"ITS HIGH TIME THESE KILLINGS CAME TO AN END"- NIGERIAN SUPREME COUNCIL FOR ISLAMIC AFFAIRS' POSITION ON THE GENOCIDAL TRENDS IN SOUTHERN KADUNA AND OTHER PARTS OF NIGERIA
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful
O you who believe, be consistent in standing firm for Allah, as witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear Allah ; indeed, Allah is Acquainted with what you do. (Quran 5: 8)
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) wishes to use this medium to express, once again, its sadness over the recent dastardly acts of brigandage and heinous crimes perpetrated by elements who have sold their hearts and soul to evil in Southern Kaduna. The NSCIA is particularly seized by these events not only because these faceless elements succeeded in wrecking such destructions of lives and properties but equally because such horrendous actions were hitherto deemed to be possible only in the jungle. Even then, the Council is concerned that whereas acts of killings in the jungle are said to be premised on the simple principle -'eat or be eaten', the kind of killings that this nation has witnessed recently in Southern Kaduna and in other parts of the country where criminality has become fashionable is such that even the animals in the wild would be ashamed to engage in.
Further, the NSCIA is compelled to issue this new statement having realized the ease with which the event in Southern Kaduna is being exploited by shameless political jobbers and over-night religious zealots and critics as an opportunity to gain cheap popularity and political relevance. We are equally concerned that as it is common in this nation, the opportunity offered by the unfortunate event in Southern Kaduna for this nation to correct existing anomalies in the system run the risk of being lost, no thanks to fetishized analyses of issues involved and the laundry of extremely jejune and simplistic argument that the event in Southern Kaduna is all about Christians in the region, not Nigeria as a whole. The NSCIA is concerned that when the "part begins to see itself as the whole", those imbued with intellection must quickly intervene. Such intervention, however, must show fidelity to history; it must separate myth from reality; it must equally distill between the grain and the chaff. It is in service of the above arguments that NSCIA proposes the following issues for resolution and attention of the Federal and Kaduna State Governments:
1. Who Owns Southern Kaduna?
The NSCIA is concerned that whereas the earliest instance when parts of Southern Kaduna probably entered into historical record was in 1810 when Mallam Usman Yabo, the son of Sarkin Kabin Yabo, Muhammadu Mayijo, established what later came to be known as the Jama'a Emirate in Southern Kaduna, there appears to be conscious efforts on the side of elements within and outside Kaduna State to reconstruct history in order to give the impression that at no instance had there been a contact between Islam and that part of Nigeria. This approach to Kaduna history, which largely feeds on amnesia, is partly responsible for the incidence of conflicts that this nation has continued to witness in the region. It has led to violent transactions in identity politics and the assumption among the citizenry in the State that "Southern Kaduna belongs to "Us" not "them". In other words, the conflict in Southern Kaduna is nothing but contest for space and place or contestations over history and geography. While some citizens in the area see the whole of Southern Kaduna as belonging to Nigeria and by extension to all Nigerians, no matter their ethnic or religious persuasion and affiliations, others, backed by an extremely powerful clique and buoyed by an extremely partial section of the media, have continued to see the area as belonging to a particular ethnic and religious group. Thus while Nigeria as a nation constantly strives for national integration, a particular group in Southern Kaduna holds that cultural puritanism and one which would preserve their slippery assumptions of historical and primordial superiority and ownership over the area is an end for which no means, in the Machiavellian manner, is too Sacred to be deployed in order to achieve their irredentist and narcissistic objective. These assumptions, the NSCIA holds, operate at the core of the violence that Kaduna State has been witnessing over time.
2. Is the "Genocide" of 2016 not reminiscent of the ones before it?
Perceptive observers of socio-political trends in the north would equally observe that before 26 December, 2016, Southern Kaduna had played host to orgies of violent ethno-religious conflicts in which lives of innocent Nigerians have been lost. In other words, as it was on the 26th of December 2016, so it was in April, 2011 consequent upon the general elections in the country. Again, as it was in April, 2011, so had it been since 1981 when that part of the country began to achieve notoriety as the bastion of inter-ethnic and inter-religious intolerance and conflicts. The point as issue is this: any attempt at solving the problems in Southern Kaduna without due attention being given to previous occurrences in the area would amount taking the tree for the forest.
3. Is Southern Kaduna Nigeria's Achilles Hill?
Perhaps the above question could be cast in another way: why is it that of all the states in northern Nigeria with substantial presence of Muslims and Christians, it is always Southern Kaduna that has continued to witness these incessant orgies of violence? This question is urgent and important because perceptive observers of conflict trends in the northern parts of the country would likely argue that Southern Kaduna appears to be Nigeria's Augean Stable.
The reason for this argument is this: In large parts of the north, in places like, for example, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, and Jigawa where Christians are in the minority, the ratio of inter-religious and inter-tribal conflicts in these areas could be put at 1:10. But in Southern Kaduna where Muslims are said to be in the minority, the rate at which violent conflicts constantly break out among Christians and Muslims is in the ratio of 9:10. Thus the question needs be asked: Is there a particular agenda that drives these conflicts? Besides that, and this is the most unfortunate, each time the said conflicts break out in the area, the media would be awash with ribald commentaries and extremely inane arguments that whatever was happening in the area was part of an orchestrated attempt by Muslims to "Islamize" the country. Since falsehood sells faster than truthfulness, it is this type of news that most media houses would then begin to repeat ad nauseam. Little or no attention is usually paid to dig into the reasons for the conflicts nor to properly listen to the pain and wailing of the victims of such crises.
