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Stakeholders call for unity, recognition from govt
By Magnus Eze
A new wind of revival is sweeping across Gbagyi people, especially in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and neighbouring Niger State, with Senator Philip Aduda (FCT) and Senator David Umoru (Niger East) leading the crusade.
The Gbagyi are the most populous indigenous ethnic group in the FCT, the second largest in Niger State, and they are also found in Kaduna, Nasarawa and Kogi states.
With the highest concentration of Gbagyi in the FCT, Karu chiefdom of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) has over the years provided a platform for the preservation and promotion of Gbagyi cultural heritage. In line with this trend, the 2017 edition of the annual cultural festival organised by the Karu Gbagyi Youths Development Association (KAGBADA), with representation from Nyanya, Jikwoyi, Kugbo, Gbagalape, Dagbadna and other villages under the Karu chiefdom, held at the palace arcade on January 2, to much acclaim from stakeholders.
Given the calibre of political and traditional leaders in attendance, it created the right atmosphere for soul-searching for the Gbagyi.
The host, Sakaruyi of Karu, His Royal Highness, Emmanuel Kyauta Yepwi, opened the floodgates of lamentations of the Gbagyi saying, “We are still like orphans in Abuja and if we don’t bring ourselves in unity, by fighting a reasonable cause, I think we shall not reach anywhere.”
Speaking in the same tone, the chairman of the occasion, dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Nasarawa State University, Prof. Andrew Zamani, urged the Federal Government not to take the patience of Abuja natives for granted.
Zamani, who came clear in making political demands on the Federal Government, said the people were tired of frequently having ministers imposed on them without the opportunity of electing their own administrators: “The advent of Abuja culminated in the dispersal of our people. Out of goodwill, not out of conquest, our people welcomed the Federal Government. It culminated also in our extension of friendship to our brothers and sisters from other parts of Nigeria. But what have we received in return? It is spite and contempt. It is really highly unfortunate. We, therefore, call on our brothers and sisters who joined us today to celebrate our common humanity and unity to ensure that we enjoy the prosperity of the land usurped from us alongside other Nigerians.”
Visiting Esu of New Karu, Nasarawa State, His Royal Highness, Luka Panya Baba, admonished the nine indigenous groups in the FCT to live peacefully and support each other in their quest for self-administration.
He also harped on the proposed museum project for the entire Gbagyi race to be sited in Abuja: “I want to encourage all Gbagyi sons and daughters at this forum to work towards the success of this project. The trustees of the project are spread across various states in the country from Niger, Kaduna, Kwara, Kogi and many more states. We count on all the Gbagyi people in Nigeria to cue into this project.”
In what appeared to be justification for Gbagyi museum, the Esu of Kwali, Alhaji Nizazo Shaban III, in a recent interview, bemoaned what modernity had done to the Gbagyi: “Most of the Gbagyi settlements have been destroyed by modernisation.
“Again, our housing system cannot conform to what we have in Abuja. The Gbagyi do not have the wealth to compete with people in Abuja who built skyscrapers. Sometimes, we call ourselves the missing tribe. If we do not work very hard, the Gbagyi of Abuja will disappear with time. Development will consume the Gbagyi people and we may not see them again.
“There are people who do not speak Gbagyi to their children and we tell them to speak Gwari to their children or lose their identity. There are social forces against the Gbagyi people as far as project Abuja is concerned.”
Same situarion in Niger
In Niger State, two major cultural events held in Paikoro and Gurara council areas, respectively, during the Yuletide.
At the activities marking the maiden “Paigokni Cultural Fiesta 2016” on December 31, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello called on Gbagyi both home and abroad to act fast to save the ethnic group from extinction.
While enjoining the people to revive their rich culture and the tradition, the Governor, assured that the state government will partner investors from Canada to improve on the existing facilities and develop the Tatiko fabrics and pottery of the Gbagyi.
Represented by the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr. Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, the governor said: “We will support and sustain our culture because a language not spoken is a people forgotten.
“There is the urgent need to get the youths exposed to the rich cultural values and traditions of our forefathers, which are being eroded gradually by civilization.”
