Nigeria Central The Middle Belt


Dedicated to Nigeria's socio-political issues




October 3, 2007 - December 2, 2007



LUNARPAGES.COM and IPOWERWEB.COM - Despicable WebHosts - Read My Story





Nigeria Central
The Middle Belt, Glue Of The Nation



Chimaroke Nnamani
Governor of Enugu State


2005 edition of the public lecture series of the
Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Plateau State Council, in conjunction with
Africa Republic Foundation (ARF); Hill Station Hotel, Jos, Nigeria

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


... cheating, in history, consists in speaking
for one's self, while feigning to speak of others...

... Alan Browning
(in Nazi Hate Mongering, 1944)


The realities of our struggles for acceptable conditions of coexistence and furtherance of our national dreams compel whatever efforts there should be, to achieve a high level of coalescence and understanding of the contending dimensions, of our multi-coloured nation-state.

Over four years ago, when the Correspondents Chapel of this same Plateau State Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), provided me the unique opportunity to use this podium, we had contended with matters of the state, the faith and the press.

Then in 2001, it was a challenge to review the reportorial challenges imposed on our men of the pen in urging the various contending issues of state alongside that of our various faiths. While we did that, we could not see the reason for the passion and partisanship sometimes exhibited in forms of indiscretion ,and disdain for what did not augur well with our individual interests.

But in the mean time, we did establish that the greater challenges of husbanding a nation-state in the making did not stand on the urgency to relate matters without the necessary discretion attending such matters, which harbour the tendencies of social disruption.

Today, I must admit to you that much as we have not fully surmounted that urge to relate it the way we feel, without bothering about whose ox is gored, it has presented itself more in our viewing our nation-state as made up of ever registering physical divisions or disuniting factors, for which we elect to live, on the belief that it has to stay as permanently separated as possible.

Actually, when again, my staff came under the pressure of the NUJ in Jos, to come back and take a look at how things have fared in the time being, I had the immediate urge to edge off, due mainly to the necessity of exercising caution in the prevailing temper of various social and political threats. But as was the case in 2001, the pressure of Mr. Moses Ezulike of the Champion Newspapers and his Chairman, Mr. John Tsok, was intense on my staff that it was evident that they were keen on a forum to table issues, which they prayed for an exploration of their entire dimensions.

But besides fulfilling our own part of the now running relationship, the thought of Jos, and indeed, Plateau State, were overwhelming. I had thought so sweetly of the scenic beauty of this State, which has the unique blessing of such natural breath-taking environments that it was' arguably registered as the most alluring natural landscape in Nigeria.

I had let my mind float on the picture of the rasping Kerang volcanic hills, the Dashe rocks, the Kiango waterside dam, the hugging and resting rocks in Dashe and Vom and, of course, the Batura Tash plains. I could not take my mind from the pictured flutist of the Pankshin victory dance, the scene of the Lamingo dawn and of course, the other inspiring natural scenes of which Plateau is known.

I have always marveled at the generosity of nature in endowing Plateau with these natural scenes, as I have also always relished the good fortune of our own Enugu in its rolling hills, valleys, escarpments, woods, streams, hot and warm springs, entraps, caves and dead ends, all signifying the age old challenges in which our forebears had had to contend with nature before the arrival of our current generations.

Once in a while, I love to take trips to the tick jungles of Enugu where yet the sound of the lumber man's cutting machine has not been heard and where we are offered with the rare chances of being in a world so natural and free from the bustle and restlessness of the modern time.

I must tell you this: the significance of my attachment to nature and such preserved spots rests on the chances of inspiration, side by side a physically detached appreciation of an exploding world which is further confounded by a growing inclination to assert self against more popular interests.

So, that I am in Jos again is, once more, to show solidarity and to join in the search for that elusive cod on which a once forming nation-state will anchor.

It was on that frame of mind that I considered, for a long time, the various topics suggested by the Plateau Council of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ). In doing this, I could not have mistaken what appears the commitment and courage of the Council, what with their boldness in demanding of me to speak on religion, culture, politics and minority issues in the Middle Belt. They even urged my taking declarative interest in these issues, some of which verged on outright confrontation with the sensitivities of the various peoples and the interests.

Having been in state management for over six years, and having been a participant-observer in searching for the various ways frayed nerves could be assuaged, I easily deciphered the lack of experience in the prodding, as there were no clear evidences of outright departure from mere skirmishes.

For me, the challenge of reviewing issues in the drive for a Middle Belt identity does not as yet invite any form of declarative stance as it has not conferred on any person or group such clout to so claim as acting in full consensus of terms of operation which are yet undefined and which are yet to build imaginary or real boundaries.

In fact, against the backdrop of more sober intellectual attempts at conceptualizing a Middle Belt, it is clear that fair-minded and forthright scholars have not concluded on which dimension of the identified characteristics a Middle Belt should be elevated to, for the political and social gains, against the common situation of lack or poverty which unsettle peoples, no matter ethnic or communal origins and affiliations.

