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What Does It Mean To Be A Settler?

Recently, the National Assembly has mooted the idea that it would abrogate the indigene/settler clause in the constitution and confer equal citizenship rights to all…

Recently, the National Assembly has mooted the idea that it would abrogate the indigene/settler clause in the constitution and confer equal citizenship rights to all residents irrespective of their status. But since that is yet to come to effect, those who have been consigned to the status of settlers have these experiences to report in some of the states that our reporters carried out investigations.

Benue State, where settlers pay higher school fees   

Although most of Benue State’s major towns including Makurdi, the state capital, Gboko, Otukpo, and Katsina-Ala, as well as a host of other areas are largely the making of settlers, they are today telling a story of bitter experience in the hands of so called indigenes. While these settlers had enjoyed same rights and privileges in the earlier times, the present tells stories of outright discrimination. Daily, settlers are pushed to extreme conditions where access to social amenities is now base on their residential status. 

Like Katsina-Ala, Gboko and Otukpo, Makurdi, is a town founded on the strength of settlers, hence the name “Mai Kudi”, Hausa word for a wealthy person, but which was later corrupted to Makurdi by the indigenous Tiv ethnic group. In the same Makurdi are areas like Wadata, Ketaren-Waya, Wurukum, Wailomayo and Madikpo which were enclaves for settlers. Adjoining Makurdi are also towns like Abinsi and Kwatan Sule which are settlements established by Jukums and Fulanis, respectively. 

The old town was established in the early twenties by settlers. It gained prominence in 1927 when it became the headquarters of the then Benue province. Being a river port, it attracted the establishment of trading depots by companies such as UAC and John Holt Limited. The Railway bridge was completed and opened in 1932 by Alhaji Bala Ehuembe Usman, who was the first to drive a Locomotive Engine train across it. The town became the capital of Benue state in 1976 and today, doubles as the headquarters of Makurdi Local Government Area.  

But the indigenes have refused to look back; instead, they have made a desperate people out of the very settlers who made this town and the other major towns of the state what they are today. Mr. Simeon Nwakaudu, a journalist, is Igbo but was born and brought up in Makurdi where his father lived all his life, married and raised all his children. He told Sunday Trust that “Benue State has changed a lot. When we were growing up, it was better. In fact we had no problems, there was nothing like indigenes and settlers. There were no cases of discrimination. We attended same public schools with indigenes and there was no such a time when we were treated differently by government based on our ancestral roots.” Presently, the government has slammed heavy fees on settlers, compelling them to pay almost double, the fees charged indigenes in state government owned tertiary institutions. 

Nwakuaudu explained in a voice full of nostalgia that in the past, Igbos held serious positions in the town such as a councillor. “Today, it is rubbed in the faces of settlers the fact that they are settlers and can not be trusted with any official position in the state, no matter what your level of contribution to development is.” 

Like him, the Hausas whose population in Makurdi is near that of the indigenes, are daily crying of marginalisation. Abubakar, a teenager who is a student of Government College in Makurdi said he is treated by both students and staffs of the college like an outcast because of his ancestry. He said “I am Hausa, so all my mates, prefects and staff know that. They treat me as if I am not one of them. Even during sports, I am not allowed to touch ball in the field because I am not an indigene.” He said his father was born and brought up in Makurdi by parents who were equally born and brought up in Makurdi. 

A Jukun trader who sells fish at Wadata market refused to give her name, but said she has a lot of sad stories to tell. She told Sunday Trust in Tiv that the only difference between her children and those of her indigene-neighbours is ethnic group even though her children do not understand Jukun. “All of them speak Tiv, but they are charged outrageous fees in their schools because they are considered as settlers.” The fish seller said she cannot understand this determination, since, according to her, she pays development taxes and her parents all paid the same taxes to develop Makurdi to what the city is now.  

A statement by Nigerian Rally Movement (NRM), a group of political and human rights activists had insisted on what it called “the true attainment of nationhood”, explaining that here, citizenship will be defined by either place of birth or place of productive residence with appropriately derived rights rather than by some weird determinations like ancestral roots. 

Equally, Governor Gabriel Suswam had during a courtesy visit on him in Government House by the leadership of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), sought the forum to include in their memorandum to the National Assembly Committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution, the need for a better definition of indigeneship. He also frowned at the consideration of ancestral roots as indigenship.  

This is just as the leader of Hausa in the state, Alhaji Garba Baba (AGB), called for understanding between indigenes and settlers, saying both have played key roles in the development of the state, and must therefore live as brothers without the quick reference to ancestry.

I have no home than Kano – Lebanese-Nigerian 

For Tahir Fadallah, a popular Lebanese Nigerian, there is no place as hospitable as Kano. Being the place where he was born and brought up, Fadallah says Kano people don’t discriminate against him and they embrace him and his family as part of them. Speaking to our reporter, Fadallah, who is popularly called Tahir, revealed that his grandfather first came to Nigeria in 1920, and since then, their family came to stay in Kano. 

