Abuja the Evolution of a Pan Nigerian Socio-Cultural Identity
FOLASADE IFAMOSE & OLURANTI EDWARD OJO
Nigeria, the most popular and populous country in Africa is a heterogeneous society with an approximate population of 154,729 million and about 300 different ethnic groups. Though these groups give the country a rich culture, they also pose major challenges to national development, indeed ethnic strife has plagued Nigeria since her independence in 1960. However, in order to build a virile and united nation, the capital of the country was moved from Lagos to Abuja on December 12, 1991 with the view that all the multi ethnic and sub-ethnic groups would be united, where the three majority groups – Yoruba, Hausa/ Fulani and Ibo would also pave way for other minority groups. The idea was actually conceived in 1975 and by 1976 d uring the regime of Late General Murtala Mohammed, the choice of Abuja was endorsed, hence the process of making the dream a reality commenced. Perhaps the need to decongest Lagos, as well as to harmonise the sociocultural differences of the various peoples of Nigeria might have informed the location of the capital at Abuja, which was centrally located.
According to Imoukuede1, Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria was one of the most significant developments undertaken by the Federal Government. The thought of a new Federal Capital was conceived when it was realised that the continued retention of Lagos as the Federal Capital had become impracticable, especially with its intractable traffic, housing and sanitation problems and its multiple role as a state and Federal Capital. He further articulated that, the removal of the Federal seat of government will allow Lagos to expand as the commercial centre of Nigeria and as a state capital, while the new capital in Abuja will help to create a sense of national unity and a symbol of Nigeria’s aspirations.
Abuja, the capital of Nigeria was the home of the Gwari, Koro, Bassa and Gade who were the early settlers and ‘indigenes’ of the area now called Abuja. By 1976 the gradual movement of different Nigeria groups to Abuja became unprecedented as the overwhelming population subsumed the early settlers and impacted strongly on the indigenous cultures of the early settlers. The result was that some aspects of the cultural heritage of the indigenes were consumed by the ‘alien’ cultures while a new culture and distinct civilisation emerged in Abuja. Each of the migrant had different reasons for coming. For instance, some came for business (trade and commerce), some transferred as civil servants or government workers, others as contractors and consultants, some for academics (education), some came for politics and politicking, while some people came in search of jobs, security and as fun seekers or adventures. Paradoxically, many came for religious purposes, either to establish a new church/ mosque or to build a branch/ headquarters of their church/ mosque in Abuja.
Whatever the motive for coming, the cultures of the people are interchanged to the extent that a new culture has now emerged. Abuja, being the melting point of Nigerian culture brought larger ethnic groups together (even more than Lagos), therefore, it was obvious that Nigerians had more things in common, more than what they had previously thought. The picture of the integrated cultural groups gives the impression of a high level of tolerance and co-existence in such a way that the tradition and culture of the “indigenes” were almost blurred. For instance, the indigenous religion, mode of dressing, food and feeding habit, marriage style, norms, names, land tenure, architecture, social habit, market culture, farming, language, craft works, and political life of the indigenes have been heavily influenced by the cultures of the later migrants. This chapter however shows the position of Abuja not only as the political capital but also as the melting pot of Nigeria’s highly diversified cultures.
Culture and Development
Culture in every society depicts the way of life in that particular society. In Nigerian societies, culture plays significant and substantial roles in the people’s daily life. As a matter of fact, culture of a society is the bedrock and the pivot on which all relations stand. It would therefore not be an overstatement to say that any society, either ancient or modern, can survive only when all cultural variables are fully developed and utilized. Culture affects all facets of life such as family, religion, economy, politics, law, social, habit, technology etc. Therefore, no society in the world can survive without culture; No wonder, Ajetunmobi2 noted that what we are, where we are and what we do is determined by culture.
Apparently, it is assumed that modernization or better still, civilization could only be achieved when culture is transformed from the simple to a more complex stage. At times, development at the level of social groups implies an increasing capacity to regulate both internal and external relationships. Development is the gradual increase or growth from simple to a more advanced stage. In the words of Walter Rodney3, development was universal because the conditions leading to economic expansion were universal. According to him, the ability of man to overcome the challenges and struggle for survival makes him to develop skills, habits, tools, new attitudes and approaches towards life, hence new culture develops.
Culture goes beyond mode of dressing, dancing, music, morals, festivals, and language; it includes the generality of human actions. Culture is very significant in intellectual arena not only because it marks the missing link between man and the lesser animals but because there is no human being or groups without culture. Culture is defined by Johnson as that part of total repertoire of human action (and its products), which is socially as opposed to genetically transmitted values from one generation to the other. Ohyde defined culture as “a historically derived system of explicit and implicit designs for living which tends to be shared by all or specially designated member of a group”. This definition emphasizes not only the historical antecedent of culture but also the fact that culture is shared by members of given society.
There is no gainsaying the fact that culture is the practical reflection and demonstration of the people’s history which is borne out of their experiences. It is the pride of every society that embodies all aspects of human life ranging from economy to its technology, social system, political organization and religion.
More often than not, the word development has been variously described by various writers in various ways; however, the economists have associated the term with increase in economic standard. A society develops economically as its members jointly have the capacity to influence its immediate environment positively. The ability depends on the extent to which the people understand the laws of nature (science) the extent to which they put that understanding into practice by devising tools (technology) and on the attitude and manners in which they respect and value their heritage or better still their cultural heritage.4
No culture in the world is static; every culture is dynamic and changes overtime either through education, civilization, contact, social interaction, colonization or imperialism. In fact in this world of globalization where the whole world is shrunk together, it is not surprising that African culture could be found in the United States, Europe and other continents of the globe asides Africa. This is because of some factors: (1) during the slave trade era many of the captives went with their culture and exhibited such in the foreign land, (2) the children of the slaves or ex-slaves (African descent) continued with the culture of their fore-fathers in Diaspora, (3) some Africans travelled abroad in search better of living condition or education, this category of migrants greatly assisted in spreading African culture abroad but not without some modification. Hence this cultural integration paves way to new ideas, new initiatives and creativity. According to Aina, globalization implies global culture, global civilization and global economy.5 To other scholars globalization is the same as culture practices, which are acceptable by every society in the world.