In, therefore; picking on the topic, Central Nigeria, the Middle Belt, Glue of the Nation, I consider it imperative that the search for harmonious coexistence must take into account the finality of our national destiny, against the background of our political history. In other words, the stages we have traversed, the difficulties we encounter(ed), the feeling of nostalgia and even the hunger for exclusiveness, will surely have to contend with the various tendencies of which none will accept to be forcefully subsumed or ignored.

The interest in defining the characteristics of an upsurging political identity, I understand, has produced its own flurry of pontifications on what a Middle Belt Nigeria should represent. But at the same time, it has revealed far more confusing categorizations which scholars and laymen had found themselves battling an understanding of its tending factors that resemble elements of distinctive political and cultural clusters, while at the same time repudiating cultural overlap and, or, contiguity as geographical factors.

I cannot mistake the smartness to now fall into a categorization, which spells out Middle Belt, variously, in terms of political affiliation, geography, cultural fluidity and interests as well as emergent social practices and even the now decade-old geopolitical configuration. There are also presentations, which seek to elevate the various territorial struggles to that of modern conflicts. Here, those under; "pressure" of producing elite factor players ignore the possibilities of threat of class deities so long such would spring from their own kind.

And in the review of class factors and struggles in Nigeria, greater attention has, erroneously, been paid to elite views which send signals of conflict, underneath of which is deep seated interest in personal well being, against the yearnings of the larger community.

Here, in Jos, and right in this Hill Station Hotel, a consensus of a seminar of the Centre for Peace Research and Conflict Resolution (CPRCR) concluded that the seeming tension in the Middle Belt arose variously from, competing ethnic identities, inter /intra-religious differences, disputes over arable/gracing land and scarce rural resources, contests over chieftaincy/political representations and access to power. By the same token, it was reasonably argued that the measure of ascendance of these elements of conflict arise from political competition, bias, stereotype, prejudices, elite manipulation, inequity, mass poverty and brash attitude of the noveau riche. It is also stated to include protracted national economic crisis, excessive centrality of national administration, long period of military rule, arbitrariness of rules, unclear citizenship identification and of course, a supra-national interest in lands and locality matters.

Of course, we know that the greater body of research on the issue hardly included these as the precise elements of what should be a Middle Belt Nigeria. At least, it cannot represent the aspirations of the promoters of political structures figured as enclaves where ruling classes spring and on which a bargaining platform can be erected to mount a counterpoise to matters identified as negating the development of the areas reportedly threatened.

And if we consider the fact that what we call today the various negotiating clusters, viz, the geopolitical zones, arose from a confused demand for a return to regions, it is clear that such promoters would not have the matter resolved in the absence of the rise of the kind of political elite assumedly being in charge over the years and having a full swing of an endless exploitation.

When I had the opportunity of reviewing the necessity or otherwise of those various demands for a sovereign national conference, in Sokoto, two years ago, I came face to face with such tendencies of the elite to pamper the surface which, in full swing, represents their economic well being against a pretension to mass oriented discourses. Clearly, and as presented in the various tests undertaken, the larger number of the people, mostly of the poor class, do not possess an inkling of elite dominant interest hidden in the whole abracadabra.

But while I hardly saw the evidence of the variously alleged muffling in the land, it was noted that Nigeria had indeed had discussions and had pursued repeated policy and programme formulations and executions, all reflective of emerging and contending views. Again, I had contended that the opportunity of democracy had, above all, provided for continuous reviews and reconsideration of views and factors at play. At least, at the interchange thunder and clap - over issues, compromises were reached and frayed nerves assuaged.

To the effect of that background, I had then viewed the issues of Middle Belt Nigeria ... with a kind of trepidation. Certainly, not that if a departure from the aimed definition in terms of geography, politics and class occurs, a kind of swift response for conceptualization would follow on the basis of the cacophony already strewn on the plain.

By the way, if we talk of a Middle Belt, we must take into account such definitional preferences of the promoters as well as the historical data made available by researchers. Historically, it is not so easy to fit the entire Middle Belt into any zone of original antecedent. According to legends of legend and legends of origin, what we have on the ground cannot present a definitive single antecedent or even a composite background. Yet, even against that background, the Langtang, Birom, Tiv, Chawai, Jaba, Jukun, among the other tens of such ethnic groups, have one thing in common. They have lived in the Niger-Benue Confluence over some millennia. And they have, together, claimed the Nok culture, reportedly originating from Nok Village in Jaba Local Government Area, Kaduna State.

Besides the varied origins as claimed in the cases of peoples of the Nok Culture, the Middle Belt areas or the Niger-Benue Confluence region, were to gravitate to such western economic endeavours, of which the Tin Mining enterprises in Jos, our present host city, drew into it many of the people who were to realize their common heritage and political destiny. Such virtually natural concentric development, expanding in the sucking of peoples from deep Southern areas as well as far-flung North actually presented the zone as the glue that draws.

Further to this were the clear marshal qualities of the peoples, as recognized by the colonial masters, who erected military institutions, which on their own opened more waves of migrations. In fact, it was in the discharge of the duty conferred by those marshal qualities that the Middle Belt excelled as the bastion of national unity and cohesion. One of such, most often repeated, was the price of human resources reportedly expended in the various wars from 1914.

