Address by the Chief Servant, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu OON, Talban Minna/Sodangi Nupe, the governor of Niger State, on the occasion of a public lecture in commemoration of the 3rd Nupe Day celebration, at IBB University, Lapai; on Friday, 24th June, 2011
2. I am extremely delighted to be part of the activities commemorating the 3rd Nupe Day celebrations. I feel quite honoured by the invitation to speak at this very important occasion, and to this distinguished audience. I am grateful to Etsu Nupe, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya Abubakar, CFR, who can best be described as the quintessential rallying point of all Nupes, for this recognition, as it is my privilege to share with you my thoughts on the relevance of this occasion, not only as the Chief Servant of Niger State, but as Sodangin Nupe. The topic of discussion: Democracy And The Development Of Nupe Land is quite significant in appreciating the impact of democracy on one of the most developmentally inclined and progressive cultures and people in Nigeria.
Indeed, this auspicious occasion provides us a platform to appreciate the rich cultural heritage of Nupecizhi, a distinct people with distinctive attributes – hardworking, brave, charismatic, adventurous, learned, religious, artistic, courteous, humble, respectful, loyal, obedient, dependable and trustworthy, among other qualities. The fierce resistance to colonial adventurism and incursions by the Nupes, especially during the reign of the fifth Etsu Nupe, Abubakar (1895-1901) remains a watershed in the history of colonial rule in Nigeria, as the relics from the battles still adorn the Wadata palace as symbols of Nupe bravery and heroism.
3. The topic of our discussion underscores the relevance and importance of a peaceful and united people- Nupecizhi, who have made enormous contributions to the overall development of the present day Niger, Kwara and Kogi States in particular and the nation at large. Let me take this opportunity therefore to congratulate the Etsu Nupe and indeed all Nupes for this annual event of celebration of the history, culture and achievements of the Nupe dynasty.
Undoubtedly, this annual event is of immense historical significance, because apart from promoting kinship amongst the Nupe, it is a unique platform for reminding ourselves of where we are coming from; where we are, presently; where we are going and how we can get there. In other words, this is one of the appropriate avenues for checking the realities of our situation, with a view to re-strategizing for a better future for the Nupes, while consolidating on the achievements and contributions of our present and past generation of leaders in Nupe land.
4. There is abundant work on the historical origin of the Nupes by local and international scholars, and I am delighted to note that any piece of work on the Nupes makes an interesting reading any day, because of the richness and diversity of the Nupe culture and history. While I do not want to reduce this discussion to an extensive review of the literature, it suffices however to reflect that we are talking about a people with robust cultural heritage, found around the confluence of River Kaduna and River Niger, occupying vast territory in what is today North Central Nigerian States of Niger, Kwara and Kogi, as well as part of the FCT.
The communities that make up Nupe land are endowed with abundant natural resources such as iron and silicate, which make blacksmithing and glass work the people’s major occupations aside farming, fishing and trading.
5. Notable among the communities of Nupe land are towns South Bank of the River Niger (Patigi, Lafiagi, Shonga, Kpada, Lade, Tsaragi, Zanbufu, Bacita and Duma, among others); towns south Bank of the lower River Niger (Eggan, Buddan, Lokoja, Koton Karfe and Giriya, etc). Others are Bida central and environs (Bida township, Kateeregi, Badeggi, Doko, Jima, Edozhigi, Gaba, Busu, Gbadafu, Batati, Gbara, Muregi, Nupeko, and others); towns East of Bida (Agaie, Lapai, Katcha, Gulu Vatsa, Muye, Abaji, Evuti, Ebbo and Arah, among others); as well as towns North West of Bida (Lemu, Legbozukun, Kanko, Makusidi, Gbarijiko, Wasagi, Zugurma, Somaji, Gudugi, Akere, and Gbangba, among others).
This clarification is worthwhile to illustrate the geographical composition of Nupe land which goes far beyond Niger State, where Nupes are predominantly found. I am sure this gives credence to why this occasion is being gracefully attended by people from Nupe speaking communities in Niger, Kwara and Kogi States, and the FCT.
6. Overview of Democracy: Whereas we may not need to go into academic definitions, it suffices to have a simple overview of democracy, which is a form of government created by the people, empowered by the people; that derive their legitimate powers from the consent of the people, and that must forever remain subservient to the will of the people. The important elements of democracy include a political system of choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; protection of the human rights of all citizens; and the rule of law, where by laws apply equally to all citizens.
