- An endless chronicle of violence over the years!
By Chikezie Ogbonna
The dilemma Christians face in Northern Nigeria over the years seem to have only exasperated with no end in sight. Successive leadership in the region and the country has seemed to be in a quagmire when putting into account her Tour-de-force as far as containing the many facets of challenges that has bedeviled the region, with insecurity and violence spiraling out of control.
A recent wave of deadly attacks in the southern part of Nigeria’s restive Kaduna State has brought the seemingly never ending cycle of communal violence and impunity in the state back into focus. The Media was awash with the news that gunmen killed at least 43 people between July 21 to 24 and that 178 people were killed in the past 7 months across southern Kaduna communities, a predominantly Christian community.
Until now, the police and other security agencies have not been able to convincingly give the identity of the perpetrators or the motivations behind the attacks. The state governor claimed the recent attacks were carried out by armed bandits terrorizing Nigeria’s Northwest states. However, media reports including witnesses attributed blame to a militia targeting southern Kaduna communities who are predominantly Christians on ethnic and religious grounds.
The recent attacks led to an outcry against the failure of the authorities to take necessary steps to protect communities and deter violence, including a protest by women calling for justice.
The Kaduna State government has imposed a 24 hour curfew in parts of Southern Kaduna and the police said they will work with the military and other security actors to ensure citizens’ safety.
Recently, The Special Task Force, Operation Safe Haven (OPSH), which is maintaining peace in Plateau and part of Southern Kaduna and Bauchi States, announced the arrest of eight suspects in connection with the recent killings in Southern Kaduna.
Those arrested are Abubakar Ali, Ali Amadu, Bawa Idi, Umar Dikko, Garba Damon’s and Mohammed Ibrahim.
Others are: Adamu Joseph and William Barnabas.
Presenting the suspects to journalists on Monday 10th August, in Kafanchan, the Commander of the task force, Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, a major general, said the arrest was part of the outfit’s efforts to curtail the killings.
Represented by David Nwakonobi, a colonel and Commander, Sector 7 of the operation, Mr Okonkwo, said six of the suspects were arrested on August 5 in Lere Local Government Area of Kaduna state.
He said the other two were arrested at Chawai, a village on the fringes of Kauru and Zango Kataf local government areas.
He explained that the arrest was based on credible intelligence reports made available to the operation.
The chronicle of Bloodletting in Kaduna
The city of Kaduna, the capital of Kaduna State, is one of the largest in northern Nigeria and is viewed by some as the symbolic capital of the north.
According to Human Right Watch, while the north of Nigeria is predominantly Muslim, Kaduna has a significant population of Christians, from around thirty ethnic groups based mostly in the south of the state, sometimes referred to as the South Kaduna minority tribes.
According to some estimates, close to half the population of Kaduna may be made up of Christians. The majority of the population in the northern part of Kaduna State are Muslims from the Hausa/Fulani ethnic groups. Kaduna differs from other northern states in that although some areas are dominated by particular ethnic groups, these different groups have also lived side by side in the same areas for many years, especially in Kaduna town.
Kaduna has a different mix of populations from other northern states: as its capital is one of the more developed cities in the north, it has become host to people from many ethnic groups from different parts of the country, including Christians from other states.
Over several decades, Kaduna, like other states of Nigeria, has experienced outbreaks of violence and fighting between different groups. Most often, this has pitted Muslims against Christians, although the fundamental causes can be traced to political and economic rivalries, rather than religious differences. In recent years, however, religion has come to the fore as one of the aspects with which people have identified most readily and which has enabled leaders to stir up violence whenever it suited their purposes.
In a report by Human Right Watch, since 2000, in particular, the religious dimension to the tensions in Kaduna emerged more explicitly, as conflicts began to center around the extension of Sharia to criminal law, one of the most divisive issues in Nigeria in recent times.
