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How One Governor Destroyed The Harmony Of His State In Eight Years

By Dele Sobowale



Kaduna State

Kaduna State was once the most cosmopolitan city in the Northern Region, followed by Jos. As the regional capital and having close to one hundred and twenty ethnic groups within 250 kilometers radius, it was indeed a mini-Nigeria.

Only Lagos, which was the Federal Capital, surpassed the city in terms of ethnic diversity – until the Federal Capital moved to Abuja. It was the epitome of religious, ethnic and political tolerance under the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, 1910-1966.

A more tolerant and even-handed ruler in a multi-ethnic society would be hard to find. For instance, the Premier was a Fulani, Muslim from Sokoto. His Private Secretary (now called Chief of Staff) was Chief Awoniyi, an Okun/Yoruba man, Christian from Mopa in what is now Kogi State.

It spoke volumes for the Sardauna of Sokoto, that he trusted the government’s topmost secrets to someone who was different in everyway from him. He did it, not because there were no Fulani or Muslims capable of handling the assignment. He did it because it was the right thing to do then. They were together until the bitter end.

 What is now called Kaduna State has been fortunately ruled by Governors, military and civilian, who understood right from the start that political justice, cooperation and avoidance of open bias was the way to achieve peace and prosperity in the state. They never faltered – until El-Rufai became Governor. He came to power with an ethnic and religious agenda; and, he was biased even in his religious objective. He was a Sunni Muslim; and was determined to wipe out the Shi’ites from the face of Nigeria.

For that purpose, he formed an unholy alliance with President Buhari and former Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami to have the Shi’ites proscribed as a terrorist group and to have their leader, El-Zakzaky and his wife arrested and detained as terrorists under the hastily written law signed by Buhari – another Fulani, Suni Muslim.

Till today, there has been no legal proof of Shi’ite terrorism as alleged by those who embarked on abuse of power, ably supported by a biased Justice of the Federal High Court, undoubtedly a Suni Muslim, who proscribed a religious sect without asking the accused persons to refute the allegations against them. Nigeria’s judiciary lost its respect and integrity long ago. It was not surprising that those who wanted to could always procure the judgment they desire. To the best of my knowledge, nothing has changed even now.


Last week, in my article titled  Four Wonders of Adamawa State, it was pointed out that about 30 ethnic groups in Adamawa live in peace because they have a leader Governor Fintiri who takes seriously the matter of equitable distribution of resources to all the people. Fintiri runs an all-inclusive government.

However, apart from the mounting evidence of financial misappropriation, under El-Rufai, which has turned the state into a basket case, which might not be able to pay the next minimum wage, the greatest damage the former Governor has brought upon the state will ultimately be the destruction of the ethnic harmony based on balancing, which hitherto made Kaduna State so peaceful and alluring.

Today, it is Nigeria’s most dangerous state. Even its closest neighbours, Katsina, Kano, Plateau, Niger and Zamfara wish it was not so close. It was not by coincidence that the students kidnapped in Kaduna were rescued in Zamfara. From my trips to Niger state, the state most often accused of exporting hoodlums to the state is Kaduna State.

The obvious question is: how did Kaduna State become the hell-on-earth that it is now between 2015 and 2023? For the answer it is necessary to ask another question: which ethnic groups are indigenous to Kaduna State? In other words, which ethnic groups can trace their ancestral home to any part of the state before the colonialists arrived?

Again, to the best of my knowledge, gained from over forty years of travelling through all parts of the state, the following ethnic groups were already established before Usman Dan Fodio or the British invaded them. The list is not in alphabetical order and it is not presumed to be complete.

But, it serves as a starting point in order for all Nigerians to understand how El-Rufai wrecked a finely-tuned political entity by destroying its balance. Like Adamawa, I lived, worked in Kaduna state and had a farm along the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari expressway—when it was a place in which to invest.

I have also entered and exited the state from every motorable road ever built. It breaks my heart each time I realise how much destruction one man can bring about in a short time. Here are the major and minor groups known to me – meaning that I have/had at least a friend belonging to that group during my active travelling days.

 Adara, Bajju, Atyap, Kamantan, Gwong, Ham, Gbagyi, Gwari, Hausa, Agworok, Jju,Katak, Shamang, Ada, Akurmi, Bakulu, Asholyio, Anghan, Atakad, Terri, Atsam, Atuku, Idu, Aninka, Nisam, Gbantu, Ndun, Numana, Doka and Sambe. Some of the ethnic groups might be differentiated by minor differences in dialect – like the Ijebu, Ijesha, Egba, Awori, Ondo etc in Yorubaland. Notice that there is no Fulani. Authentic Northern history has revealed that the Fulani came as conquerors and settled where they chose. Even now, years after Usman Dan Fodio entered the North, the Fulani, though the dominant group don’t constitute the majority in the state. No group does. That was why this other Nigerian Tower of Babel had been extremely fortunate to have been governed by people who wisely entrenched fairness in governance.


One incident remains evergreen in my memory. I was interviewing former Governor Ahmed Makarfi, in 2006, in the Governor’s mansion, when Tudun Wada in the city erupted in violence. Makarfi received a call and apologised to me for cutting short the interview. Without changing his casual attire, he moved to the car park, summoned his driver and two aides. They got into a car and drove into the night. I could not resist waving them down to ask Makarfi the only question possible under the circumstances. “Your Excellency, are you not afraid of being attacked?”

He bestowed a knowing smile on me before answering. “These are my people, many will die if I don’t act. I have only one life to risk.” I could not believe that this was a Nigerian leader talking. I could not sleep; and as early as possible made a call to his Chief Press Secretary. “How is the Governor?” I have never felt so relieved to know that another human being was alive after risking his life – in order that others might not die unnecessarily.

It was doubtful if El-Rufai could have tried that as Governor; more than anybody, he knows that he will not last ten minutes if recognised without a battalion of soldiers today.

 Makarfi in Kaduna State, exemplifies the sense of fairness, all-inclusiveness, which all elected officials must deploy in other to create the conditions for peace; and without which nothing they do would matter. At the moment, Kaduna is in the grips of destructive violence which was fostered by ethnic/religious exclusion for eight years. Because it is easier and faster to destroy than to build, it might require up to eighty years for peace to return.

Nigeria is lurching towards the Kaduna situation. I called up a few friends while in Yola; and, it was remarkable how people who never met and were unaware of each others existence, unanimously felt that the present Federal Government has totally excluded them from the dividends of democracy. That was exactly the same feeling expressed by people in Warri and Uyo – when I was there in November last year.


“Exchange rates are down, why are prices not coming down?”

 I have been asked that question countless times in March and April this year after the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, decided to crash the exchange rate – at all costs. As an economist, and unlike most people, I know that success or failure of economic reformation is not determined in one or two months. Regardless of what we think, it is too early to undertake a comprehensive review of what has been achieved.

 On one aspect, however, there is no need to wait. Lower exchange rates will impact federal allocation of revenue negatively at a time when inflation is still in the region of 30 per cent. The minimum wage negotiations increasingly appear like an exercise in futility. Most states will simply fail to pay; and damn the consequences – whatever those might be.

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