Danjuma Bello Sarki is a community leader in Southern Kaduna. In this interview, he speaks on the incessant killings in their communities. He looks at the matter from a historical perspective, saying the conflict centres on the quest for territories, political power and economic gains.
By Ibrahim Hasssan-Wuyo
What are the underlying issues in the Southern Kaduna crisis?
The crises in Southern Kaduna are caused by different reasons. The underlying issues sometimes are of different dimensions and factors. Some of them are ethnoreligious, socio-political, traditional power control, sociocultural, territorial occupation for economic opportunities and agricultural resources.
The crisis started from the 1940s, during the struggle for traditional power control by the people of Southern Kaduna from the Zazzau Emirate. Then the major cause was the quest for liberation and self-determination.
In the 1980’s it snowballed into an ethnoreligious dimension. Most of the crises within that period were triggered by religious beliefs and differences. Though, tensions must exist within some mixed communities as a result of other sociocultural misunderstandings and suspicions, which easily escalate little squabbles into a huge crisis that sometimes results in violent attacks, killing of people and destruction of lives and properties.
The Zangon Kataf crisis was a result of economic factors, due to the relocation of a market which was situated in a congested area, amidst residential houses and densely populated. This was viewed by a certain section as a ploy to strip it of economic control while the other side perceived it as an opportunity to site the market in a spacious and neutral area.
Therefore, owing to the prevailing suspicion and mistrust that have existed between the people, instead of finding an amicable way of resolving the dispute, embers of war were fanned, whereby it degenerated into a serious violent crisis that claimed the lives of so many people.
The 2000 Sharia and 2002 Miss World conflicts were both religiously and socioculturally motivated.
That of 2011 was politically engineered. It was a reprisal of the 2011 post-election violence in Kaduna town where several people who are members or perceived to be supporters of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from Southern Kaduna and other parts of the state were killed and their properties destroyed, as a result of the defeat of President Buhari and his then political party, Congress of Progressive Change, CPC, by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
This again was twisted into ethnoreligious violence that claimed the lives of so many innocent and hardworking people of Kaduna State. The state became highly divided and polarised along ethnic, religious and political lines.
After that period, various communities in Southern Kaduna began to experience widespread attacks by some criminally minded- Fulani herdsmen, which began in Fadiya village at the House of the former District Head of Fadiya District in Zangon Kataf Local Government in 2011. From there, it spread to other villages also in Zangon Kafaf, Kaura, Sanga, Kauru, Jema’a Local Government Areas and others.
Surprisingly, after the discovery and announcement of the deposit of “world-class” Nickel in Dangoma in Kaninkon chiefdom in August 2016, the area began to witness fierce attacks and counter-attacks on Goska, Dangoma, Bakin Kogi, Golkofa, various Kaninkon and Fulani communities in November 2016. Since then, most of the conflicts in Southern Kaduna took economic and agricultural resource dimensions.
What you hear now are invasion and sacking of villages and communities by an armed militia group, farmers and pastoralists clash, cattle rustling, kidnapping and other violent crimes. They are centred on gaining economic advantage.
The recent attack which started in Atyap land in Zangon Kafaf is equally attributed majorly to a land dispute, which inflated long time tensions and disharmony.
How did Southern Kaduna people receive the reaction from the Presidency?
I will tell you without equivocation that Southern Kaduna sees the reaction of the Presidency as most unfortunate, very irrational, so insensitive and bias. It was an obvious demonstration of the failure of leadership and governance that has become the hallmark of the Buhari administration. It indicates that the government of the day is happy with the killings in Southern Kaduna. The Presidency is not ready to bring it to an end, reconcile the people and provide development to the people.
Looking at the statement you wouldn’t find a line where the government condemned the heinous act or called for its stoppage. Rather, it justified it and also expressed hopelessness in resolving the crises or stopping the carnage.
Unfortunately, the Presidency that should be an unbiased arbiter, a unifying force is trying to politicise the whole issue, thereby downplaying its severity.
Since they claim it is politically-motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs who are acting on religious and ethnic grounds, it shows they know the perpetrators on either side. But rather than arresting and prosecuting them, they prefer to allow it to fester. Likewise, it is a tacit nod on the people to take laws into their hands by defending themselves or continue the killings and counter killings.
For the Presidency to make that observation, one can say categorically that it is an admittance of its deliberate intention not to secure the lives and properties of the people of Southern Kaduna irrespective of tribe, religion and that of Nigerians in general, which is the cardinal objective of electing any government.
For now, how damaging is the crisis to the people of Southern Kaduna?
There is no doubt that the crisis is damaging and taking a huge toll on the people of the region. So many productive and most times innocent lives are being wasted for no just cause or for reasons that can be amicably resolved. Large numbers of people are currently displaced, increasing the number of internally displaced persons and refugees in the state and nation.
The humanitarian crisis that comes with it is worrisome. Obviously, the people are now divided, balkanized and disunited in the area, which is very painful to me and a lot of other people. It saddens me to know that there is no peace in my region when I still have relations and intimate friends that are Hausa, Fulani and Muslims from Southern Kaduna and other states. We co-habit peacefully with them. We do businesses together and share a very strong economic and socio-political affinity together. The crisis is taking its toll on economic activities in the area.
How about government’s intervention?
The intervention by past governments has been fantastic, effective and meaningful. Those past administrations showed genuine concern and took sincere measures to bring past crises to an end. But with the advent of the present government both at the state and federal levels, there is no longer sincerity of purpose or genuine efforts in nipping it in the bud. Emphatically, Kaduna State government kept politicising and fuelling it through the utterances, actions and inactions of the governor, Nasiru El-Rufai and some of his officials.
Imagine that over fifty people have been killed in a particular part of the state you govern within a spate of one week, you never bothered to visit that area to commiserate with the people and find a lasting solution. There is no single condemnation of the dastardly act.
It is on record that El-Rufai has a strong disdain for the people of Southern Kaduna to the extent that they don’t trust him any longer. At any given opportunity, instead of correcting that information, he keeps reinforcing it outrightly.
More so, whenever there is an attack in Southern Kaduna, the present government at the federal level turns a blind eye.
How can the crisis be resolved?
Justice is key to human interaction. The government must ensure justice in carrying out its activities.
It can easily be resolved if the government is sincere in taking genuine steps that could lead to an amicable solution. The government needs to come clean, identify the perpetrators of this wicked act on both sides and bring them to book. It should restore the village heads, Ardos and district heads that were sacked by this government. The government should set up a genuine reconciliation platform that would identify the issues in every locality and proffer solutions. The government should access the damages and pay some compensation to the victims.
I will like to refer the government to the recommendations contain in the report of the Kaduna State Peace and Reconciliation Committee established by late Governor Yakowa.
Apart from the issue of insecurity in Southern Kaduna, the whole state is highly insecure. Kaduna State has become the kidnapping hub in Nigeria, armed banditry, cattle rustling, communal clashes have become a recurring decimal in Kaduna State today. People living in Sabon Tasha, Rigasa, Millennium City, Rigachikun, Airport Road and other places within Kaduna are not safe and are living in constant fear, not to talk about those in the hinterlands.