By: Luka Binniyat
Last Wednesday, another violent incident on this police check point, which is about 2km to Pasankori (a palmwine depot) down-slope, would become a grim precursor to the evil that would befall Godogodo, about 8km away, three days later.
As confirmed by Kaduna State Police Spokesman, ASP Aliyu Usman, a band of suspected armed herdsmen, penultimate Wednesday, laid ambush to six policemen manning this check point. A few seconds of rattling gunfire left two cops dead, all Sergeants. Two escaped with wounds, and two were unscathed. The most disturbing dimension of the incident was that the assailants left with two fully loaded AK 47 riffles of the fallen cops.
“As soon as I heard that they made away with two riffles, I knew that an invasion of any of our villages was inevitable,” said a vigilante leader in Godogodo to Saturday Vanguard last Thursday.
“We have heard that Fulani were massing for a serious attack on Godogodo and other places and we told the police and soldiers that we were working with,” he said.
“It was said that they came from Nasarawa State and some from plateaus state to team up with those already on ground and hiding in our deserted villages. On our part, we called in some vigilante from other tribes, and they came. So when we heard about the gun taken from the police, we knew it was just a matter of time,” he said.
In retrospect, the heroic exploits of these vigilante are hardly mentioned in their efforts at safeguarding communities from the aggressions of their perennial foes.
However, a Press Statement on 25th September signed by Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman, acting Director Army Public Relations revealed how they sacrifice their lives for their community in return for nothing. The statement reads: “Gallant troops of 1 Division Nigerian Army in a joint operation with personnel of Nigeria Police and local vigilantes have today repelled a coordinated attack by gunmen on Godogodo town of Kaduna State.
“The troops fought off the attackers and pursued them into the bush, inflicting heavy casualty on them.
“Unfortunately four local vigilantes lost their lives while another 9 were wounded in the course of countering the dastardly attack meant to cause more loss of lives and properties of law abiding citizens of Godogodo Town.”
According to him, the following Fulani were arrested: Lawal Gambo, Yau Sani, Bala Amodu, Ibrahim Maikaru, Abubakar Hassan and Bashiru Isa Ciroma in the cause of the encounter.
That was as much as the ill-trained, poorly armed but highly committed vigilante of Godogodo could go to protecting their homelands.
So what went wrong last Saturday after the vigilante claimed that they were well alert and had informed the Army and Police stationed there? Saturday Vanguard uncovered an unconfirmed disturbing conspiracy.
“We were sitting around, talking and exchanging jokes, when the soldier who in charge of the seven soldiers guiding Godogodo approached us,” said another vigilante.
“ He and his troops were in their pick up van. He came down from the van and came over to us. We went to a side where he said that he had important information to tell us. He said that soldiers from another formation were coming to search Godogodo for firearms. That if any of us had any guns, we must immediately remove them to a safer place, since they were on their way. He said he did not want to be seen as aiding them to bear arms. It was around 5:30pm last Saturday. He left with his soldiers. Some of us, who had hunting guns or den guns ran and took them into hiding. We even called those that were not around to come get their stuff out,” he said.
“Then exactly by 6pm, it was not even dark yet, when we heard gun shots from the side of Unguwan Ninzom part of the town. That part of the town is the most vulnerable, because our people (native and non-native Christians) live there and the place stretches far outwards from the town,” he continued.
“The Fulani gunmen usually don’t touch Hausa people and their property. We’re their prime targets, because they say our villages have now become their grazing reserves and we must give way.
“Then there were more gunshots. That was when we it dawned on us that we have been tricked. There were no police, no soldiers and we did not have what it would take to defend ourselves. Some of us, with only cutlasses, machetes and sticks tried to reach the source of the shooting, but it was a clear suicide attempt. I saw them gun down three boys. I ducked and crawled into a ditch before running away. Women and children were screaming. Within a few minutes they started burning houses. You could even see them from a far. Fulani men with AK 47. We were running helter-skelter, rescuing the elderly, children and women to the outskirt of the town. The Hausa part of the town was spared, so we directed those who escaped to run through the Hausa side to safety. We were also making frantic calls to everyone who could help. By 8pm, from where two of us were hiding, there were still people sneaking out to safety, but the wailing of those trapped in their homes had stopped. They had either been killed, or roasted alive in the inferno.
“I don’t know when the police or soldiers returned, because we had wondered into the bush with women and children and eventually walked them to Gidan Waya. We arrived Gidan Waya around 1am on Sunday.
“The killings continued on Sunday morning. We heard that the Police came, but were over powered. If we had not been deceived to do away with our weapons, I can assure that it could have been fire-for-fire. We have written officially to the Police and the Nigeria Army about this,” he said.
Contacted on the allegation, Col. Abdull Usman, the Public Relations Officer, PRO, 1 Division, Nigerian Army, told Saturday Vanguard that he was not aware of such a complaint.
He said: “If anything like this ever happened, the people of Godogodo will naturally take their complaint to the police. You, know the work we are doing there is actually the work that should be done by the Nigeria police. I think the people will naturally take their grievances to the Police. But, if they did write us, believe me, I am not aware. And you know the Nigeria Army would never compromise the safety of any Nigerian. We don’t take such matters lightly,” he said.
When Saturday Vanguard sought confirmation from Kaduna State Police Spokesman, ASP, Aliyu Usman over the curious development, he said he was going to get back, but never up to the time of going to press.
At the end of the violence, 40 people were killed by Sunday afternoon with scores injured. Most of Godogodo town was burnt to ashes too.Godogodo, the headquarters of Godogodo Chiefdom, Jema’a Local Government Area, LGA, of Kaduna state, is a semi-urban old town that was more of a mining settlement in the early 1900s. As tin mining died in the early 70s, Godogodo still became prosperous from farming and trading, thanks to its well drained rich loamy soils, alluvial plains served with perennial streams. It is also well connected to the South, and North of Nigeria through a trunk A road. Though the town is the traditional home of the Ninte people, however, Numana, Ninzom, Mada and other neighbours soon came to join, in the early days of its formation.