THE SOUTHERN KADUNA ATTACKS AND KILLINGS: THE NARRATIVES AND LINGERING ISSUES

By James KANYIP

The attacks and killings in Southern Kaduna have attracted the attention of both the local and international communities. The last hit took place at Goska village in Jema’a LGA on the 24/12/2016, a Christmas Eve. The celebration of Christmas was thereby darkened. It came and passed with sadness and sorry, not joy and fanfare. Before the Goska hit, other communities in Sanga, Zangon-Kataf, Kaura and Kauru LGAs were also hit. A lot of narratives have been written about the attacks and killings.

What are the root causes and lingering issues of these attacks and killings?

The official position of the Kaduna State Government is that the root cause of the attacks and killings is traceable to the 2011 post-election violent crises across the State. This was the reason the Governor gave when he granted an interview to the press men sometimes back. He said:

“…For southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence. Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards middle belt and southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries. Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge…”

Agreed that there were violent crises across the State in 2011 immediately after the Presidential election, I still find it a bit difficult to believe in that generalized narrative of the Kaduna State Government that those crises were the root cause of the present attacks and killings in Southern Kaduna. I will give some instances here.

The attack and killings in Takad communities in 2013 had nothing to do with 2011 post-election crises and reprisals. The crisis was triggered when one, Darusa Kaka, was killed in his farmland in the Mafang hills by Fulani herdsmen. The attacks and killings in Bondon in Moro’a Chiefdom had nothing to do with reprisals. The carnages that began in Ninte community of Jema’a LGA and which spread to the other communities in the LG up to the most recent in Goska had nothing to do with reprisals. The attacks and killings in Ninte village was triggered as a result of the poor management of a fight between a Fulani youth and a Ninzom youth. The attacks and killings in Chawai Chiefdom of Kauru LGA also had nothing to do with 2011 post-election violent crises and reprisals. Again, the migrant Fulani herdsmen were not attacked or killed in the 2011 post-election violence in these communities.

The truth is that the root causes of the present different communal attacks and killings have their own different and peculiar narratives. It is therefore illogical to generalize the root causes of all the attacks and killings as reprisals by Fulani herdsmen consequent upon the 2011 post-election crises. There are much more other factors to that.

The search for the root cause should be in the present happenings and not in the past events. The 2011 post-election crisis came and went with its history, but it has no bearing with the present attacks and killings. The narratives of the root causes are different.

It is the responsibility of the Kaduna State Government to find out the root cause of these attacks and killings in each of the affected communities with a view to finding out how to resolve them and bring lasting peace there. This is important because if the root causes are different in these communities, then the approaches and solutions to the crises will certainly not be the same. The peculiarities of the root causes of each crisis will determine how best it can be resolved.

The generalization of the root cause and tying it down to the 2011 post-election violent crises will be akin to applying the wrong medication to cure an ailment. In any event, if the assertion of the Governor that the attackers had been traced and compensated is true to its contents, why are the attacks and killings still going on unabated? Does it mean that the attackers have not been compensated in respect of the present communities that were attacked? If truly the root causes of the present crises are traceable to the 2011 post-election violent crises in the State; and the Governor had compensated the present attackers for the loss of the lives of their loved ones and cattle, then these present attacks would not have been necessary in the first place. The fact that these attacks and killings still persist till date despite the compensations paid clearly shows there are much more issues involved as to the root causes beyond the 2011 post-election violent crises that the government want us to believe.

Unfortunately, there are many issues and problems hindering the ascertainment of the real root causes of the crises. The approach of the Governor and the State Government towards finding the real root causes in order to resolve these myriad of violent attacks and kilings leave much to be desired.

Some of the comments, utterances and actions of the State Governor are not inclined towards discovering the root causes and finding enduring solutions to the crises. Instead, they are provocative and tend to exacerbate the problems the more. They temporize and not temperate the problems.