Three of the most serious outbreaks of violence in Kaduna State occurred in 1987, 1992 and 2000. In 1987, a dispute erupted between students from different ethnic and religious groups in Kafanchan, and the violence spread to several other towns and areas. In February and May 1992, in what became known as the Zangon-Kataf crisis, there were clashes in Zangon-Kataf between the Hausa and the Kataf (a predominantly Christian ethnic group), initially sparked off by a dispute over the relocation of a market. Killings of Hausa by Kataf were followed by reprisal killings of Christians by Muslims, including in several other parts of Kaduna State.
Then in 2000 and 2002, two years after, a bloody conflict over the adoption of sharia law in the state erupted and it was estimated that over 5000 lives were lost and properties worth billions of naira destroyed.
It could be recalled then that as waves of violence have succeeded each other in the state, and the authorities have failed to resolve the causes of the conflicts, some groups pushed for the creation of a separate Southern Kaduna state.
These demands have mostly been voiced by Christians who have repeatedly complained of marginalization the assumption being that any newly-created state would be dominated by Christians, while most Muslims would continue to live in the northern part of the state.
Yet another bloody encounter from 2011 until date
However, following the very deadly December 2016 attack which was then recorded as the bloodiest 16 years after the year 2000 Kaduna Sharia riot. It was then described as a dark season for the people of Southern Kaduna.
According to a 2017 special report by Today’s Challenge Magazine, an investigative news magazine published by ECWA Church Nigeria, It will be recalled that Human induced tragedy struck on Christmas Eve and on Christmas day of 2016 as armed Fulani herdsmen attacked, killing, maiming hundreds of people and burning homes in Goska village 5km from Kafanchan, headquarters of Jema’a local government.
Survivors were left to nurse their bleeding wounds and mourn those who were killed in the unprovoked attack. Those who escaped the bullets of the attackers and hid in the bush for days with no rescue coming their way while the killers held sway recalled their heart drenching ordeal that befell them.
Unfortunately, the emotion-charged reactions over the killings in Southern Kaduna and the complete silence over the killings of unarmed communities calls for a re-visit of the provocative apprehension to interrogate the since vis-à-vis failure of the Nigerian state since 2011 and beyond to date. It has also given much room for critical analysis of the actions and utterances of the incumbent governor, Nasiru El-Rufai before he emerged as the governor of Kaduna State.
The believe in many circles is that Nigeria including her president, Muhammadu Buhari have abandoned the area in the wake of the killings which is a very serious issue that ought to have received national and international attention as according to them the situation in southern Kaduna is being downplayed, with government insisting on diverting attention, for political discussion.
Curiously, President Muhammadu Buhari has the penchant to conspicuously remain silent over the ugly situation in Southern Kaduna. The missing voice of the president among those who have publicly condemned the sustained attack is apparently viewed as an endorsement of the action of the marauding herdsmen.
It could be recalled that back in 2017, the arrogance of the presidency was exhibited in a rather asinine manner when while reacting on Channels TV to public criticism of the silence of President Buhari on the wanton killings and destruction being perpetrated by the Fulani herdsmen, Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said simply that “the president must not comment on every issue”.
It will be recalled also that in 2012, Mallam Naisru El-Rufai in a tweet said: “we will write this for all to read, anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes” – Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai @ElRufai.
Similarly, the governor publicly admitted that he sent emissaries to pay money from Nigeria’s treasury to Fulani insurgents who had taken to brazen and brutal terror, mass killings mostly Christian communities in South Kaduna in retaliation for alleged deaths of their members and cows.
He said: “so many of these people who relatives were killed, and had their cattle stolen organized themselves and came back to revenge…. There is one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings, but want compensation for their cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some.”
