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Citizenship: Other States Should Emulate Sokoto

The Sokoto State government under the leadership of Governor Aliyu Wamakko has established an unprecedented citizenship process ever witnessed in Nigeria.

As of today, any Nigerian, no matter the tribe, religion or state of origin, is not only free to reside and pursue happiness in Sokoto State but has equal rights and privileges with indigenes. All residents of Sokoto State are entitled to free elementary and secondary education; there is equal rights and justice for all within Sokoto’s borders.
This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that a bold step towards equality of all Nigerians has been established in accordance with the constitution, and the north-western state of Sokoto is leading the entire country. The nearest to Sokoto in this programme is Bauchi under Governor Isa Yuguda. Unlike Sokoto, Bauchi State will bestow automatic citizenship to a resident from another region of Nigeria who has lived in the state for seven years without committing any crime.
If, in our 100 years of fragile unity, every state of the federation can eliminate discrimination and offer citizenship to all within its borders, irrespective of ethnicity and religion, then, we are forging towards true liberty and freedom for all Nigerians. This visionary move by Sokoto State government is not only commendable but must be emulated by all the states in Nigeria.

It is unnecessary to reiterate the precarious nature of our nation today, since our leaders, who, through die-hard politics, have embarked on divide and rule to keep us subjugated. Of late, the chorus “South-South” or “Niger Delta” has been established and vigorously pursued to showcase those with shale oil endowment in their region. This recently created ownership awareness has undermined the essence of Nigeria’s citizenship, since the minority tribes in the Niger Delta creeks have propelled themselves as the most arrogant economic leaders and bread winners of the nation.

With so much enlightenment through education within the past 100 years of Nigerians living together under a porous umbrella of one nation, we have, intentionally, refused to embrace rational oneness with equality and justice for all.

Instead of celebrating the centenary, we should, without the politically motivated National Conference,” enact laws that will grant instant citizenship status/ rights and equal privileges to all Nigerians living in any state in the federation. Indigenes should be called residents, with tribal and religious affiliation questions deleted from job application questionnaires.
But what is citizenship?  According to Wikipedia, citizenship is the status of a person recognized under the custom or law of a state that bestows on that person (called a citizen) the rights and privileges of citizenship. Such rights and privileges include the right to vote, work and live in the state and the right to return to the country, besides other rights. A citizen may also be subject to certain duties, such as a duty to serve in the army. A person may have multiple citizenships and a person who does not have citizenship of any state is said to be stateless.

Nationality is often used as a synonym for citizenship in English – notably in international law – although the term is sometimes understood as denoting a person’s membership of a nation.
If a child born in the United States to Nigerian parents can have instant citizenship, why can’t we grant the same sense of freedom to Nigerians born in other states of the country? As much as I respect the Lagos state governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola, his decision and action a few years ago to repatriate some young Nigerian residents of Lagos, who had come to Lagos in search of employment, was unconstitutional. Although the Nigerian constitution is constantly undermined, the fundamental principles cannot, and will never, be ignored in reference to liberty, freedom and equality.

It is quite interesting that the National Assembly has made no mention of the deliberate dichotomy in our society. Politicians play indigenization cards for selfish reasons.
Diversity has become the acceptable fabric of today’s societies – the world over. Every country on Planet Earth has people of different colours, born and probably brought up on different continents. The integration of people with different cultures and religions has raised standards of living through cooperation for economic and social benefits for residents of various communities.

It is absolutely impossible for a single tribe, alone in this country, to form a community with healthy economy. The smallest village in Nigeria has people with different tongues and religious backgrounds.

Jos, the capital of Plateau State has become a ghost of its past glory. The senseless infighting between the Hausa and Beron tribes has created a wave of emigration from the city, with near-economic paralysis. Jos, like any other city in Nigeria, should be cosmopolitan in nature with the integration of all residents living together in peace and harmony, irrespective of who is defined as a settler or native. The word “indigene” in a modern society is retrogressive. A Nigerian should and must be considered a “native” on any piece of land in the nation.

Modern civilization transcends the “son of the soil” idiom because talents and skilled workers are being recruited from various parts of the world to America and Western Europe to help develop their society.

Sokoto State has paved the way for others to emulate. And, until we can accept everyone in our community as equal — with rights, privileges, and responsibilities — Nigeria will be far from having a peaceful society where true democracy will prevail.


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