FEATURE ARTICLE

Ifeanyi NwolisaFriday, July 2, 2010
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Baku, Azerbaijan

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KADUNA: A SYMBOL OF NIGERIA COSMOPOLITAN

his last week I had the privilege to meet with the Deputy Governor of Kaduna state, Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero. Let me say straightforwardly that I was highly impressed by his personality. He is a different Nigeria politician in the sense that his humility is un-marched, especially in my records of politicians, and I have met quite a few of them. Together with delegates from Kaduna, the deputy governor was in Azerbaijan to attend the annual conference of the Islamic Development Bank. Their reason for participating is because of their interest in pursuing specific opportunities within the IDB financial packages.


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I was born in Kaduna, and I lived my 20 years there growing up. My primary school St Anne’s Primary school, located in Kakuri, Kaduna, although managed by missionaries, was a place where everybody irrespective of religion belief could get quality educational foundation. Some of my close friends were Muslims, and I remember one Mudasiru Lawal who was a good competitor in class then. Mudasiru Lawal was even appointed as the “religious prefect” and the irony of it was that the only religion thought in St Anne’s was Catholicism. Parents were cool with that and everybody respected the practice provided that their kids get a quality education.

In Kakuri where I grew up, it was a mix of every tribe, ethnicity and religion. Name it, Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Bendel, Idoma, Igala, Tiv, Ijaw, Istsekiri, etc. As a matter of fact, until I was a grown-up, I didn’t understand the peculiarity of the diverse in people I was living among because we couldn’t actual tell the difference. As kids growing up, we enjoyed the diversity. We were like brother and sisters and our parents were like familiar communities, sharing things in common. I remember how we were always excited to watch over our fence with great fascinations as our Idoma neighbors perform their cultural dance. We could all sing Sunny Ade and Shina Peters, and yes we could all dance to the Yoruba beats. It is also no surprise that our neighbors enjoyed the songs that we played –Oliver de Coque, Osita Osadebe, Patty Obasi et al. We loved Dan Maraya, and Magana jari Ce was one of all time favorite TV shows. I will also remember with nostalgia the good memories we all shared as people from different background but yet happy to be associated as neighbors. My Tiv neighbors were not afraid to try our delicacies of egwusi, onugbu and oha soup and we were not shy to try theirs. I ate dongo mia soup, and okpenhen species, delicacies of the Igala and Idoma.

I can’t actually remember all the past governors of Kaduna state, but there is a particular one that is my favorite –the then Lt Col. Lawal Jafaru Isa who governed Kaduna from December 1993 – September 1996. It was during his time that Kaduna was at its most volatile because we just had the Zongo Kataf riot in 1992. His quick interventions and good leadership instincts ensured that the crisis did not escalate. I remember meeting the Lt. Colonel, as a boy’s brigade then with the Anglican faith, in one of the synod meetings organized in St Michael’s Anglican Church. Lt Col. Lawal Jafaru Isa though a Muslim did not have a problem participating as a special guest of honor. That was good judgment because the move ensured that Christians began to trust him and had good faith in the government to defend all lives of the citizens irrespective of ethnic background. The good intention of Lt Col. Lawal Jafaru Isa in uniting all residents in the state created a model for subsequent governors to follow, which is to act with urgency in any occurrence of even the slightest of crisis. Senator Ahmed Markefi is a good recent example, because he was able to douse off tensions during the periods of serial religion crisis in northern states like Plateau, Bauchi and Maduguri from 1999 - 2007.

Despite the good memories of Lt Col. Lawal Jafaru Isa and Senator Ahmed Merkafi for Kaduna state, however the first name of a past governor of Kaduna that comes to my mind is Alhaji Mohammed Dabo Lere. I remember him for actually nothing spectacular that he did, just kids impressions. Once he was visiting the Makera local government area of Kaduna, and kids of the L.E.A. schools were preparing to welcome him, standing on the streets singing “I will go and tell my parents Dabo Lere is coming…”. Ever since then, the song and the name have remained in my memories. Alhaji Dabo Lere ranks at the bottom in my list of Kaduna state government because his administration is associated more with Zago Kataf riots, first Zaria riots and the Kaduna city riots, in spite of the administration was only for about a year.

Although I and my siblings attended private schools, our neighbors attended public schools. So from them we had the opportunity to hear tales and events that was happening around them. Public schools in Kaduna were of good standards because my mum, one of the finest of Nigeria teachers, was a part of the system then. She, her friends and the many other teachers I knew then with the public schools could hold their own against all the teachers that thought me in my private school. To be frank, I didn’t have much edge over my neighbors academically. Yeah maybe I do, but that would be in my exposure because in my private school we were fewer in number and that allowed us to interact better unlike in the public schools where they are jam-packed due to lack of space that even though classes was divided into morning and afternoon sections it still didn’t solve the problem. But besides the exposure, the L.E.A schools then still had an upper hand especially in organization of social activities. It was always a delight for me to go watch the inter-school football finals; also I love the dancing contest for different ethnic groups (Idoma and Tiv group had always won).