Senator Umoru, who chaired the occasion, disclosed that he had opened discussion with the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) for better equipment to preserve the rich culture of his people: “Gbagyi will not and must not go on (into) extinction; our culture must not die. We will do everything possible to keep it alive; our culture is without equal.”
The keynote speaker, Dr. Yusuf Larry Ayuba, charged Gbagyi to be proud of their language, tribe and identity anywhere they find themselves: “You are not yourself until you can speak your language. We must stand up to speak our language or you become a second class citizen in your domain.”
The event witnessed exhibition of different dances, arts and cultural heritage from the various communities.
Similarly, prominent Gbagyi indigenes, their friends and well-wishers also stormed Dikko in Gurara Local Government Area of Niger state for the 6th Dikko Day Cultural Festival organized by the Dikko Community Development Association (DCDA).
But unlike the usual colourful cultural display that characterised previous editions, this year’s event took a political dimension as speaker after speaker drew the attention of the people to years of marginalization of the Gbagyi in the politics of the state, especially in the area of political appointments.
While political and traditional leaders in the FCT were in Karu reiterating call to the Federal Government and the National Assembly to speed up the process of democratising governance in the territory through a second-tier system for Abuja; their kits and kin in Niger state used the occasion of 2017 Dikko Day celebrations to sound a note of warning to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), that they might be forced to look the other way in 2019 if the political imbalance in the state is not addressed.
Senate Minority Whip, Senator Philip Aduda, who is also the Talban Karu, said the time has come for all Nigerians to support the Abuja natives in getting a second-tier system that would enable the people govern themselves through the election of a Governor, Mayor or howsoever called.
Aduda said the on-going amendment of the 1999 Constitution by the National Assembly will pave way for the democratisation of governance and administration in the FCT: “We are appealing to our colleagues at the National Assembly, legislators in the 36 states Houses of Assembly and the Federal Government to support the new constitution review on the status of the FCT when the amendment is concluded and passed around for concurrence so that we can have a sustainable and democratic second-tier system of governance in Abuja.”
Other speakers at the event included the Member representing AMAC/Bwari federal constituency, Mr. Zaphaniah Jisalo who said the two members representing the territory will join hands with Aduda and other sympathetic federal legislators to push for a constitution review that will be acceptable by political leaders and all Nigerians.
On his part, Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council, Mr. Abdullahi Candido urged Nigerians resident in Abuja to support natives in their quest for self-governance in the territory especially with the hospitality shown them by the original inhabitants of the FCT.
Goodwill message was also delivered by the Member representing Karu/Keffi/Kokona federal constituency, Mr. Gaza Gbefwi.
Senator Umoru in his protest motionin Dikko said: “Today the main principal officers of the Niger state government do not take into cognition the fact of the Gbagyi as a people. This is against the constitution which states that every government must reflect the cultural diversity of its people. I want us to resolve today, that the Gbagyi people will not support any government that discriminates against them.
“Henceforth, we would support only government that will recognize us by making it possible to be part of that government”.
Arguing that the Gbagyi man has gone through all kinds of destitution at every point in time and was ignored when it mattered most, Umoru added that his people cannot continue to work and get nothing: “We are tired of grumbling. You will no longer grumble and go home and pretend that there is nothing wrong with us. We should not celebrate mediocrity.
“Community interest will always protect personal interest better. There is no personal interest that can override community interest. Therefore, we as Gbagyi people have resolved that we will not support any government that will not recognize us”.
The 2015 Governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state, Alhaji Umar Nasko in a goodwill message, urged Gbagyi people to be united and uphold their rich cultural heritage.
Licking the wound
Forty years after Gbagyi land was designated the nation’s capital; the people are still suffering culture shock occasioned by the development of the FCT. The result of the dislocation was the removal of people from their ancestral homes, from spiritual symbols such as Zuma Rock. Today, they still brood over seeing their ancestral land being referred to as no man’s land while battling with issues of adjusting to the new environment given by the government.
However, Prince Gbaiza, National Coordinator, Greater Gbagyi Development Initiative of Nigeria at a forum in Abuja to press for the rights of FCT indigenes, insisted that the issues must be redressed because if the people are left with nothing, then the heritage of the Gbagyi man would be extinct.