In the heat of violent crises, attacks and killings, a leader is supposed to exercise the highest level of restraint and temperance. He is supposed to tolerate and placate his people, especially the victims, but not to provoke them the more. He is supposed to be patient and pay attention to even the minutest of details. He must ensure that he is on top of the crises and not on top of the people. Peace building and securing of lives and property of the people require some diplomatic approach to issue towards attaining reconciliation. The people cannot dialogue under tough talks and threats from the same person calling for the dialogue. They have to feel free to speak. Where that freedom to speak is threatened, the truth may never be ascertained.

After the attacks and killings in Godogodo, and the recent protest in Kafanchan town shortly before the Goska hit, the Governor held the usual weekly State Security Council Meeting in the Chambers of Jema’a Local Government Secretariat, Kafanchan. As ingenious and novel as these moves may be, they are still cosmetic and tantamount to treating the symptom and not the ailment. The gravity of the violent crises in Southern Kaduna requires much more attention than holding State Security Council Meetings in Kafanchan for a day on each of the two occassions. The attacks and killings in Gidan Waya, for instance, took place after the State Security Council Meeting that succeded the Godogodo attacks. To find out the root causes of the crises will require deep forensic inquiries.

The media chat the Governor granted the next day in the electronic media after his Kafanchan visit was fraught with so much anger, venom and invectives with the mindset of getting back at those he perceived had masterminded the half-nude protest by women, and the attack and pelting of stones on his vehicles and the others in his convoy. The media chat was not discerning and it lacked the true oration of a leader. It did not address the burning issues of securing the lives and property of the victims, and ensuring enduring peace and peaceful co-existence in the affected zone.

The constant blame-game by the government on the opposition party as using politics to exacerbate the crises is by itself playing politics with the crises. A government that is focused in solving problems where human lives are involved should be seen to be practically focused. Heaping the blame on the opposition party is a sign of failure on the part of the government to address the real issues on ground. It is tantamount to chasing shadows and leaving the substance.

History will be silent about the role of the opposition in the crises, but will speak loudly on the failure of the government of the day at that material time to address the issues.

When it was clear to the autochthonous people of Southern Kaduna that the Kaduna State government has failed in its basic and primary duty of providing security to their lives and property as constitutional mandated and had abandoned them to their fate, they collectively resolved to defend themselves against the incessant and senseless attacks and killings. Instead of the Governor to reassure them of his government’s determination to ensure security in their communities, he vociferously threatened them with arrest and prosecution positing that any call for self-defence was a hate speech. In his rage, the Governor became oblivious of the fact that the right to self-defence is a fundamental and basic human right guaranteed under section 33(2)(a) of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution if exercised within the ambit of the law.

Until recently, the attackers were called “unknown gunmen”. Now they are called “Fulani herdsmen”. This presupposes that there is a clue as to the identity of these attackers. Even with this appellation, there is a bit of a problem. Are these Fulani herdsmen sedentary, nomads, or migrants? If they are sedentary, are they indigenous, settlers or passers-by? If they are nomads or migrants, are they acting in concert with the sedentary Fulanis to attack and kill in these communities? What is their status vis-a-vis that of the autochthonous people? The status and identity of the Fulani herdsmen is very important in order to determine the root causes of the crises and who to talk to in order to address the issues. And this is because since narratives had it that the attacks and killings were being carried out by the Fulani herdsmen against the autochthonous people of Southern Kaduna, then it is clearly evident that there are two set of people involved: the autochthonous people of Southern Kaduna and the Fulani herdsmen whose identity and status are yet to be ascertained.

The bigger problem here is that since these crises resurfaced and escalated to this level, only the autochthonous people of Southern Kaduna who are also the victims of the attacks and killings have been talking to themselves. And they have been doing so through interviews or other forms of interactions in the electronic and social media. This is more of a monologue. Dialogue for security, peace and peace co-existence cannot be achieved through monologue. It is after dialogue that a decalogue, template or memorandum of understanding can be fashioned out to ensure security, peace and peaceful co-existence in the affected communities.