7. The Nupes may be seen as having exercised some elements of democratic principles from time immemorial, in relation to the well established political structure of Nupe Kingship and mode of transition. We may recall that what is in today’s political lexicon in Nigeria, zoning and rotation (principle of federal character), have been well entrenched in the political structure of Nupe land as far back as 1832, when Usman Zaki, the son of Mallam Dendo - Manko (the Fulani scholar and conqueror who conquered Nupe land in 1804)) emerged as the first Etsu Nupe in Bida, setting the stage for an acceptable rotation principle which has endured till date between three royal houses of Usman Zaki, Masaba and Umaru Majigi in Bida emirate.
The Nupe people have therefore set the stage for viable democratic development of their communities for a very long time. This feat was illustrated by the events leading to the emergence of Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar, as the 13th Etsu Nupe on October 12, 2003, after the passage of Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda Ndayako on 1st September, 2003. Even when there appeared to be a twist in the rotation arrangement following a distortion between 1962 and 1969, the Nupe people of Bida allowed good reasoning and judgment to prevail in reverting to the original rotation order which led to the emergence of the current Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar, thus paving the way for the continued peaceful co-existence and transformation of Bida and Nupe land in general.
8. By every intent and purpose, the Nupes are also renowned for observing certain principles and rules of democratic conduct in their various emirates and domains - accommodating, tolerant, compromising sensibly, consensus-building, respectful not only of the law but also of the rights, priviledges and dignity of other human beings, critical-minded but not rejectful of constituted authority, especially one that promotes common good, and integration of peoples of diverse backgrounds and shades of opinion.
The Nupes will normally absorb other people from other cultures without any trace of discrimination such that whoever finds a place in Nupe land makes it a permanent home. Unlike other cultures that have difficulty in integration and cohesion, the Nupes show love, compassion and humility to other people thus paving the way for mutual respect and peaceful co-existence. This trend accounts for the fact that many people from different parts of the country lose their identity and find Nupe land as their homes once th
y have a brief sojourn in any part of the land or when they are even fortunate to take a Nupe wife. The list of such people is endless.
9. In terms of socio-political significance, the Nupes constitute a major ethnic group and political bloc in Niger State, occupying eleven (11) Local Government Areas, namely Agaie, Bida, Borgu, Mashegu, Wushishi, Edati, Gbako, Katcha, Lapai, Lavun and Mokwa, and across the Emirates of Bida, Agaie, Lapai, Tsonga, Lafiagi, Tsaragi and Patigi, It is interesting to that the cultural identity and affinity, the abundant human and economic resources and the large population of Nupe land are part of the comparative advantages that necessitated the Ndaduma State movement, under late Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda Ndayako, a struggle which received new impetus and new direction under the leadership of Etsu Nupe Yahaya Abubakar.
The current call for Edu State, a follow up to earlier struggle for Ndaduma State deserves our full support for its capacity to stimulate internal cohesion, co-operation, collaboration, healthy competition and acceleration of the much needed development of Nupe land. However, creation of State may not be the only yardstick of development as seen by the proliferation of States in the country.
10. Development of Nupe land: where are we coming from?
While we seem to have a generally acceptable notion of democracy being representative, participatory and consensus-building governance, ‘development’ for the purpose of our common understanding at this forum could be seen as the process of bringing about progress, growth and more advanced state in the affairs of the people for their improved general well being. Yes, technological advancement may be part of it, in so far as it makes life more meaningful and convenient for the people, but it is not solely about that. Development is more meaningful if it promotes the standard of living of the people and enhances their state of happiness.
11. If education, human capital and the apparatus of government are the catalysts for stimulating and accelerating development, then the Nupes may be adjudged as some of the luckiest and most advantaged people in Nigeria from time immemorial.
Take the pre and post independence era for instance: prominent Nupes were among the most influential people in government – and the endless list include: late Aliyu Makama Bida, (deputy premier and Minister of Finance) described by the Premier, late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto as one who …will go down in posterity as one of the most distinguished sons of Bida; late Ahman Patigi (cabinet Minister in the Northern region); late Ibrahim Tako Galadima Nupe (cabinet Minister in Lagos); late Ndagi Faruk Tafidan Nupe, Alhaji Hassan Lemu (the PPS to the Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello).
12. How did these great men use the democratic environment to bring about positive change and development in Nupe Land? They influenced sound policies that brought about rapid development of Nupe land in particular and Northern Nigeria as a whole. Of note in this regard, is their influence in the establishment of educational institutions in Nupe land, which gave the Nupes greater advantage over many other people. In terms of infrastructural development, late Aliyu Makama Bida was instrumental to the commissioning of Bida Electricity performed by the Premier on 1st January, 1961, only few months after those of Funtua, Gusau, and Bauchi, and ahead of Minna, Gombe, Lokoja, Makurdi, Offa and Ilorin. The same can be said of the construction of roads and bridges across Nupe land. Late Ibrahim Tako is still remembered for his role in the recruitment and ‘conscription’ of some young men into the Nigerian Armed Forces, some of whom later became great military Generals and Nigerian leaders.
