Nuhu Danladi Cheshi is an entrepreneur. He was also a political aide who later ran for the House of Representatives to represent Abuja Municipal Area Council/Bwari federal constituency of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in 2011. He is the Executive Director of Gbagyi Indigenous Peoples Initiative (GIPI). In this interview, he says inline with the principles of good governance, the original inhabitants of the territory should be properly integrated into the scheme of affairs of the nation’s capital. Excerpts:
You have for some time been associated with GIPI. What is the initiative about?
The Gbagyi Indigenous Peoples Initiative (GIPI) is a platform for the indigenous Gbagyi people particularly the ones in the FCT. They are more indigenous because they gave up their original habitation for people to participate and make the federal capital territory to be a city for everyone. They made it possible for the place to become the centre of unity. And this platform is one that talks about the plight of our people and bring it to the fore. It is also used to enlighten our people because everyone talks about challenges and problems but we think that it is time to talk about solutions. We are looking inwards but while doing so, we know that we cannot solve our problems alone. We know we have to interface with the government and everyone who is interested in the goodwill of humanity; not only that of the Gbagyi’s but that of humanity in general.
How exactly do you intend to achieve the core mission and vision of this organisation?
Recently, we had the international day for indigenous people where education was the focus. We believe that every indigenous person has the right to education; when a people acquire knowledge they become equipped to confront the demands of life. We are concerned about the education of our people. You would agree with me that, in the FCT, education seem to be free (in quote) but is it really free? Do we have the quality education that would build our people to become the leaders that we expect them to be? This is one area we are emphasising. Our desire is that education, qualitative education be given to every child in the FCT.
The people here are predominantly farmers and because of that, we have to enlighten them on the best practices and techniques that they could use to grow their produce. Here in Nigeria, we are particular about going to western sschool and having certificates and all that but elsewhere in the world, you could become anything by been the best of yourself through exploring the potentials and believing in yourself. We want our people to improve their selves in what ever chosen career. Time has come when the people will not only be seen as dancers but people who are good in all human endeavours.
Here in FCT, any time an important dignitary comes, our people are deployed to come up and showcase cultural dances to the admiration of such guest. And they clap for them. Good as that may be, it is not enough that we are confined to be only entertainers. We don’t want to be dancing. We want to be sitting at the table with the decision makers. We want to be taken seriously. We have professors, doctors and professionals in every field. We feel that we have not been given that place. We feel that it is now time that people should not just take decisions for us. Any decision taken without us cannot work. We need to be part of every decision. We need to understand our needs. We are very kind and hospitable people but we should not be taken for granted.
Talking about the needs of the indigenous Gbagyi people in the FCT, which of these needs is the most pressing and how do you want the government to intervene to change the situation for the better?
I will refer you to the letter that I personally wrote to the minister of the FCT. This was received on the 20th of January 2016. I will be glad if the minister could even acknowledge that he received this letter. This letter has the blueprint not only for the Gbagyis but everyone resident in the FCT. It talks about the need to do the right thing which will not be for the benefit of one set of people. The solutions to most of the problems in the FCT are there. These are indigenous solutions that we proferred. I am believing that the minister has gotten this letter because it was received and stamped by his office. I have seen him do one or two things that look as if he has seen it. I want to tell you that our people are yet to feel the presence of the minister.
I am pro-government because I believe you need to give government a chance and an oportunity for them to be able to fulfil their promise to you. I am thinking that people should not just criticise govenment; people should profer solutions. We don’t know everything. Nobody knows it all. Ideas are supposed to rule. Mark Zuckerberg has been around in Nigeria and everybody is celebrating him. What amazes me is that this young man goes about wearing T-shirt and jeans yet everyone that wants to see him is wearing suit and trying to be serious. This guy is one of the richest men in the world. It is just an idea. It could have been a Gbagyi chap that if given that opportunity that Zuckerberg had could have excel and would have been known all over the world. These are the little things we are talking about. We need to promote ideas and opportunities which does not come from one man. When you bring your ideas and I bring mine, we reason together. When we reason together, we can make good progress.
You have created the impression that you are a pro-government personality. But the understanding out there is that the indigenous people in the FCT are predominantly on the side of the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP). How would you reconcile this?
