SOKAPU as metaphor for Southern Kaduna crisis

Kaduna state and other North-west and central states like Katsina, Zamfara and Niger have progressively become a playground for terrorists, who strike with such unpredictability that makes anticipation a herculean task. The spatial nature of settlements of most Northern communities makes them easy targets of isolated attacks. Their plight is compounded by the rough terrain that makes access difficult for security agencies, that’s when by struck of luck they are able to reach the outside world, due to the embarrassing absence of communication networks, as the profit minded networks have refused to deploy base stations in such areas on the grounds that the returns are “not worth it”. 

This is the real time situation, from Zamfara to Gora in Southern Kaduna can best be described as a nightmare. So, the narrative by the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) leadership that the security agencies bluntly refused to lift a finger is false. 

But while banditry in Katsina, Niger, Zamfara states and the northern part of Kaduna state never assumed religious colouration, attacks in the southern part of the state are usually tagged genocidal jihad against Christians and a land grab, even when there is no evidence of any inch of land that has been occupied by the bandits or any Christian or atheist converted. The “interest” by mostly people from the South-west and South-east in the Southern Kaduna crisis and the lack of concern about the plight of the people of Giwa, Igabi and Birnin Gwari is incontrovertible evidence that “some lives matter more”, while those of the Hausa/Fulani do not matter. For opponents of Governor Nasir El-Rufai, the Southern Kaduna crisis is an opportunity to fight him. And by jove, they are! 

Everyday that bandits killed some people in Southern Kaduna, some people were equally killed in Giwa, Birnin Gwari, Igabi in the northern part of the state, and like Kurfi in Katsina state, in Zamfara and Jigawa states and it’s a shame that there is no “concern” about the  lives of “these other people”, compared to the noise by the likes of Femi Fani-Kayode, Chidi Odinkalu and Femi Falana, when it happens in Southern Kaduna and with magisterial authority, declare that the “Kaduna killings may lead to a national crisis”, because they are blatant hypocrites!

Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations, who with great optimism once described youths as “living architects of their own future”, certainly didn’t reckon with the average Southern Kaduna youth. Moon’s optimism follows  the exploits of youths in other countries who are standing up for worthy causes, like the “Black lives Matter” movement that has forced several conversations in America and in Europe about racism. Unfortunately, the average Southern Kaduna youth  represents no such optimism, nor inspiring hope for the future. In a world that has become a global village, they resent others that are different from them, they reject engagement, which makes the dream of communal cohesion in the area a mirage, and certainly worrying considering that  “terrorism has become a mode of armed conflict” that will persist as argued by Brian Michael Jenkins. 

In war, the first casualty is usually the truth. But whatever lingering doubt about who the aggressor or the motive(s) behind the attacks on some Southern Kaduna communities, the retaliatory attacks by the Fulani on some Atyab communities have largely confirmed the Atyab(Kataf) as the aggressors. Until June 11, 2020, skirmishes that led to the killing of a young Chawai man over a contentious parcel of land, the Atyab of Zangon Kataf local government area had enjoyed real peace, even when their neighbours had come under repeated retaliatory attacks, a fact ignored by Luka Binniyat, the so-called public relations officer of SOKAPU that Vanguard newspapers sacked for allegedly escalating the Southern Kaduna crisis through his false reports that led to the killing of innocent people in what has become a cycle of retaliatory killings. 

It’s a shame that some Southern Kaduna elite clearly feel no revulsion at having as their public face such a man who transformed a piece of Twitter fiction into news for a national newspaper. He invented names for the victims, assigned them places of origin and even admitted one of them to study mass communication in College of Education Kafanchan, so as to further his political agenda – the cleansing of the area of all Hausa/Fulani. It remains to be seen whether this peddler of amateur but deadly fiction will get his comeuppance by the time his trial is concluded  before the Kaduna state high court.

Binniyat allegation that “Fulani bandits are after land” and that some IDPs “recognised some of their attackers as their neighbours”, is not only a lie from the pit of hell that ordinarily shouldn’t be dignified, but a foundation for further mischief – continuation of the “forced expulsions” of those they refer to as “settlers”. At the heart of the persistent crisis is the unprovoked attack on their Hausa/Fulani neighbours, whenever the bandits strike, which is not the case in Birnin Gwari, Igabi and Giwa local government areas,the reason there has been no escalation of the crisis in that part of the state. 

The Southern Kaduna people must disabuse their mind of the conspiracy theories championed by the likes of Fani Kayode, and come to terms with the reality that the challenge confronting the entire country is sheer criminality. A fact buttressed by Senator Hassan Hadeja of Jigawa North East, while bemoaning the invasion of communities in Jigawa state by insurgents fleeing mounting pressure by security agencies across other northern states, just like in Southern and Northern Kaduna. 

 There have been several efforts by both the federal and state governments to enhance security in the area, but so long there are retaliations against the so called “settlers”, so long will the Southern Kaduna crisis continue to spril out of control. Binniyat, in his characteristic contempt for facts definitely has a job, so long as this crisis persists. Which is why he has remained unrepentant and continued on the lane of falsehood on behalf of his paymasters, in the hope that the political fortunes of El-Rufai would be adversely affected. We must be wary of activists who usually claim that the struggle is their life, because in truth the struggle is their meal ticket.

The painful truth is that the more the likes of Binniyat are shouting wolf, where there is none, the more the economic fortunes of Southern Kaduna would continue to suffer. Investors in the Kachia Ginger factory recently pulled out due to the negative image of the area. Equally affected by the crisis are the urban roads for the local government headquarters, as contractors have bluntly refused deploying men and material to an area that the likes of Binniyat have consistently painted as violent prone. 

Southern Kaduna elite must come to terms with the uncomfortable truth that Southern Kaduna, like South Africa, is a rainbow nation. And that reality can’t be wished away, nor can ethnic cleansing obliterate it.

Bala writes from Kaduna

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