The Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan has put the number of deaths to 808. In three local governments in Southern Kaduna, Fulani herdsmen who have become what the Federal Government of Nigeria continues to deny branding them – terrorists, have ruined lives, property, hopes and everything the people in these parts could lay claim to.
Although based in Lagos, Audu Maikori is a native of one of the towns that make up the Southern part of Kaduna and he knows firsthand how his people have been repeatedly maimed over the last four years without a decided intervention from any level of government. According to him, more than 4,000 people have been killed in this region in the last four years; yet the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari has opted for silence.
In this exclusive interview with YNaija, Audu Maikori sheds light on the extent of the loss in Southern Kaduna and proffers solution to this protracted evil that has besought the land:
It’s both ethnic and religious which means that there is also a political angle to it. In the past, the violence has been ignited by various factors from land matters, to election results to the imposition of Sharia law at a time but in my honest opinion the underlying reason is religious- because in the final analysis you will rarely hear of violence erupting within Southern Kaduna indigenes themselves or between tribes in the Northern part of Kaduna because they are from similar ethnic/religious backgrounds. I will give you a few examples:- Probably the most well-known incidences include the Zangon Kataf crisis in 1992, which erupted due to a disagreement over the siting of a market. The natives wanted the market at a particular place without the interference of the Hausa tribe who claimed to be settlers. The crisis in Zangon Kataf spread to other parts of the state and neighbouring states where places of worship were burnt, hundreds of lives lost and property worth millions of naira was destroyed.
In 2000, at least 2,000 people were killed in sectarian clashes, which were sparked by Christian protests against the proposed introduction of Sharia law in the state. The fallout of the clashes saw many Christians relocating from Northern part of Kaduna to the Southern part and vice versa- so Kaduna a once peaceful and cosmopolitan settlement of Nigerians from all tribes soon became very polarized along religious and ethnic lines.
In 2011, there were post-election attacks on Southern Kaduna and other Christians in Zaria, Kaduna, Zonkwa and Kafanchan, following incendiary comments and incitement by political party leaders as the result of the loss of the CPC candidate Muhammed Buhari ( now President Buhari) during the 2011 presidential election. This crisis started in Zaria and Kaduna, where hundreds of churches and houses were burnt, the Kafanchan market was burnt, pastors and other innocent persons were killed, injured and rendered homeless. In Kafanchan, the Christians in retaliation also burnt mosques and also killed Hausa- Fulani Muslims.
What have successive governments done to halt the violence?
I am not in a position to tell you categorically what the other governments did in the past but what I can say is that in my opinion those efforts were all short term, we need a long-term approach to solving the problems of the state as it would seem that previous governments just take a reactionary position instead of a proactive one.
Is the current governor, Nasir El-Rufai doing anything to stop the killings? Is he doing enough?
The governor has taken some steps to arrest the situation and we are informed that an additional deployment of two security posts in the region were approved a few days ago which is a step in the right direction. But as I stated, the actions we see are always reactionary instead of it being anticipatory. Take the issue of the most recent attack in Goska village, the villagers had already alerted the authorities that there were rumours of an impending attack on the village and a 6am – 6pm curfew was imposed in Kafanchan and two other local governments. In spite of the curfew and deployment of security operatives around those areas, these Fulani herdsmen successfully attacked the Goska Village at around 7pm (while the curfew was in full force) and successfully killed dozens of people including children, razed down cars, houses, and property and they all got away with it! One of the most painful stories in that of a friend of mine Barrister Gideon Morik. Mr. Morik had come home with his whole family to spend Christmas, instead his first daughter a 14-year-old girl was murdered in cold blood that night –again while a curfew and security operatives were stationed around the village. What is astounding is that not one of the herdsmen were caught, detained or killed and reports reaching us indicate that the policemen that were there actually were scared of going into the village to arrest the situation and only did so 3 hours after the attacks – around 9.30pm!
So yes the governor is taking action but the action is not enough! The Federal Government should collaborate with the state government to arrest this brand of terrorism. Till date, no herdsman has been successfully prosecuted. In spite of the killing hundreds of people not one conviction has been publicly recorded! Why the will the people not suspect some sort of connivance between the security forces and the terrorists? The need for results is urgent so its serves as a clear deterrent.
And the president, has he taken steps to intervene?
