by Yusuf Ishaku Goje
Today’s Nigeria is plagued with the challenges of ethno-religious mistrust, counter-accusations, and hostilities. Nepotism has indeed become prevalent. More often than not what qualifies you for any privilege, right or opportunity is neither qualification nor merit, but rather your ethnic or religious (or both) affiliations. This is evident in the lopsided spread of elective positions, appointments, employment, infrastructural projects, polling units, constituencies, states and control of national resources. The Federal tier of government has been the stage for the titanic clash of the big three ethnic groups for power and resources. While on the other hand, the states remain the theater of ethnic superiority battles and religious bigotry between the big and smaller ethnic groups.
One of such theater is Kaduna state, where the lopsidedness is obvious even to the blind. This has led to prolonged mutual suspicion, mistrust and tensions between the Northern Kaduna dominated Hausa-Fulani Muslims and the Southern Kaduna Christian dominated multi-ethnic groups. This uneasy relationship has on numerous occasions snowballed into ethno-religious, economic and political conflicts; which has sometimes led to the loss of lives, properties and neighborly love. The Northern Kaduna part of the state enjoys more opportunities, rights and privileges in the areas of elective positions, appointments, employments, governance dividends, infrastructure and control of state resources.
The relationship between the Northern and Southern part of Kaduna has been that of master and slave, the type that existed during the rule by the British colonialist before independence. Evidence abounds of how the Southern Kaduna people have been systematically relegated to second-class citizens in Kaduna state. Among the systemic and institutional steps taken to perpetuate the dominance of the Northern over the Southern part of the state is the unbalanced delineation of constituencies and spread of polling units. Before going further to elaborate my argument, I wish to state the purpose of this article. It is not meant to stoke the fire of mutual mistrust that exists, but to expose the realities that have kept the fire burning perpetually.
What I desire more is for the fire to be quenched; these will surely fast track peace, social integration and development of the state. For these to be a reality, it means we must go back to the days when the state was not polarized along ethno-religious lines, a period when the word neighbor was blindfolded to your ethno-religious affiliation. A time when your ethno-religious inclination did not determine your area of residency, and also when tolerance and mutual trust reigned supreme. While I am of the firm conviction that what we need more in Nigeria is attitudinal change rather than restructuring, I am quick to admit that restructuring must be carried-out especially as regards the skewed constituency delineation and spread of polling units in the spirit of fairness, equity and justice.
The gerrymandering and tinkering of constituencies in favor of the Northern part of the state, who have also strategically captured the Central Senatorial zone, have altered the political balance that existed with the Southern part. For instance, Lere LGA which was part of the Southern Senatorial zone, and once produced a speaker and governor, was moved to the Northern Senatorial zone. On the other hand, Kachia LGA was removed from the Central Senatorial zone and moved to the Southern Senatorial zone, while Giwa LGA from the end part of the Northern Senatorial zone was moved to the Central Senatorial zone. The removal of Lere LGA particularly from the Southern Senatorial zone reduced its numerical strength, and rendered the Christian dominated ethnic groups in Lere a minority in the Northern Senatorial zone.
In the spread of Federal Constituencies, while Kaduna North and South LGA have one Federal Constituency respectively, an equally big local government like Chikun is combined with Kajuru LGA to produce one Federal Constituency seat. It has also been observed that most of the local government areas in the Northern part of the state have two state constituencies. While only Zangon Kataf presently in the Southern part has two, even with the fact that there are some local government areas that are large enough to have two. In the area of polling units, the Northern part of Kaduna controls over 60% of the total polling units in the state.
The consequences of an unfair allocation of polling units’ means that from party primaries, the areas with the largest number of units produces the largest number of delegates at any convention. Also, the areas with the highest number of polling units automatically will return the highest votes and continuously produce the governor and other key elective positions. For instance, Soba LGA with lower population has more polling units than Kaura with a larger population. So also is the case of Sabon Gari, which has a lower population but has more polling units allocated to it than Zangon Kataf with a higher population.
It is clear that some of these constituencies were carved-out in direct violation of constitutional provisions. Some of the criteria not strictly adhered to are density and spatial distribution of the population and quality of electoral units in sizes and population. Others include: interest of smaller ethnic groups; historical, cultural and ethnic affinity; contiguity including natural or physiological characteristics of the areas and settlement patterns; and accessibility in the area of transportation and communication. There is also the failure of INEC to review the delineation of constituencies periodically after every ten years to address contemporary changes and concerns in line with the constitution.
Over the years, the implication of this deliberate lopsidedness and contravention of the constitution is that out of the eight (8) civilian governors to seat in Sir Kashim Ibrahim house, only one (1) came from the Southern Kaduna Christian multi-ethnic groups. This was even as a result of the elevation of the then governor to Vice President. The imbalance
has also ensured that one ethno-religious group continuously produces two senators, leaving one for the Southern Kaduna area. Furthermore, the Northern part has successively produced the Speaker, Majority Leader, Chief Whip and Minority Leader in the State House of Assembly since 1999. The consequence of this for example is the partial distribution of 74 existing Federal Institutions in the state; as at 2012, Northern Senatorial zone had 21, Central Senatorial zone had 47, while the Southern Senatorial zone had only 6.
This was not always so, as up until after the 1991 census, the principle of North-South balance prevailed in the political equation of the state. This is evident starting with the 1963 population census figures which showed a near balance between the Northern and Southern section of the province (Northern Zaria had 45%, while Southern Zaria had 46%, with Kaduna Capital Territory having 9%). This fact was again buttressed by the Kaduna State Statistical Year Book 1978, which showed that the proportions remained the same between the Northern and Southern Zaria. The balance was obvious in 1979, when the Federal Electoral Commission carved out constituencies in preparation for the elections. Both areas shared the same number of Senatorial Districts (1 each), Federal Constituencies (5 each) and State Constituencies (15 each).
During the 1992 elections the near balance continued in Federal Constituencies, which reflected that Southern Kaduna had 6, Northern Kaduna had 5, while Kaduna Capital Territory had 2 seats. So also at the State House of Assembly, where Northern Kaduna had 17 seats and Southern Kaduna had 16 seats, thereby giving each a sense of belonging. The dramatic turn of events actually started with the disputed 1991 census, which served as the guide and population projections for the subsequent delineation of constituencies. Without record of any major outbreak of war or disease or evidence of mass migration that reduced the population, it showed the population of Southern Kaduna to be 34% down from 46% in 1963, while Northern Zaria had 46%. It is worthy of note to state that the Census figures was contested at the Census Tribunal, which established that many areas in Southern Kaduna had either not been counted or severely undercounted and ordered a recount.
The questionable 1991census figures marked the end to the principle of North-South political balancing in Kaduna state. For instance, during the 1993 elections, Kaduna North senatorial zone had 35%; Kaduna South senatorial zone had about 24%, while Kaduna central zone had 41% of polling units in Kaduna state. This proportion continued down to the 1998/1999 elections, and continued after the 2006 census till date. This is just a summary of the realities that makes people like me come to the conclusion that restructuring is ripe especially as regards the fair and equitable delineation of constituencies starting with Southern Kaduna. Also, INEC must strictly adhere to the constitution by reviewing the delineation of constituencies after every ten years according to its provisions without fear or favor. This is the true path to justice, peace, unity and progress. God bless Nigeria.
Yusuf Ishaku Goje