He noted that given the hospitable embrace he receives in the state, he has committed a hefty fortune toward the development of the state and corporate social responsibility. “I have built more than 300 boreholes, I have rehabilitated a lot of schools and hospitals in Kano and beyond,” he stated. Fadallah, whose citizenship number reads No. 200, further revealed that the over 8,000 Lebanese population in Kano are living peacefully and in harmony with the people Kano State. The business mogul therefore disclosed that Kano, unlike other places, accommodates people from all walks of life. 

But the Lebanese hotelier, who is also the chairman of Lebanese community, said the problem many members of his community faced was that of citizenship and passport renewal. He lamented that some of their members who were born in Nigeria were denied citizenship. According to him, some of them were denied citizenship on the grounds that their parents were not granted Nigerian citizenship – irrespective of the fact that they were born in the country. While appealing to government to reverse the trend, he cited his wife as an example, saying she was born in 1958 in Ibadan but was still denied Nigerian citizenship.  

Why Kano accommodates all Nigerians as indigenes  

As a cosmopolitan city that accommodates non-indigenes into its fold, Kano has many areas that make up its boisterous metropolis. Some of these areas are Daurawa (where Daura people resided), Zangon Barebari, (where Kanuri settled), Ayagi, (where Yorubas settled), Tudun Nufawa (where Nupe settled), Dandalin Turawa (where Arabs once settled) and Agadasawa (where other Nigerians settled).Many of aforementioned communities have produced prominent Kano citizens among who are governors, commissioners, local government chairmen, and ministers. They represented Kano as indigenes and where never seen otherwise. 

Great historian, Dr Uba Adamu once said that in the pasts, the entire Kano city was a personal belonging of the royal family, and as settlers naturalised in the ancient precinct, the monarchy distributed plots of land free of charge to whoever wanted to be part of the state.“That was how Kano grew to this strength and up till today, almost every tribe in the country has representation in Kano, not as a settler, but as indigene.” 

Investigations have showed that almost the entire settlements of Kano city are inhabited by people from other states of the north and south, and who are today indigenes and have never been looked at as settlers. Presently, the state governor appointed about three “settlers” into his cabinet. Former   Kano State governor, Alhaji Sabo Bakin Zuwo had his origin traced to Nupe in Niger state. His great-grand parents migrated and lived in Kano where he was born and raised to become the executive governor of the state in 1983. Former Kano State commissioner for Information and presidential assistant, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai is one more prominent Kano indigene with origin from the Jukun in Taraba State. This notable politician has never hidden his identity as of Jukun origin. Like others, the history of Kano and the establishment of Yakasai quarters in the city came as a result of migration of his ancestors to Kano decades ago.  

Former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, whose parents lived in Fagge area in the ancient city, was another prominent Kano indigene with historical antecedent from Borno State. 

Other prominent personalities whose Kano indigeneship was never in question and whose origin has been traced to other places include the incumbent governor of the state, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, and present chairman of the elitist Kano Forum, Malam Magaji Dambatta. While Shekarau’s parents hailed from Borno, the roots of Magaji Dambatta’s genealogy tree were traced to Daura in Katsina State. Despite the governor’s tribal marks, which signify Babur origin, the people of Kano State gave him an overwhelming support when he contested for governorship seat in 2003.

In Borno, it’s frustration for Sokoto, Kebbi, Kamfara immigrants

As controversies over alleged discrimination meted against settlers by indigenes of some Nigerian communities rage on, perceived settlers communities of Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states, whose forefathers have lived and founded these communities centuries ago, have expressed displeasure over what they called Borno government’s complete disregard for the communities they established and have been living there for decades in different local government areas of the state.

In order to champion their cause in one loud voice, the people formed an association named SOKEZA Welfare Association. The first two letters of the three states: ‘SO’ from Sokoto, ‘KE’ from Kebbi and ‘ZA’ from Zamfara were combined to get SOKEZA as an umbrella body to promote peace, unity and the common interest of people of the old Sokoto State, living in Borno. 

Aminu Abubakar Gwandu, secretary of the association, told our correspondent that the people of these three states were the only settlers known to have founded their own towns in the state which have been very beneficial to Borno, but the people have been left to suffer in pains, without schools for their children as well as other means of livelihood. “Their massive agricultural activities through small and large scale farming, irrigation, fishing, meat processing etc, which contribute greatly to food production in the state, in addition to revenue accruing to government is not enough to accord them respect,” he lamented.

Gwandu noted places such as Zabarmari in Jere LGA, Dusuman, Azaya, Dabar Masara, Kwata, Tumbun Gini, Baga, Doro, Mandarari and Wulgo spread across other local governments, most of which were founded by their ancestors centuries ago, but have been existing without schools, water, good roads, health care services while they suffer exclusion in poverty alleviation programmes embarked upon by governments at local and state levels. 

More worrisome, the people of the three states alleged that there were situations where some village rulers arbitrarily dispossessed them of their farmlands and re-allocate to others for no reason. 

