Mr. Francis Damina

BY FRANCIS DAAMINA
In the last few days, there have been, in many social media groups and fora, an outpouring of vituperations, brickbats, ignorance, insularity, bigotry, etcetera, as reactions to a ‘leaked conversation’ between yours sincerely and arguably, the finest and most sincere political figure from Southern Kaduna – His Excellency Barnabas Bala Bantex. The former Deputy Governor had on Tuesday, before lauds, called when I was already set for a recorded Phone Interview with a prominent Kaduna Sheikh who was expected to lend his voice to a Peace initiative aimed at bringing to a terminal point the killings in especially the Southern part of the state. On this, spokesman of the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF) Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, appeared more committed. Despite the difficulties, Dr. Hakeem had set the template by contacting the Deputy Governor, Her Excellency Dr Hadiza Balarabe Sabuwa, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, the Emir of Jema’a, among others. I was also expected to contact the Catholic Bishop of Kafanchan among a handful of other important and well-respected non-partisan and non-aggrieved personalities. I was literally the co-ordinator of the initiative and His Excellency’s call was to ask that I temporarily place on suspension a meeting we had agreed to hold at the Bantex Center where he has been working hard to reduce the prevailing cases of drug abuse. After our sincere and salvific conversation, I went on, at interludes, for my Interview the clips of which I later saved to my email for transcription at a more convenient time. The result is the edition you now have as the ‘leaked conversation’ en route, not the usual printer’s devil, but by the Devil’s devil himself who has the keys to my sanctuary.
Though at first, I was a little bordered about questions revolving around loyalty, trust, friendship and information management, my spirit was lifted up by those who called to ask about what was happening between me and a man I have extensively written in defense of. I was so surprised that many of them said there is nothing incriminating about the conversation because the former Deputy Governor has been consistent on what he believes is the escape door. Only yesterday, Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina said he has read my apologetics on the former Deputy Governor hence the need for ‘Mummy to calm down.’ Of course we are both fine inspite of the uncritical vituperations of the lousy minority who called us all kinds of demonizing names such as ‘traitors’, ‘sell-outs’, etcetera, for daring not to sing from the hymn books of insularity in service to the gods of ethnicity, party politics and religion. We remain unintimidated believing that the gateway out of the present predicament lies on a sincere and undiluted diagnosis and presentation of the issues.
For us Christians, we believe that certain things, evil not excepted, happen for only-God-knows-why. This is perhaps why there seems to be an appreciation of the man who betrayed Jesus to death believing that he has an irreplaceable place in the economy of salvation. Without him, Christ would not have died for us. This is why I pray that this crack created by the manufacturers of mischief, may end up becoming the escape door to our salvation.
Though issues were raised in the conversation, predictably, comments and reactions were more on demonization than on any sincere attempt to gauge their weight. And this was not unexpected since we live in a society that places little premium on debates especially on issues that are related to how we ought to organize for the good of all.
No doubt, Governor Nasir El-Rufai has clearly shown and demonstrated in many ways that he has issues with Southern Kaduna, in reality, this animosity is only a spillover of his relationship with the Southern Kaduna socio-cultural group known as SOKAPU – a group that many commentators believe, has now been hijacked by both opposition politicians and elements who have issues with the Governor, thereby making the Union look like a substitute opposition group.
Historically, Southern Kaduna, like other Christianity dominated communities in the whole of Northern Nigeria, has suffered so much injustice facilitated by some Muslim elite/politicians who use religion to inflict hardship on ‘outsiders’, which according to Adamu Adamu, is in the very nature of feudalism, SOKAPU and all those licensed to think on our behalf, ought not to have seen the present insecurity as ethnic or religious cleansing. It should rather have been defined within the context of the general insecurity in the Northern region the explanation to which is no brain surgery. Of course, it must be said here that the greatest undoing of the present leadership of SOKAPU, is that, when it came on board, rather than first seek an audience with the Governor on Southern Kaduna issues to demonstrate that they are new and were not handed over files of the fight between him and the outgone leadership, the Union, most, unfortunately, headed to the shrine of former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani Kayode, for induction into the narratives of Islamization and ethnic cleansing. And as if that was not enough, Kayode was again invited as a guest speaker at an annual Christian Prayer Summit in Kafanchan. And this is somebody that almost all Northern Muslims are agreed that he is not only an enemy of the Hausas/Fulani, but of their religion – Islam. At least, the brouhaha that greeted the conferment of a chieftaincy title on him recently clearly shows how Northerners see him. And this is the point of disagreement between Bantex and the Union who believes that, on the killings, diagnosis is what is needed, while on engagement with the government for the development of Southern Kaduna, the strategy needs to change.
