“State Of Origin”: A Real Threat To Nigeria’s Unity!

During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-1970, the most popular slogan in the country was “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done” and true to those words, many people paid the ultimate price for the country to remain an indivisible entity.
Though it has been observed over and over that Nigeria is actually a “nation state”, made up of different ethnic nationalities, all brought together by the 1914 amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates.
In the past, events have forced people to migrate from the region they resided in to their places of origin. One of such events in recent times is the Boko Haram insurgency that has made some people flee the Northern part of the country. Incidentally, while the government continues to find a lasting solution to the security issue, the system of governance is being blamed for it in some places. In the opinion of Alhaji Balarabe Musa, a former Governor of Kaduna State, “the root of all these problems is bad governance. The solution is for everybody to join the struggle against bad governance. I don’t think it is proper for Southerners to leave the North and for Northerners to leave the South.”
Incidentally, one factor that has continued to affect the country adversely is the “state of origin factor”. It is one thing that has continually encouraged tribal and ethnic sentiments in the country. On every form, one is expected to fill in the state where his or her father hails from. It is also public knowledge that to do anything in Nigeria, from admission to educational institutions, getting government jobs or enjoying any benefit from the government, even to vie for political office, the state of origin issue must come up.
Some respondents told Street Journal that “asking people for their states of origin aids the quota system being practiced in Nigeria and it also helps in regulating some things especially when it comes to ensuring that one region does not benefit more than the other.”
Despite the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of sex, place of origin or ethnic group by Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, even at the highest level in the country, people still face discrimination based on where they come from despite the “one Nigeria” slogan being bandied about in the political arena. Nigerians who have lived in certain places in the country for close to two decades and have been law abiding while contributing to the development of such places are still regarded as non-indigenes. A proof was the initial refusal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alooma Mukhtar to swear in Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofo to the bench of the Court of Appeal. Justice Jombo-Ofo represents Abia, her husband’s state of origin, though she hails from Anambra State but she had her service transferred from her state to that of her husband. Despite her 14 years of service in Abia however, petitions still rose from there that she is not one of their own and could therefore not represent the state.
Street Journal gathered that there is an unwritten rule in the civil service that women cannot reach the pinnacle of the service in their husbands’ states, though the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan who also transferred her service to her husband’s home state and was elevated to the position of Permanent Secretary has become one of the very few exceptions to the rule
While the President and most members of the National Assembly are pushing for the abolition of the state of origin clause that has affected Nigerians for so long and have listed it as one of the main topics slated for review in the constitution, Street Journal’s findings have revealed that even if a change is effected, it might end up being only on paper.
It has been found out that replacing “state of origin” with”state of residence” may not change the perception of the Hausa man as “Gambari” to his Yoruba neighbours or the perception of the Yoruba man as “Berebe” and Igbos as “Yamirin” to the Hausa man. And of course to the Igbo man, Yprubas will for a long time to come remain “Ofe nmanu”. Ethnocentrism and tribal sentiments have taken root in almost every aspect of Nigerians’ lives.
Though it is being said that the legal recognition of a person’s state of residence over where he comes from in the country would help overcome tribal discrimination, some Nigerians who would have none of it have opined that the recognition would not make people forget where they come from. Examples cited include the annual migration during Christmas and Eid el Kabir celebrations. That has been cited as a pointer to the fact that most Nigerians do not connect to where they live, no matter how long they have done so.

Author: NewsAdmin

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