Political gladiator who had to appear in Jos - a unique center - to seek a consummation of acceptance across the nation could not have ignored the reality of this natural pull to the center.

From 1952, through the various republics, including the national conventions of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), 1993 and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), 1998, it has always been, to Jos, for the final decision.

As Middle Belt has come a long way in history, it has expanded on the political fillip of a feeling of system emasculation and oppression. Indeed, such feeling has drawn more who were not ordinarily, by geography and culture, considered by Middle Belt. Mid way, it was simply those who considered themselves unfortunate to be hemmed into the Northern Nigerian political system. That way, even some of the ethnic groups, evident northeast bound but living on the feeling of alienation, either by the old Northern system or the evolving Northeastern patch-up, had to seek succour under the umbrella of Middle Belt.

Further south, the Yoruba of Kwara and Kogi, Kabba, Ebira, Igala, Idoma, etc, had to be sucked into this emerging political feeling.

It is on account of this that it is currently argued that in terms of geopolitical territory, what may eventually spring up as the Middle Belt would be a behemoth squeezing apart the North and South of Nigeria, but constituting a seeming natural intervention between some alleged dominators and usurpists favoured at the transition of power from colonialism to nation.

Of course, I have no problems with this kind of feeling, which necessitate the hunger for such territories whose hopes were built on political emancipation, economic fortune and group identity. Indeed, I have never had the cause to argue against such desires to rise in time and be fully identified with bringing in the individual genre of culture, economy, politics and other expressions as would be permitted by civilization. More so, the injunction of Article 27 of the UN declaration on minority rights fortifies the ground: States shall encourage conditions for the promotion of national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identities... and make allowance for the people to enjoy their culture, to profess and practice their culture, and to use their language, in private and in public, freely and without interference' or any form of discrimination ... That is ground swelling. And any such hunger for distinctiveness, if not fueled by elite greed for territory identity as bargaining power, would ride home in victory.

Of course, while this background does not reveal all there is in forming up as a group possessed of identity, it does not exclude the fact that in the various fragments of what is seen as Nigeria's multi-ethnically built character, there has been no representation of any major departure from official acknowledgement of the rights of groups, be they major or minor.

In saying this, I stand the risk of being confronted with evident facts of attitudes of state, suggestive of responses or favours directed at elements of one group, usually alleged to be the larger ethnic groups. For instance, the 1976 constitution making process revealed an unfortunate elite slide, into defining citizens' membership of the various areas or states of Nigeria as deriving from one's parents being indigenous to a community in the State, being themselves citizens of Nigeria.

Historian Yusuf Bala Usman of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, was reported to have effectively challenged this proposition, arguing that it was unhealthy, divisive and replete with such dangers associated with denied inclusion in one's place of birth (not his parents'), abode and productivity.

Like other analysts whom I know to have voiced their views on this, I strongly agree with Usman. In fact, his question on the validity of claims of indigeneity cannot be ignored against the full weight of evidence that most peoples in Nigeria had actually come from somewhere Fulani, they said, from Senegal; Jukun, from Egypt; Bachama, from Gobia; Yoruba, from the East; Igbo, a lost tribe from the East (?); etc. In other words, if it is stretched, many Nigerians will have to face strong questions about their indigeneity.

Indeed, it was such elite manipulation, which resulted in the migrant population of Nigeria never having a feeling of membership of where they lived and worked, as they had never been accorded such recognition to be more reflective of oneness with their immediate environments.

Of course, we must acknowledge that the Edwardian order of colonialism, in earnest, sought, for its shortcomings, some commensurate ruling groups over the vast territories they conquered and amassed. They also instituted dubious anthropological and historical searches, to define our respective pedigrees, so as to typecast us socially.

We strongly remember the hurtful thesis of the likes of Sam Blithe Palmers, who sought strenuously to ascribe some political sophistication to some ethnic groups so as to justify their envisaged transfer of power or accommodation, in time.

Right under our nose, the likes of Palmers and William Crocker could not tolerate any form of equal foundations for the various ethnic groups in Nigeria that is to the effect that offhandedly, the Yoruba were the superior race of the West, just because they constituted the majority. Ndigbo had to lord it in the East and the Hausa-Fulani in the North. Just by sheer numbers and clear dictatorial terms.

In so acting as managers of an emerging State, their pattern of inferiorisation consigned the Yoruba, who by accident of colonial administrative creations were located in Northern Nigeria as not possessing adequate statecraft as their lord-kith and kin in the West.

It was the same case for the Igbo on the western bank of the Niger, who as a fringe people, were deemed inferior to match the political dexterity of the Yoruba in the West. In that same vein, those who constitute today the emerging identity of Middle Belt were out of reckoning in the emerging Northern Nigeria order, where the majority Hausa-Fulani held sway.

In fact, even in the case of the Igbo, this same Palmers sought vehemently to carve out and establish the Aro as a distinct superior race - what with his awe of the Aro slave Oracular oligarchy - which the colonial agents confronted on arrival, but considered for possible alliance in further subjugating of the rest. Consequently, he argued that, if a semblance of order representing the British imperial caste would be created in the East, it had to be driven by the Aros a special aristocratic race, not really of the mainstream Igbo nation.

