Photograph — Kaduna South Government

The year 2017 brings with it bittersweet memories of ethnoreligious bloodshed for many inhabitants of Southern Kaduna, for as the world celebrated a new year, the people there counted their losses while concerned groups and individuals took to social media to vent their frustration.

The national media, many believe, have decided to be mute about the plight of the citizens living in the southern part of Kaduna state, Nigeria, and the major question is “why?”

The Nigerian senate has even been accused of complicity in this “conspiracy of silence” after a citizen called out the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, on Twitter saying, “@Bukolasaraki About 800 Christians massacred in Kaduna and nobody is talking about that. Very bad.”

Responding, Saraki said: “Once @Ngrsenate resumes, this issue will be addressed to get a clearer picture of what the real situation is and find a lasting solution.”

Late last year, Catholic Church leaders disclosed the figures that highlighted the extent of clashes over land, believed to perpetrated by nomadic herdsmen.

“In the last weeks and months, we have become victims of systematic attacks orchestrated by another version of Boko Haram, who also go by the name ‘Fulani Herdsmen’,” the leaders said.

The worst hit Local Government Areas were said to be Jema’a, Kaura, Kauru and Sanga.

It is a dire situation as the threat of violence escalating is real and one can draw parallels between what is happening in Southern Kaduna and the riots that brought Jos, Plateau State to its knees – which started off as a religious crisis before involving ethnic groups – it’s a wonder why both the state government as well as the presidency have remained quiet.

Chaos and the Calm

Kaduna State is fast becoming a theatre for poor administration in trying to handle citizens of different cultural beliefs.

In 2,000, Kaduna made headlines when the state government proposed introducing Sharia law, sparking violent protests between Christians and Muslims that left over 2,000 dead. The result of the violence, resulted in a state bitterly divided along sectarian lines.

In 2002, the flames of violence were lit again in response to Nigeria hosting the Miss World contest for that year; the situation reached a fever-pitch when a newspaper article suggested that Islam’s founding Prophet Mohammed would have approved of the planned pageant. The “Miss World Riots” as they were come to be known left no fewer than 250 people dead and nearly 30,000 fled the city.

As a result of this violence, the then Kaduna State Governor, Ahmed Makarfi instituted several reforms known as the Kaduna compromise, which has provided a model for other Nigerian states.

Subsequently, the Sharia criminal code was applied only to Muslims, and a three-way court system of secular, traditional, and Islamic courts offers judicial redress on the religious scale. In addition, religious and traditional leaders still have considerable influence in the community and often assist in mediation efforts.

Under Sharia law, alcohol consumption is punishable by flogging, stealing attracts amputation of limbs, while adulterers can be stoned to death. With its introduction, it was obvious it would create trouble in Kaduna whose population, is almost half Muslim and half non-Muslim.

Kaduna North + North-South = Nigeria, or so

The demographics of Kaduna reflect the broader picture in Nigeria. Modern day Nigeria is the product of “amalgamation” of the North made up of a majority Muslim population and a majority Christian South under one administrative area and the state has been strategic to national interests for many reasons.

Its capital, Kaduna city came into existence as the first planned city in Nigeria and regional capital of the defunct region of Northern Nigeria. Zaria, an hour thirty minutes away from the capital, boasts what is easily the intellectual capital of Northern Nigeria with an array of military training institutions, research institutes, a polytechnic, a College of Education and the Ahmadu Bello University.

In the realm of military training institutions and facilities, Kaduna state occupies a very strategic position. The four major garrison towns of Kaduna, Zaria, Jaji and Kachia play host to the following military formations.

Back to Southern Kaduna

It seems like, in Nigeria, there is a continuous culture to ignore issues between warring parties and whenever security forces are sent to settle the aggrieved, there is also a blind eye to stories of abuses.

The Northeast insurgency was ignored in its earliest stages as a domestic squabble, the agitation in the East is just agitation, the activities by rebels in the South-South are based on people not getting their share of the “national cake” and ethnic groups seeking state status are just noisemakers – till it becomes an international headline.

Leaders and journalists alike here wait for the Western media to cover the stories and then we express our dismay and disappointment.

When Nasir el-Rufai, was elected as the governor of Kaduna state, calm was restored to Southern Kaduna. No more killings, no more destruction of properties. The peace was attributed to a committee chaired by Gen Martin Luther Agwai (Retired) as the violence was blamed on cattle herders from Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal.

However, the peace enjoyed was short-lived.

Reports started coming out Fulani herdsmen reinvading the area, leaving scores dead and leaving destruction in their wake. Yes, the governor made a few visits in the past to assess the situation but nothing concrete has been done.

The nature of the conflict in Southern Kaduna has metamorphosed from ethic to ethnoreligious and now it’s the battle is over land and grazing area for cattle.

El-rufai’s responses have been less than inspiring.

His proposed Kaduna state religious bill is set to increase tensions rather help to promote tolerance; the recent proclamation of Shi’ites as an insurgency group and giving amnesty to Fulani herdsmen who have been accused of being the major attackers in the latest spate of killings, really questions his administration pledge to building a Kaduna State for everyone.

The crisis in Southern Kaduna has already launched a tirade between the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Catholic Church and the Federal government of Nigeria and no one is keeping their hands clean. “Shut up if you have nothing to say,” the Kaduna chapter of CAN responded to the Minister of Interior, Abdulrahman Dambazau’s earlier statement on the matter.

Regarding the silence on killings in Southern Kaduna, the media has a stronger role to play in getting beyond the sensational headlines and policy “big talk” by policy makers. Fake news and the excitement to “break the news” especially via social media shouldn’t undermine efforts to hold governments accountable especially in one like ours in Nigeria that preaches a democracy.

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