According to Today’s Challenge analysis in the 2017 report at the wake of the ugly 2016 December attack in the same Southern Kaduna, while chronicling the many uninvestigated and prosecuted cases of violence in region, it wrote; “The killings in Southern Kaduna have continued unabated after the 2011 post-election violence that bedeviled some northern states of the country, with Kaduna, Plateau, Benue and Adamawa States, as the major casualties have reportedly lost over 2200 persons, out of the about 3,000 that died in the entire country, villages and towns in southern Kaduna have witness ceaseless attacks by faceless groups, from them, till date.
“In September 2014, several people including two pastors were killed in a place called Fadan karshi where 15 other people were injured and several houses were burnt down.
“Also in October 2016, armed men believed to be herdsmen also stormed Godogodo in an attack that left several people dead. As if that was enough, herdsmen have terrorized other communities in southern Kaduna carrying out series of attacks and counter attacks on the natives. These attacks have left people dead, house and properties destroyed.
“Inquisitively, the dimension of the attacks is making it difficult for both the people of the area and the security operatives, in and around the state, to define the attacks or identify its causes.
“At the last account, properties worth over N5.5billion including 1,422 houses , 16 churches, 19 shops including a primary school and farmlands have been destroyed while 53 villages have been attacked in four LGAs and 808 lives lost in the attacks. This is according to the data published by Today’s Challenge.
The recent attack is alleged to be a “systematic attacks orchestrated by another version of Boko Haram” and depart of a wider genocidal war against the people of Southern Kaduna state; a war in its 5th year (from 2011 to 2016) which has consumed several lives of people, destroyed farmlands and people’s means of livelihoods”, compiled by the magazine.
The complicity of Buhari and Government’s culpability
The silence of President Buhari over the prevailing situation in Southern Kaduna has never stopped raising questions in the minds of many observers who wanted to know his position considering the fact that even before Muhammadu Buhari became president, he was known to be a loud voice each time there was a clash between herdsmen and farmers.
Tracing back the double standard of the President, a historical throwback by Today’s Challenge noted instances the President has played a pivotal role in fighting for the interest of his ethnic group.
“On October 13th 2000, General Muhammadu Buhari led lorry loads of Northerners mostly Fulanis to Governor Lam Adesina over the killings of Fulanis in Saki, Oyo State.
“Then, Fulanis had clashed with Yoruba farmers in Skai , over grazing . According to reports, at about 2pm same day, Buhari arrived in a long convoy at the governor’s office in company of the former governor of Lagos State, General Buba Marwa, Alhaji Aliko Muhammed, Alhaji Abdulrazak and Alhaji Hassan. They all wore a long faces.
“And in an angry tone, asked the shocked Governor Adesina why he has not done anything to stop the killing of Fulanis, demanding that compensation must be given for the killings”, Today’s Challenge noted.
It is widely regarded that President Muhammadu Buhari is the Grand Patron of Fulani herdsmen.
A former deputy governor of Central bank of Nigeria, Dr. Mailafia Obadiah in a recent sifting interview on Naija Info FM, Abuja directly accused the federal government and the Kaduna state government of have a direct hand in the killings going on the southern part of the state .
In the video which has gone viral on Facebook, Dr. Mailafia said he has met with some of the bandits at the top helms of their command, which according to him, they told him that one of the top commanders of Boko Haram is a sitting governor in one of the northern states in the country.
He said that Boko Haram and Bandits including the killer Fulani herdsmen are one in the country and that they have a sophisticated network.
The former CBN Deputy Governor further revealed that during the lockdown, they were moving around the country like there was no lockdown. “They moved arms and other logistics including money, distributing them in the different parts of the country”, he said.
He further revealed that they are already in the Southern part of the country, especially in the forest of the south.
According to him, an intelligent report he received revealed that the terrorist network boasted that when they finished the rural killings, they will move to phase two, which will be going into the urban cities, with the intention of killing prominent people in their houses.
He confidently said that this is the game plan which he said the elements behind the incessant attack in the country have concluded plans to initiate a civil war in the country by 2022.
Echoing similar concern, leading socio-political groups in the country such as Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF and the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) have alleged that agents of genocide are on the prowl in Southern Kaduna, a predominantly Christian-dominated area that has been under sustained armed attacks.