Today, many of us argue that what informed the mindset of the likes of these colonial agents was the need to pacify the most dominant groups they upturned their fortune on arrival. Some believe that they were genuinely in need of organized institutions to further their system of divide and rule. But for me, what they embarked on has remained a strong divisive factor, causing one to wonder if actually they sought to build one nation -state.

To some extent, we have overcome these incidences and moved on. From regions, states have since emerged, but against hopes, we have yet to erase the feeling of alienation, dispossession and oppression.

In the case of the Middle Belt, as stated above, what used to be provinces in Northern Nigeria have evolved into six states, now seeking bloc appearance and intervention possibilities either as a conglomerate or even an agglomeration. Of course, we have no problems with that. What bothers me is the possibility of the dangers of abandoning that, which actually bedevils the over-all society.

Sunday Ochoche, who actually anchored the resolution of the Centre for Peace, detected the initial threat of authoritarianism as against democracy, as the major threat to appreciating the tendencies and resultant conflicts in the region. In the solutions proffered in the communiqué of his organization, he had properly referred to the long wait for democracy as having exacerbated poverty, absence of responsive governance, lack of quality education and skewed interpretation of the laws of the land, which in the estimate of the non-governmental organization, had created further tension.

Indeed, in one of my lectures on poverty, a fortnight ago, I had pushed this kind of argument as one, which should be elaborated and anchored, on seeking popular and participatory governance to ensure the end of the threat to proper economic order. I will return to that later.

In suggesting the class element of what he called the struggle for Middle Belt identity Sam Egwu of the University of Jos, amplified this, especially on the trend of distribution of the wealth of the society. He goes further to show that territorial quest, ethnicity and primordial identities or even structures of culture could befuddle the real issues of struggle for resource allocation or reallocation. It was on that note that he regretted the possibilities of abortion against the struggle whose arrowheads may have operated wrongly, if not dubiously.

I said earlier in this discourse that I subscribe to the full recognition of the plural elements of Nigeria; that is in line with the Pitman dictionary as outlined by Bala Takaya to represent, a state of society in which members of diverse social groups develop their traditional cultures or special interests within a common civilisation.

I actually urge the revival of such which educate on varieties of our nationalities, if for the purposes of underlining the convergent possibilities of Nigeria.

For a long time, I had considered many aspects of the tendencies in Nigeria as running on the wrong track, especially as I view many promoters of new orders as having ignored the global train on which new values will unavoidably be anchored. It was on that fillip that I initially considered the topic, Nigeria's Unity Challenges in a Globalizing World. It was an endeavour in which I hoped to review the now fashionable structuring of Nigeria's integrity merely on geophysical considerations, which I am certain, either overshot or downscaled the relevance of global trends in modern state formations and their intervening variables.

Virtually every person in this hallowed chamber remembers the points of entry of the colonizers, who, as it were, usurped the gains of internal imperial adventurers and successfully knocked together Nigeria. It is known to us that as they came, they rejected if ever they invited the opinion of the people they met. In doing that, they created their own medium of exchange of which those who were far removed from the few centers of colonial takeoff began the entire episode in unspeakable disadvantage.

Indeed, in their search for riches of our soil, they succeeded in creating towns and cities of which those who were disadvantaged by either distances or inability to fit into their coming economy came down materially relegated. As related by historian Adiele Afigbo, what ensued was not just a matter of creating new administrations but an entire overhaul, of which those who remained in villages where minerals were not discovered were condemned to inferior media of exchange and possible pauperization.

It was the scamper and bustle for places in the emerging urban centres, as viewed by Okwudiba Nnoli, that earlier hints of ethnicity were detected. In fact, taking a trip in history, Nnoli charges that earlier reports of culture and ethnic contact, which predated colonialism, never suggested any such expression of ethnocentrism as evidenced in the struggle to share in the scarce opportunities provided in the new colonial towns. Citing incidences of Igbo/ljaw contacts prior to colonialism, he reported Kenneth Dike's conclusion that such interactions negated any such apparent ethnic feeling but were founded on attributive specializations of which the various interchanges, exchanges and mutual assistance formed the dominant decimals.

Indeed, some pre-colonial cosmopolitan and, of course, polyglot towns had thus existed as the likes of Ukwuani, in present day Delta State; Uburu in the present day Ebonyi State; Iji and Akpugo Eze, in the present day Enugu State; Ibadan and Oyo, in the present day Oyo State; Iddo, Eko and Obalende in the present day Lagos State; Kano, in present day Kano State; Sokoto, in today's Sokoto State; Port Harcourt, in today's Rivers State, as in most other parts of Nigeria for either military, trade, mining, manufacture or other callings.

