The Oasis Reporters
January 30, 2017
Nigerians should not comment on what they do not really have detailed reports of, as this is largely responsible for the escalation of the situation. My findings so far show that everyone is talking from the position of strength. People are not talking from knowledge of what they know and this is not helping. We must be able to dump all our sentiments to overcome the challenges. Just like other cases of injustice around us, we need peace; it is only peace with justice that can solve all these crises. Genuine peace is what everyone is craving for and this can only come when there is justice,”_ former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, speaking on Southern Kaduna crisis.
The crises that have engulfed the southern part of Kaduna state are worrisome and must be stopped to forestall the spread of ethno-religious upheaval across the country. Troubled by this ugly development and to confirm the reality on ground, I had called at least two of my friends who are from the area. Both of them gave impressive reports. Summarily, the media is blowing the happenings out of proportion. In addition, the press has not been fair to the efforts by the state and federal government to resolve the crises.
Just like Boko Haram was faceless for a long time in the northeast, herdsmen alleged to be from outside Nigeria are now used to terrorize the northwest. Historically, herdsmen are believed to have entered Nigeria since the 11th century from Futa Toro in Senegal. These herdsmen, as Prof. Ishaq Akintola puts it, have been killing Nigerians across the country including Bauchi, Niger, Kano, Zamfara and states of the southern Nigeria. The Prof. seeks a candid answer on why Kaduna’s case is so special. The government must step up measures to guard the north-central against any attempt of terrorism.
There have been claims and counter claims over the causes of the crises. The postulations made by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) are very intriguing. According to NSCIA’s Director of Administration, Ustaz Christian Isa Okonkwo, historical record has it that in 1810, Mallam Usman Yabo, the son of Sarkin Kabin Yabo, Muhammadu Mayijo lorded over the area, thereby establishing since then a contact between Islam and that part of Nigeria. This approach to Kaduna history has led to violent struggle in identity politics and the assumption among the people of the state that Southern Kaduna belongs to some people. In other words, the conflict is nothing but a virulent contest for space and place or more appropriately contestations over history and geography. Some citizens say the area belongs to Nigeria and by extension to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnic and religious differences; others see it as belonging to a particular ethnic and religious group. It is all interwoven in ‘settler-indigene dichotomy’.
He recalled the aftermath of the onslaught in 1987 in Kafanchan when a commission of inquiry led by Rivers-born Justice Karibi Whyte sentenced the troublemakers in Southern Kaduna to death resulting from misquotations of the Qur’an by one Rev. Bako. But that was never executed. The same thing happened in 1990 at Zango Kataf leading to the destruction of at least 50 Fulani settlements. The Christians, on the other hand, have claimed heavy losses of lives and property, thus every religious group claiming oppression by the other. The most recent crisis has consumed lives. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) announced that 204 people were killed while the Catholic Church claimed 808 deaths.
Ethno-religious crises in the area can be traced as far back as 1981. That has continued from time to time especially after general elections. In Southern Kaduna, Muslims are said to be in the minority. That is one of the strongholds of Christians in the core northern states. In other areas where Christians and Muslims are equal in number or the Muslims predominate, relative peace prevails. The question now is why are these conflicts reoccurring in the Christian majority area of the north? Christians of the area feel marginalized. The political class has used the area to promote personal interests and cause violence when aspirations are not actualized. Simply, they feel denied in the political opportunities in the state.
Efforts put up to restore lasting peace and order are growing and commendable. President Buhari has ordered the introduction of a drilling exercise codenamed Operation Kunama 11 in the place. After a meeting with all the service chiefs as well as the Inspector-General of Police and the Director-General of the Department of State Security at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusuf Buratai, told the press that the operation would be extended to parts of Plateau and Kano States. “So, it is part of our strategy for this year to continue all the exercises we have had before. We will be having exercise Kunama 11 which will come into Southern Kaduna State and parts of Plateau and Kano States; (Operation) Crocodile Smile in the Niger Delta and indeed the Python Dance. But we are going to rename the Python Dance for the Southeast this year also. Operation Lafiya Dole is continuing operations in the northeast as they are still moving all over the Sambisa forest.”
About 100 soldiers of Operation Safe Haven (OPSH) presently in Plateau State are part of security men for the operation. OPSH Commander, Major General Roger Nicholas said long-range patrols have begun in the villages of Southern Kaduna and that 60 men have been stationed around the Saminaka axis bordering Kaduna and Plateau. The federal government has also announced plans to establish military and police formations in the area.
