Elder Saidu Dogo, former Secretary-General of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern States and Abuja, spoke with Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief on why efforts towards national integration have failed in Nigeria. Dogo is currently the Kaduna State Chairman of the Northern States Elders Forum (NORSEF) Excerpts:
I will say that unfortunately the goals toward national integration in Nigeria have not been realized as initially intended. If you look at the history of this country you will discover that we have a tripod arrangement; the north dichotomy, the east and the west, with other areas, which were amalgamated in 1914.
The colonial masters made the amalgamation, we as Nigerians should have seen it that it was a good thing to be united. As you may have also seen in the course of history, various attempts have been made to bring the people of this country together, even through constitutional means, but the will power is not there to realize the goals. We still have this dichotomy. However, I believe that if the politicians had wanted this thing to succeed it would have succeeded. The will power, that is the general problem we have in this country.
And then, unfortunately, some other issues cropped in, the religious dichotomy. It is so unfortunate, you go to states, even in the north here where you have people of the same tribes; because of their religion they are being discriminated against. And so, national integration seems to be thrown away. Nobody cared about it, such that today you have somebody who is a non-Nigerian coming from another country, he will be accepted better because of his religion. And a Nigerian born and bred here, and of the same tribe but because of the religious dichotomy he is completely discriminated against in his own domain. So, this is the problem we have in this country; and unless there is a will power on the side of the government to make a law and enforce it, on the need for unity of purpose and national integration among our people, all effort towards it will be futile.
For instance, every Nigerian has the right to live in anywhere and any part of the country. That is what we in the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have been fighting for. You cannot have a child born in Kaduna and you are telling him to go to Imo State to go and collect indigene certificate. This is absolutely wrong. It is a stupid thing because it doesn’t make sense. He is born here; he has nowhere else to go. President Obama today is the President of America, he is from Kenya and his father is a Jew from Israel. His parents were not Americans originally
but since that boy was born there he became a bona fide American and he is entitled to all the rights, and that is why today he is there as a President. Why can’t we do the same thing here? We are practicing the Presidential system of government in Nigeria, which is adopted from the United States. But, you see the lies and hypocrisy that is the problems we have in this country.
President Muhammadu Buhari and national integration
If there is the will power like I stated.earlier this government can easily do it. Let me say something here. You have to prosecute offenders of the laws to make a point. If you don’t have the will power and you are not ready, then you are just wasting our time.
For instance, I experienced an incident where somebody who was born in Kaduna here, that is Kaduna South Local Government and he was given residence certificate different from indigene certificate. I was the Secretary of CAN in the North then, and when we took the matter up, I went and met the Chairman of the Local Government and told him that somebody is born here and you are telling him that he is only entitled to residence certificate. And I told him that we know of people who are not from Nigeria, they are here and they have indigene certificate. Do you know the implication? The man became scared and later gave him the indigene certificate.
These are the type of things that should be stopped. We have an enabling law to prosecute people who are offenders; if we apply the laws this kind of problems will stop. So, this government can do it if they have the will power. All the provisions to strengthen national integration are in the constitution.
Challenges of inter-marriages and inter-ethnic mobility
Inter-tribal marriages have helped to some extent towards national integration. That was why the idea of National Youth Service Corp was muted under the Gowon regime in 1973. That government did that so that people will integrate. A Youth Corper may come from the East or West and serve in Sokoto and eventually may settle there and even marry from there and vice versa. You see this has in a long way promoted the idea of national integration.
Unfortunately, so many problems that were promoted by politicians came into being. Like religion, ethnicity and supremacy of one tribal over the other and so on, came in and scuttled this idea of national integration. However, the National Youth Service was really directed towards achieving the goals of national integration. You see, why I am saying that there must be enabling law to enforce national integration or anything that would want to threaten it.
Recently somebody came from Kano and abducted a 14-year old girl from Bayelsa and you see the whole outcry. And the law has to be applied to serve as a deterrent. That is how it should be. Honestly, for us to achieve national integration, the law has to be enforced against anything that will undermine it. Nigerians are very simple people. When you leave them without applying the laws they will not do what is right.
Religious dichotomy and national integration
Let me be very frank, the issue of religion is mostly in the north. The north is supposed to lead by example and by that people in other parts of the country will emulate it through effort towards integration. But, I am telling you in Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, even Kaduna State where I come from, today somebody who comes from Chad or Niger and who is a Moslem, will be more accepted here and integrated.
Look, it is a very funny thing. Somebody came to me from one local government; I won’t like to mention the person. By then I was the Secretary of CAN and he believed that I had the ears of the government and so on, and he stated.I should help him get the caretaker committee chairman of a local government. He told me that he is a friend and he came from that local government. Then suddenly he rang me and told me that his brother has become the President of a neighbouring country near Nigeria here. He told me that he was going for the inauguration and I told him that I would go with him at least as a mark of solidarity with him. But I didn’t see him again. He left to that country. This was somebody who wanted to be a local government caretaker committee chairman in Kaduna State, Nigeria. This is to tell you that he had already been accepted and integrated in Nigeria, though he is not a Nigerian.
You can see the irony. Now, this is the problem of religion in the north. You will also see that in Kano people that are Christians who are indigenes who have no other place to claim are being discriminated against. That is what is happening in the north. Unless we correct what is happening in the north effort at national integration in the
country will fail. Religious aspect has been so bad in the north and it has made integration virtually impossible.
Advice to the Federal Government
Thank God that President Muhammadu Buhari has been following the history of the nation since in the 1960s. During the time of Sardauna, the Premier was talking of the north. And there was no discrimination against any tribe or religion. In fact, the north was succeeding to an extent that Ahmadu Bello University was rated as one of the best University then.
There were so many Christians like, Professor Ishaya Audu, a Fulani man who was a Christian and he became the Vice Chancellor. And he was given all the cooperation that he needed and brought the University to excel on all fronts. Most of the lecturers were also Christians. There was no discrimination and there was progress in the north. But, suddenly the religious aspect came in. and look at what the north and Nigeria has turned into today.