According to Prof. Kene Ilozie, Igbo traders were spotted in Bida, just as agents of the then Etsu had instituted mercantile runs between Bida and Uburu. Igbo colonies were already springing in various spots in the then Igala country as the Olukwumi (Yoruba) clan, long on the western banks of the Niger, in the Igbo Delta areas, had already crossed to the eastern bank and settled in various spots in Aku, Ogbeikporo, Oguta, Ukwa, etc, all in Igbo land.

The cases of such pre-colonial mega-polis as Sokoto, Kano, Zaria, etc, are well known as standing tall and unfazed by any such sectional chants and hollering.

These and many more we cannot bring up here, had the prevalence of mixture of ethnic groups, races and cultural colourations to qualify as cosmopolitan and polyglot towns, but were never reported as having had incidences of any such ethnocentrism, before the advent of European imperialism and the attendant economic styles of the colonialist regimes.

In contradistinction, the rise of Jos, on account of tin mining activities; Enugu, on account of coal mining; Kaduna, Ilorin, Lokoja, Owerri, Onitsha, Ado Ekiti, Kano, etc, for administrative and modern economy, presented some disgusting competition for resources such that ethnicity feeling and expression became the entry behaviours for those involved in the neck-to-neck struggles.

It has been on the strength of the ensuing historical review that I anchor my argument that the desire for new identities, or is it the desire to manufacture them, was made inevitable by the colonial antecedents. This rides the crest of the argument that such socio-political interplays which attempted to eat up various identities, if only to make of the natives mere providers of the needs of the colonial masters, had to undergo self-realization and search for forgotten identities. Moreover, the ensuing power sharing exercises, especially arising from the now dominant claim of distinctiveness, if only to carve a niche, would not have been left with a vacuum of both leadership machinery and historical standpoints to urge such dissimilarity.

If admitted within the present propitious cravings for identifications, not injuring in the process the challenge of the globalizing world, I would say that it posed no problems. But if on the other hand it presents an impediment to the characters of what shall determine our inclusion in the now ensuing global economy of which we cannot escape, then we say that we have bought the wrong ticket.

At various forums, I have had causes to raise matters of our inclusion in the globalization trends, bearing in mind that the major cannons democracy (stakeholder-driven governance), economic liberalization (privatization) and information technology - are already registered in our growing democratic system. In this particular case, I have found the tendencies at play in the Middle Belt as such that can be extended for the gains of the greater number rather than the chase for a kind of identity which will certainly be manipulated for the economic well- being of the elite.

It was against this background that I have backed Egwu's identification of the abortionist threat of the initiative if it should ignore the damage of poverty on whatever identity sought. I do not consider any member of this audience lacking in the data of the real poverty situation in Nigeria as at 1996. That well-publicized data on our general poverty trend gave this horrifying picture of a down-ward slide in the economic well being of the citizenry as depicting a track which started much earlier in the life of the independent State in the 1960s.

In 1964, less than 26 per cent of Nigerians operated under the poverty zone, leaving over 84 per cent of the population as living above poverty line. The level jumped from 28.1 per cent in 1980 to 46.3 per cent in 1995. But in 1996, the indices of measurement were rattled with jump from that already alarming level to 65.5 per cent or 67.1 million of the population.

In the subsequent distribution, it is indicated that of the national population of Nigeria's poor, 58.2 per cent of the urban elements is poor while our rural areas harbour as high as 69.8 per cent.

Put on the test of the dispositions of the various sexes, it was surprisingly revealed that the female-headed families present a better picture at 58.5 per cent as against the male-headed families put at 66.5 per cent. That is to say that the criteria applied, such as quality food in-take or dietary combination, family stability, possibilities of entry into higher social ladder, adult sacrifices for the well-being of the dependents and the rest social possibilities present better chances of handling in the female-headed families.

Just a fortnight ago, in Lagos, I told my audience, and I still hold the point today, that much as it is true that the immediate result of the analysis presents an uglier rural poor situation, the picture of impoverishment in the urban areas ought to leave a gasp in our breath.

Of course, someone can argue that we could not have been alone in poverty and so cannot be compelled to abandon such drives for affirmative action for purposes of lifting our kind from the deep claws of deprivation. Indeed, I have once heard the argument that no such escape from poverty would come in the absence of such affirmative actions, which on forming the necessary political identity would give room for economic empowerment.

My stand has never been in the direction of stamping or halting affirmative actions as the drives for a Middle Belt identity and the others. Rather, I have argued that in the event of the full swing of globalization, general as well as individual inclusion would determine relevance in the emerging order, and that is irrespective of prevailing identities.

In fact, in Apples and Lexus of Arnold Opeinheimer, the issue presented a good argument of which the characteristics of the baseline poor in Western countries revealed hints of lack of any form of qualities, such as skills, for inclusion in the rolling machinery of globalization. The case, as he argues, is worse for the Third World. In the same vein, Dan Sherman, in his Sovereign multinationals, depict an entrepreneurial evolution in which the issue will no longer be so much a matter of the state/communal origin but the right kind of skill to be included) protected and elevated, in every dimension of life, by the powerful international business organisations.

