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Opinion: Kaduna, One City Two Identifies



By Anaele Hilary

“A largely Muslim North and a predominantly Christian south”. You would be forgiving for rationalizing the opening phrase to be a rough reference to the demographic analysis of Nigeria, after all virtually no review of the Nations woes by the western media would leave out that assertion. While that (a largely Muslim North and a predominantly Christian south) narrative might be easily brushed aside as a vague depiction of realities by home grown demographers, same may not be said in reference to the city of Kaduna.

Kaduna city, a city of about 1.5 million people, seen as the spiritual heritage site of most northern political establishments and politicians alike, was established on the banks of the crocodile infested Kaduna River, a tributary of River Niger in 1912 by Frederick Lugard, first as a garrison town and then the regional capital of the then Northern protectorate in 1917. The city derives its name from the Hausa word for crocodiles, “Kada”. It grew from an almost virgin territory of mostly sparsely settled indigenous Gbagyi’s to a town of almost 30,000 people within its first two decades. As Governor-General, Lord Lugard did not hide his apathy towards Lagos and recommended that the capital of the Amalgamated protectorates be moved to Kaduna as quickly as possible. This was as a result of not-so-friendly relationship between the colonialist and the large indigenous populations of Lagos and Calabar. “Government House Lagos” he wrote in one of his papers “would make an excellent hotel if transfer to Kaduna was achieved”.  The British considered the virginity of the location as an important factor while mulling over the capitals potential location. This transfer was however not executed because the colonial office in Britain considered Kaduna too inland for quick communication between motherland and colony.

Many cities in the North such as Kano, Kastina, Sokoto and Zaria were major towns and the site of Emirates in pre-colonial periods, unlike these other towns Kaduna city was created by the colonial Government for purely administrative purposes. By design the Colonial authorities designed a settlement pattern with the intention of separating the two major religious faiths; the locals resisted and moved liberally across the city. But in general, majority of the Christians settled in the southern part of the city and a majority of the Muslims lived in the Northern side. Unlike most cities in Nigeria, Kaduna is characterized by urbanization and doesn’t have the “settler” “indigene” dichotomy. This is as a result of the fact that it is an economical administrative settlement town, thus in reality it is almost entirely made up of settlers.

Until the late eighties when Kaduna state seemed to slip into intermittent sectarian and ethnic violence its capital city was one of the most peaceful, cosmopolitan and politically important cities in Nigeria. The city remained largely insulated from ethno-religious crisis that affected other parts of the state, such as those witnessed in Kasuwar Magani (1980), Zangon Kataf (1984),  Kafanchan  (1887), Zangon Kataf (1992). However in 2000, Kaduna City made global headlines for all the wrong reasons when a violent clash between Muslims and Christians left an estimated 2000 people dead and 10000 injured.  The violence was sparked off during a protest by Christian groups in response to the introduction of the criminal code of Shari’a law in Kaduna state. In 2002 Kaduna was once again rocked by the “Miss World (war) riots” in which 250 people lost their lives in three days. As a result of these intermittent bout of violence, the then Governor Sen. Ahmed Makarafi instituted several reforms known as the “Kaduna Compromise”: the Shari’a criminal code was implemented in only the major Muslim Local Governments in the state, and with clear assurances it would apply to only Muslims. Thus the state and the city operate a dual legal and court system of both secular and shair’a courts. With the exception of the 2011 post-election violence and reprisals, which unfortunately claimed the lives of an undisclosed number of youth corps members among other residents, ethno religious tensions has been relatively kept at bay.

The Kaduna River geographically separates the city roughly into two halves: Kaduna north and Kaduna south occupying both sides of the Rivers bank. The sectarian crisis of the early 2000’s only succeeded in pushing the people deeper into self segregation mostly along religious lines, the southern part of the city is almost entirely occupied by Christians and the northern half is occupied almost in its entirety by Muslims, in-between these two “Zones” is the central business and administrative district of the city, popularly referred to as “town”. So everyday businessmen, women and civil servants alike make their daily trudge to “town” for Business and politics only to slog into their respective “Zones” after the working day. The culture shock suffered by the average southern resident that forays into the deep northern part of the city would probably be overwhelming, as if he just travelled to a distant land; same would apply to the average Northern city resident who makes an expedition south.

The “Kaduna Compromise” definitely helped in pacifying the two major religious groups, it ensured that these crises diminished rather than eliminate the city’s virtues. Nevertheless this has lead to the evolution of a city with two legal systems and religious segregation, thus forming a city suffering from the misery of an identity crisis, an identity crisis which in some ways is perhaps a larger depiction of the general reality of the Nigerian state. A much more inclusive proposition by the state government and the residents of Kaduna city is therefore needed to restore Kaduna city to its previous days of unabated peaceful coexistence, conceivably a comprehensive solution to the “Kaduna identity problem” would serve as a template on which the broader Nigerian  North/South gulf would be resolved.


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