That is an impresion and assumption. I can tell you that wars have been fought and settled on assumptions. You dont need to asume anything. You have to give people the opportunity as well as reason with them. For instance, I agree and tell my people that they deserve the leadership they get because for some reason, my people have sympathy for a particular party maybe because it has been there for a long time. I can tell you, we all came from that because once upon a time, I ran for the House of Representatives on the platform of the PDP, but I left them since. I didn’t contest that election because I am a politician or simply because of politics sake. I ran because I wanted to make an impact. And I knew that you cannot make an impact when you are outside. You can only make an impact only when you are inside.I tried and noticed that it did not work.
I left them before the All Progressives Congress (APC) came on board. Since then, I have been on the side of who will deliver. As I talk with you, there is every evidence to show that President Muhammadu Buhari is the man Nigerians believed in. We all rallied round and suported him. It would be wrong for people to assume that our people are predominantly in the PDP. In fact the votes during that election were almost a tie. It maybe fortunate for the PDP that they have people who are in office but we have hundreds of thousands that voted in support of the APC; so are you ignoring them? No. You cannot ignore them. I would even prefer that we win them.
If I dont agree with you today, I may agree with you tomorrow. In my own case, I have always supported President Muhammadu Buhari. As for the FCT minister, I don’t know him in person but I have studied his antecedents and I understand he is a man of truth and a gentleman. But been gentle is not enough. You need to add capacity and competence to it. I believe honesty is the biggest ingredient in leadership. Why are people succeeding in the world? It is simply because they are working with young, vibrant and intelligent people who are innovative and creative; people who reason and think. That is why when I felt people were criticising this government, I decided to write a personal memo to the minister of FCT. I am not angry that he didn’t respond but I will appreciate if he does those articulated points that were in that letter because therein I feel are solutions needed in the FCT.
Alot of indigenes in the FCT are not satisfied with the present administration in the same way they were not satisfied with the previous ones. Some are beginning to think that (maybe) they should also come up with a militant approach just as what is happening in the Niger Delta in order to be recognised. What is your take on this?
Absolutely, that is why GIPI was birthed. Because seen that our people are beginning to get agitated, feeling that the government only listens to people who carry arms and get restive. GIPI is saying no to that. We are too enlightened. I am a gentleman. My wife is a medical doctor. The chairman of our NGO is a professor. He is the dean of social science faculty in Nasarawa State University. How then can we that are so enlightened be talking about violence. No. Even when wars are fought, they don’t end at battlefield, they end through dialogue at a round table. I keep asking my people, when you say you have been wronged, who are the people that have wronged you? How long has this government been in place? At what point did you realise that you have been wronged? These are questions that we as a people have to answer. But the truth is, what steps has this government taken to address the plight of the indigenes.
The solution lies with this system. My call to this government is that we have hands; young and vibrant minds. What I respect is ideas. The only way to make genuine progress is to look beyond faces and needs. Let us bring people who have ideas to move things forward. If you do that, you have solved our problems. The solutions to our problems lies with us.
In specific terms, what do the Gbagyi people of the FCT want?
We want recognition. We feel that this government has not recognized us and that is not good for the government. You cannot take away our place. We have given so much to this government by giving them our land and support. I will not support restiveness but I will suport that this government bring right thinking people on board. I don’t know why the minister have not yet formed a cabinet. I am yet to understand. There is recession but you need people with ideas to come on board. You cannot govern in isolation. You need a team; the right team which will be an indigenous think tank that should not come from outside. Don’t assume anything. Come clean by giving everybody and opportunity and chance. I believe when you do that the people would be carried along. And they will feel that it is their government and they will protect it.
What do you think the Gbagyi people need to do but have left undone which have led to this unfortunate situation you are talking about?
First of all, they should unite. They should not be afraid of intelligent people. I stand to be corrected but I am saying this without any apology. Our people sometimes don’t bring out their best. They are comfortable with those that they feel can represent them. When you are going to negotiate with the world, you are negotiating with the world’s best. You have to push your best. If you are playing football, your first eleven should be your best eleven. You can’t send jokers then expect results. You can’t give what you don’t have. Our people should reason. We should see beyond politics. We need to see strenght in each other. Remove envy. Celebrate each other’s success. That will make us stronger, we will become a bond and we can have a voice and speak. Don’t be afraid when you see somebody trying to do sonething that will add value. Dont say he is trying to take the shine away from you. If our people do that, it will be their first step towards progress and success.