Notable Nigerians led by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, have been gathered to end the communal misunderstandings and clashes. The group made up of the Archbishop of Abuja John Cardinal Onaiyekan, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe (rtd) and Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto has met in Kafanchan Unity Choice Hotel and Kagoro Town hall with religious clerics, traditional rulers and community groups. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the Jama’atu NasriI Islam (JNI), Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), Muslim Youth Foundation of Southern Kaduna (MYOFOSKA), Jama’a Foundation, Catholic Diocese and Anglican Communion of Kafanchan made very useful presentations. The committee had held similar meeting with Governor Nasir el-Rufai. Abubakar said: “Nobody from outside can teach you how to live in peace. You are the people living together and you know yourselves more than anybody, we have nothing to do more than what you can do yourselves to maintain peace. We are just doing initiatives that will help restore peace.”
The Sultan of Sokoto and Chairmen of councils of traditional rulers across the 19 States of northern Nigeria, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, recently met with governors in the region over the violence and accused the federal and the Kaduna governments of not doing enough to end the killings. Disturbed by the use of religious places of worship to preach hatred and violence, the sultan identified impunity as one of the numerous reasons why violence has continued to thrive in the region as culprits go without punishment.
The Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche has urged the media to accurately report the crisis without exaggerating it because “the peace of Kaduna State was paramount and must be pursued with dialogue and peace-building”.
While giving a sermon at the inauguration of an ultra-modern Mosque at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, (FUTMINNA), THE EMIR OF KANO, ALHAJI MUHAMMADU SANUSI, warned Islamic clerics in Nigeria to stop hate messages when preaching to Muslim faithful. “Hate preaching is against the tenets of Islam” The emir asked the Islamic clerics to work towards having harmonious co-existence with people of other religions.
Chairman of the Northern State Governors Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Borno State Kashim Shettima said managing multiculturalism is a major challenge and indeed a litmus test for leadership, good governance and progress not just in Northern Nigeria but in the entire global society. He identified poverty as the number one monster dragging Northern Nigeria backward. In June, 2013, a good number of poor persons were recruited for as little as N5,000 to spy on soldiers, report their vulnerability to insurgents, attack and set schools ablaze. Poor old women were paid similar amounts by insurgents, to either keep arms in their huts or smuggle arms from one point to another. One Musa Grema, a 13 year old boy revealed that he accepted N5,000 to set three primary schools ablaze and also spy on soldiers, because his parents relied on him for their feeding. Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna state urged traditional rulers to guide their subjects in ensuring security in their domains. NSCIA recommended holistic approach to determine the causes, scope and victims of the conflict with punishment on deserving perpetrators as well as mandating National Orientation Agency (NOA) to embark on national campaign that would promote national integration, peace-building and give full effect to constitutional provisions that guarantee the survival of all citizens of Nigeria anywhere in the country no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations. The Kaduna state government should uphold equity and justice in political and social representation. In other words, the state government should put into full effect the plurality of the state in all matters such as appointments into public offices, recruitment into civil service and location of development projects.
And for the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the sectarian violence has revealed the ineptitude and pettiness from some religious leaders and individuals who have sinister motives and political undertones alongside intent to foment trouble and imbalance reportage. The body warned against unguarded and exaggerated utterances, planting the seed of discord, acrimony and hate. It commended the security agencies, recalling the 2011 post election violence which recorded gruesome murder of Muslims by the Southern Kaduna Christians. JNI called for calm and restraint by citizens.
A former governor of the state, Senator Ahmad Makarfi enlisted the people of Southern Kaduna against politicizing the crisis. He believes that the matter was a serious criminal issue that may have to do with other things that may not be seen as criminality. “We must not politicize the matter. Even those outside the state must never politicize this crisis because, if we attempt to politicize it, then the crisis will spread beyond Kaduna and that would be a disaster,” he said.
“I welcome the Abdulsalami committee. We need a body of arbitrators composed of both sides of the divide that the people can have confidence in to try to stem the tide, broker some peace and listen to all sides and come up with ways and manners that we can re-establish stability and lasting peace in that area,” he added.
All that is required is justice for every citizen in Southern Kaduna and all Nigerians living in any part of the country. Southern Kaduna has unfortunately become a bad reference point. Every minority group in Nigeria groans over socio-political exclusion, even as the majorities seem snug in perpetrating injustice.
Written by Muhammad Ajah, an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja.