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SOUTHERN KADUNA STRATEGISES, RENEWS STRUGGLE FOR CREATION OF GURARA STATE

By NBF News
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• Yakowa
The recent move by the National Assembly to amend the 1999 Constitution, has given a ray of hope for the people of Southern Kaduna. The people have sent many memoranda to the assembly for the creation of Gurara State out of the present Kaduna State.

They want the creation of a new state, with its proposed headquarters in Kachia Local Government area, owing largely to the feeling of being marginalized in the sharing of the state's resources by their northern and central brothers. It is against this background that the lawmakers representing Southern Kaduna and other stakeholders gathered recently to renew their agitation for the creation of Gurara State.

Leader of the lawmakers from the zone, Senator Esther Nenadi Usman, said the meeting was informed by the need to address the fundamental issues of development in Southern Kaduna: 'We are to forge ahead with the issue of state creation. There is the commanding need for us to pull our efforts together to avoid working at cross purposes. We need therefore to strategize and carry everybody along. The meeting is intended to create the opportunity for our representatives and other stakeholders to exchange ideas and come up with a single focus.'

Former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Felix Hassan Hyet, and national president, Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Dr. Ephram Goje, noted that Southern Kaduna has many challenges and that the solution to the problems lies in the area and with its people. They cautioned the people to avoid turning their area to a battleground.

Similarly, the Chief of Kagoro, Ufuai, during the annual Afan Cultural Festival recently, urged the people to continue to show commitment to the creation of the new state: 'If we continue in this spirit of magnanimity, peaceful co-operation, respect for our diversity, customs, values, respect for constitutional provisions and the rule of law, we shall gather to celebrate our newly created state, not long from now.'

A senior citizen of the area who does not want his name in print noted: 'Before the creation of Katsina State, we were content to be called Southern Zaria with Zaria itself playing the second fiddle to Katsina. The creation of Katsina State in 1987 changed the power dynamics. 'Political power in Kaduna State from 1967-1987 was always defined and shared between the people of Katsina and Zaria. The power sharing mechanism assumed the supremacy of Katsina over Zaria. Thus, while the position of governor was reserved for a Katsina man, Zaria was content to take the position of deputy governor.

'The nonMuslims in the South merely stood by as spectators in the game of power. They were lucky and contented with the position of some innocuous title of commissioner in some backwater ministry. Along with this, slots in the federal civil service given to Kaduna State were shared between Katsina and Zaria.'As such, from 1967 when the state was created up to 1987, the slots for minister, federal permanent secretary, ambassador, positions in federal parastatals, were a choice between Katsina and Zaria. Allegations of injustice were only heard if Katsina got more than its fair share against Zaria as was often the case.

Southern Kaduna was therefore a harmless appendix, a mere statistic.

'It was not until 1987, with the creation of Katsina State that Southern Zaria mutated to Southern Kaduna and the people of Zaria gracefully conceded second position to Southern Kaduna. These are some of the circumstances that led to the bottled up anger and the feeling of frustration, resentment and marginalization that would later spill over in later years.

'Then came the severance of the feudal umbilical chord when with one stroke of the pen, Col Ja'afaru Isa, the then military administrator of Kaduna State created Atyap Chiefdom. This gesture was followed up by his successor, Alhaji Muhammad Makarfi, who went on to create additional chiefdoms coterminous with all the ethnic groups in the Southern part of the state. The psychological impact of this rather innocuous development was phenomenal. The fallout of this was a rise in ethnic consciousness of the people.

'There have been anxieties among the people that despite all the hard work, the system has not rewarded them adequately. To the majority of people, getting their hands on the levers of political power is all that matters. For a society where the state has been and remains the only domain of appropriation and distribution of the loot of state, one can understand why these sentiments have taken such a dimension.' A chieftain of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in the state from Southern Kaduna, Mr. Mordacai S. Ibrahim, argued: 'The agitation for the creation of Gurara State started over three decades ago. We started this agitation before Abia, Osun, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa and Yobe states were created, over 30 years ago.

'But for political reasons, we have not been able to achieve it. Part of the blame should be laid at our doorsteps, while part should be laid at the doorstep of the government. This is because, while we were agitating for the creation of the state, our elders then were not realistic. They were asking for the creation of the new state to include Jaji, and as a matter of fact, it is going to be impossible to get that. 'But, when you talk about a need for a state to be created from Southern Kaduna, it is over due. When people ask for state, they do that, so as to get development to their doorstep. If you are travelling to southern Kaduna, starting from Kasuwan Magani, you will not feel any federal presence.

No single federal project is there, until you get to Sanga or Ramindo in Jaba Local Government, or forest, which borders Plateau State or Saminaka which is also bordering Plateau State. When you get to Tafa, bordering Niger State, check all of them round, you will not find a single federal presence, in spite of the 20 years of democracy we have had. We have been terribly marginalized.

'If you come again to the state government projects, we are still being marginalized. Kaduna State University was established in 1999. The belief was that the university would be sited within the southern part of the state. The northern part is saturated with all kinds of government institutions, both federal and state, but unfortunately, it was not to be. The best we could get was that a faculty would be sited in Kafanchan.

That faculty as I talk to you is yet to take off. Meanwhile, the university has graduated about three set now. So, what are we talking about?'

This is even as he argued that the mere fact that a Southern Kaduna man is a governor of Kaduna should not be in any way an hinderance to the agitation for the creation of Gurara State.