Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Wednesday, January 23, 2019, was a historic day for the Igbo in Kano State. That was the day they hosted the governor of the state, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and his wife, Dr. Hafsat Ganduje.
While the governor was celebrated for his Igbo title, “Agu Na Che Mba 1 of Igboland,” which was conferred on him last year by the South East Traditional Council, his wife was appreciated for her kindness to non-indigenes in the state.
Prior to the day, Igbo in Kano, led by the Eze Ndigbo of Kano, Igwe Boniface Ibekwe, toiled round the clock for the success of the event.
Assorted beverages and foods were procured in advance. Invitations were extended to the East as well as to other ethnic communities resident in the state. Dance troupes were contracted, while town criers were deployed to announce the occasion.
On the side of the government, preparations were no less intensive. The Commissioner for Information, Youth and Culture, Mallam Mohammad Garba, was everywhere fixing the loose ends. Long abandoned and dilapidated roads in the area were patched up overnight while many political groups loyal to the All Progressives Congress (APC) were invited to be part of the ceremony.
Many Igbo workers, excited by the trappings of the historical visit, cut short their work hours to be home on time, while the traders among them closed their shops early. By 2pm, a large number of men and women already swarmed the Igbo House and its environs on Church Road, from all walks of life.
The governor did not arrive there on time. He was hours behind schedule because he was somewhere else engaged in another state function. But did the people notice the delay? Not really.
During the long wait, there was hardly a dull moment. There was so much to experience. There was so much cultural entertainment, a lot of fun. The spectators, including the non-Igbo, were awed by the superlative performance of the traditional dancers. They watched, they clapped, they rejoiced.
The governor and his entourage eventually arrived in a convoy, consisting of his cabinet, top members of the APC and other dignitaries. Soon, the programme commenced with the rendition of the National Anthem.
Then a prayer was said, succeeded by the breaking of kolanuts, as tradition demanded in Igboland. Igwe Boniface Ibekwe read the address of welcome on behalf of the community. In it, the people extolled the governor for restoring and sustaining peace in the state.
According to Igwe Ibekwe, most of the Igbo people in the state had nurtured the idea of travelling home during the forthcoming general election, adding that, ever since they were assured of safety by the governor, they have cast away such thoughts.
He narrated how the governor stood on the side of dialogue in the wake of the quit notice from some Arewa youth groups. He recalled that the governor invited all the Igbo chiefs in the North as well as the leaders of the Arewa youths to Kano, following which a joint committee was raised, resulting in a conversation and the understanding that resolved the controversy.
“As a result of that, we would never forget you. We would always be praying for you and your family, ” he said. In the same vein, Igwe Ibekwe appreciated the wife of the governor, whom he said had been very supportive of other ethnic nationalities in the state. He described her as a mother of all.
President of the Igbo Community Association (ICA) in the state, Hon. Ebenezer Chima, captured the ceremony even more succinctly in a statement: “It is noteworthy that, since the commencement of the administration, Kano has not witnessed any riot or bloodshed. There has been religious tolerance in the state, the kind we have never witnessed before. Christians could now hold their crusades in Sabon Gari Stadium without riot or trouble of any kind.”
According to him, the administration has also sited a number of infrastructural projects in the Sabon Gari area, such as a modest hospital and a number of roads presently under construction.
In his remarks, Ganduje could not hide his joy. He stated that he was humbled by the love of the Igbo in the state, and he assured them that he would do more of the good things that he had started since he became governor.
The governor said the story of Kano could not be completely told without a copious mention of the contributions of the various ethnic groups resident in the state.
“They have since become a part of Kano. That was why I abolished the use of the word non-indigenes in the lexicon of my administration. For me, you are all indigenes of Kano with primordial links elsewhere,” he said.
Ganduje recalled the crisis of the ‘quit notice,’ insisting that it should not have been allowed to happen in the first place, and expressed delight that the saga died a natural death.
The governor pledged to ensure an even spread of development opportunities in the state regardless of ethnicity and religion. He disclosed that he has directed that the people be included in all the empowerment programmes being undertaken by his administration.
Ganduje urged them to appreciate the good works of President Muhammadu Buhari, insisting that Buhari loved Nigeria more than he loved himself. He appealed to the people to continue to support the APC at all levels.