Gwandu recalled that they have had cause to hold an emergency meeting some months back to speak to press men about their plight but all to no avail. The association, he added, had sometime ago called on Governor Ali Modu Sheriff to come up with what they called “an all encompassing inter-community relations programme as a means of fully integrating communities into the Borno mainstream society”. He said while executives of the association had met with Governor Sheriff over the peoples’ plight, the meetings had only ended with endless promises made by government. 

For fear that government may not respond to their needs, they went as far as demanding that government should appoint their representatives as special advisers and assistants into the government and into boards and parastatals so that their interests could be protected at government levels. They emphatically requested for protection against abuses.  

They also requested that their children should be made to benefit whenever government is allocating houses to residents while they should have access to education, poverty alleviation materials and job opportunities for those who are qualified.

But the Borno State government has upheld that it doesn’t discriminate against any Nigerian living in any part of the state. Governor Sheriff has at different public gatherings as well as media interviews noted that his administration has provided basic amenities to various communities irrespective of ethno-religious backgrounds. 

The Shehu of Borno, Abba Kyari Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai El-Kanemi had, while being turbaned  in March, 2009, swore by the holy Qur’an that he will not discriminate in relating with all sons and daughters of Borno, other residents and all visitors coming into the state no matter their diversities.  

The people of the SOKEZA said they had visited the Shehu and had solicited for his influence. But for now their “people have remained maltreated and neglected strangers in the territories that were founded by their fore fathers.”

 Settler situation in Jos

Despite the series of ethno-religious crises that have claimed lives in and around Jos, the chairman of the Igbo Democratic Forum, Chief Chidi Ndu said he was born in in Jos and had lived all his life in Jos and as far as he is concerned, he does not suffer any form of discrimination on account of his being a non indigene. He said he understands where his rights as a settler starts and where that of his host community begins so he does not challenge them in areas where he knows it is their right.

The businessman said he understands most states operate quota system in the education sector where priority in school admission is given to the indigenes first and he did not expect Plateau to be different. He stressed, however that as a businessman he did contracts, acquires land and other properties without discrimination.He maintained that if other settler populations in the state would do the same, there would be peace.

Narrating his own story, a 67 year-old settler in Anguwan Rogo, Jos, Alhaji Muhammadu Shuaibu said his parents came to Jos from Kano state. He was born in Jos but his parents sent him to a Qur’anic School in Kano because, at that time, people didn’t want their children to attend missionary schools.

Muhammadu said after he married, some of his children studied in Bauchi state because they were denied admission in primary schools in Jos. “Even if they your child, he has to pay a huge amount of money as non-indigene schools fees. They discriminated against our children with those of Berom and Anaguta ethnicities in schools, except in you know influencial people in the town who will give you a chance to put one or two children that’s all.”

He added that his children attended a primary school at Mal Jaussunnah private schools or other private school owned by Hausa Muslims. Alhaji Shuaibu said one of his children was lucky to have indigeneship certificate of Jos Local Government and he studied in Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria on scholarship, but was later asked to pay back the money he enjoyed from the coffers of the Plateau State Government because he was a non-indigene. He appealed to the Federal Government to show interest and address the problem of indigene settler in Plateau state in order to help the society to live in peace.

Katsina settlers applaud peaceful co-existence with indigenes

Three major ethnic groups, Igbo, Yoruba and Nupe that constitute the settlers in Katsina state have applauded a peaceful co-existence throughout their stay with indigenes, claiming to have enjoyed all the rights and privileges being enjoyed by indigenes of the state. Speaking separately to Sunday Trust, the elders of the three tribes ruled out any form of discrimination as their children attended schools with those of indigenes, and they equally visited the same hospitals and didn’t have any area reserved for non-indigenes as found in other states. Eze Igbo 1 of Katsina, Chief Hilliary Okonkwo, told our correspondent that, though their people had settled in the state for ages, they never had cause to complain of discrimination or attack, and had freely been conducting their businesses with the indigenes.“We get unhappy anytime we hear of sectarian crisis like that which was experienced in Jos. Here, we live in peace ever since because we appreciated and respect their culture as they respect our own we never had any crisis,” he said.

Abdulhakeem Ja’afar, a 45-year-old electrician whose father settled in Funtua local government over 60 years ago said, their Yoruba community had firmly settled in Funtua and since assimilated with the people of the area. Yarabawan Funtua, “Funtua Yorubas,” as they were fondly called, has, according to him, since established their presence from the Yoruba-speaking areas of places like Ibadan, Ogbomosho, Lagos etc, and has over time carved a niche for themselves to such an extent that their sons know and claim nowhere but Katsina. He explained that their parents were merchants who settled in the area due to the cosmopolitan nature of the town as a trade route connecting the states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and some parts of the Niger republic

The emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumini Kabir Usman has said during the coronation of Alhaji Ndanusa as Sarkin Nufawa of Katsina “King of Nupe in Katsina,” that his palace had been treating all tribes equally and would continue to offer them the maximum support to live and prosper in the state.