Some Nigerians have taken the battle of supremacy between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to another level. In Suleja, Niger State, residents are engaged in a show of strength by naming settlements after the two major political parties in the country, AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE and TIMOTHY OPALUWA report.
As the political battle between the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is subtly being sustained even one year after the humiliating defeat of the latter in the 2015 general elections, the dust is yet to settle in Suleja, the traditional parent of Abuja.
Following political machinations that have continued to have its toll on residents, over 60 per cent of names popular with settlements in the city are not the official names recognised by government. Politics in the town has taken a bizarre dimension, as popular political parties in the country have been adopted by influential politicians and their supporters as names of communities.
Suleja, a town 50.9km from Abuja city centre, located in Niger State is reputed to have donated the name Abuja to the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) after it was asked by the federal government to give up its name and adopt another. History has it that the then Abuja adopted Suleja after the then Emir of the area, Suleiman Barau and Ja the last syllable of the first emirate’s name. Since then, the town has maintained a reputation for settlement naming.
The new trend of adopting political party names for communities was said to have gained popularity with the return of democracy in 1999. The PDP was first to be adopted as “PDP Quarters” in Suleja, and since then it had become popular with residents of the town. In 2015, after the historical victory of President Muhammudu Buhari at the general elections, some residents of a new layout, just opposite the PDP Quarters, decided to name their community after the president’s Party, APC.
Most visitors to Suleja are often curious about the name PDP and APC Quarters. Many have erroneously concluded that it was a settlement built by the two political parties, but surprisingly most residents in the areas have no affinity with any of the political parties in the state.
LEADERSHIP Weekend checks show that proponents of the two names are still very passionate about them, with the APC side putting a signage post to indicate its boundary with other communities.
Findings by our correspondents reveal that the PDP Quarters in Suleja was originally allocated to PDP delegates by the former governor of Niger State, Abdulkadir Kure during his tenure from 1999 to 2007.
Sources in the area said the gesture by the former governor was a political patronage to party delegates in Suleja for being loyal to the ideals of the party then. “It was the delegates who now named the area ‘PDP Quarters’ and later sold it out to the current occupants”, a resident, Adams Joe said.
And how did the APC Quarters come into existence. A top resident of APC Quarters who spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend but pleaded anonymity said he was actually part of the admirers of President Muhammadu Buhari and when he was declared winner last year, he and other residents decided to name the place after APC. “Everything changed. We wanted to name the new layout after the former Emir of Sulfa, Suleiman Barau but someone just advised that we should be in line with the mood of the time and suggested APC Quarters”, he said.
He further explained that the name APC Quarters was a revenge to the PDP who had oppressed APC loyalists in the past. “We are in power now and we also took advantage of the time to name this new layout after our beloved party”, he added.
Another resident of APC Quarters who gave his name as Saleh Dan Adam said the name was part of the marketing strategy by land owners and speculators to woo buyers to the area. “The APC name was a marketing strategy to get people to buy land and invest in the area since it is the party in power. Naturally, people feel safe and confident to invest their money in the land and that seems to be working for them”, Dan Adam said.
LEADERSHIP Weekend also learnt that APC Quarters has now become the love of several land buyers, including some residents of Abuja who have seized the opportunity of the vast land to develop premium property. Founders of the communities, it was gathered, are not ready to give up the name.
The Names Are Illegal- Suleja LG
But when contacted about the strange phenomenon, the spokesperson for Suleja local government council, Mr Haruna Garba Kininko said about 60 per cent of the roads and settlements within Suleja are bearing names other than the officially recognised names.
He said the name APC Quarters and PDP Quarters are not the names in the records of the Council. He cited areas like Church Road which is officially known as Sabon Gari and Morocco Road which is actually Gwandara Road and several others. “I can tell you that over 60 per cent of the roads and community names in Suleja are not officially recognised by the local government, people just sit down and impose names of their choice on residents”, Kininko said.
Some residents confided in LEADERSHIP Weekend that they are not comfortable with the name, as they are being seen by outsiders as people with allegiance to either APC or PDP. “The area was called ‘B Division’ but suddenly we woke one morning last year to discover that a new name had been given to the area with a signage post”, said Stella Chima, a resident of APC Quarters.
Social Life And Security Situation
The PDP Quarters had existed for long and the community, for a very long time, was known for its serene atmosphere surrounded by various lucrative business activities around the neighbouring old barracks.
With several shops located near the streets and various hidden ‘joints’ selling different alcoholic beverages, pepper soups and assorted continental dishes, the commercial area has become a haven for the crème de la crème of the society who go there to chill out after work.
However, the beehive of human activities in PDP Quarters has attracted a wave of armed robbers who dispossess people of their valuables. Hoodlums take advantage of the peaceful and quiet residential area to break into people’s houses to steal property. Despite the presence of the vigilante group organised for the community, residents perpetually have to leave in fear of the activities of miscreants and thieves.
Many of these hoodlums who are not gainfully employed wait patiently for dusk to intimidate passers-by and also relieve them of their possessions. The daring ones break into homes during the day time when some residents are out for the day’s work, carting away with money and valuable property.
Meanwhile, the APC Quarters is completely devoid of social activities as choice property are been erected by land owners. It has remained a priced part of Suleja apparently because of the good layout by town planners. The security situation can be described as better than that of the PDP, even though it has no social life.
Both communities share similar challenge of lack of access road, with the PDP Quarters worse for it. Residents have to adopt self help method to salvage their roads from the scourge of erosion and floods. Residents of the APC Quarters have less challenge and enjoy better power supply than those in other parts of Suleja town, owing to an individual who committed his personal fund to improve electricity in the area.
Their PDP counterparts suffer epileptic power supply that have left many of the residents feeling frustrated. As a result of the bad roads, residents through communal efforts have been able to repair some areas. Some roads are difficult to ply during the rainy season. In spite of its political party name, the various administrations in Niger State refused to look the way of the community in terms of addressing the environmental and infrastructural deficit, leaving the settlement in peril.
Speaking on the infrastructural deficit, Abdulkareem Shettima, a resident of PDP Quarters told LEADERSHIP Weekend that some affluent residents are ready to help fix the roads but are afraid of being spotted by robbers. “I love this place because it is like GRA of those days. We have so many good hearted rich men living here. When you complain to them they will always tell you they are willing and ready to help repair the road but are also afraid of being marked and robbed by bad guys around,” Abdulkareem said.
Corroborating Abdulkareem, Samson Ademu, a barber and resident of the area said the epileptic power supply is really affecting businesses. “Coupled with the rate at which thieves break into shops and high level of epileptic power supply, our business is really been affected,” Ademu noted. Speaking on the general living condition, Ademu said that if the roads are good, coupled with security and constant power supply, PDP Quarters will be a paradise.
For the APC Quarters, Mr. Chima Ojo, a resident said he is not bothered by the name. He noted that as far as he enjoys good power supply, politics and other things are less important. Residents are of the view that with the current trend, more areas will be renamed after political parties that win the state in future.