History has it that African societies developed earlier than other groups in the world and that the emergent civilization was later spread and modified by other nations and groups. During this period, Egypt, which was regarded as the oldest culture in the world rose into prominence because her culture was jealously guided and preserved, to the extent that she was not only a tourist centre but a dispersal point of ancient civilization. Other early civilizations in Africa included Oyo, Nubia, Nok, Meroe, Kanuri, Benin, and Kano. As earlier said, culture is an instrument for measuring the level of development in a society. It has continuous growth and therefore ever changing through the acquisition of more traits, through diffusion, acculturation or borrow ing. Culture moves progressively over time. When two or more cultures meet there would be conflict, then a superior or more acceptable trait eventually becomes the general norm overtime. For instance, human sacrifice, polytheism, killing of twins, female circumcision and slavery had become things of the past in most part of Africa. This view was captured by Akinjogbin6, when he argued that “certain items that are no longer useful at a particular period in a particular culture can be discarded and are usually discarded in favour of new items that would suit the circumstances of the time”. Culture evolution in the area of technology could lead to development. Progressive cultures such as respecting the elders, helping the needy, participating in communal duties, upholding morality would go a long way in promoting development.
Over the years, it has been observed that the level of one’s cultural values is also the level of one’s development. As cultural value is advanced through diffusion, the society equally develops. In the process of cultural advancement, some traits are considered outdated or obsolete. Such habits are transformed to pave way for another. Sociologists believe that culture moves with time, season, circumstances and environment. Therefore, such culture having been modernized serves as a panacea for societal development in all ramifications.
Culture influences the way one view problems or challenges of the society, the manner of doing things and the solutions to those challenges. Every societal problem has its own unique solution which is enshrined in the cultural heritage. For example, in Yoruba land, herbs and local concoction is very effective for the treatment of any kind of sickness, ailment and calamity. More so, barrenness, mental disorder, epileptic and other serious sickness that defied orthodox are better treated in traditional ways. As earlier said, no culture is superior to another and this was captured by an African parlance that only a bastard will use a left hand to describe his father’s house.
Evidence abounds that most of the developed nations in the world are those that appreciate, preserves, protects and promotes their cultural heritage such as Britain, France and China. These nations adopted various strategies to spread their culture to other places and countries. In colonial period, France and Portugal introduced policy of Assimilation while Portugal, Germany and Belgium introduced paternalism in their African colonies. They suppressed African culture and civilization, knowing fully, that if culture is taken away from the people, they are far away from civilization, development, progress and modernization.
An understanding of one’s culture or the knowledge of one’s culture is really the basis from which development springs. No development can occur without an acknowledgement of the society’s cultural values and heritage. More so, no meaningful development can ever take place without having positive attitude towards one’s cultural heritage. It has been suggested that an individual who doesn’t know the culture of his people is like a plant without roots and the person who cannot really understand his present is unlikely to chart a course successfully for his future, he will not know if he is progressing or going backwards. Akinjogbin captured this view when he said that, it is through the knowledge of history and culture that people will be able to stand, talk with confidence among the other group. He continued that it is also through a thorough knowledge of their history that they will be able to correct whatever imbalance or socio-political problems that may crop up among them in any period of their history and between them and their neighbours.7
Culture is central in the understanding of people both as individual and as members of the society. In an attempt to understand the rate and processes of development in a society, the culture of such society must be understood from its historical perspective. Culture and development are closely related. In the first instance, both of them take place in human society. They are equally susceptible to change. There can be no development without change, and development can only take place within a cultural setting. As a dynamic phenomenon, every culture imports and exports certain elements, thereby allowing a degree of change within it as time passed. This degree of change in culture is germane to societal development. Therefore, culture more than anything else could be described as “continuity and change”. Society along the line sheds some aspects of culture while modifying others. Although, cultures change continuously, yet they remain conservative as well as an identity. Development is a process that enhances the effective freedom of the people to pursue whatever it is that they value. Cultural freedom sets the arena for individual’s freedom to flourish. The rate of development will be slow wherever there is a cultural restriction.
Cultural dimensions of development embraces all the psycho-sociological components which like the economic, technological and scientific factors help to improve the material and intellectual life of the population, while at the same time, contributing to technical success of the development plans or projects. Culture in its broadest sense undoubtedly represents a crucial input for development of services in any given society. For instance transformation and development, the culture of work, communication, corporate existence, good habits, honesty, sharing and progressive change represents the basic structure needed for overall development. It is argued that every strategy of development has a definite cultural component regardless of whether this underlying cultural element is explicitly stated and consciously planned or tacitly assumed or even deliberately ignored. Since the fundamental determinants of a society’s culture are so intricately interwoven with the organization of its material reproduction, any attempt at cultural “preservation” or development which is divorced from the fundamental structural transformation taking place in its material base is an exercise in futility. Every form of development naturally and inevitably involves an element of cultural transformation. Culture is, after all, the dynamic outcome of a society’s struggle to harness and tap the resources of its environment.
Cultural Diversities and National Integration
The creation of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja as the epicentre of Nigeria’s unity was meant to “create a sense of national unity and be a symbol of Nigeria’s aspirations”.8 This declaration was a historical landmark and opened a vista of literary experience in defence of unity in diversity apparently referring to the cultural differences in Nigeria. In strategising culture as a tool for national development, several culture concepts comes to play, one of which is Multiculturalism. According to Robert Shusta9, unshared forms of culture in a multicultural society (like Abuja), can lead to some cultural shocks and may create Ethnocentrism in the society. He went ahead to explain ethnocentrism as the notion that one’s culture is more sensitive or superior to other cultures, an affirmed belief on shared values by a people in the face of other cultures.
In his book, Society, Politics and Culture, Mervyn James10 explained that ethnocentrism in a multicultural society can lead to Ethnocide, that is the destruction of a people’s culture and this in turn may lead to Genocide which is the destruction of entire populations. To forestall these occurrences, Nolan and Lenski11 in their work argue that; there is a need to create crosscultural understanding under the concept of Cultural Relativism which deals with cultural equality and respect for other people’s culture. Culture has to do with the perennial human quest for mastery of difficulties presented by nature, the physical environment, and the metaphysical world. Culture, according to Frank Aig-Imoukhede,
Is the totality of the way of life evolved by a people in their attempt to meet the challenge of living in their environment, which gives order and meaning to their social, political, economic, aesthetic and religious norms and modes of organisation, thus distinguishing a people from their neighbours.12
This definition shed more light on the workings of culture, especially as it affects the totality of the life ways of people within the outside the boundaries of the Federal Capital Territory. He went further to show ‘that culture is the prime determinant of the Nigerian character’, the very ideal which pre-empted the location of the Capital Territory in Abuja, as the anchor point of unity and national cohesion to justify the oneness of Nigeria in all ramifications. In offices, market place, schools, in churches and mosques and even at social gatherings, culture pervade in such inextricable ways from the people’s mode of conduct in their effort to face the challenges of daily life and the development of the society.
Culture is also referred to as the socio-historical inheritance which is distinct from genetic inheritance being instinctive, but is shared by the society. Therefore, culture inheritance is unique to man and it is what assures the predominance of man over nature and man over other man.
Inter-cultural relations in Abuja depend s on the understanding and adaptation of the elements of the diverse cultures within the country to guide policy making as they affect the critical needs of the people in relationship to their educational, economic, political and social needs for integration towards the development of the society.
In order to fully grasp the impact of culture on the history of a society, Ojo argues that
The best way of writing the history of any society is to study and document the cultural values of such society, because people’s attitude is a reflection of their culture while the people’s culture is a reflection of their historical experience.13
This assertion corroborates the French sociologist, Emile Durkheim’s theory of Cultural Functionalism which views culture as a collection of integrated parts that work together to keep a society functioning. He argued that the Emic cultures (i.e. the natives of a society) and the Etic cultures (stranger’s culture) should acculturate. The concept of Acculturation results from cross-cultural exchange when members of one culture adopts features of another culture and this is supportive of Rosamund and Billington’s14 position on Enculturation or Cultural Transmission which emphasises on the capability to create, share and maintain a Neo-Culture in a multicultural society.
In the same flow of thought, Claude Levi Strauss15, a French anthropologist conceptualised Cultural Structuralism to mean the challenges of multicultural societies. He felt that the logic underlying the cultural patterns in a multicultural society was somehow rooted in the structure of the human mind and proposed that a powerful system of logical analysis of the cultural patterns would result in, or create a neo-culture which is the unfolding scenario in Abuja.
It therefore means that the diverse cultural tendencies from various backgrounds represented and relocated to the Federal Capital Territory should be studied and realigned with the national aspirations for a true national identity and character – a standpoint of this study.
In his work, Ojo16 observed that culture incorporates (integrates) society’s institutions, its legal systems, its processes of governance, legislation and participation – all of that web of intricate links and transactions that determines a society’s character as well as delimit its pattern of economic development. This fits in so well on the framework of Abuja, being the administrative capital of Nigeria with all the paraphernalia of democratic governance which needs a cultural structuring for integrating the aspirations of the diverse people of Nigeria into the framework of policy formulation with the much taunted national unity at heart.
As noted by Adebayo Bello17, he affirms that, a major difference in culture is identified in the hierarchical nature of most of our cultures, with no place for concepts like integration, rule and supremacy of the law and all sorts of muscles, especially economic and political rather than academic, become determinants in the realisation of national aspirations.
He went further to show how; “each group believed in the sanctity of their cultural superiority and deriding the funny ways and cultural tendencies of others”.18 All these poses imperative for integrating those aspects of the diverse cultures that can promote a national outlook, those themes and modes on which national character can be built to avoid unnecessary frictions in the polity.
While it should be known that all cultures are unique and none can be said to be better than the other as all cultures has to do with the totality of a people’s way of life, sight should not be lost on the potent danger underlying any form of disrespect to the culture of other people as that is a never-failing source for conflict as rightly stated by Ifamose, in Abuja Journal of Humanities, that:
One of the most dramatic threats to the corporate existence of Nigeria is internal conflicts most of which arises from the clash of cultures. The endemic nature of these conflicts has emphasised the importance of system maintenance and social adjustment.19
The instrument needed for that maintenance and social adjustment is cultural integration through a cross-cultural advocacy concept and such a concept can be adopted for the Federal Capital Territory with a spillover effect to other parts of the country.
The generational search for the bonds of unity in Nigeria, a search which pre-empted the creation of Abuja in the first place, can readily be found in the harmonisation of the disparate cultures in Nigeria.
Frank Jandt20, in his book Intercultural Communications, analysed the concept of cultural integration as the incorporation of different ethnic or religious elements of a population into a unified society and providing equal opportunities for all members of that society. In such a society, an individual’s attainment, education, access to public or private facilities, opportunity for employment and ownership of property is neither denied nor limited by reason of social status, religion or ethnic nationality.