But then, who are these Fulani herdsmen that are unleashing terror in Southern Kaduna? What are their grievances against the communities under siege? What do they really want? All these questions and many others can only be answered if the identity and status of the Fulani herdsmen or those behind them are known. Both the attackers and attacked must be brought to a table for dialogue. It is the responsibility of the State Government to find out and to ensure. Paying compensations to the attackers to stop the attacks and killings will not bring enduring peace. It will only give one side more advantage over the other. This is more so that the victims of the attacks are not being compensated too, or resettled. Besides, what guarantee does the government have that some of the grudges and claims of the Fulanis are genuine and not unfounded or frivolous? Or, would this not be an avenue for some Fulani herdsmen to milk the government? Only a dialogue between the attackers and attacked will unravel the truth of any claim.

The response of the government after the attacks and killings has been lackadaisical and slow. The victims usually feel abandoned and neglected by a government that is supposed to care for them. In some instances, the government never bothered to visit the affected communities or provide relief materials. These had contributed largely on why the people had lost confidence in the government and the way it was handling the attacks and killings.

The attitude of the security agents had been comical. Just like a typical Hollywood movies, they always arrived the scenes of the attacks and killings after the acts. Instead of going after the attackers, they would arrest the victims and parade them as the attackers to the full glare of the television cameras and the social media to show that they were doing a “great” job. Reports had it that they were informed before hand of the Goska hit, but they did nothing. They were merely reactive and not proactive.

In some instances, the security agents would turn themselves to spectators while the attacks and killings went on unabated. Their excuse was always that they had not received any direct order or signal from the appropriate authority to quell the crises; and that their duty was not to take sides. Therefore, their presence added no value to the victims.

The fate of the victims is hanging on a precarious balance of uncertainty. They are homeless; they have lost their loved ones: spouses, children, youths and the aged; their children are wandering and cannot go to school; all their property and stored food have been lost in these carnages; they cannot farm and do some other jobs; they have become unbearable burden to their relations and friends in the neighbouring communities. Compensation and resettlement from the government are not visibly forthcoming.

What is the way out?

The State Government should take steps to compensate and resettle the victims of the attacks and killings. Providing interim relief materials may not be enough and sustainable palliative.

The declaration of the Governor that the President had approved the siting of two (2) military formations in some parts of Southern Kaduna is a heart-warming and welcome development. This effort is commendable.

Happily, more security agents and personnel have now been deployed to the zone in the meantime to ensure calm and nomalcy are restored. That had been the cry of the people for a long time. This positive response is also commendable.

It is important to make the point here that the presence of these security agents and personnel, and the militarilisation of the zone may only contain the violence, but it will not gurantee enduring security, peace and peaceful co-existence in the zone. To achieve that, the government has to do more.

As I said earlier, there is much more to the root causes of the present crises than the one captured in the General Agwai-led Committee. As we have shown above, it is now no longer realistic and tenable to hold the view that the root causes of the present attacks and killings were traceable to the 2011 post-election violent crises. Therefore, the right thing for the Governor to do now is to set up another committee to find out the root causes of the present crises. And in doing so, the scope of the terms of reference of the committee should be expanded to include whether there were religious, political, ethnic, and economic dimensions to the root causes of the attacks and killings. Also, the committee should ascertain whether the root causes have dimensions in respect of claims to title to land, land grabbing, or other possessory claims to land.

The methodology to be employed by the committee should be inquisitive, investigative and empirical. It should also be vested with quasi-judicial powers. The approach should be holistic, expansive and exhaustive in ascertaining the root causes so as to avoid the narrow-narrative approach of the General Agwai-led Committee.

The root causes of the present attacks and killings in Southern Kaduna are under-bellied in the above factors. It is the responsibility of the government to unravel them. And until they are so unraveled as suggested above, the search for lasting peace, peaceful co-existence and the assurance of the security of lives and property in Southern Kaduna will be illusive and elusive.

Last, I had said this elsewhere and I will say it here again. A lot of sad and disturbing events have happened to the Southern Kaduna people and their minds are troubled, but they can forgive. Forgiveness unburdens and frees us and our troubled minds. We must forgive.

This is the time to collectively seek for lasting solutions.

James KANYIP

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