4. Is Southern Kaduna Nigeria's Theatre of Impunity?
The NSCIA is of the strong opinion that the event of 26 December 2016 called attention, once again, to the evil effect of impunity in our nation's socio-political and cultural reality. In other words, it is arguable to say that Southern Kaduna would not have become a theatre of the absurd that it turned out to be last December had the Nigerian government, at the Federal and State levels, made efforts at punishing those responsible for previous hara-kiri, acts of criminality and brigandage in the area. Put differently, since 1981 when the first acts of violence broke out between the so-called 'settlers' and 'indigenes' in the state, successive governments in Kaduna state have failed to bring the perpetrators of the various heinous acts to justice. For example, despite the graphic (video) evidence which the perpetrators of the massacre in Zonkwa in 2011 released to the world and in spite of their indictment by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the genocide of that year, no punitive measure was taken either by the Kaduna State government or the Federal Government against the perpetrators of the said crime. Thus the question "who were those who perpetrated the massacre of 26 December, 2016 in Southern Kaduna" would gain strength if we ask the additional question: "why is it that we failed to deal with those who perpetrated similar atrocities in the past?"
5. Is Southern Kaduna the Sacrificial Lamb in the Hands of the Political Elites?
Again, the NSCIA is of the view that any attempt at solving the Southern Kaduna problem would be incomplete and invalid if the role of the political class in promoting and fanning embers of hatred and violence is not accounted for. Recent experience has shown that the Nigerian political class, like its counterparts in other parts of the world, is like hyenas: they profit from and feed on the tragedies of helpless members of the masses. They are the ones who sow seeds of discord and hatred in the minds of the ignorant populace; they are the ones who procure weapons of violence for the poor and thereafter encourage the latter to visit his neighbour with violence at the dead of the night. It is the political class that has cornered the commonwealth and unjustly appropriated unto itself what belongs to the citizenry. What they have bequeathed to the populace instead are tell-tale signs of unemployment, poverty, inequality and underdevelopment. It is these valences that, in part, drive the genocide we see in this country on a daily basis.
a. the NSCIA delightfully notes the right intervention of the Federal and Kaduna State governments in providing permanent security presence in the region of Southern Kaduna, in forestalling future occurrence of such acts of insanity and anomie. It therefore, urges the governments to ensure full actualization of the set plan.
b. the NSCIA applauds the commendable efforts of the Kaduna State government in arresting and naming the alleged masterminds of this horrific killings. It also urges the governments to desist from the previous practice whereby, such culprits were usually allowed to go scot-free without letting justice take its full course.
While the above represents only perspectival analyses of the dialectics in the issues that are inherent in what the media have termed the genocide in Southern Kaduna, the NSCIA strongly recommends as follows:
a. that the Federal and Kaduna state governments approach the conflict in Southern Kaduna holistically with a view to preventing similar occurrences in the future.
b. That machinery be put in place to determine the causes, scope and victims of the conflict and that punishment be meted out to deserving perpetrators according to the law.
c. that adequate compensation and rehabilitation should be given not only to those who suffered human and material losses during the event of 26 December 2016, but equally to those who experienced similar losses during the massacre of April 2011.
d. that constructive peace-building efforts be embarked upon by the Kaduna State government with a view to putting an end to the notions of indigenes and settlers among the citizenry in Southern Kaduna.
e. that the Kaduna State government should tap into some of the recommendations of the 2013 National Conference with a view to implementing aspects of the resolutions of the Conference with regards to the establishment of grazing reserve areas.
f. that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be mandated to embark on national campaign that would promote national integration, peace-building and give full effect to constitutional provisions that guarantee the survival of all citizens of Nigeria anywhere in the country no matter their ethnic or religious affiliations.
g. that the Kaduna State government should uphold, at all times, equity and justice in political and social representation. In other words, the state government should put into full effect the plurality of Kaduna State in all matters possible such that appointments into public offices, recruitment into Civil Service, Military and other security institutions, and location of development projects should reflect the above diversities.
h. that Kaduna State government should constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission with fair representation of all stakeholders to work towards ensuring lasting peace in Southern Kaduna.
i. that Media practitioners in the country should uphold the eternal ethical standards in journalism which give pride of place to objectivity and honesty in news gathering and disapproves of sensationalism and falsehood.
j. that while all Nigerians should commend the Nigerian Armed Forces for their gallantry and sense of duty in combating the menace of the Boko Haram in the North-East, the task of ridding the nation of weaponry and illegal arms and ammunition remains an engaging and an urgent task. When citizens, no matter their orientation and education, begin to have unmitigated access to instruments of violence, then we can imagine how quickly our nation would descend into the abyss of insanity and anomie.
The NSCIA believes that no nation can thrive where injustice and hatred for the other, be he the religious or ethnic, are given free rein. It is based on this eternal truth that the Council calls on all Nigerians to avoid all actions that would escalate the situation in Southern Kaduna. While the Council calls on the Federal and Kaduna State governments to take all necessary steps that would bring lasting peace to Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country where there are conflicts, it, once again, commiserates with all those who have suffered untold loss of lives and properties in the event of 26 December, 2016. The Council prays that may the Almighty grant the nation as a whole the courage to learn from the unfortunate event in order to chart a better cause for and in the future.
Ustaz Christian Isa Okonkwo,
Director of Administration,