Re- “Special Report: New deals underscore prospects of peace in Southern Kaduna”-Plaudit for Premium Times

A Press Release By  Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA)

The attention of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), under the able leadership of His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, CFR, mni., has been drawn to the publication of a Special Report by Premium Times (an online tabloid) dated 15th November 2020 and titled “New Deals Underscore the Prospects of Peace in Southern Kaduna”, The NSCIA is amazed by the fact that the Report called attention to an assertion once made by John Chancellor, the late American Journalist and Television Broadcaster, that “the function of good journalism is to take information and add value to it”. The Special Report left no doubt in our mind as to the intendment which unarguably is that of ‘adding value’ to the overarching task of achieving peace and national cohesion in this country. In fact, this was epigraphically captured by the tabloid as follows- - “Most people in Southern Kaduna are Christians and Muslims; so, if we believe there is a supreme being, whether you call Him Allah or God, and when He sends rains He doesn't discriminate, why can't we sit and forgive and settle differences?.”

The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (hereafter, Council) hereby appreciates the highly patriotic reportage of the tabloid. It is of the view that Premium Times deserves plaudits for this Special Report not only because it is sui generis in comparison to others in the industry but because it seeks to open new directions in press coverage of the persistent and misreported ethno-religious conflicts and crises in Southern Kaduna.

Council also recalls that a section of the Nigeria press has over the years fed on the nation’s fragilities and deployed same as tool for the promotion of primordial ethno-religious agenda. Members of that very small and highly unpatriotic group in the electronic and print media usually prefer transactions in anarchistic and seditious reportage to that which promotes peace and harmony.  Like vultures, they luxuriate in felonious habitude at the expense of the nation’s growth and progress. Council therefore considers the Special Report by Premium Times on the prospects for peace in Southern Kaduna to the attention of all lovers of peace all around the world as a tour de forcein journalism and media practice in Nigeria. Council holds that the Report is indeed very apt in that it, among others, figures the pen as a partner in peace-building; it is a like a treatise that portrays the journalist as a justice of peace.

Council notes further that the Special Report by Premium Times was pertinent for four other reasons. First, it demonstrates that peace in Southern Kaduna not only as a possibility but equally as a desideratum. This is very pertinent considering the ‘popular’ notion among a section of the Nigerian elite that the conurbation of ethnic nationalities and the assemblage of often fractious religious identities in this country will forever be a factor for disunity. This is not without reason. In other words, perceptive observers of trends in Southern Kaduna would recall that for many decades, people in the area have lived in fear and mutual suspicion orchestrated by conflicts between those tagged as the indigenes who are largely farmers and those unfairly referred to as settlers who are predominantly pastoralists and traders. The area has been the epicentre of seemingly intractable violence involving Hausa/Fulanis on one hand and over fifty (50) ethnic groups which cut across some communities in Zangon Kataf, Kajuru and Jema'a Local Government Areas on the other.

It is against this backdrop that Council is especially pleased with the modest efforts of opinion leaders, youth leaders, religious leaders and traditional rulers, for their role in bringing together the feuding parties to the dialogue table through the formation of an 80-member Community Peace and Security Partnership (CPSP) in October 2020. Council wishes to appeal to the CPSP to sustain the consultations and consolidate on the fragile peace presently being enjoyed by the people by advancing a more potent narrative capable of countering all negativities.

Second, Council wishes to appreciate His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, on the patriotic steps and efforts he has been making since he assumed office in order to achieve lasting peace in Southern Kaduna. Of note in this direction is the establishment of a Mobile Police Base and a Military Base in Southern Kaduna to promptly arrest any conflict before it spirals out of control in the future.

Three, Council considers it an irony that despite his laudable efforts at promoting peace in Southern Kaduna, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has been at the receiving end of attacks and accusations that are, to put it mildly, unjust, uncharitable and malapropos. Relevant in this instance is the unwarranted allegation by the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) that the governor is the one fuelling the conflict in the area. Council is of the strong opinion that the NBA ought to have distanced itself from such spooky proclamations particularly when no evidence has been led to support the assertion. The decision to cancel the invitation initially extended to the governor of Kaduna state as one of the speakers in the Bar’s annual conference without the benefit of fair hearing was to say the least casuistic. Council therefore wishes to advise the NBA to be more circumspect and not rush into hasty decisions and conclusions in the future particularly on matters that border on justice and fair-play.

Fourthly, if the effort of the state governor and the people of Southern Kaduna must produce enduring peace, most of the Nigerian press must imbibe ethical standards that undergird the journalism profession. Such include objectivity, honesty and truthfulness in reportage of events particularly in conflict-settings and centres. Council hereby enjoins leaders and elders on both sides of the conflict to avoid statements and remarks that are capable of inflaming passion and putting the peace already achieved in the area into a peril.

In conclusion, Council hereby empathise, once again, with all those who have lost their loved ones and properties in the conflict in Southern Kaduna. It calls for more vigilance on the part of all stakeholders in the area such that any threat to peace may be detected early and a more harmonious society may be established. It also enjoins the Governor of Kaduna State to continue to do his utmost in rehabilitating the victims of the crisis.

Once again, Council wishes to commend the Premium Times for its robust and very objective report on the conflict. It also appeals to all parties to the conflict to resist the temptation to repel evil with evil (Quran 43: 14). If indeed it is true that, in line with Martin Luther King Jr. ‘hate cannot drive out hate; that only love can do that; and if it is true that to live in peace is an ideal that all religions and cultures cherish, then it is high time our compatriots in Southern Kaduna gave peace a chance. There is no theatre of war and violence where the ‘victor’ is equally not the victim.

Signed.

Prof. Salisu Shehu
Deputy Secretary-General