By Emmanuel Obe, Awka; Fidelis Soriwei, Abuja; Sunday Aborisade, Akure; and David Attah/PunchThe southern part of the country is divided over a proposed amendment to the 1999 Constitution, which will include an indigene clause.
Under the amendment, which is among the proposals that have been submitted to the National Assembly, any citizen of the country, who has lived in an area for 10 years, can claim to be an indigene of that area.
The amendment is also aimed at resolving the issue of settlers in some parts of the country, including Plateau State.
While the South-South has kicked against the proposal, the South-East describes it as a welcome development.
The South-West said the proposed amendment is not desirable.
Two Ijaw have argued that the indigene/settler clause would not work in the far North, where “the Hausa/Fulani are intolerant of Christians and southerners.”
Commenting on the proposal, the National Secretary of the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Robinson Esite, on Thursday, condemned in strong terms those pushing for its inclusion in the constitution.
Esite said that those behind the indigenisation clause were not just sectional irredentists, but a group of fanatics.
He said indigenisation could not in any way be said to be a major problem confronting the country.
The INC secretary expressed the fear that the clause, if included in the constitution, could create widespread inter-ethnic violence and strife in the country rather than foster national integration.
He said it would be inconceivable to think that indigenisation would work without cultural assimilation.
He said the attitude of the northern Muslims and the fanaticism displayed by them would make it impossible for indigenisation to work.
He referred to the recent call by Boko Haram on President Goodluck Jonathan to embrace Islam or resign from office.
Esite said that it was the mentality of the Hausa/Fulani to attempt to impose their culture and religion on people whenever they were many in a particular location whether in the North or South, which would lead to crisis.
He said, “Indigenisation is not the problem of Nigeria. The problem of Nigeria is resource control.
“If you say a Hausa man is an indigene of Bayelsa by virtue of the fact that he has lived there for 10 years and the Bayelsa man who has lived in the North for 10 years is now being told to leave because of religion, then there is inequality and misapplication of the law.
“Then when you talk of indigenisation, you are talking about the culture of the people. A Hausa man who has lived in Bayelsa for example, does he assimilate the culture of the people? He wants to impose his culture, his religion on the people.
“That clause would be difficult to implement; when they are many are they not going to impose their culture on the indigenes because of the cultural and religious diversities in the county?
“Rather, it would result in ethnic clashes and communal strife. More so, the northerners are saying for a Christian to rule, he must embrace their religion. For a southerner to live among them for 10 years to be an indigene, he must be a Muslim against his wish.
“So, you can see that those pushing for this so -called indigenisation are sectional. They are religious fanatics. They should think about transforming the hearts of Nigerians. The only thing that would do that is transparency.”
Spokesperson for the Ijaw Republican Assembly, Ms. Annkio Briggs, said that the mere passing of a law would not translate a southerner living in the North to a northerner as there is more to the issue of indigenisation.
She said that even with such a law in place, it would be practically impossible for an Igbo man who hadlived almost all his life in the North and who is a Christian to become the governor of Zamfara or even Adamawa State.
She said that the clause on indigestion would culminate in the increase of inter-ethnic violence as had been shown already by the clashes between the Fulani herdsmen and their host communities.
She argued that indigenisation was not as important as resource ownership the right to freedom of worship.
Briggs said that the recurrent attacks on the people of the Middle Belt, the Igbo and other Christians in the North had shown clearly that the policy would not work.
She urged Nigerians to be conscious of the wide differences between the North and the South in the areas of religion, language, ethnicity and even education.
“You see, when laws are proposed, their relevance, the level of their usefulness is determined by how many millions of people would benefit from them.
“I don’t believe in passing a law that if an Igbo man has lived in Kano for 20 years, it means that he has become a Kano man and can run for the position of the governor of the state. How realistic, how feasible do you think that would be?
“I don’t believe that the issue of indigenisation is as important as resource ownership, and the right to religion. The other day, Boko Haram was calling on Jonathan to resign as President because he is not a Muslim.
“If for instance, that law comes into force, only the North will benefit.
“It will result in inter-ethnic violence. Look at the issue of cattle rearing, can you imagine what it is causing now? Can you imagine one Emeka Nwachukwu saying he is going to be governor of Zamfara, Kano or Adamawa?
“Even lesser things have led to inter-ethnic violence; Christians of the Middle Belt and the Igbo are targeted because of religion and different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
“The divide between the North and the South is huge in the area of language; education and religion and let us resolve some fundamental issues rather than our lawmakers concerning themselves with the issue of indigenisation. These things won’t work and we should stop pretending about it,” she said
Also, the Yoruba social-political organisation, Afenifere, said the indigenisation clause being proposed for inclusion in the nation’s constitution was unnecessary.
The General Secretary of the organisation, Chief Seinde Arogbofa, in an interview on Thursday in Akure, urged the lawmakers to forget about the idea because it would not work.
He said, “Why should we worry ourselves with such an idea which would only benefit some tribes and endanger the lives of other tribes in some hostile parts of the country.
“The clause cannot achieve any form of national unity and integration because there are lots of unresolved crises at hand in the country.
“The incessant bloody clashes between the Fulani and the Berom in Plateau State are caused by this same amendment being proposed in the constitution.
“The clause should be de-emphasised in the interest of peace.”
But the Ndigbo Unity Forum threw its weight behind the proposed constitution amendment.
The president of the forum, Mr. Augustine Chukwudum, told one of our correspondents in Onitsha on Thursday that the amendment, if it eventually sailed through, would resolve a lot of social and political misgivings in the country.
Chukwudum, who said the Igbo that had suffered tremendously from discrimination because of the non-indigene factor, would now feel free to contribute their full potential to the development of their host states.
He, however, said such amendment might not resolve isolated cases like the Plateau crises between the Berom indigenes and the settler Hausa/Fulani.
“The Plateau problem has a religious undertone, whose solution might not lie in the proposed constitutional amendment. Anything that has a religious undertone should be carefully resolved because of its sensitive nature,” he said.
Also, the ACF gave its nod for the inclusion of the indigene/settler clause in the proposed review of the nation’s constitution.
The forum argued that such statute provision in the nation’s book would not only foster unity, it would also give every Nigerian a sense of belonging.
The National Publicity Secretary of the forum, Mr. Anthony Sani, said, “ACF’s position on indigene/settler issue has been that all those born in a place should be indigenes of that place, since being born in a particular place is not a matter of choice.
“But there should be no dual indigeneship. ACF believes such a provision would promote national integration, since it would put to rest for good the controversy about who is an indigene and who is not an indigene.
“The controversy about who is an indigene and who is not may appear not pronounced in the southern part of the country. But it is not that southerners are friendlier and more accommodating than northerners. It has more to do with the fact that there are fewer settlers in the South.”