Successive leaders in Nigeria had often neglected culture as a potent tool for national unity, some often mixed up culture with religion and made frantic efforts to impose a particular religion in the name of culture on the generality of the people irrespective of their belief. This action has degenerated into wanton killings, riots and total breakdown of rules and orders in some parts of the country especially in the North.
Beyond the realms of constitutionality and policy formulation, interesting issues are raised by scholars concerning the place of culture in development21, and this has to do with the simple life ways and modes in our daily experiences. This brings to mind the original idea behind the creation of Abuja as the Federal Capital Territory.
Over the years, Abuja has been a beehive of national political activities for a smooth transition to civil rule in 1999, and from civilian to civilian transition of power in 2007. The city had hosted all the political gladiators in the country, all members of House of Representatives, Senate, Ministers, Advisers, Economic gladiators and so on. They had impacted the city in many ways. Abuja is now a modern city admired by all; as the political seat for all the political parties and politicians alike.
Since the creation of the FCT in 1976, the indigenous cultures had witnessed a whirlwind of transformations which resulted from interactions with the incoming cultures, and such had spanned across all aspects of life in the society. Abuja has therefore become the central for arena where the rich cultural values, heritage, arts, drama, language, crafts, mode of dressing, music, food, fashion, customs, traditions and many other things that form the identity of each ethnic group are coalesced and projected. This is a means of enhancing mutual understanding, friendship and peaceful co-existence among ethnic groups in Nigeria.
The socio-cultural relation in the FCT was strapped on the government policy which placed Abuja as a ‘no man’s land’. This notion induced incomers who became condescending or contemptuous towards the indigenes especially when claims of rights were put forward by indigenes.22 However, there was an attitudinal adjustment as people began to appreciate the special status and rights granted to the indigenes to engender a sound socio-cultural relation.
In 2005, the Federal Government created Abuja carnival as part of government effort to engender inter-cultural interactions in the country. The yearly Carnival had grown to pose as an effective instrument for socio-cultural mobilisation of Nigerians and as a channel for inter-cultural and social interactions. These extensive cross-cultural interactions have reshaped cultural opinions, deepened the understanding of the diverse cultures and hastened the integration process in the country. The carnival had become a veritable instrument for the celebration of Nigeria’s unity in diversity.
In terms of language, the known language families in the FCT are the Kwa and Chadic families with a large number of members within and outside Nigeria. This meant that FCT had developed into a culturally complex region occasioned by the largescale influx of other ethnic groups who found language as the means to convey thoughts and transmit beliefs, perceptions, norms and values. There was a very high probability that the diversity of languages in the FCT would threaten the indigenous languages to the brink of extinction due to the overwhelming influence of the influx languages which, apparently, dominate Abuja society to the detriment of the indigenous ones. For the purpose of clarity, English language and Pidgin English have suppressed the indigenous languages in Abuja.
On religion and festivals, prior to the creation of the FCT, the religious life of the people was rooted strongly in African Traditional Religion and the traditional rulers as well as the priest upheld the traditions to a high esteem. The supreme deity was worshipped by the people through lesser gods in form of nature or objects. Traditional festivals were held periodically and some annually, for instance, among the Gbagyi, the Gunu and Eshan, festivals were held in every seventh month of the planting season. According to Esu of Bwari23 the festivals were used as propitiation to the ancestral spirits and to supplicate for the health of the people and their agricultural lands. The festival was meant for cleansing and everyone was compelled by tradition to show remorse for wrong doings, avoid quarrels and all mundane activities.
Nowadays, the strict rules of Gunu festivals had been w atered d ow n as a result of problems related to land acquisition as it affected their farmland s d ue to the uncontrolled development of the FCT. This, to a large extent, had affected the shrines and other sacred places which served as strongholds of the festivals across the FCT. The situation in the FCT area after the penetration of Islam saw the areas being Islamised and many of the traditionalists got converted. Thereafter the Christian missionaries also came to spread the religion and by 1976 Muslims constituted about 41 percent, while Christians and pagans constituted 27 percent and 32 percent of the population respectively.24 Expectedly, the influx of people from diverse religious backgrounds from the Christians dominated southern parts of the country, changed the religious configuration of the FCT as a result of the intensive inter-religious activities that had taken place during the period. There had been more inter-religious conferences between the various religious organisations, Christians and Moslems in search of understanding among its members to achieve national cohesion and unity. Indeed, former President Obasanjo made a historic visit to the Central Mosque in Abuja as part of effort to forge peace among Moslems in their understanding of Christianity for national development. There had been more cross-religious marriages recorded in the FCT since its creation, Christians, Moslems and pagans have inter-married on a more frequent note and with less religious barriers based on the understanding which Abuja has made possible.
Marriage customs in the FCT had taken a paradigm shift from the age long traditions known with the indigenous people due to the overwhelming influence of the incoming cultures. Prior to the creation of the FCT, the indigenous peoples used to have an elaborate and highly ceremonious customs related to marriage. According to Yakubu Sulaiman 25, marriage customs in the FCT had been adjusted to encourage intermarriage in the emerging socio-cultural milieu. The strict rules associated with issues of marriage in the past had been relaxed to enhance legally bound and traditionally sanctioned marriages in the FCT.
On the framework of socio-cultural relations in the FCT, many illegal marriages had taken place and had earned the dictum ‘Abuja marriage’. This form of marriage became popular due to the co-habitation of man and woman as a result of the challenges posed by the cost of rent in the FCT. It was a form of marriage occasioned by circumstances of some residents during the period. More so, those civil servants that moved with the relocation of the Federal Capital to Abuja without their spouse and those that joined later equally married another person because of the prevailing circumstances.
