The President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Kano and President-General, Leaders of Ethnic Communities in the state, Chief Tobias Michael Idika narrates to 247ureports.com a pathetic story of the sufferings and neglect of his people in the ancient commercial city.
How has it been as the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo in Kano?
It has been very challenging. It has been challenging primarily because of the peculiar nature of Kano; and also being a state in the northern Nigeria where you have the largest concentration of Ndigbo. And again, I want to tell you that the Igbo in Kano have a very long but chequered history. It is a known fact that Ndigbo are the largest ethnic community in Kano. Over 90% of non indigenes in the State are Ndi-Igbo who are mostly Christians. Our business concerns contribute hugely to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state; and typical of the Igbo race, notable investments of our people are conspicuously sighted at all the commercial areas of the city.
The Igbos are known for their control in the textile industry, patent medicine and pharmaceuticals, motor and motorcycle spare-parts, building materials, food stuffs, hospitality industry and inter-regional transportation. A reasonable number of Ndigbo also own factories in the Tannery and Leather, Foams and Chemicals, Beverages, Iron and Steel, Cotton and Wool industries and many other trades.
Though the Igbo are scantily resident in the major towns across the 44 Local Government Areas of Kano state, Sabon Gari, an enclave carved out for non-natives and non-Muslim habour over five million Ndigbo. Most of them are land lords within the business community that remains naked in terms of socio-infrastructural facilities.
The Sabon Gari community is in Fagge, one of the Local Government Areas within Kano metropolis. Ndi-Igbo, who came to Kano in 1859 as Kola-nut traders were blessed abundantly by Almighty God, and through their hard work, they became successful and diversified into other areas of trading and business. In late 1902, when the British took over Kano, what is now known as Sabon Gari (New town) was created to separate non-indigenous people from the indigenes. In the late 1960s, the first Military Administrator of Kano State, Commissioner of Police, Audu Bako, designed an excellent master-plan for Sabon Gari Area. After Audu Bako’s regime, successive governments in Kano State brazenly abandoned and neglected the residents of Sabon Gari and by extensions, Ndi – Igbo, who mainly reside in the area.
So, the truth is that it has been a tough struggle getting the state government to expand its base of development and democracy dividends to Ndi-Igbo in particular, and indeed, other ethnic groups that reside in this area exclusively carved out for non-indigenes.
You have severally accused the government of Governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso of deliberately marginalizing Ndigbo in Kano, in which areas are these marginalization felt?
What I have always said about His Excellency, Dr. Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso marginalizing Ndigbo is what every discernable Igbo man resident in Kano will always tell you without fear of contradiction. Let me also tell you that Ndigbo voted for Kwankwaso in 2011. We campaigned for him. For instance, the patent medicine dealers in Sabon Gari market who he is currently persecuted donated drugs that were used for campaigning through the 44 Local Government Areas. If you go to the records, the Peoples Democratic Party got over 90 per cent votes of Sabon Gari residents during the governorship election; and over 90 per cent of Sabon Gari residents are Igbos. So, you can imagine the extent of trust and sacrifice we made to His Excellency who on his part promised to wipe tears from our eyes when he get to Government House; and today he is there only to turn around and begin to stab us at the back.
Inhabitants of Sabon Gari area contribute to about 40% of the IGR in Kano State because of the high concentration of commercial and economic activities within that area. All the public schools within Sabon Gari have been abandoned and the buildings converted to commercial shops under under the supervision of kano state Government agents. In other words, there is no single functional public School in Sabon Gari Kano today. Consequently, non Muslims in Sabon Gari pay very heavily to see their children and wards through primary and Secondary Schools in Kano, as they are left at the mercy of proprietors of private schools who increase schools fees with reckless abandon.
There is no single government maternity, health care centre or hospital in Sabon Gari Area. Even though Kano State has the biggest water treatment plant at Tamburawa axis, there is no single tap running in Sabon gari area of Kano today. Over fifty (50) roads in Sabon Gari are in very bad and deplorable conditions despite the billions of naira being generated from the Sabon Gari area. Drainage in Sabon Gari are also in very bad shape. There is no electricity in the whole of Sabon Gari area and the inhabitants resort to using generators permanently.
The lack of infrastructural facilities, use of generating sets cause serious environmental pollution in the area; and the inhabitants are exposed to health hazards. During the celebration of Gov. kwankwaso’s 100 days in office, he was quoted as saying that the inhabitants of Sabon Gari should use their money to construct roads in Sabon Gari instead of building good houses. The non-indigenes using various platforms, including Ohanaeze Ndigbo, made several unsuccessful attempts to draw the Governor’s attention to the deplorable state of infrastructure in Sabon – Gari, but he remained recalcitrant to the pleas and several Save Our Soul messages.
More so, the Kwankwaso government through the Hisbah Guards continues to clamp down on the business concerns of our people, seizing and destroying trucks of liquor and drinks amounting to millions of Naira; even though he is aware that most of us are not Muslims and should not fall within the ambits of the Sharia’ah law.
Again, we have the pathetic story of deliberate persecution of Patent Medicine Sellers in Kano who are mostly Igbos. It all started last year when Gov. Kwankwaso announced through a local radio station that the Patent Medicine Dealers should vacate the market on or before 31 December, 2012. No alternative place was provided and no formal notice of communication. All efforts made to resolve the problem amicably were in vain.
Initially, the management of the market wanted to unlawfully revoke the shops and re-allocate them to Indigenous Hausas whom they preferred. It is noteworthy that owners and occupiers of these shops purchased it at the rate of N5 million to N10 million each. When the traders resisted this move, Gov. Kwankwaso and his agents resorted to intimidation, harassment and persecution and the use of security agents to manhandle the medicine dealers, 95 per cent of whom are Igbos. As it stands now, over 40 of them have been arrested and charged to various make-shift courts by the police authorities, accusing them of illegal sale of drugs. They have also been barred from gaining entrance into their shops, while their drugs are being seized and destroyed by agents of the state government. In other words, Governor Kwankwaso has constituted himself into NAFDAC and the Federal Ministry of Health!
We also believe that Gov. Kwankwaso incited the indigenes of Kano State against Ndigbo by telling them lies that the drugs sold to them are killer-drugs. On several occasions, the Governor made this announcement over the radio; and we believe this is not fair. We voted for him and we want Governor Kwankwaso to see us as his own people and treat us equal, just like any other Nigerian. Our intention is not to destroy the Governor but to draw his attention to our plights so that he may have a rethink and see Ndigbo as Nigerians.