By Emmanuel Onwubiko.
These are not the best times for Nigeria and Nigerians.
The mere fact that in the last two years Nigeria has invested more money paying for the healthcare of our President in a foreign jurisdiction than we have committed towards provided maternal healthcare in the whole Country is good enough evidence that these are indeed troubling and insanely tough times for all of us outside of the Nigerian government.
Locally, one of the contending conspiracy theories swirling all over the horizons is one that says that the Muhammadu Buhari’s Federal government has perfected sinister plots to progressively Islamize Nigeria.
Those who hold this view have graphically pointed to the numerous ferocious attacks of armed Fulani herdsmen targeting largely Christian communities and the lack of effective response by the security service as a clear evidence.
These persons have also called into question the unconstitutional appointments of mostly adherents of the Islamic religion from the North to head majority of the security forces. These lopsided appointments are clear afronts to the constitutional provision of Federal character principle.
For instance, in the Ministry of interior, the retired Kano State born Lieutenant General, Abdulrahman Danbazau, picked northern Moslem heads to take charge of all the Para-military institutions under his charge, in addition to the fact that the Northern region produced the retired colonel who is heading the Nigeria customs service.
Those who are alleging Islamisation agenda are part of a Nigerian Christian Elders Forum (NCEF), and they are not light weight Nigerians, but persons who even became military Generals such as the retired Chief of Army Staff General Theophilus Danjuma from Taraba State, North East of Nigeria and General Zamani Lekwot from Southern Kaduna State, in the North Central of Nigeria.
These allegations of the existence of a well-grounded scheme amongst the presidency officials to Islamize Nigeria has hardly subsided when out of the blues, it has emerged that the Sokoto State administration is to spend a whooping N700 Million to purchase a house in Abuja and furnish it for the use of the Sultan of Muslims.
Recall that the man who established the sultanate, Othman Danfodio, a Fulani, waged his so-called ‘holy’ war to Islamize what is now Northern Nigeria and succeeded substantially thereby ensuring that only his kinsmen are made the official leaders of the Moslem community in Nigeria.
If there is any needless controversy now I think we can do without stoking the embers of conspiracy theories as to if the Sokoto state governor Mr. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal a very senior lawyer and erstwhile Speaker of Federal parliament has decided to facilitate the relocation of the Sultan of Sokoto from his cultural, traditional and Religious base in Sokoto state to the nation’s capital.
Mind you section 10 of the Constitution bans any plot or scheme to elevate any religion as state religion given that Nigeria is a nation with millions of adherents of different religious and non-religious persuasions.
As someone who knows the governor I can say right away that there’s nothing to fear regarding this project of acquiring accomodation for the Sultan of Sokoto in Abuja. For me, I oppose this move from the economic standpoint than from some conspiracy theories that lacks any empirical grounds to support. The Sokoto state administration has defended the decision.
In a statement sent to this writer by the Spokesman of the governor, he put up a robust defence thereby dismissing any insinuations that may have some political or maverick orientation or connotations.
Mr. Imam Imam who worked as Political editor with a national newspaper in Lagos stated thus: “The attention of Sokoto State Government has been drawn to rumours making the rounds as to the nature of approval given for the purchase of office and residential accommodation for the Sultanate Council in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory.”
“We wish to state the facts of the matter as follows:
“The Sokoto State Government, CONCERNED by lack of a befitting office and residential accommodation for use by officials and members of the Sultanate Council, approved within its CAPITAL ESTIMATES of the 2016 Supplementary Budget and 2017 Budget, the sum of Two Hundred Million Naira (N200 million) and Five Hundred Million Naira (N500 million) respectively, PROVISION AND FURNISHING OF SULTANATE COUNCIL OFFICE AND RESIDENCE IN ABUJA; the items are on Pages 11 and 362 of the approved budget documents with Sub Head Numbers 467/131 which was passed by the Sokoto State House of Assembly and signed into law by Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on Friday, February 10, 2017.
Furthermore, the Sokoto State Executive Council, the highest decision-making body in the state, via a resolution of the EXCO with number CC (2016) 5R of Wednesday, December 28, 2016, approved the purchase of the office and residential accommodation in Abuja; thereafter, the Office of the Secretary of State Government received three offers from different Estate Developers which were vetted and assessed by the Ministry of Works and the State Due Process Office.
Imam argues that: “Following adherence to laid down procedure, the process of acquiring the property was set in motion upon which some elements are now trying to make political capital out of it.”
“We wish to make it clear that all laid down legal and administrative procedure has been followed in the execution of the matter. The Sultanate Council and its officials are important component of the life of Sokoto State. Its funding is taken care of by extant provisions of the laws of Sokoto State and executed primarily from revenue sources accruing to the State and Local Government Councils.”
He argued that his boss felt that providing a befitting office and residential accommodation to Sultanate officials will further strengthen the work officials of the Sultanate Council are carrying out in Abuja.
“The present situation where officials pay huge sums of money to stay in hotels is economically unsustainable in the long run. We urge reporters and other members of the public to discountenance rumour mongers and always verify news stories from authorized channels.”
The controversies trailing this project reminds me of the tough experiences the modern day founder of China underwent before China became what it is now. Just as I hope, the good works of the Sokoto state governor in the area of the educational and economic empowerment of the manpower of that state will sooner rather than later transform Sokoto into a pride of place in the history of Nigeria.
On the issue of China’s founder’s tough times, this is what some American professors wrote down.
“As China’s reform program continued to open the country up, it became ever harder to define just what Mao Zedong, like Shaoshan itself, meant to “his people”.
“But to this day Mao’s still substantial appeal seems to derive, at least in part, from his ability to project a commanding sense of fearlessness and strength. For better or worse, he was a leader unafraid to exercise authority. If new wealth and global power came to China after death, under his leadership it at least became a nation that the world could no longer ignore, much less mistreat.”
“Accustomed to being bullied and denigrated, many Chinese found Mao’s self-confidence and bravado (even when it morphed into self-serving swagger) seductive and, in the end, surprisingly reassuring.”
“Being bullied by your new “emperor” was better than being at the mercy of arrogant foreign powers. And being bullied was something Mao had learned more than a little about at an early age”, ( see the book: “Wealth and Power- China’s long March to the 21st century”, by Orville Schell and John Delury).
At first, when yours faithfully read the story, what came to my mind was to pause and question if the Sultan is about relocating to Abuja but upon reading the explanation offered by the spokesman of the Sokoto state governor, I think we should give the governor some benefit of the doubt that he means well for his people.
But let me use this medium to inform my friend, the Sokoto state governor, that the officials of the Sultanate who come to Abuja for work will still patronise Hilton and other big hotels to indulge in some pastimes associated with the hospitality industry in Abuja. If in doubt just commissoon some persons to monitor so you see that it’s economically suicidal to commit this huge resources to set up a house for Sultan when the Sultan can comfortably be accommodated at the Sokoto State government owned lodges in Asokoro, Abuja, so the scarce resources are channeled towards youth human resources’ development in Sokoto. I write this as an ‘amicus curial’ or a friend of the house.
As one of my colleagues observed, if Sokoto is investing this much to get a home for the Sultan in Abuja, other States may as well buy houses for their most prominent traditional rulers. It therefore means that Obi of Onitsha, Oni of Ife, OluIbadan of Ibadan, Emir of Kano amongst others may have to make cases for their state governments to buy up choice housing asseys in Abuja for them.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko is head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.