for security personnel to be deployed from outside the region to come and take charge of the situation.

This indeed has been the case in countless scenarios involving repeated onslaughts launched by armed Fulani marauders who move around unleashing mayhem and leaving scores of casualties behind without meeting any form of resistance. This is not the case in the northern part which is highly fortified with military presence such as the Nigeria Armed Forces Command and Staff College Jaji, Bassawa Army Barracks (Zaria), Nigeria Military School (NMS Zaria), Chindit Barracks (Zaria), Nigeria Army Depot (Zaria) and Police Barracks (Zaria).

As regards to the other aspect of the Federal Character Principle which is fair representation in the public service and decision making, the recent ministerial nomination of Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed (cousin to Governor el-Rufai from Zaria) has once again shown a glaring evidence of a long standing campaign against the people of Southern Kaduna from both the apex government and the leadership of our home state. The lopsided nature of the appointments of the principal officers in the cabinet of Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s led government has also echoed the chauvinistic mindset that considers the people up north as being the elite and ruling class and the people down south as the followers and second class citizens.
This is how the kitchen cabinet looks like:
1. Governor, Zaria
2. Deputy governor, Kaura (Southern Kaduna)
3. Secretary to the State Government, Zaria
4. Speaker State House of Assembly, Sabon Gari Zaria
5. Accountant General, Zaria
6. Chief of Staff, Katsina State
7. Political Adviser, Zaria
8. Security Adviser to the governor, Zaria
9. Personal Secretary to the governor, Zaria
10. Chairman Local Government Service Commission, Zaria
11. Chairman State Independent Electoral Commission (SIECOM) (sister to the governor), Zaria

This article is by no means trying to give Federal Character a higher precedence over pedigree, qualification, efficiency and merit. The men and women that were handpicked by the executive governor to be among his kitchen cabinet may be highly qualified and experienced; the million dollar questions therefore are these:
“Are the competent men and women capable of performing these leadership roles mainly concentrated in the northern part of the state?
“Are we (Southern Kaduna indigenes) bound to be second class citizens and incapable offering any meaningful ideas towards the growth of the state?
“Are we not also bona fide indigenes of the state that deserves to be included in the decision making that affects our state?
“Or are we under a neo-Napoleon-esque style of leadership where all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others?”

The above manner of appointments can be seen to be a contradistinction to the spirit and principle of Federal Character at the state level which is not only capable of igniting and fanning sectional hatred in the state polity but also capable of inciting and widening political and religious schisms.

I therefore want to leave the powers that be with the following quote from Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”:

“The Romans did what all wise rulers must: cope not only with present troubles but also with ones likely to arise in the future, and assiduously forestall them. When trouble is sensed well in advance it can be easily remedied; if you wait for it to show itself any medicine will be too late because the disease will have become incurable. As doctors say of a wasting disease, to start with it is easy to cure but difficult to diagnose; after a time……..it becomes easy to diagnose but difficult to cure. SO IT IS IN POLITICS.

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Can you hear the Echoes of Hope?


Written by
Didam Amos David

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