OCTOBER 22, 2014
Kaduna State in Northern Nigeria is such a complex and diverse state with as many as 57 to 63 indigenous ethnic nationalities. Aside being the headquarters of Northern Nigerian politics and the hub where the famous Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and first Premier of the region resided while he held sway from 1954 to 1966, Kaduna town has attracted the presence of many people from all parts of the country that it is habitually labelled “the Liberal State” before renamed “the Centre of Learning” considering the number of higher institutions of education situated in the state.
In terms of population, Kaduna is third most populated state in Nigeria and second in the north with a population of 6,113, 503 million (2006 census figures). Kaduna, on the other hand, remains one of the most heterogeneous state in Nigeria in view of its diversities and political sensitivity.
As a junior secondary school student in Government College Kaduna, I remember a famous quote saying ‘when Kaduna catches cold, the nation sneezes’ reinforced by Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, a former military administrator of the state, that ‘Kaduna is the thermometer of Nigeria.’ The reason for this complexity stems from what experts describe as relationship of ‘two strange bed fellows’ referring to the two major blocks in the state: Northern and Southern Kaduna zones with long histories of difference culturally and religiously which needs no repetition here.
The crust of the matter is since April 2011 to date, there have been series of unresolved and endless killings in Southern Kaduna axis of the state and the situation is shifting from mere communal clashes to an organized and advanced systematized extermination. There are many narratives aimed at explaining the present situation, some controversial, some un-researched and some with substance.
Back to Southern Kaduna’s massacre. There is this new-fangled saying that seems to be fast spreading; ‘no individual is more Southern Kaduna than the other’ and I keep wondering its significance or implication. For me it needs to be redefined in a broad term to augment better perspective of the present predicament, where the elite, the political class and other viable institutions have gone into perpetual silence for God-knows reason, while the killings persists.
The complete silence over the killings of unarmed communities calls for a re-visit of the provocative apprehension to interrogate the silence vis-à-vis failure of the Nigerian state since April 2011 to date. Elected representatives and appointees from the area have gathered but only to endorse political candidates of their choice as if the lives of their people at home is nothing but numbers as these ‘political class’ seem to find it awkward to meet to seek for ways to protect lives of their people under threat of extinction or to cry out loud to the world for help.
Consequently, Bishop Joseph Bagobiri of Kafanchan Catholic Diocese, unhappy over the killings, fired salvo at the elite, saying “I have strong words to our traditional rulers in Southern Kaduna, to the retired military officers, to religious leaders and to our political class. Our playing the ostrich and turning a blind eye to the war that has been brought right to our door steps which is consuming us is the height of irresponsibility and betrayal not only of the people we lead, but also to our parents and grandparents.”
The respected clergy, Bishop Bagobiri further argued that “our fight is not against Islam and Muslims. But we should resist the devil disguised in the name of Boko Haram and all their likes that have been poisoned by extremists’ ideologies of hate. All stake holders from here must wake up from their slumber. We must stand in strong solidarity with the government and with one another to find ways to degrade and consequently conquer this monster, by using every legitimate means at our disposal.”
Going by the happenings in the area, it is apparent that the Bishop is indeed precise because evil has no boundary, Southern Kaduna leaders ought to have mounted pressure on the Federal and state governments and also security agencies to rise to the challenge of protecting the lives and property of citizens and finding ways of ending these killings through genuine and honest mediation. But to date they are playing the ostrich, hiding and playing politics while killings continue without an end. It is also an issue that Southern Kaduna politicians especially the elected representatives and appointees who hold the people’s mandate are afraid to speak out to the world about this. This is what I call ‘conspiracy of silence’ as summed up by Bagobiri as the “height of irresponsibility and betrayal” considering the danger of exterminating an entire area with over 4000 people killed since the year 2011.
It is astonishing that despite the staggering number of 4,000 killed mostly active youth, women and children maimed and cut to death due to the insurgency which started with the 2011 post-election violence that erupted in the area to date, no any meaningful or viable effort has been put in place. As Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) bemoaned: “It is obligatory for Nigerians to insist on having political leaders ready to account for the life of every citizen. There will be elections in this country next year; can we at least insist that every party campaigning for elections in this country for votes should have a plan for ending the killings in Southern Kaduna; is it possible? What is the life of a Nigerian voter worth?
Noticeably, what is disconcerting about Southern Kaduna’s current predicament is poor reading by the Federal and State governments and the failure of Southern Kaduna political class comprising the elected, the appointees, retired top military officers, and traditional and religious leaders to give it a priority. There are no decisive military action or security strategies that appear affirmative; instead it is all political power struggles all the way while the future is grim, gloomy with the peace of communities threatened by an orchestrated ethnic cleansing. It is also apparent that Federal Government of Nigeria has been under a complete parody regarding the insecurity and political situation in Southern Kaduna being exploited by some self-acclaimed political experts in the corridor of power who care less about the people but themselves and their political interests.
Those campaigning against the killings are maligned in derogative terms, presented in bad light and as radicalized elements. They are mischievously blackmailed, blacklisted and all sorts of lies perfectly attributed to their persons. They have been chased out of palaces, offices and threatened with arrests for insisting that the killings must come to an end in view of the consequence and the potency the massacres present to the peace and progress of the area. There are at present thousands of orphans, widows and traumatized locals who are suffering as a result of all these killings which go on with impunity. Above all, there is a looming food crisis and high rate of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the area since farming activity, the primary occupation of the locals, has been disrupted due to fear and insecurity, yet no one seems to care thus demonstrating the situation’s lack of prominence in the agenda of the government of the day so much so that reporting this stark insecurity situation in the country is seen as ‘anti-government’ news reporting.
The campaign against Southern Kaduna killings has nothing to do with politics, it has nothing to do with vested interest but the survival and preservation of the peoples of Southern Kaduna, who share identical culture and largely descendants of the great Nok culture and civilization that appeared in what is today northern Nigeria around 1000 BC and one of the earliest civilizations in Africa. It is about saving life and humanity; it is about peace and reconciliation, development and responsible politics with high sense of morality and fear of God, not the woes we are witnessing and crumbling of values and norms that hitherto existed. It is not about religion, ethnicity or political inclinations but sanctity of life and humanity.
The campaigners are young men and women of integrity and character who refuse to politically smile to the bank when it is time to cry out loud and insist that the right thing be done. Please join us in this campaign as our institutions have turned a blind eye to our plight, while the annihilation of law abiding and peaceful communities is on – going in Southern Kaduna, Nigeria.
May God give us peace, development and strengthen our hearts to be sincere, honest and humane in all our dealings and to remember posterity will hold us accountable for our actions.