Underdevelopment: The FCT Villages Presidential Aspirants ‘Must Visit’
THEY converged on Kuje Primary School to showcase their rich cultural heritage and felicitate with one another for yet another opportunity to witness the third yearly celebration of their socio-cultural heritage. At the same time, they used the opportunity to, once more, drum home their demands to people in authority. They are members of the Original Inhabitants Development Association (OIDA), the aborigines and landowners of Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power.
They have had their share of infrastructural neglect and deficits. With well laid out road networks, arrays of streetlights and other tourist attractions in the FCT, persons visiting the city centre could be oblivious of the existence of these indigenous people.
They are made up of nine different tribes, most of which are located in the hinterlands of the FCT. Once in a year, they all come together to remind policy makers of their existence and need to care for those who sacrificed their lands that the capital city of Nigeria might be built.
As plans are in top gear for the 2015 general elections, the natives have demanded that the two major presidential candidates, President Jonathan (PDP) and retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (APC) should not concentrate on the Eagle Square and the city centre alone; they should also come and campaign in their villages. This move, they believe, will give the candidates first-hand knowledge of what the people are going through, rather than the deceptive pictures the city centre offers.
They insisted that failure by these men to campaign in these villages, most of which are not accessible by vehicles, would draw repercussion.
The president of the association, Pastor Danladi Jeji, said that the association had to embark on the launch of a N200m education endowment fund for the nine indigenous tribes of the FCT, in order to make up for gap created by government’s negligence on the development of schools in the area.
He said: “As the nation embarks on the 2015 general elections, we call on all presidential candidates, especially of the two biggest political parties, APC and PDP, to proceed from Abuja city centre to our indigenous towns, like Abaji, Kuje, Bwari, Karu, Zuba etc, to campaign vigorously for votes.
“Unless the two top contenders, President Jonathan and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, step into our indigenous communities to tell us what their governments will do for us, we shall have no choice but cast our votes elsewhere, thereby depriving them of the critical one-quarter or 25 per cent of votes needed in the FCT to guarantee their victory.”
Jeji also said that a situation where the entire country would be voting for governorship elections on February 28, 2014 with the FCT left out of the election is unacceptable. “We call on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to ensure all constitutional amendments that will allow FCT indigenes and residents to vote for a governor, mayor or howsoever called, in the 2019 general elections,” he said.
Urging Abuja indigenes and residents to ensure the collection of their Permanent Voters Card (PVC), Jeji admonished them to vote for only Senatorial and House of Representatives candidates that promise not to misuse the mandate of Abuja people.
“We are tired of the indolence of our representatives while other federal legislators are championing the causes of their people in the National Assembly. This is the time to vote wise and accountable federal legislators. We can’t have the National Assembly at our backyard and still be taken for granted by Nigerians.
“We need a vibrant, loud, accessible and people-friendly Senator and House of Representatives Member that would redefine campaign for constitutional amendment and democratization in the way Abuja people are governed. Those lucky fellows that will be entrusted with this mandate on February 14 should be prepared for a new phase of constituents-legislators dialogue, as we shall no longer be quiet or pushed aside again.”
Also speaking at the event, the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Ethics and Values, Dr. Sarah Jibril, identified with the struggle of Abuja indigenes for the restoration of their constitutional rights to vote and be voted for like other Nigerians.
She commended OIDA leaders for building a community-based organisation and urged the group to team up with her office for the establishment of a microfinance bank tailored towards granting loans to small and medium enterprises owned by Abuja indigenes.
“We plead with the FCT Minister to reconsider the demands of OIDA and other FCT stakeholders for the restructuring of land swap agreements to include 30 per cent ownership for Project Affected Communities through legally signed documents.”
The nine indigenous tribes of the FCT are: Amwamwa, Bassa, Egbura-koto, Gade, Ganagana, Gbagyi, Gbari, Gwandara and Koro.