By 1976, at least 80 percent of the population of the FCT were farmers, while about 7 percent and 10 percent were in trading and public service respectively, while others were distributed in small numbers among such occupations as cattle rearing, crafts production and so on. The occupational structure changed with the tremendous activities going on in the territory and the concomitant influx of populations of multifarious occupations.26
During the period before 1976, it was only Bwari and Karu that had standard markets while the relatively larger settlements like Gwagwalada and Abaji, did not have this infrastructure. Adelamo27 explained that the absence of marketing system in a traditional society which was based on agricultural production did not provide a strong base for the emergence of markets which were necessary for the development of the local economy. Subsequently, the economy of the FCT was transformed when the FCT administration provided outlets through the building of markets in various localities of the FCT.28
Daily and periodic markets as it operated in the Yoruba region were established to enhance inter-regional trade and general economic activities in the FCT and economic relations among the peoples in the FCT were identified within the informal sectors and small scale operations. Such businesses had low capital outlay, running costs, financial returns and engaged a few number of employees. The technical aspects of the informal sector consisted of motor vehicle mechanics, tailoring, repairers, vulcanizers, photography, electrical works, blocks and furniture making, while the commercial activities comprised of imports and internal exchanges.
These activities formed the economic base in the FCT and had witnessed phenomenal growth in number, variety and complexity since 1980. Within the framework of inter-cultural economic activities, the indigenous peoples had gained exposure to new lines of economic endeavours. A predominantly farming population was transformed into a highly diversified occupational and industrial-based economy.
One of the most contentious issues after the creation of the FCT was the political and legal status of the original inhabitants of the FCT in their relationship with the settler populations. There was general anxiety by the indigenous peoples whose political status was threatened by the influx of the diverse Nigerian peoples into the FCT. Their anxiety was heightened by the fact that all Nigerians at the national level are citizens of the 36 states which imbued them with certain rights and privileges in their states and at the national level. Therefore, the indigenes of the FCT should equally have that dual privilege and also the leverage to use the FCT platform for access to resources and benefits that accrue from the centre.29
This view w as corroborated by the Aguma of Gwagwalada30 who asserted that every Nigerian laid claims to a state whereas the Abuja indigene lays claim only to Nigeria. The indigenes demanded quota reservations as done to other citizens for admission into schools and recruitment into public service, they pressed for the exclusive reservations of certain elective or appointive positions, including the Mayor of Abuja because, as posited by James, the indigenes were not adequately equipped to compete favourably with the more politically organised groups in the FCT.
In the face of these agitations and the need to engender a virile inter-cultural relationship in the spirit of quota system and national character, certain strategies were considered, one of which was the creation of Development Areas in the FCT in 1981. These development areas, which assumed the status of local government areas in 1991, were meant to provide for an effective administration that would effectively permeate and positively impact on the grassroots.
As part of efforts of government to stabilise the polity and provide effective administration in the FCT, the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, in December 2004, scrapped the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (MFCT) and by Sections 299 and 302 of the constitution, transformed the FCT to the status of a state.
Olowo31 posited that, by the directive, the FCT assumed a new political status with the independence of a state government. The order reverted the legal and administrative structure of the FCT to the status quo ante in full compliance to the intention and meaning of the FCT with the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA) as its sole development and management agency.
The political relation of people in the FCT was boosted at the elevation to the status of a state because it was followed by a restructuring process and provision of openings which deepened the socio-cultural and political relationship among the people in the FCT.
Apparently, Abuja being the seat of Nigerian government became politically elevated in terms of structure, status and polity. All the federal ministries were shifted to the place as well as the National Assembly. Most of the government parastatals and institutions were also relocated, thereby given room to new political integration of ideas and culture in the FCT. Each political party in Nigeria established their party headquarters in Abuja and offices were created and staffed with their supporters irrespective of religion, language, background and tribe
Neo-Socio-Cultural Development and Unity in the FCT Since 1991
The influx and convergence of diverse Nigerian cultures in Abuja since the creation of the FCT in 1976 had evolved a new set of norms and values and intensified the interaction of cultures towards national development. The emergence of a new cultural milieu in Abuja was succinctly captured by Sule Bello32 who stated that, the outcome of intellectual interactions and exchanges w ith past cultural heritage constituted integrative factors, the dissemination, appreciation and consumption of shared values to bring about cultural integration in the FCT.
During the period, social and cultural interactions among people in the territory, had bred intellectual and cultural adaptations for the enrichment of experiences in Abuja. The neo-cultural scenario in Abuja was comparable with that of Europe as both were never a cultural island, but became a cultural melting pot where various peoples interacted overtime and it eventually resulted in the diffusion of ideas especially in the intellectual sphere.
The neo-cultural development in Abuja could be compared to those of other nations. As posited by Paul-Marc33 on the Greco-Roman heritage, it was more of a cultural pot-pouri enriched with diverse contributions from different cultures and peoples. He emphasised that the appeal and attraction to western cultures was not due to any inherent superiority, but rather due to some enduring universal values derived from interactions and exchanges with other cultures. This position fitted so well into the frame of neo-cultural development, as witnessed in the various transformations which had taken place since the creation of the FCT.
Since 1991, Nigeria was confronted with a variety of problems and issues which bordered on national cohesion; peace and unity, there had been the contentious issue of disarmament, religious riots, environmental degradation, poverty eradication, economic and political stability. In the face of all these, the promotion of a new socio-cultural order that will facilitate unprejudiced intellectual exchanges between the diverse cultures without the loss of the individual’s cultural identity became an imperative. Intellectual cultural exchange and cooperation would compliment government’s effort to integrate Nigerian cultural resources, assess their needs and solve problems from the individual cultural point of view. In this way, the Abuja civilisation would trickle down to imbue the finer strands of cultural ethics in other states of Nigeria for the interest of national unity and development.
