AS historical time goes a hundred years is just like an evening past, but for us mere mortals it is indeed a “century” … a long time few men and women ever get a live through.
On a human scale alone it is sheer wondrous and inviting pleasure to celebrate a 100 years of a modern city. Modern! Yes because Minna has existed since time was. But as a modern city, Minna has a 100 stories and more to tell, in her 100 years of existence.
Minna is possibly Nigeria’s most metro-cosmopolitan city outside Warri. Like I have argued before, cities like Lagos and Kano, which on the face of it may appear more cosmopolitan really are not.
The reason is simply this. Both Lagos and Kano, to use these two cornubations, possess and are possessed of a large host home owing population. In the case of Lagos, a larger variety of peoples may be counted, they are however absolved into a host Yoruba society.
Thus, the essential character of Lagos is still Yoruba. It is only in her selected prefectures like Ajegunle, where the Yoruba solvent population is absent that something close to a melting pot or true cosmopolitanism is achieved. This can be easily noticed in the slang, patios, songs and even dance steps that come off Ajegunle.
It is almost “American” in the sense that no constituent population may claim ownership. So also is Kano. But Warri suffers or enjoys the very specific condition of not having a solvent or dominant population.
Thus, the Warri or Wafe patio or slang is uniquely Warri, having achieved through its melting point nature, and filtered out the uniquely Ishekiri, the Ijaw, Urhobo in these legacy strands.
Minna enjoys such a status. Firstly, its population has a tripod leg of the Nupes, the Gbagyis and the Hausas, with a connecting rim of the Barabas, Kakandas, Kambaris, Dukawas, etc, who together constitute the ethnic nations of Niger State, of which Minna is capital.
Added to this is the ancient and running intercourse of virtually all other Nigerians: Igbos, Yorubas, Ijaws, etc, who find Minna in particular and Niger in general such a habitat and place to live and prosper. It is this coming and mixing together of Nigerians of several backgrounds, and expatriates that gives Minna a truly cosmopolitan ring.
It is a cosmopolitanism that Minna prides itself of and it has paid off in several instances. Having grown and been groomed in a culture of all inclusiveness and of tolerance for the next or other man, it is perhaps not a surprise that Niger State and Minna actually has produced two of Nigerian’s presidents in General Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar.
And that trail of cosmopolitan openness and tolerance is now being consolidated by the sitting Govenor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu lovingly called the Chief Servant by all Niger progressives.
According to Chief Jezie Nzomiwu, a Special Assistant, SA to Dr. Aliyu, the Governor has opened further and consolidated Minna and Niger State as a common ground for all Nigerians.
From religion to education, from building permits, including for churches and mosques, to government sponsored credit extension, all Niger residents are treated as one and equals without regards to ethnic data or such irritants.
And beyond Minna, Chief Jezie says, down the other local government areas, counting from Minna to Shiroro to Borgu, there are special assistants to the local government mayors drawn from Igbos, Yorubas, etc. This, of course, follows the inspiration of the Chief Servant.
It is this very modern attitude of all is one that makes modern Minna such a peaceful and lovable habitat.
And the celebration was made to match the all inclusiveness of Minna and designed to be full of variety. There was the traditional, the intellectual, the peoples, the sporting components, to the celebration. But the highlight is probably the intellectual feast that gathered all shades of contending Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential power contenders.
Ibrahim Babangida, a retired General and presidential front-runner and son of the soil was there. Alhaji Atiku Abubarkar, another PDP presidential front- runner also made the event.
And President Goodluck Jonathan, who perhaps for reasons of schedule and load of presidential commitment could not personally make it was fully and powerfully represented.
And Dr. Aliyu, possibly Nigerian’s most visionary sitting governor used the occasion to define his mission of politics. It is politics as if only the people and the state mattered. It is what the people need and demand that will structure the alliance Niger State will commit itself.
And one of the principal things so sorely required by Niger State is a dual carriage autobahn linking Abuja and Minna.
It was humbling to see a Nigerian leader put the good and greatness of his state so strongly to these future presidents and demanding nothing of them for himself.
And even more importantly this writer thinks that proposed dual carriage way should be declared not a Niger State, but a national priority. The reasons are as followings. As we write, property prizes in Abuja have hit the stratosphere.
If the expressway is built, Minna, almost camera ready, becomes a satellite city to Abuja. The implication of this is that the prizes of housing in Abuja, which is an economic drain and waste will dramatically drop, as residents move to Minna and commute daily to and from Abuja.
Part of the crisis of Abuja is housing and the opening up to Minna will resolve it automatically. And the property drain in Abuja is from the pocket of every Nigerian. Minna is camera ready to resolve it.
This makes it a national, not Niger State priority. Of course the Chief Servant is not just waiting on the Federal, he has gone ahead to design a new Niger State, with Minna as it core.
Part of this new design is the development of an airport city as a part of the larger Minna metropolis. It is a huge and vast enterprise and has both residential and industrial and agricultural components. It is expected, for instance, that the airport city facility will be able to fly refrigerated beef each morning to Lagos and other city centres in special cargo aircraft.
Lagos and other city users will thus enjoy day-fresh, hygienically prepared beef for their dinner tables at competitive costs, far more profitable than the present beef supply service of doubtful quality.
No doubt the first 100 years have come with landmarks. However the next 100 years of Minna will improve and consolidate on this. And the sure signs are that the concrete achievement of the Chief servant will constitute and help define Minna in the years ahead.
By Daudu OKELA resides in Minna, Niger State.