I cannot pretend that I am not aware that anti-imperialist intellectuals will view a proposal for the preparation of the national human resources to merely fit into the operations of Western conglomerates. I must admit that this is not the forum to take up this matter. Suffice to say that the juncture we have arrived, electing firmly to stand on the inviolability of the integrity of Nigeria, but sucking on the resources of the world, compels a readiness to play in the right court, at the right time, if we will not be relegated.

My worry is that if we get drained of our energy in seeking disjointed identities, which we ought to find in the respective states or even the loose geo-political zones, abandoning what offers a passage to the reduction of poverty, we would have been led into further elite deception of which more struggles are anticipated.

Put the other way, I have had causes to consider the scenario of the working Nigeria whose primary concern is not the political texture of the immediate environment if removed from the desired responsibilities of a responsive government. This is in agreement with Ochoche who argues that one of the ways out; even if it is to form a foundation for affirmative action, is to institute a massive and qualitative education. I completely agree with him, especially if we are both bound for the effect of developing the right kind of skill to propel the citizenry to more meaningful enterprises, rather than being mere weapons in disguised elite struggle for power.

The gainful hint on this is that the state or region or geopolitical zone will have to work a population more enlightened and positioned to dissect elite interpretations of issues and settle for that which is not mere manipulation. And in this, we could not have been arriving with a pioneer's view. Way back in late 1962 when the sage, Obafemi Awolowo declared the principles for founding the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, he affirmed the primacy of quality education thus: Education is the foundation for progress ... it is the cornerstone of rapid social, economic and political development.

My fear in this is that such stake-holder driven governance as sought in that cannon of globalization leaves the ignorant participant with no knowledge of the state and economic systems as he would as well be shunted aside by the demands of the skills to enter the liberalized (privatized) economies whose entry criteria would hardly consider basic cultural and perhaps political identities.

Moreover, a close comparative study reveals that the terms of poverty can differ with regions and so what level of poverty separates the African, or a Third World man from inclusion in possible economic well being may not be the case in the First World states. For instance, a current analysis of the 1996 American Bureau of Census report suggests that of the 15 per cent or about 34 million of the citizens who, by waves of immigration, were understandably poor, it would be preposterous to put them side by side with the over 65 per cent or 67.1 million below-baseline poor Nigerians, recorded within the same time zone.

Further to that, neither the 10 15 per cent poor in Australia, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom, could be equaled to our own middle-to-middle class, nor the 5.8 per cent poor in Belgium, Germany, France, the Scandinavian countries and Italy, be represented as our upstart working but sufficient class.

Somehow, it may be necessary at this point to remind us of what actually constitutes poverty. The New Webster Dictionary of English Language defines poverty very traditionally as unproductiveness/deficiency or inadequate supply... (that is lack in the face of need) while a secular concept evolves an ideas section of the subject, as the monastic renunciation of the right to own ... material possessions (that is possibly having access to or being close to source but consciously rejecting personal acquisition.

Some noted scholars have since pushed up the topic to its high gear. Elizabeth Wilkins is one. According to her, poverty is termed the income of a community which in subdivision among families and kindred, is less than 40 percent of the norm (living below one US Dollar, a day) ...and such manifests more in poor infrastructure, poor health, poor nutrition, poor self esteem, low hygienic standards, low intellectual development and lack of capacity to articulate social, economic and political environment and low per capita income.

Put the other way, it amounts to the reduction of the person to the margin below the so-called poverty line, which, on its own, is defined as the marginal income line at which an adequate living standard is (not) possible.

As I hinted above, I took pains to seek the dimensions of poverty, particularly as it presents a clear challenge of sectional/regional dilemmas at the moment. In earlier studies of poverty in Europe, Poverty, a study of town life; Poverty and the welfare state and Poverty and progress Benjamin Seebohn Rowntree, 1871 1956, shocked his established world in the conceptualization of urban instability and social upheavals, especially in the cases of the urban poor rising against their kind in a dog eat dog affair (what is popularly called the pedagogy of the oppressed), which was snowballing into larger social confusion.

Aptly, what he situated tends to our repeated ethnic violence, intra-class rivalry, inexplicable urban violence and emerging citizen-heartlessness as clear manifestations of poverty. These, in our cases, can also be represented in ethnic chauvinism, political chicanery, money doubling businesses, swindling, ritual killing, and the likes, employed by the desperados to further oppress the poor, ignorant and unwary.

Mind you, if what is at issue is inclusion in the now globalizing world, and we have fixated our national integrity on various identities to form the geo-physical unity of our nation state, then it is imperative on us to advance further on the platform of arguments presented by such scholars who anchor the entire quagmire on paucity of development of both the people and material resources.

But let us return again to Middle Belt. I have argued that the point appears headed for the wrong direction in the effort to compress the Middle Belt issues to elite interest in grabbing power over a territory. I have tried to review the arguments for or against the texture of a Middle Belt, still smarting on whether its characteristics and eventual definition would be culture dominated or accommodated in the official gesture of the current geo-political status. I have then concluded that this cannot be the final issues as such did not include the right foundation for poverty control, mass education, dispassionate appraisal and strong economic build up to stand as an intervening unit.

