BY SIMON REEF MUSA
Last weekend’s human slaughter in Southern Kaduna caught the attention of Nigerians and the global community as no fewer than 27 persons were hacked to death in Kachia, Zangon Kataf and Kaura local government areas of Kaduna State. Another 11 people were mercilessly killed at Goran Gan village in Atyap Chiefdom on Monday night.
Since January 2020, there has been a resurgence of bloodbaths as killer herdsmen and dare devil bandits riding on motorbikes unleashed terror on defenceless communities, leaving behind trails of massive destruction of lives and property. Amidst these internecine crises that have enshrouded the Southern Kaduna area with frightening spectre of horrors, the road to finding peace is still a mirage. While lamentations by both victims and governments are unrelenting, one wonders if governments are elected to lead the choir of lamentations.
The Presidency on Tuesday issued a statement on why the bloodbaths persist in Southern Kaduna. Describing the killings as politically motivated and revenge in nature, presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said the raging banditry in the area is defined by ethnic and religious factors. The opinion of the Presidency resonates with the position of the state governor. President Muhammad Buhari should know that el-Rufai does not love the Southern Kaduna people.
Since becoming governor, the former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has been engrossed on a journey aimed at reducing Southern Kaduna people into political nothingness. With a carefully orchestrated strategy of portraying the victim as the aggressor, the governor has consistently accused the area of being populated by religious bigots.
Signs that the governor would deploy religious sentiments for political survival appeared too early in the day when he declared in Kafanchan that while the Kaduna State Muslim population is 70 percent, the Christian populace is 30 percent. Where the quantity surveyor got his divisive figures baffled everyone as religious identity has never been included in any census conducted by the federal government.
Faced with an imminent defeat ahead of the 2019 polls, el-Rufai, with the active support of his deputy who is now in political wilderness, Arch Barnabas Bala Bantex, settled for Muslim-Muslim ticket. The strategy worked as the revolting sentiments of ‘we versus them’ was whipped up to ensure victory at the polls.
The Presidency should be told loud and clear that el-Rufai’s opinion on any issue regarding Southern Kaduna cannot be relied upon. More bothersome, some members of the political class from the southern part of the state have been intimidated and too frightful to speak up. Apart from the poverty thinking mentality of losing their privileged positions, the right by Southern Kaduna electorates to choose their leaders has been hijacked by their own self-seeking fat cats who can’t negotiate with el-Rufai to tackle the present challenges militating against peace in the area.
On Thursday, the pictures of completely naked women in a crowd of half-cladded women protesting the ongoing killings rankled and threw me into mental exhaustion. Before the protesting mothers took to the palace to express their angst over the crisis, the paramount ruler of the Atyap people, Agwatyap Dominic Gambo Yahaya, had sent buses to the Internally Displaced Camp (IDP) camp in Zonkwa the previous week to return all the refuge-seeking IDPs to their villages, claiming that peace had returned to the area.
Those who alleged that Southern Kaduna people are deploying religious sentiments are obviously oblivious of the serial betrayals by the political class as demonstrated in the silence of their elected representatives on issues affecting them. Having been abandoned by these stomach politicians who only appear in the village after four years to seek votes, the Church has taken a commanding lead in advocating for the people.
Current bloodbaths are more than political as their continued perpetration is informed by the absence of strategies to resolve the catastrophes that have made life short and brutish for inhabitants. The world should know that the present avoidable tragedies hounding the Southern Kaduna people are executed with the collaboration of some members of the political class from the region. The traditional institution is also not left in joining forces against the people as they are in constant fear of losing their stools if they stand with their people. These monarchs prefer to stand alone and save their turbans than to be unturbaned by the state government and be left in the cold. In practical terms, the monarchs are no more than civil servants who are constantly looking up to the state for survival.
Retired military officers have lost their capacity to rally forces towards saving their people from dangers. It is strange that there is no love lost between these officers and the state government, with some agents of Kaduna state government sometimes accusing them of being part of “trouble entrepreneurs.” If these retired military officers participated in a war to keep Nigeria one, they have been reduced to mannequins.
There are no signs whatsoever that the current bloodshed will end soon. As politicians of the zone are only interested in surviving the hardship of the times with their immediate family members, the bloodthirsty killers are not ready to sheathe their swords. The incapacity of both state and federal lawmakers to evolve a template towards resolving these killings reveals the weakness of our democracy. In the wave of these killings, these lawmakers are too afraid of their shadows in order not to risk the wrath of their parties or attract the displeasure of present powers.
Palpable ignorance and the divide-and-rule tactic have beleaguered the ability of Southern Kaduna communities to forge a formidable platform in confronting their nightmare. Apart from ethnic and religious differences that have been deployed by Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the road to lasting peace in the southern axis has been rendered unpassable.
As it is, the Southern Kaduna killings can only be resolved with the help of external intervention. The state governor cannot be relied upon to end these bloodbaths as the administration he heads is too biased and irrevocably partial to people of Southern Kaduna.
Instead of becoming a tool for stopping the massacre, the el-Rufai government has given all sorts of excuses to justify why the crises persist. His promise to end the carnage has been more verbal than action. His recent media outing and his complete neglect of what is happening in the southern part are pointers that el-Rufai is not ready to confront the demons of deaths that have turned the area into a flourishing killing field.
Despite threats of bringing those behind the troubles of Southern Kaduna to justice, the governor has not prosecuted or secured any conviction in connection with the killings. When eventually he tried last year by clamping some Adara elders in jail, they were eventually set free by the courts for lack of any evidence for prosecution after nearly three months of imprisonment.
The Southern Kaduna killings persist not because they are insurmountable, but because the man who is expected to resolve the bloodshed lacks the sincerity of purpose to do just that. As long as President Buhari continues to rely on el-Rufai’s opinion on the Southern Kaduna crisis, so long will the bloodshed continue unabated.
The fearful and greedy fellows masquerading as lawmakers from the Southern Kaduna zone must stand up for their people. The people from the southern axis of Kaduna State must walk away from their cocoons in order to build bridges for a mutually benefiting relationship with others outside their climes.
Democracy is about the rights of citizens and not the emasculation of their freedoms. More than anything, the people of Southern Kaduna must pull down the old altars that are committed to the worship of materialism that has now become the stairway to political relevance.