BY SIMON REEF MUSA
In 1992, a bloody clash involving the Hausa community in Zango town in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area of Kaduna State, and the Katafs who now prefer to be known and called Atyap, left the town in ruins. The violence would later spread to other parts of the state. By the time the destruction of lives and property was brought under control, dozens had been killed in an unprecedented bloodbath across and beyond Kaduna state.
The Zangon Kataf crisis of February 1992 and that of May 1992 was not just about the Hausa community in Zango town and the Atyap, other ethnic nationalities were irretrievably drawn into the crisis due to nearness to the conflict zone. Therefore, it became an acceptable norm for those pained by the avoidable bloodshed in Zango town to regard anyone coming from the southern part of Kaduna state as an Atyap (Kataf).
Yours sincerely lived in Sokoto state for 30 years. I recalled an incident in Sokoto town after completing the one-year compulsory National Youth Service scheme. The memory of that incident has kept the Zangon Kataf crisis afresh to my mind with trepidation. A motorcyclist had carried a lady to the Sokoto Army Barracks. Few metres to the gate, the lady requested him to stop so that she could pass a message to a lady standing by the road.
On learning that the lady he was carrying was from Kafanchan, the okada man hissed and said, “Ashe ban sani Bakatafiya ce ni ke dauka ba. Allah tsine masu’ (I don’t know that I am carrying a Kataf lady. May Allah curse them). Without waiting for his passenger to end her conversation, he abandoned her right there and never cared to either look back or ask for his money.
That incident has always reminded me of the gloomy days ahead for everyone from Southern Kaduna. The badge of hatred the Zangon Kataf crisis has caused is not only for the Atyap, other ethnic groups in the zone are bound to share in the brunt in the years to come.
Few months after the crisis, I was at the Kaduna Polytechnic to collect employment forms for a job. From my name, the clerk bluntly said that employment forms were unavailable and advised I come back next week that never came. Such was the frustration that trailed my search for a job then as an applicant.
Tired and almost despondent, I turned my attention to the Kaduna State Polytechnic. Several trips to the school located in Zaria offered little hope. When I eventually got a recommendation letter from the Sir Kashim House, I was instantly taken after a hurriedly conducted interview.
Zangon Kataf is more than a metaphor for bloodshed; it is the discriminatory badge that exposes you for all forms of discrimination in a state that is called your own. For those who seek to reduce Southern Kaduna to bigots, they are quick to remind you that Zangon Kataf town that was inhabited by Hausa was destroyed by mindless murderers from your area.
The then governor, Alhaji Dabo Mohammed Lere, had in 1992 set up the Justice Rahila Cudjoe-led Commission to unravel the cause(s) of the mayhem. The Atyap people boycotted the committee’s sitting on account of its membership that was further justified by the prosecution of Kataf prominent sons by Justice B. O. Okadigbo who jailed many Atyap prominent people on account of the crisis.
Angered by what they described as the persecution of their kinsmen over a crisis they know nothing about, the Atyap thought that identifying with the Justice Rahila Cudjoe’s panel was akin to granting acceptability to a commission they alleged was established to give legality to the prosecution of their leaders who were falsely accused of fueling the Zangon Kataf crisis.
The former military administrator of the state, Col Ja’afaru Isa, would later put up an uncommon determination to resolving the protracted crisis by appointing a reconciliatory committee headed by yet another former military administrator of Kaduna state and an indigene of Southern Kaduna, AVM Usman Mu’azu (retd).
To provide equity for all sides, he nominated equal representatives from both sides in the conflict. The basis for setting up this commission was to create an enabling platform in reconciling both communities. In the final report submitted to the Kaduna State Government, members of the Hausa community on the AVM Usman Mu’azu Commission insisted on full implementation of Justice Rahila Cudjoe’s Commission report, while the Atyap members on the committee were totally opposed to such a position. In recognition of the AVM Mu’azu report, Col Isa came up with a white paper that recommended far-reaching measures for peace.
The ghost of the Zango Kataf crisis is set to be awakened with Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai’s establishment of a white paper drafting committee on both commissions. The question: Is the white paper drafting committee going to rewrite the white paper as released by Col Isa on the AVM Mu’azu Commission of 1995 whose recommendations have almost been fully implemented by previous administrations?
To claim that past regimes in the state never did anything on the Zangon Kataf crisis is akin to burying the truth. Upon the recommendations of both panels, sweeping reforms in judiciary, land demarcation and creation of chiefdoms, among others, were implemented.
As it stands, almost all the recommendations of the Cudjoe’s commission have been fully implemented just as the Kaduna State Government had issued a white paper on the AVM Mu’azu’s reconciliation panel that has continued to enjoy implementation since 1995. The issues yet to be resolved as recommended by the AVM Mu’azu panel are actualisation of buffer zone; irrigation project zone and integration of the Zangon Urban community for all Nigerians as recommended by the AVM Mu’azu committee.
Considering the membership of the white paper drafting committee set up by el-Rufai, it is obvious that these members cannot do anything outside what the government wants. Some of them are hands of Esau with the voice of Jacob. Whatever happens, they will always align with present powers for continued relevance in a system that has shut out others.
I am not bothered by present efforts by the APC-led state government to unearth the bloody past with all its avoidable pitfalls, I am completely ashamed in the silence of past governors and critical stakeholders who have embraced silence in the fear that truth can be trampled upon by a government determined to have its way.
Democracy is all about the defense of the rights of man. Such rights cannot be guaranteed in an atmosphere of lawlessness. Whatever happens in the present, truth and legality will always triumph at last. A society that embraces silence as an option cannot provide the stairway for justice and equity for its members.