Now, what draws my attention is what the Middle Belters seem to consider an exclusive colonial as well as postcolonial experiences. I do not think the Middle Belters are alone in their urge for political affirmation. In fact, as I also hinted earlier, the kind of colonial political history of Nigeria is the same for every region and it has always been clear to us that the then surging imperialists never invited any person's opinion at the institution of their new order.

Right on the bank of the Uriam River, in 1901, chieftain of the arriving political and military order, Sir Ralph Moor, never minced words about the might of the imperial order in his threat never to brook any native opinion. He growled and thundered, the natives must be made to understand that the government is their master and is determined to establish in and control their country.

Indeed, prior to 1900, on the suggestion of Miss Flora Shaw, then of Time Magazine in London and later Lady Luggard, Colonel Fredrick Luggard, strode so arrogantly, to stop the entire bickering of the natives in carving his super state, with an acquisitionist mindset rooted in the Colonial London Gazette of June 5, 1885. He was just implacably unequivocal ... the Niger Districts ... have come under the gracious protection of Her Britannic Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the First.

Did these scenes of contact suggest an inclusion of native opinion or even a form of invitation for one, let alone any form of challenge? The answer is no. The same kind of colonial masters were to show disdain for the local people when they arrived for the tin minerals tucked inside the soils of the plateau. They completely disregarded the norm and formed clusters of the working people, never minding any need for definitive identity for the native peoples.

Even as its involvement in the World War, 1914 1918, depleted the male human resources to attend to its urgent need for these tins, imperial Britain in Nigeria had swiftly transported able-bodied men, in their thousands, from other regions of Nigeria, particularly in the South, to fill in their need for those resources. And without bothering about the possible threats to interests of natives, had pursued their form of economy, which conferred material superiority to the migrant residents.

In his seminal work on Ethnic politics in Nigeria... Prof. Okwudiba Nnoli reports repeated urban uprisings, majority of which arose from native rejection of that kind of material privilege, which seemed deliberate in exclusion of the natives. But in all, the interest of the colonial masters was not quite to satisfy that interest as might have been craved by the natives but to further the economy of the home country and brighten the chances of winning the war against the Axis Forces.

Indeed, the Plateau region was not alone in this. What followed the economic style of the colonial masters, especially in concentrating approved sectors to few urban towns, led to an almost a tradition of stampede/scamper to where it was happening. Remember, the pattern left no option of exchange other than the approved currency, which could be obtained only in working for the masters. Naturally, the enviable displays of the then noveau riche, on visits to their native homes, easily induced torrents of migration to where it was happening.

People surged to Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Lokoja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Onitsha, Calabar, etc, and it was not long before urban tensions and violence, began to assume the statuses of weapons against both the colonial masters and the migrants. Actually for the later, the Igbo, who constituted the biggest clusters in most of these emerging towns, became major targets and had to pay painful prices in loss of human and material resources, in virtually every turn.

The scenario, has since assumed worse dimensions with the political elite latching on such opportunities to carve territorial niches to ensure their grips on political power. And rather than accept the depth of class struggles snowballing into most of the fracas, they dug in and thunder issues of ethnicity and all that.

For me, the brutality of colonial pattern, the fierceness of competition for scarce central resources, the ascendance of the Nigeria nation-state and of course, the reality of the permanence of our contacts, put together, have compelled dispassionate look, of which any negation would amount to ignoring such cultivated flows upon which nation-states had been built.

In our recent attempts at attending to the complications of such social formations arising from a kind of precipitate urban creations, the nation state Nigeria - has tried (though never enough) to reassure, as its venture in tackling minority questions. These have been especially through repeated constitutional changes, policy formulations, programmes and actions in response to yearnings, etc and of course, the creation of states. The last, we have soon discovered, easily spring up further minorities where it was initially assumed the state creation would terminate the rancour and bickering of initial agitators.

But, strangely, while the predicament of erstwhile minorities was swept in that exercise, further challenges have arisen with new majorities seeming hard to appreciate worries and fears of newer minorities. Strangely again, some erstwhile minorities sound trite in repeated chants against ex-dominators, decades after such quasi-affirmative actions conferred by state-statuses, had been theirs. I am not sure if that is the pointer to the fact that those ethnic/minority identity gladiators are too far from this level.

What baffles me most is that the urge, in earnest, to transcend such tendencies, which lead to hurtful parochialism, was sounded out so early, in the life of Nigeria but was not heeded. In 1936, the Nigerian Youth Movement founded in 1932, took up the gauntlet to seek national character and consensus. As again reported by Nnoli, it had called for attenuation of such ethnic tendencies, if a nation-state had to emerge. To that effect, it was reported to have embarked on a form of national spread of presence and activities with setting up of branch offices in Ibadan, Ijebu Ode, Warri and Benin City in the West; Aba, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Calabar, in the East; Jos, Kaduna, Zaria and Kano, in the North, and had claimed national spread of over 10, 000 1938.

Prof. Eyo Ita had subsequently argued, in 1939, that the challenges facing Nigeria is to build up the groups to achieve a consensus of which a permanent state would emerge.

