Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mohammed Musa Bello, raised a fundamental point as we marked Nigeria’s 59th Independence Anniversary last October 1. Musa said a generation of Nigerians has been raised, which belongs entirely to Abuja. They were born, schooled, working, married in Abuja, and are now raising their own families in Abuja.
But, Musa laments, majority of these Nigerians regard Abuja, merely as a location they inhabit out of necessity for making a living, while their hearts remain elsewhere, as their homes, not in Abuja.
The minister believes it is time for residents to regard Abuja as theirs in sync with the vision of its founding fathers. He wants all Abuja dwellers, nay, all Nigerians to rededicate and recommit themselves to building the FCT of our dream.
Such a step would make the residents love Abuja and seek its well-being. It will also create a unified front that would make the people to constitute a force that can hold government and traditional leadership accountable and further good governance.
Lest we forget, the FCT is not only the administrative headquarters of Nigeria. It is founded to be Nigeria in microcosm – home for all Nigerians. It has been located roughly at the centre point of the country. It is approximately 500 kilometres – as birds fly – from the farthest-most recesses of the country’s international borders.
It all began in the days of its genesis and birthing. I speak of the days of Dan Musa, as its minister – in the days of Shehu Shagari as president, when yours faithfully, was one of the foremost, unrelenting reporters at the Concord newspapers in the 1980’s.
Abuja was carved out as a 1,769 square kilometres piece of land. It was a huge expanse of virgin land, dotted with hamlets, here and there, with a cumulative population of less than 20,000, in all.
The abnegation against Abuja, which Musa has observed, is actually the problem with Nigeria. It constitutes the biggest affront against national unity. Everyone considers his Nigerianess as secondary. We don’t have a common homeland; everyone sees his ethnic ancestry as his homeland. This affinity in its extremist manifestation is today’s deafening separatist cry for Biafra.
Musa thinks sparing a greater thought and love for Abuja would bond its residents into a significant force that can propel the people against bad governance. But what my friend (before democratic power) has not considered, is the place of policy in bonding the led, in a plural society.
If the policy of Nigeria is to ensure that it is only the Dan Musas’, the el-Rufais’, the Bala Mohammeds’ and the Musa Bellos’ are the only ones qualified to rule Abuja, then the FCT could only have belonged to that tribe. ‘Foreigners’, in all reasonableness, could not have considered Abuja a home with all their heart.