Citing the inability of security forces to end the armed attacks on the defenseless people, the socio-cultural groups have also alleged that security forces seemed to be supervisors in the killing field of Southern Kaduna.
MBF’s National President, Dr. Bitrus Pogu, Afenifere Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; PANDEF’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ken Robinson and Ohanaeze Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Chuks Ibegbu expressed these concerns during a solidarity visit to the people of South Kaduna following the recent bloody attacks.
The leaders of the socio-cultural groups, who were received by the leadership of Southern Kaduna People Union (SOKAPU), also donated food items worth N2 million to the internally displaced persons (IDPs) during the solidarity visit.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has called for prayers amongst Catholics and Christians in general in the face of rising insecurity and religious inspired killings in the country.
In a statement by the Archbishop Augustine Obiora Akubeze the Archbishop of Benin City and President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria onbehalf of the conference of Bishops, condemned the politicization of killings in the country and called on government to rise to her duty of protecting the citizens of the country.
The statement reads:
“We, the members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria have been following the recent events in Nigeria closely. We continue to hear of increasing insecurity and unabated acts of terrorism in Northern Nigeria. We are all tired of this situation. We do not want any politician to politicize the killing of Nigerians.
“There should be one response from everyone, and that is; the killings must stop. Our hearts are bleeding, and we are more troubled when we hear of the massacre presently going on in Southern Kaduna.
“We want all the people suffering the incessant attacks in Southern Kaduna to know that all Catholics in Nigeria are praying for them. We call on the Federal and the Government of Kaduna to bring a complete stop to the killing of innocent people.
“The loss of the life of any Nigerian does not help to further the agenda of any religious ideology or the ambition of any politician.
“The perpetrators of the killings must be brought to justice. Where there is no justice or justice is not seen to be done, there cannot be peace. Where there is no peace, there cannot be development. Any Government, State or Federal that wants peace must work for justice for everyone. There will never be sustained development built upon the bloodshed of innocent people brutally murdered by religious fundamentalists without any recourse to justice for the victims.
“We need not remind Nigerians that the present Federal Government came to power, promising Nigerians, the eradication of corruption, a guarantee of security to life and property, and rapid growth in the economy. The creation of jobs, and an enabling environment that engenders growth of the private sector; a significant increase in the supply of electricity to Nigerians, affordable and quality health care to Nigerians, and the revamping of the educational sector were the promises the Government continues to make. Many Nigerians, irrespective of political party affiliation, will affirm that these promises have remained a far cry. We strongly appeal to Nigerians to unite together in calling the Federal Government to give priority to these areas of our lives.
To all Catholics, we request that you join in praying, one Our Father, three Hail Mary, and one Glory Be to the Father, every day after the Angelus for forty days, starting from 22 August 2020 and ending 30 September 2020, the eve of Nigeria’s Independence Day. On Independence Day, let us join in praying the five decades of the sorrowful mysteries starting from 12.noon. We appeal to each Bishop to encourage the faithful in his Diocese to participate fully in this prayer for God to save Nigeria.
Finally, as we pray, we know that God wants us to do what is humanly possible to ensure that there are prosperity and freedom for every Nigerian, Let us not harbour hatred for anyone. We must be instruments of forgiveness and reconciliation. We must be on the part of justice for all and peace in Nigeria.
May God grant eternal rest to all who have lost their lives to the violence in Northern Nigeria and other parts of the country. May God give us courage to work for justice and peace in Nigeria. May God bless Nigeria.”
Meanwhile, The cycle of killings in Kaduna State is not inevitable. To end murders, the authorities should ensure full criminal investigations, provide justice and redress for the victims and their families, and ensure citizens are protected. Authorities should also prevent their own forces from causing further harm. The truth is: the Massacre of Christians in the north may never end if these recommendations are not attended to.