The President has done nothing to directly intervene. What we understand is that the additional two security posts were a result of the solicitation by the governor requesting for more resources which was granted. However, the fact that the President has not deemed the death of over 800 Nigerians important enough to send a message, pay a personal visit or publicly condemn the actions of the Fulani terrorists, shows what value he places on the lives of the citizens he leads. Our belief is that if the President had directly addressed this matter, even the security forces would sit up, the people will be reassured that the matter was being handled and would even demonstrate the stance of this government against such acts of criminality. Instead, the Presidential spokesman stated that the President doesn’t have to respond to “every” situation. In other words, the death of people in Kaduna is a state matter and isn’t important enough for him to address directly. This is shocking seeing as Mr. President is quick to commiserate with other countries when even 50 people are killed in a club but doesn’t think that the death of Barrister Moriks daughter or that of hundreds of others in those communities are worthy of his commiseration(s). Mr. President’s conduct in this matter has been disappointing to say the least.
Where do you see this going if the government doesn’t act now?
It will be more chaos and though we have condoned some of these atrocities in the past without retaliating, we will no longer do so. We will actively protect and defend our communities. Constitutionally, the primary purpose of government is the provision of security and welfare of the people- when the government fails to do so, they not only fail in their key function but also leave the people with no alternative but to resort to self-help. Sadly, Nigerians have to provide almost everything themselves- their own food, their own electricity, their own security, jobs etc- which makes you wonder what then the government actually does sometimes. But if this matter is not arrested, it will be cruel to ask the people to sit own and fold their arms and wait for the next round of killings. The most basic human instinct is self-preservation and survival and we will not hesitate to defend ourselves by any means necessary.
In situations like this, what do you expect from the state government? What steps should be taken in the immediate and long-term?
I had written an article earlier that states my views about this but for brevity let me state my thoughts as follows:-
1. Secure the region and install permanent vigils in and around the area.
2. Get the security forces trained and properly equipped to enable them actually arrest any unrest
3. Speed up the prosecution of arrested suspects, the minute a suspect is prosecuted and jailed it will send a strong signal to others.
4. The tone of the Governor/Government has to change from shifting responsibility to past governments to shouldering the responsibility for the security of lives and property now. The language should be conciliatory and not defensive. We need peace and the government is the only neutral arbiter that can broker that but the way this is communicated will determine how soon the crises can be ameliorated.
5. Dialogue- broker a peace treaty with both sides and not only one side. The admission of payment of compensation to the herdsmen shows partiality and a lack of fairness in the government’s approach in resolving the crises.
6. Compensation and welfare – somewhere out there, there are children -boys and girls who have been orphaned, who have no homes to go to, no clothes, no hope for the future who need to be rehabilitated and counseled, because the after effects of the attacks will be felt long after the crises is over- how do we ensure we don’t have psychologically scarred young men and women in the future? How do we stall further retaliation from these communities? How to rebuild schools, hospitals, homes, egos, of the victims?
Things have degenerated drastically as regards insecurity in Kaduna – who do we hold responsible?
Everyone has a part to play but when the issue of security is raised the primary party is the government and like I stated earlier – security is the MAIN or PRIMARY objective of government. Since the situation in Kaduna is not new, why can’t the government deploy resources to ensure a lasting solution to the problem? In this particular case, the Fulani herdsmen should be contained in their own part of the state and if indeed it is true what the Governor said about them being foreigners- then they should be deported! This matter is critical and while others are blaming politicians and parties as being behind some of these skirmishes, we have real human beings being maimed and killed every day, this must stop! Fulani herdsmen have killed another 1,024 people in Benue in 2016 alone! So we all need to play our respective roles but with clear guidance and support of the government.
If we’re holding Governor el-Rufai or even President Buhari responsible, what about the role of community leaders and other thought leaders like you?
To be clear, my people never stated that they hold either PMB/el-Rufai directly responsible for the crises, rather we stated that there is the need for them to do much more to arrest the situation and do so urgently. But to your question like I stated earlier, everyone has a role to play but let me state that this situation is not a case of two warring communities- it’s the case of a bunch of well-armed marauders invading communities that have existed for thousands of years and trying to claim land that doesn’t belong to them (clearly and as admitted by the Government itself) so what do you do as a leaders of the affected community? You can only advise caution, and encourage the people to be vigilant and to protect themselves the best way they can and ensure cooperation with the government. However this situation is a bit different, you see it’s similar to a man who has built a house and put a fence around the house and is then constantly attacked by armed robbers who take away stuff from his house. The question is what more can the house owner do beyond building the fence? If the attacks continue unabated in spite of you notifying the police, you are left with three alternatives relocate from the house, buy a gun and defend yourself and family or three, die. The question then is which would you choose?
The people of Southern Kaduna are a peace loving people who are battling to keep the lands of their ancestors free of encroachment by marauding foreigners. They have always complied with government directives and will continue to do so until it becomes clear that they cannot get justice that way.
When/how do you see this ending?
I don’t know, but what is clear is that this time we will not watch while a generation is wiped out, we are ready to defend our land and our people. It will end when all parties realize and respect the constitutional rights of the other and respect the tenets of peace and humanity.