The neo-cultural trend within Abuja during the period was more apparent in forms of exchange that resulted in intercultural marriages, partnerships in business, education and experiences shared in the general modes and themes of the diverse cultures. Yerima Dutse observed that the increased number of inter-cultural marriages in the FCT had led to a better understanding of other people’s culture and built confidence in marriage relationships. He noted that:
now, our people work in the same offices, our children go to the same schools, we go to the same markets and exchange goods from different places and we share the same experiences with other cultures in Abuja.34
Today, the FCT is ‘no man’s land’ and therefore, there is no single dominant ethnic group that claims Abuja as was the case with Lagos. It is a multi-lingual territory with all the states, tribes and religions large or small adequately represented. But the dominant indigenes remained the Gbagyi, Koro, Bassa and Gade. It is absolutely difficult for one of the major languages in Nigeria – Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo to evolve as a dominant language spoken in the FCT. With the introduction of the three major languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Ibo – in FCT schools in 1992, it became possible for Nigeria to have a multi-lingual Federal Capital City.35 Diverse ethnic groups that have migrated to the FCT with the movement of the seat of government from Lagos have presented rich and diverse culture. There are over two dozen cultural associations in the FCT under the auspices of Abuja Council for Arts and Culture.
The administration of the FCT also established a Better Life Band by recruiting and training young girls from different parts of the territory and being coordinated by Baller Miller, a notable musician. The administration further established information and cultural centres in all area councils w ith public enlightenment. In addition in 1996, 13 episodes relating to cultural programmes on NTA Abuja aimed at educating the resident of FCT and beyond on the cultural activities of the FCT was undertaken. The council also acknowledged and promoted local crafts, artefacts, household utensils and selected historical and cultural sites in FCT, even some of the pottery w orks of the late Dr. Lad i Kw ali w ere collected and demonstrated as at when due.36
With the upsurge in population as well as the economic and infrastructural changes in Abuja, new ways of living emerged in Abuja. An affluent lifestyle emerged and became popular among the business gurus, administrators, public and private contractors, military and paramilitary officers, senior government officials and especially among the politicians. These set of people inhabit the Asokoro and the Maitama areas of Abuja, their culture and way of life resembled the present western bourgeoisie ways of life. Their relaxation culture is highly extravagant and wasteful with night clubs, movies, parks, pools, gardens etc. found almost everywhere in the city. Another set of people with unique culture are the public workers and small private venture owners, they occupied the middle class ladder. They have a unique lifestyle called the “City Man Culture”.
Following the middle class were the poor. This class includes labourers, petty traders, hawkers, then the street boys and beggars. However, with the upsurge in population of Abuja, social ills which were alien to the territory started to emerged . The crime rate in the territory increased unprecedentedly, for example in 1999, about 99 high rated crimes were recorded in FCT, in 2002, it was 205, in 2004 the figure increased to 500, in 2009, the crime in FCT took different dimension, such as kidnapping stealing, theft, armed robbery, car theft and rape.
Apart from violent crimes, prostitution in FCT became on the rise, the rise in the activities of prostitution in FCT could be linked to the increase in economic hardship of most people that dwell in the city, coupled with the increase in the influx of people who seek escape from their economic hardship.37 Moreover, the new culture among men of the city dwellers, that is, the desire to marry late and the desire for sex which in turn informed increased in the number of sex hawkers in the city has also been on the increase. Efforts by government to stop these menace has not totally yielded positive result.
Sport was another aspect of socio-cultural activities that became popular culture in Abuja. The coming of the seat of power into Abuja led to massive investment into the sector which in turn created a new life and culture associated with sports. The FCT participated in the 5th All African Games held in Cairo Egypt and the Paralympics games for the disabled in Barcelona, Spain. Abuja hosted the 8th All African Games name COJA 2003, in which Nigeria came first in the medal list. The stadium also hosted the final of the under 17 World Cup in 2007. Moreover, the civil service sport held in Abuja was a programme to keep civil servants shape in their job or activities. More so, clubs, hotels and night crawling has become a part of Abuja residents culture and this is very common among the youths, irrespective of background and orientation.
The economic revolution of relocating the seat of power from Lagos to Abuja cannot be overemphasised; the commercial and industrial sectors of the FCT have expanded. Supportive industrial and commercial infrastructures were put in place. The Ministry of Federal Capital Territory realised that rational economic growth is the twin duty of both public and private participation in the commercial and industrial development of the FCT.38
Numerous banks and insurance sprang up in various parts of the FCT, model markets were constructed, good roads network, adequate water supply, hotels, telecommunication facilities, conference centres, a hitch free and suitable political climate were created to give corporate and private investors incentives to move to the FCT. The Model Market at Wuse became operational in 1989, and has 506 stores made up 168 lock-up stores and 270 open stores and 48 warehouses. The Zuba central market was built with 492 stores comprising 264 lock-up and 228 open stalls. Facilities in the market include Motor Park, police security post, banking hall, administrative block, incinerator and abattoir. Other facilities in the market include restaurants39, water storage tanks and toilet facilities. Market stalls and facilities were also provided for the Bwari, Nyanya, Gw agw a, Karu, Karshi, and Gw agw alad a in compliance with modern market standards.
The Ministry of Federal Capital Territory, in its bid to take commercial facilities nearer to the people embarked on the provision of districts and neighbourhood shopping complexes, post offices, police stations, health centres and other auxiliary facilities. Indeed, two neighbourhood centres at Area II and III of the Garki District had 67 and 58 open and lock-up stores respectively. In Wuse District, the shopping complex provides space for traders who display their wares. The FCT had participated in Lagos, Kaduna, Enugu and Abuja international trade fairs and had exhibited various business and agriculture shows.
The series edition of the “made-in-Nigeria” trade exhibitions tagged “Abuja expo” were organised in the city to promote Nigeria and sell its quality products not only to Nigerians but also international communities. This is also a demonstration of Nigerian unity through her socio-economic integration policy.
