By Yakubu Busari,Jos
The Conference of Autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities Community Development Associations (CONAECDA) have blamed Northern leaders for the invasion of their community by Islamist insurgents from the three majority ethnic groups in the North East and North West of the country.
They alleged the groups are sponsored and backed by powerful politicians supported by international terrorist organizations, with objective of overthrowing the “secular” Nigerian state, and replacing it with an Islamic state.
The Conference noted that this war has the open declared for purpose of conquering and taking over of the lands of the autochthonous minority ethnic nationalities of the Middle Belt.
A communique signed by Zuwaqhu K. A. Bonat Suleiman Solomon Sukukum, Coordinator and conference secretary made available to the media in Jos,
and attended by Presidents and Secretaries of Community Development Associations of Autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities from 15 Minority Autochthonous states of Northern Nigeria (the Middle Belt) frowned at current trend of events.
According to the communiqué the affected areas include: Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Gombe, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, Taraba, and Yobe.
The conference took. “This war has been characterized by widespread massacres and genocide, wiping out of the people and communities of the region, destroying their economic resources, driving out the people and herding them into refugee camps, and despoiling the land and supplanting the people from their ancestral lands.
“The Conference views with serious concern the unedifying approach to the war, where the terrorists seem to be taking over part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with apparent ease. The Conference noted that while there are reported cases of widespread sabotage of the Federal Government’s efforts from within and without, the community-based organizations of the Minority Ethnic Nationalities, whose territories are the theatre of the religious war, have not organized a coordinated response to the terrorist assaults and sackings of their communities”.
The conference observe that, if the current deteriorating security situation is left unchecked, people of the affected areas would be left with no option than to take up arms and defend themselves and their communities and lands.
The Conference discussed at length, the situation whereby some of the languages of the minority nationalities are dying out, or are in danger of disappearing, and ascribes that to two forces; pressures from the wider Nigerian society, where minority languages have not been used as media of instruction in the pre-primary and primary schools in the northern part of Nigeria, contrary to the letter and spirit of the National policy on Education, and the attitude of parents in not ensuring that their mother tongues are used in the homes, and the assimilating cultures of majority languages and the dominance of the English and Hausa languages in the Church, commerce and government.
The Conference also recognized the efforts of various organizationsand institutions working to preserve and advance many minority language The conference observes that hegemonic cultures of by-gone empires, including Kanem-Borno, Sokoto Caliphate and British Colonial Empire, through Islamic and Christian missionary influences, the school system, and administration and commerce, have developed Hausa and English at the expense of the indigenous languages. That the cultures promoted by the dominating nationalities and religious systems have led to the spread of such cultures, while diminishing the rich cultural diversity that God blessed Nigeria with, including the music, languages, aesthetic arts and indigenous knowledge of the ethnic minority nationalities.
While saluting institutions of higher learning in Benue State for initiating the study of the languages of autochthonous nationalities in their catchment areas, Conference observes thatthere are no State programmes for the promotion of the rich cultural heritage of the people of the Middle belt region.
The Conference observes that from the village community to the federal level, participatory governance has not taken root in the northern States, including the autochthonous minority nationalities of the Middle Belt. It further observes that the low level of community participation results from low capacity to organize people at the grassroots to demand participation in governance as the right of all citizens, and that the precondition for accountability in governance is an organized and empowered citizenry, able to hold public office holders to account for the power and responsibility entrusted to them.
It called on the Federal Government to establish National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, which shall have the power to enforce the individual and collective rights of ethnic, religious and cultural minorities in Nigeria, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
The emphasized the need to commence the Minority Languages Development Programme.
The Conference demands that languages of the Ethnic Minority Nationalities of the Middle Belt be taught in all primary and secondary schools within the Middle Belt region.
The Conference calls on all the ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt, to put in place all necessary machineries to develop their languages, teach their children how to speak their language and imbibe their cultures as a matter of utmost importance Pointing that the Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists in the Middle Belt should learn to accommodate one another as brothers and sisters and live in peace as people of the same blood and one destiny.
Taking cognizance of the foregoing observations on the challenges confronting the minority ethnic nationalities in northern Nigeria in particular, and Nigeria in general; Considering the urgent need of the minority ethnic nationalities of northern Nigeria to take steps to ensure their survival in an increasingly unfavourable and hostile environment; Determined to take their destiny into their hands, and to claim their rights as the autochthonous communities of the lands they occupy in the Federal Republic of Nigeria;
The Conference of Autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities Community Development Associations (CONAECDA) hereby passes the following resolutions: We, the members of the autochthonous minority ethnic nationalities Community Development Associations hereby establish the Conference of Autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities Community Development Associations [CONAECDA], which shall hold annually and be attended by Presidents and Secretaries of Member-Associations with observers, the venues of which shall be decided by the Conference Secretariat.
Also to establish a Secretariat to organize future conferences and activities, and to execute decisions of the Conference. The Conference Secretariat shall be manned by experts and seasoned technocrats drawn from the autochthonous ethnic minority nationalities.
It is a commonplace knowledge that lands of the autochthons is our most valuable resource and is directly linked to our identity; any attempt therefore to forcefully acquire the lands of the autochthonous communities will be vehemently resisted by the people and the Communities.
Addressing problem of minority that autochthonous Ethnic Nationalities should begin to identify themselves by their native names, and to use traditional titles that have meaning within the cultural heritage of our peoples, instead of adopting titles from the cultures of other languages.
The Conference also called on the Federal Government, the President, the National Assembly, the State Governments and Sate Houses of Assembly to implement the outcome and resolutions of the 2014 National Conference, including the states recommended by the National Conference.
The Conference further strongly urges that demands for the creation of states by ethnic nationalities that have made submissions to the National Assembly, but which were omitted by the National Conference, should be considered by the National Assembly in the interest of equitable development.