13. If we take the period of military interregnum in perspective, the Nupes were also there both as influential civilians and as key players in government at the federal level. We cannot forget the strategic influence of great Nupe leader, late Etsu Nupe Umaru Sanda Ndayako, in the Murtala-Obasanjo era where he rose to be a Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Secretariat; late Etsu Usman Sarki, Minister for Internal Affairs, late General Mamman Vatsa who was an arrow head in several military regimes and the Minister of FCT; Professor Jerry Gana who has been in the corridors of power from 1983 to date.
Again, we must appreciate that the Nupes have always had the advantage of competence, commitment and character, which they always bring to bear on any position of responsibility they find themselves. Today, we are lucky to have a great son of Nupe land, who excelled in the military and rose to the rank of a General before the almighty Allah made him to answer the clarion call to the take the seat of his forefathers as the 13th Etsu Nupe. He is the Royal Highness, Alhaji (Dr.) Yahaya abubakar, CFR who is one of the most respected traditional leaders in Nigeria today. Indeed, he is contributing to the peace and stability of Niger State in particular, the entire Nupe land and the nation as a whole. The Etsu Nupe is indeed a worthy role model to many of us, in whose era the Nupe nation is enjoying a robust internal cohesion, prominence and dignity in the scheme of things around the nation.
14. To the glory of Allah (SWT), the Nupes have had every conceivable opportunity to influence the development of Nupe land, with the aid of the abundant human and natural resources in our territories. We have produced the most influential deputy Premier of Northern Nigeria (late Aliyu Makama Bida); the most influential Secretary to the Government of the Federation (late Shehu Musa, Makama Bida), who was described by Alhaji Shehu Shagari (Nigeria’s first democratically elected President) as ‘… a man of courteous and authoritative bearing…unarguably the single most powerful official in the federal government….’, who was indeed the first Nupe University graduate, the first Nupe to have served in several federal positions including federal permanent secretary and who eventually became a Presidential candidate.
15. The Nupes have also produced a two–term civilian Governor in Niger State (Engr. Abdulkadir Kure), three (3) Deputy Governors in Niger State (late Alhaji Idrisu Alhassan Kpaki, late Alhaji Mundi Aliyu, and Alhaji Musa Jibrin Wali), Speakers of the House of Assembly in Niger and Kwara States, a one time civilian Governor in Kwara State (Alhaji Mohammed Shaba Lafiyagi), several Secretaries and Heads of Service in the Niger and Kwara State Governments, and a host of top political appointees and public officers who have made their marks in different endeavors in our national life. Again the inexhaustible list of Nupe notables include: Professor Jonathan Ndagi, Professor Jerry Gana, Muhammadu Liman Doko, Air Marshal John Yisa Doko, Alhaji Abubakar Ahmadu Muye, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi, and Justice Umaru Eri. Of course, we should also be proud of Mrs. Sarah Jibril (a Presidential aspirant), Hajiya Amina Ndalolo and Hajiya Amina Kere Ahmed, among numerous Nupes who are working diligently towards the development of Nupe land and the nation.
16. It is also instructive to highlight some of the vital natural resources and endowments of Nupe land. These include arable land for commercial and subsistent agricultural production, large deposits of solid mineral resources, such as gold, clay, silica, copper, iron, lead, kaolin, columbite, tantalite, and limestone, and the high prospect of oil and gas deposits in the Bida basin, for which the Federal Government has called for bids for surveys and feasibility studies. Other potentials include the Baro Port and other vast tourist attractions which abound in Nupe land - the Baro Hill; Masaga Glass and Brass works in Bida; Dabo Mosque, Daudu Maza Weaponry and the Captain G. F. Tabman’s Grave all in Lapai local government. Lavun Local Government boasts of features like the Dagina Games Reserve, Local Dying Centre and Kutigi Weaving Centre, as Mashegu takes pride in the Ibbi National Park. In Mokwa we have the Growing pot, Mungo Park Cenotaph, Manko Tomb, Crocodile Pond and the Hwa –Hwa stream, as Zungeru (known then as Dunguru) is dominated by the Lord Lugard Colonial Ruins and the Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe Centre. I am sure there are numerous potentials in the Nupe communities of Kwara and