There is heavy presence of industries in Abuja, most especially the construction industries. Some industries and manufacturing concerns now operating in Abuja including Julius Berger Plc, PW (NIG) Plc, established polished stones industries at Mpape. Others included Arab Contracts, SETRACO, Dantata and Sawoe, RCC and DUMEZ. The effort of these industries had contributed a lot tow ard s the transformation of the Federal Capital Territory into a city worth admiring. Other industrial presence in Abuja includes System Metal Industries Ltd. at Idu manufacturing roofing and cladding sheets, others included Alumeo Industry and so on. Ogbebor concrete industry produces reinforced concrete pipes. There are also other iron industries specialties in the manufacturing of metal doors, windows, tanks of all types all over Abuja. Others were multinationals like telecommunication companies such as MTN, GLO, AIRTEL, ETISALAT and VISAFONE.
Also present in Abuja was the National Pharmaceuticals
Nigeria Ltd manufacturing drugs and dressing. Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) Ltd at Gwagwalada, producers of softdrinks, NHMA Manufacturing Industry Ltd producers of floor carpets at its Gwagwalada factory. Another major economy of Abuja was tourism, the role played by hotels in Abuja is crucial towards the acceleration of this sector of the FCT economy. The hotel ranges from five-star ones to smaller stars. Some of these hotels include Transcorp Hilton Hotel and Sheraton Hotels and Towers. Others are Vines, Agura Hotel, Rockview, Chelsea Hotel, Ibru Hotel, Top Rank Hotel and a host of others. The tourist attractions were but not limited to Jabi Lake, Millennium Park, Zuma Rock, Maitama Park and Wonderland Park.
However, an important observation of these industries is that they are not the intermediate or capital goods type, which utilise local raw materials. They are the consumer goods type, generally thought to be incapable of generating rapid regional growth. Therefore, if industrialisation is to achieve the desired goal of generating growth and consequently raise the level of human welfare within the FCT, the industrial types in which investment efforts should be concentrated should be changed to the production of intermediate and capital goods. This strategy will certainly enable the FCT play its expected role in the industrial development of the country.
The policy thrust of the government in this sector is the adequate provision of road s, electricity, w ater, sew age, and communication facilities in the city, satellites forums, and the rural areas. The development of infrastructure in the FCT started in early 1980 with the development of Garki I and Wuse II Districts and other areas of the six area councils.
The master plan for Abuja identified three main categories of water demand in the FCT, namely; municipal demand which included (water for industrial, commercial, domestic and recreational uses), water for rural and agricultural purposes. It w as estimated that the total per capita consumption of water in the FCT would fall at 265 litres daily by the year 2000. Construction activities were projected to be the major industrial consumer of water.
Between 1979 and 1989, the FCDA built several water schemes of varying capacities located at Jabi, Asokoro, Lower Usuma, Gw agw alad a, Kubw a and Abuja International Airport. The lower Usuman Dam which was commissioned in 1987, was the biggest water scheme in the FCT. It was 1,300 metres long, 45 metres high, and had a reservoir capacity of about 120 million cubic metres of raw water. Furthermore, a capacity of 10,000 cubic metres of water was treated per hour and supplied to all the districts of the FCT.40
The unprecedented rise in population of the FCT, due to daily influx of people, has been exerting untold pressure on essential utilities such as water supply. In its bid to contain the situation, the administration puts into operation the second Usuma Dam water works. This measure effectively doubled the water treatment plant capacity from 120 million litre per day to 240 million litres per day. The resultant salutatory impact of this project is the improved water supply to Kubwa, Abuja International Airport, Gwagwalada and other areas.
Electricity was of primary importance for the effective performance in the public service and the living conditions of people in the FCT since the creation. Electricity served both as a social amenity and industrial infrastructure, it aided the establishment of smallscale processing and light manufactures and raised productivity, employment, income and the general standard of living.
By the year 2000, electricity was made available to about thirty locations which included the capital city, satellite towns, large population centres and six small population centres like; Kuje, Chukuku, Rubochi, Yaba, Dobi and Kwali.41 The consumption rate of electricity ranged between 10va and 25va per capita, that about 50 percent of people in the FCT had access to electricity and about 95 percent of electricity generated were consumed domestically while a small percentage was consumed in commercial and industrial sectors.
Electricity is the prime mover of the economy and social growth of any nation. The development of Abuja therefore is itself an economic resource of an imaginable purchasing power when the expected demand for goods and services is considered and the necessary infrastructural facilities that would be provided to make such a city of that magnitude an efficient functional entity.
The government created three separate sources of 330 kilowatts double circuit each to be transmitted to the city. Each of these three sources terminated at a different location via a 330/ 132/ 33kv man transmission stations which then feed several numbers of 33/ 11kv injection substations. This main distribution source finally feed several located all over the territory.42
Another basic infrastructural development in FCT is the massive construction of roads. The master plan provides for an elaborate road network system for both the Federal Capital City (FCC) and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as a whole.
At the creation of the FCT in 1976, the main roads that served the territory were the Suleja-Abaji roads and SulejaKeffi roads which crossed at the North to South and West to East directions respectively. These roads were a small portion of the corridor type system of transportation developed by the British colonial government to exploit the country’s resources, they were unpaved and more of dry season tracks. The roads served only local movements and allowed for low travelling speeds and the tracks usually originated from the larger settlements where the small places of abode were connected by footpaths.
The FCT had witnessed tremendous infrastructural transformations since its creation as new road networks were opened to link a number of towns and urban centres within the FCT. The new road networks consisted of five elements, namely; the express dual carriage ways (Airport Road and Outer Northern Expressway), Zuba-Abaji highway, secondary roads (Bwari Abuja, Karu-Karshi), Kuje-Gwagwalada as well as community road s.43 The express, highway and the secondary roads were three hundred and seventy-one kilometres long and they were all-weather roads of very high standards.
