It is sometimes very nauseating to see adults play politics of ethnicity and tribe to a tipping point of destruction.
The first capital of Nigeria was Calabar, Cross River State, between 1893 to 1909 when it was moved to Lagos. Lagos hosted the nation capital from 1914 upon amalgamation of Southern and Northern protectorates till 1991 when it was moved to the central city of Abuja, which was created in 1976. Logically, it has rotated amongst three core geographical zones of the South, West and North.
Why was it moved from Calabar? The old Calabar until 1904 used to serve as capital of the Oil Rivers Protectorate(1885-1893),the Niger Coast Protectorate(1893-1900) and then Protectorate of Southern Nigeria(1900-1906). The British administrative headquarters moved to Lagos upon the merger of Lagos and Southern Nigeria Protectorate. It means that Calabar had lost the capital status to Lagos before the Amalgamation in 1914.
This presupposes that the movement was determined by business interest and administrative convenience and not political or regional sentiments.
The relocation of capital to Abuja was informed by the need to decongest Lagos, encourage and expand .development in other regions. Genera Lord Lugard and the successive military and civilian regimes that muted the relocation of capital city from Calabar to Lagos and Lagos to Abuja never contemplated ethnicity and primordial interests.
By the way, some departments of Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria(FAAN) are not a Ministry or Ministries of government. It is therefore too petty to launch a blind and blanket mischief and blackmail that the capital of Nigeria is being relocated to Lagos.
The reasons behind the movement is purely to provide comfort for members of staff of the institutions and conserve funds being wasted in allowances.
Hadi Sirika, former Aviation Minister moved the head offices of aviation agencies in 2022 without adequate arrangement for accommodation for staff and offices in spite of the reality that aviation business hub is in Lagos, thereby creating additional operational cost for operators who would often travel to Abuja for miscellaneous licenses issuance and renewal. Here, business is killed on the altar of politics and ethnicity.
Sirika could not pay members of staff of FAAN their relocation allowances or provide accommodation and offices for them before leaving office. They were left in the lurch in Abuja and their life don’t matter because they are from the South? And who says no northerner was a victim of that ill-prepared relocation of the headquarters of aviation parastatals from Lagos to Abuja? Was the relocation all about developing the north?
The United States of America moved capital several times in its history before choosing Washington DC as the current capital city. The last two locations were New York City and Philadelphia. Were the choices driven by development or primordial sentiments?
In South Africa, the first city capital was Bloemfontein as founded by the British in 1846. Today, the country has three capital cities. Pretoria is the administrative and executive capital. It has Cape Town as the legislative capital and Bloemfontein as judicial capital. Other countries with more than one capital city include, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Chile. Now, does a single capital nation perform better economically or democratically? Why must every gas of the anus form a basis for ethnic and political mud-slinging?
Perhaps, the Nigeria’s federal character principle should be modelled in capital city distribution so that all the geopolitical zones could have capital city presence or retain some capital presence in Calabar as the first city capital for true regional development.
It is rather disheartening. how elders dance naked in the guise of regional interest defense. Arewa Consultative Forum(ACF) opened the floodgate of rejection, claiming the decision was to further under-develop the northern part of the country. The Northern Senators Forum(NSF) followed with request for reversal of the decision. Subsequently, the Joint Action Committee of Northern Youths Association emerged with threats.
Former CBN governor has given a robust insight on some of the departmental relocation. Arm yourself below.
According to Sanusi Lamido Sanusi , former apex bank boss on the CBN and moves on relocating departments and functions:””There are a number of errors in the previous write ups on the CBN’s initial strategy on departmental locations.
I did not demolish the old building. The credit for the design and the contract for the new Lagos building goes to Charles Soludo. But it is true that I did the formal foundation laying ceremony when JB brought the building to ground level, and I opened the building and used it before I left the CBN.
There was no “blue print”.Tanko Yakasai may have been informed by someone of conversations among the governors ( and he was not present in those conversation) in which we proposed that DG FSS and his departments move to Lagos and he could come to Abuja anytime for meetings.
Kingsley Moghalu, former CBN deputy governor was happy with the arrangement but we did not have time to come round to it.
Having said that- moving certain functions to the Lagos office ( which is bigger than the Abuja head office) is an eminently sensible move.
In my mind what I would have done was to move FSS and most of Operations to Lagos such that the two Deputy Governors would be largely operating out of Lagos or, even if they were more in Abuja , the bulk of their operational staff would be in Lagos.
Economic policy, Corporate services and all the departments reporting to the Governor directly such as Strategy, Audit, Risk management, Governors’ office, among others, would remain in Abuja.
It makes eminent strategic sense. And I would have done this if I had stayed.
All this noise is absolutely unnecessary. The CBN has staff manning its branches and cash offices across the Federation.
Moving staff to the Lagos office to streamline operations and make them more effective and to reduce cost is a normal prerogative of management.
The problem we have now is that many employees are children of politically exposed persons and their Abuja life and businesses are more important than the CBN work.
The CBN is just an address for them and if they have to choose between their spoilt Abuja life and the job, they would gladly leave the CBN.
All the more reason for the Governor to put his foot down and get rid of those elements they are dangerous for the bank’s future.
Having said that I think the CBN needs to get a few things right.
First, the question of locating functions is a STRATEGIC and not tactical one. A proper analysis should be done to identify which roles are best suited to Lagos and which to Abuja. Once the logic is clear the people then follow. Non communication of strategic intent opens the door to mischievous misrepresentation and arbitrariness.
I don’t like the idea of arguing that the office structure cannot handle the staff numbers. I am sure Julius Berger would refute that if they wanted to engage.
Second, individual situations should be considered. As much as possible we should be empathetic. For example young mothers with kids in school who do not need to move can be prioritized to stay in Abuja or those with medical conditions, etc.
Third, the CBN needs to focus on the exchange rate and inflation. Once it has control of these it earns credibility. Once CBN has credibility the Governor is untouchable.
So long as people think CBN has lost control of its key mandate everyone can make it a target and simple things like this- staff movement- become an issue it has to defend itself on.
When the CBN delivers on its mandate it can push through any changes no matter how tough and ignore the noise.
*My advice to the Governor is to go ahead with his policy.* Once the CBN starts bending to political pressure on one thing it will continue doing so.
Northern politicians will shout that this is moving from Abuja to Lagos. Abuja is a federal capital not a northern issue. So long as this is a principled decision the noise should be ignored.
When i was about to license Jaiz bank there was a lot of religious noise from CAN etc. Even enlightened people like Okey Emelamah were going to sue me to court on religious grounds. I ignored it and licensed the bank. Nothing happened.
A Christian Governor after me licensed at least two more non- interest banks. No one is even noticing again.
Ethnic and religious bigots will always shout. The CBN should rise above it and just do what needs to be done. It is a very unpopular and difficult job and the Governor needs to be tough.