But since as we say, it is a struggle for emancipation, our Social scientists ought to have reminded us that there is no one route to the promised Land. And as I recently said somewhere: “Without going far, South Africa should have been handy. To bring apartheid to its knees, the ANC didn’t rely on one strategy. There was the Early Resistance in the 1940s organized by the Communist party which had to do with bus boycotts and protests against housing policy, strikes and civil disobedience. There was also a Nonviolent Confrontation. It is important to note here that ANC’s resistance remained largely nonviolent throughout the 1950s. By 1952, the Defiance Campaign involved people volunteering to break the law by, for instance, entering ‘whites-only’ parks, breaking curfew and refusing to carry their identity passes. Many got arrested while others went to jail.”
“The Armed Resistance was as a result of the sharp Ville massacre in 1960 when police killed 69 protesters and wounded over 180. As a result of this, attitudes within the ANC began to harden. In 1961, activists, including Nelson Mandela formed an armed wing which initially focused on acts of sabotage such as the destruction of electricity pylons, while in the 1970s and 1980s, the campaign escalated to include attacks on police stations and bombing of cars. Again, those leading our struggle should also have been told of how the ANC mobilized the international community as another strategy when the Armed Resistance failed. The international community was encouraged to pressurize the South African government for change by imposing a series of boycotts. For example, overseas tours by all-white South African sports teams were met with protests and South African athletes were unable to compete in the Olympic Games between 1964 and 1992.”
But apart from the need to change strategy and be inclusive in the ‘struggle’ across divides of religion and ethnicity, lie the issues of citizenship and identity as well as the inability of successive governments in Northern Nigeria to create a super identity higher and above religion and ethnicity. This is because, while the Hausa/Fulani in Southern Kaduna complain that, in spite of their history spanning well over a century, the natives still see them as settlers, the same applies to most places in Northern Nigeria. Or, have the Maguzawa in the far North not also been complaining about the same issues for example? Only recently, some so-called Concerned Citizens of the Caliphate challenged the appropriateness of allotting plots of land to His Excellency, Matthew Hassan Kukah in the heart of Sokoto as an ‘outsider’.
Summarily, to end the killings in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the state, what is needed, as important as it appears, is not really the presence of the military, but one, the need for a proper diagnosis, and two, the need for ALL to agree that we want to live in peace. Clearly the current inhumanity first evolved from our hearts, hence the need to porch ourselves of every unclean thought through forgiveness, reconciliation and mutual co-operation. But the government and all stakeholders have to create the conducive atmosphere required for this to take place. It is a mirage for anybody to think that the government can secure us without us agreeing to live together in peace.
In conclusion, while civil society groups and nongovernmental organizations need to invest in these happenings by sponsoring researches aimed at unravelling the many ‘Whys’ related to these killings, I wish to conclude with a very beautiful paragraph from the Catholic Bishops of Kaduna province who, yesterday, admonished that the governor “should consult with across the spectrum, have the patience of listening even to those who do not agree with him and focus on persuasion and consensus-building across the divide. We encourage him to visit the scenes of these tragedies and use the opportunity of condolences to scold as well as appeal to the hearts of his people. These gestures are a mark of good politics.” Yes, this is true because, while the government continues in their elitist fight, ordinary people, in their thousands, who made sacrifices to enable him wears the cincture of power, who in the circumstance, are the innocent majority, are getting killed almost on a daily basis. Finally, like Clarence Darrow, “I would like to see a time when man loves his fellow man, and forgets his colour or his creed. We will never be civilized until that time comes.” May God help us to bring an end to all these!
Damina wrote from francisdamina@gmail.com

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