The system of road networks for the districts in the city involves arterial, collector and local roads, while for the FCT the road networks are made up of primary and secondary roads, and territory roads. These primary highways include expressways, parkways, and highways. The principal objectives in the provision of these roads are to provide access and vehicular transportation links between the various districts, satellite towns and other important productive centres within the FCT and access to Federal Highways.
They also served as a major access for transportation of agricultural produce from the hinterlands to the city. Apart from roads in the city areas other major regional roads constructed within the territory were the Northern Expressway, Airport Road, Karu-Karshi Road, LUD-Bwari Road, rehabilitation of Gwagwalada – (130m road), Abaji, Rubochi, Gwagwalada road, Kuje-airport road, KarimoAirport road, Dangara-Ashara, Yaba road, Bwari-Garam road, access road through CBN to FHA Karu and other numerous roads across the city. Apart from road construction, there is massive investment in the airline sectors; the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport is world class model with modern facilities.
There were also investments in buildings facilities provision. Gwarimpa Estate is the largest estate in West Africa, it was initiated by the late Abacha regime. There are other estates located in Nyanya, Apo, Gwagwalada, Karsi and so on. Massive infrastructure which was located in the central area has also enhanced the beauty and standard of the city; it has also given the inhabitants a sense of belonging. Other giant structures in Abuja central area includes the National Assembly, Federal Secretariat, Women Centre, National Hospital, International Conference Centre, Central Bank
Headquarters, NNPC Towers, Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Transcorp Hilton Hotels, Luis Edet House, various international embassies and so on.
The housing program in the FCT was aimed at providing affordable residential facilities for the people. Housing preconceptions and standards imported from Europe were avoided, yet greater effort was made to develop a housing system which was responsive to the expressed cultural patterns found in Nigeria. In response to these, social and cultural issues such as family size and the income levels of the people, various categories of housing were adopted for the city.
The first set of houses ranged from one and two bedroom units and apartments in blocks of flats to seven bedroom detached houses. MFCT confirmed that in the city alone, indeed over 2000 housing units of different types had been provided.44
At the satellite towns, the FCDA built residential accommodation for workers of the three tiers of government in Abaji, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Yaba, Zuba, Kuje, Karshi and Bwari, while the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) built houses for all categories of workers in Kubwa, Karu, Maitama and Asokoro with the largest housing estate at Gwarinpa.
Another agent of housing infrastructure in the FCT was the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing which provided 52 prototype low cost houses at Gwagwalada as part of effort to transform the FCT into a modern city.
The intense socio-cultural interactions which ensued among the peoples of Abuja since 1991, led to the emergence of the geosocial-cultural identity. The cultural interaction led to integration and the integration also led to a new civilisation and culture. The new civilisation has therefore promoted intergroup relations, national unity and development.
It is true that the image of Nigeria is distorted partly because of the attitude of Nigerians abroad in the aspect of criminality and partly because of the recent political instability, conflicts, corruption and maladministration in Nigeria. Thus, the utilisation of our socio-cultural resources as demonstrated in this work will not only develop the nation and reduce the political tension but will also project the image of the country positively in the world.
- AIG-Imoukuede, Frank (ed): A Handbook of Nigerians Culture, Jerommelaiho & Associates Ltd, Ikeja, 1991, p. 168.
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- A. Akinjogbin, Milestones and Social Systems in Yoruba History and Culture, Ibadan, Olu-Akin Publishers, 2002, pp. 1-2.
- AIG-Imoukuede, Frank (ed): A Handbook of Nigerians Culture, Jerommelaiho & Associates Ltd, Ikeja, 1991, p. 169.
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- Ibrahim, p. 241.
- Ibrahim Yaro, (55), Paramount Ruler, Bwari, December, 2011.
Abuja the Evolution ofa Pan Nigerian Socio-Cultural Identity 309
- Abuja Bilingual Journal, p. 52.
- Oral interview with Yakubu Sulaiman, 60+, elder statesman, Kubwa, 23/4/2012.
- Abuja: The New Federal Capital of Nigeria, Bilingual Journal, vol. 1, No. 1, 1983, p. 52.
- A. Adelamo, “Periodic Markets: A Product of Socio-Economic Development?”, A Paper Presented at the 18th Annual Conference of Nigeria Geography Association, UNN, 1974.
- Balogun, The Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria: A Geography of its Development, Ibadan University Press, 2001, p. 192.
- Ibrahim, The Settler Phenonlenon in the Middle Belt and the Problem of National Integration in Nigeria, Midland Press Ltd, Kaduna, 2000, p. 239.
- Mohammed (45), Paramount Ruler, Gwagwalada, December, 2011.
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- Bello, Documentation and Cultural Development, National Council of Arts and Culture, Lagos, 1991, p. 8.
- M. Paul “Culture and Development: The Growth of Contemporary Society” , Culture, Vol. 4, No. 33, 1977, p. 18.34 Ishyaku Dutse
- IPA, The Master Plan for Abuja: The New Federal Capital Territory, 1999.
- IPA, The Master Plan for Abuja: The New Federal Capital Territory, 1999
- Oral interview with A. Adekunle, 42, Civil Servant, Garki, 9/4/ 2012.
- MFCT Statistical Yearbook, 1996 also in MFCT Abuja Handbook NIBC, Lagos 1998.
- Balogun, ” An Analysis of the Duality in the Space Economy of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory”, The Nigerian Geographical Journal, New Series, Vol. 3, 2000, p. 114.
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- MFCT, The Making of a Dream Capital op. cit. p. 39.
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- Abuja: Achievements of Ministry of FCT, 1985, 1992 and 1993.