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Gongola : Madaki takes time to avoid ’ rocking the boat’

Y OLA, seat of Gongola state government, is 1,707 kilometres from Lagos, seat of the nation’s mass communication industry. If this fact explains why the state, in spite of its size, hardly gets any mention in the country’ s major media, print or electronic, it definitely does not explain the tendency of the state making national headlines in the media either only in periods of crises or to highlight its relative under-development in the national contex.

In another sense,of course, Gongola State is always in the news, to the extent that its sons have for an appreciable length of time participated actively in the governance of this country at the national level. Such illustrous sons as Generals Danjuma, Jallo, Tarfa and Hananiya, and Airforce Chief Ibrahim Alfa, have featured, and continue to-feature, in public affairs.

It is not surprising that, as a state, however, Gongola has tended to be associated with ’’ bad news ’’ on occasions in which it has been considered newsworthy, an even worse situation than its traditional treatment as a ’’ no news ’’ area by the media.

Its share of political turmoil in Nigeria’s unsung Second republic was not below the national minimum. This, of course, was understandable, given the fact that Gongola State is a miniature Nigeria with diverse ethnic, religious and social interests encompassed within its boundaries.

For instance, the Hausa Fulani, which traditionally supplied the state’s political leadership, form less than 20 per cent of the state’s population which includes other groups like the Kilba in Gombe area, the Bura, the Bashama and the Chamba. These ethnic groups are quick to defend their rights, which they jealously guard. For instance, the Chamba in Ganve, who constitute more than 90 per cent of the people in the late 1970s when a Fulani was brought in as their emir. The volatile chemistry of the ethnic composition of the state has served as a major test of the dexterity of the state’s political leadership since 1976, when the state was created out of the former North-Eastern State.

Added to this is the fact that the state is predominantly Christian with less tnan 20 per cent of its people being Moslems. It could, therefore, be described as an oasis of Christianity, located in that part of the country whose populations overwhelming adherence to the Moslim faith pre-dates even the 1914 amalgamation of North and South into one Nigeria.

It is thus, understandable that, apart from the possibility of ethnic schisms, the state has not been spared from the spate of Maitatsine religious riots which first broke out in kano in 1980, only to recur in that state again in 1982, and which also spread to Bulunkuta in neighbouring Borno State (in 1982). Kaduna (1982) and Jimeta in Gongola, last year. Another of such riots broke out again earlier this year in neighbouring Bauchi state.

Lt. Col. Madaki

By Adigun Agbaje

The Jimeta riots, which claimed 536 lives, according to the police, is usually ranked as the bloodiest of all along with the 1980 Kano riot, and it took the intervention of the Nigerian Army to quell.

This is the state over which it has been the lot of Lt. Col Yohanna Madaki to govern since August a daunting task, no less, even for a senior and older person.

However, Lt. Col. Madaki’s youth is expected to stand him in good stead, not necessarily the vigour of youth he would be able to bring to bear in the execution of his mandate. But his freedom from prejudices, the ghosts of the past, and his ability to thus chart a new course for Gongola unencumbered by such prejudices.

Governor Madaki’s ’’ inheritance ’’ in indeed not a particularly pleasant one. In the first instance, Gongola is still listed among the least developed states of the country economically and industrially. Second, Gongola is also on the list of those states euphemistically identified as ’’ educationally disadvantaged.’’ Such states are considered as being more backward in the educational sphere than the national average in terms of school enrolement, availability of teachers and learning facilities and other indices. Added to this is the pitiable level of infrastructures like roads and potable water available for use. It is instructive to note, for instance, that the state been highlighted on NTA Network News in connection with reports that is was being cut off from the rest of the country due to the increasingly unmotorable state of Federal highways linking it to other parts of the country.

The prospects are, of course, also there. The state, with its picturesque topography and enchanting areas like the Mambilla Plateau, provides vast but untapped bases for a profitable tourist inc’ustry that could earn Nigeria much needed foreign exchange. Also, the state could easily serve as the nations bread basket, especially in the area of animal protein. Related to this are the potentials for agro-allied industries in, leather works and the canning of beef and fruits, among others.

But perhaps the most formidable challenge to the young governor is that posed by class relations. It is easy for casual observers to interprete social and political problems in Gongola in ethnic or religious terms. Fundamentally, the problems are rooted in ideology and class antagonism. Here is a state in which a dominant class has always been privileged and powerful, using religion and ethnicity to pursue narrow selfish interest. The fact that Governor Madaki is taking his time in the formation of his cabinet means that he is aware of the enormous problems that he faces in this area. It also means that he has the required level-headedness to, perhaps once and for all, tackle and defeat the bogey of social upheavals and dangerous chauvinism that has for long haunted Gongola and its leaders. With his training and experience in the army and his general educational background which includes a degree in law. Governor Madaki has means at his disposal to tackle bogey head-on.

At the end of it all, the critical test of his leadership would be the extent to which he would have stepped on established interests in his bid to satisfy the demands of the majority without ruffling old feathers. He would have passed that test if, without ’’ rocking the boat,’’ he succeeded in placating those sections of the society that believed that, as the majority, they had been neglected in the state’s political dispensation and socio-economic programmes and that they had been ruled for too long by forces serving minority interests.

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