I presently reside in Azerbaijan, officially an Islamic republic. But everything I have known about Islam, I have learnt from Kaduna. I knew how to recite the call for prayers, maybe not perfectly now but I still know some of the wordings. Strangely, whenever I hear the Muslim call for prayers I remember my growing up days, very early morning of Saturdays in particular, when the sounding voice of the guy calling for the prayers was like a lullaby for my sleep. In Kaduna, we loved the Muslim festivals, not because we had to stay at home, there won’t be classes in school, we long for the atmosphere of festivity that fills up the whole Kaduna. It didn’t matter what religion, but we all celebrated the day. Our Muslim neighbors, not necessary Hausa’s, they all dressed in their best, and we Christians, although not dressed in our best but we try to look good as well. We had a very kind hearted neighbor that we simple call Hajiya. Hajiya and husband were very popular in the Gora area of Kaduna. Every Salah we look up to Tuwon shinkafa from Hajiya and she never misses it.

In Kaduna we loved the diversity. We all spoke one general language and trust it wasn’t a language any particular ethnic group could lay claim to. The uniqueness of Kaduna is that I have friends who could speak as many as 7 different languages of Nigeria. And they speak it very fluently. But the beauty is that they have learnt these languages from associating with friends and neighbors. Two friends that quickly come to my mind are Agaba and Momewyo. These two are from Benue and Edo respectively, but hearing them speak Ibo, Hausa, and Yoruba, one might think they are from one of the major ethnicity in Nigeria.

Most of my childhood friends still reside in Kaduna, that after all the turmoil and conflicts they have remained in the place they know as home. The peculiarity of Kaduna is that it is probably the most diverse state in Nigeria. True Abuja and Lagos are mega cities with the possibility of all ethnic group of Nigeria represented in large numbers, but Kaduna is the only place where you find actual people who have made homes. And homes I mean integrated into the society, cohabiting as communities and might have no other place they can look to as home. Most people living in Kaduna might have never been to the big cities of Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt or Enugu, and they are not even contemplating travelling out of Kaduna because to them Kaduna has all, even more, to offer that is obtainable in the other big cities.

In May 2010, a new vice president was needed in Nigeria after the death of the president Alhaji Musa Yar’Ardua and the then vice president -Mr. Goodluck Jonathan automatically became the president by law. Kaduna offered Nigeria her governor –Arc. Mohammed Namadi Sambo. From what I read of his records, he was an achiever and had a priority for Kaduna state. Alhaji Namadi Sambo wanted to define Kaduna as the true cosmopolitan state in Nigeria and that he was able to achieve. He was prudent in his management but was forceful in his accomplishments. That today Kaduna has created an ideal pathway for responsible development in Nigeria. Alhaji. Namadi Sambo got elevated, his deputy governor –Mr. Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa assumed the position of the governorship and the commissioner of Finance in the past administration was appointed as the new deputy governor. Chatting with the deputy governor Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero on matters concerning Kaduna state development, it was clear that the team has a plan that they would always follow through irrespective of who was the head in authority. Alhaji Yero had so many good words for both of his superiors, the present vice president and the current governor of the state. It was certain that as visionaries, that the path they have created for Kaduna would lead to greater prosperity and further redefining as well as establishing Kaduna state as the go to place that would stand as a symbol, representing the beauty in diversity of our great country Nigeria.

The delegates from Kaduna that accompanied the Deputy Governor had to participate in the IDB conference to press further an agenda the state has been pursuing through the Nigeria Finance Ministry. There is an ongoing project, of developing a mega city in Kaduna, started by this administration. The mega city also known as “millennium city” is of similar magnitude as that of Lagos state. An interesting aspect of the Kaduna mega city is that there is a plan to develop a multi operational health center, offering medical services that are obtainable in Europe, Asia and America so Nigerians would no longer travel miles away in search of medical care. It is of my knowledge that the project is already in advanced stages.

Let me add that I wasn’t totally surprise with the personality of the Deputy Governor - Alhaji Muktar Ramalan Yero because going through his records it is obvious he is like one of us, ordinary-regular folks. He is not a career politician (whatever that means) but rose through the ranks of various civil services as a qualified accountant to become experienced in service to the people. I wish we have a good number of his type in our political spectrum. It would save Nigeria a whole lot of disgrace that our politicians bring upon Nigeria. A typical example is the recent brawl witnessed in the house of assembly just last week.

Kaduna has had its shares of problems, riots and conflicts, but despite all this, it is still standing. What didn’t crush the people that make this state the most diverse part of Nigeria nothing would ever then spoil the beauty. It was painful and shameful when the Nigeria government allowed the Kaduna textiles industries to be mismanaged and they all went under. But I’m sure that too would be looked into to see how to revitalize a sector that is capable of employing over 20,000 youths in Nigeria. It is only in Kaduna you find such bountiful opportunities and I’m sure with the capable leaders in charge of affairs, Kaduna state would attain its full potential to stand out as a symbol of Nigeria cosmopolitan city.

Ifeanyi Nwolisa is Head of Programs Development and International Relations International Eurasia Press Fund, Baku, Azerbaijan

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