In Nigeria: Background to Nationalism, James Coleman had questioned the 1920 divisive declaration of Colonial Governor, Sir Hugh Clifford, which to the very unfortunate effect meant that his government would give to each separate people the right to maintain its identity, its individuality and its nationality, its chosen form of government; and the peculiar political and social institutions which have been evolved for it by the wisdom and accumulated experiences of generations of its forebears.

Coleman contends that it is because of such colonial mindset that political mobilization in Nigeria gravitated towards overwhelming emphasis...upon greater tribal integration ..., which complicated the task of wielding diverse elements into a Nigerian nation.

As technically considered by historians and political scientists, such disposition of the ruling masters suggestively gave vent to the indirect rule system which further alienated peoples as it sought to build ruling elites of the approved others. Take for instance the attempt by Palmers to seek the creation of a master of the race in Igbo land.

The outright failure in the East, and almost total collapse in the West differed with what occurred in the North - for evident pre-colonial imperial order. But as can been seen from these agitations, including the stiff desire for a Middle Belt identity, the bait simply floundered in the attempt to act on behalf of alien rulers. This is not suggesting that for the whole imperfection of the old order, it would not have exhibited better statecraft if it had run its show, without the exploitative prodding of the colonial overlord.

It is against this background that I personally reckon that the unfolding scenario ought to have been presented to the Middle Belt Nigeria as a historic role in standing as the melting point of the ensuing national initiative at coalescence. Settled as we are about the recent political history, which fostered prior political muzzles hemming in the Middle Belt, it would have been expected that Nigerians, coming from the extremes of the West, East and North, would gravitate to the geo-physical center, where cosmopolitan tones and spices of variety had been sounded.

Usually, such previously somnolent environment, sitting on the fringes of Northern (Hausa/Fulani) establishment, far removed in physical terms from the pressures and rivalry in the East, West and Mid West, it was like a natural delight for migrants, who themselves may not completely ignore the lures for possessive attachment to the hospitable plains and plateau. Mind you, though drawn by the necessity of working in the tin mines, they could be fleeing from newly instituted totalitarians warrant and paramount chiefs, etc.

It is a burden of the political leaders to advance it as the birthplace of our true rainbow coalition possibilities and the signature spot for such competitive cultures, in which the skill, production and managerial efficiencies, of the people/s, are built to venture into the globalising world.

While I seek not to diminish the fact not the anguish that this region has contributed immensely in the size of human resources dispensed for the life and unity of Nigeria, I argue that the immediate offers, are the great promises of Middle Belt as the launching pad for the fuller realization of the integrity of Nigeria - the glue of the nation.

For that reality, it should lead in liberalization of education, reduction of poverty, development of hiteck and high skills as well as the operations of the tripodal cannons of globalization free enterprise (privatization), stakeholder participatory governance and information technology (IT). These, in a democratizing world, offer the right kind of meal tickets for the greater number.

And that way, the contending colourations of peoples would have been prepared for the next world economies and politics of which our collective readiness would ensure the evolution of the Nigerian man who can hold his end of the stick elsewhere, for whom we shall all stand to welcome and declare, as in Enugu State,

To God be the glory.



1. Coleman, James: Nigeria: Background to Nationalism, University of California Press; Berkeley, California; 1979 (edition).
2. Awolowo, Obafemi: Path to Nigerian Freedom; Faber and Faber, London; 1947.
3. Nnoli, Okwudiba: Ethnic Politics in Nigeria; Fourth Dimension Publishers; Enugu, 1978.
4. Usman, Yusuf Bala: For the Liberation of Nigeria (essays and lectures, 1969 1978); New Beacon Books Ltd, London; 1980.
5. Bagudu, Nankin (ed.): Linguistic Minorities and Inequality in Nigeria; League for Human Rights, Jos; 2003.
6. Preiswerk, Roy and Perrot, Domiique: Ethnocentrism and History, Nok Publishers Ltd, Lagos; 1978.
7. Bagudu, Nankin (ed.): The Right to be Different: Perspectives on Minority rights, the Cultural Middle Belt and Constitutionalism in Nigeria; League for Human Rights, Jos; 2001.
8. Ochoche, Sunday (anchorman): Enhancing Peaceful Coexistence in Nigeria (communiqué of Middle Belt Zonal Conference, Jos); Centre for Peace Research & Conflict Resolution, National War College; 1998.
9. Bagudu, Nankin (anchor): Minority Rights: Definitive Manual; League for Human Rights, Jos; 2003.
10. Anifowose, Remi: Violence and Politics in Nigeria, the Tiv and Yoruba Experience; Nok International Publishers, Enugu; 1982.
11. Dappa-Biriye, Harold J.R: Minority Politics in Pre-and-post Independence Nigeria; Choba, University of Port Harcourt Publishing House; 1995.



horizontal rule

© 1999 - 2006 Segun Toyin Dawodu. All rights reserved. All unauthorized copying or adaptation of any content of this site will be liable to  legal recourse.


Segun Toyin Dawodu, P. O. BOX 710080, HERNDON, VA  20171-0080, USA.

This page was last updated on 10/27/07.