By BALLASON Gloria Mabeiam
Last week feedback of support from people around the world who were rooting for me in the case of Gloria Mabeiam Ballason V. The Governor of Kaduna State was displayed. I am glad to report back that on Monday 15th, 2017 a High Court sitting in Kaduna gave judgment in my favour declaring that I am entitled to my right to life, dignity, personal liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of movement.
The Court further reported that the open rebuke and threat issued to me by Governor Nasir El-rufai has left me apprehensive and in a state of fear and thus violated my right to personal dignity. It went further to state that the Governor’s threat that I will be arrested, prosecuted and jailed for my article in the Blueprint Newspaper on 28th November 2016 was a breach to my dignity, and right to freedom of expression. The court therefore restrained the Governor from causing my arrest, prosecution or detention and awarded damages in the sum of N50,000.00 (Fifty thousand naira)only against the Governor.
I like to thank sincerely everyone for their solidarity and encouragement during the pendency of this suit. Many have since asked for the article to be reproduced. Here it is.It was first published on this column on November 28th,2016. Thanks again everyone; I bless you all with every kindness!
Kaduna: When Government Kills.
History is replete with such stories; stories like the Laotian Civil War (1953–1975) where fellow nationals turned against themselves. The Laotian ‘Secret War’ war was fought between the Communist Pathet Lao and the Royal Lao Government. The kingdom of Laos was a covert theatre for belligerents during the Vietnam War. The actual fighting in Laos involved the North Vietnamese Army, U.S. Thai and South Vietnamese forces who were directly, and through irregular proxies, in a struggle for control over the Laotian Panhandle. The North Vietnamese Army occupied the area to use for its Ho Chi Minh Trail supply corridor and as staging area for offensives into South Vietnam.
The war was severally reported in press as the “Secret War” because details were largely unavailable due to official government denials that the war existed. It was characterized by political planning steeped in ignorance, deception, and arrogant self-interest; and by a disregard of the real problems and issues at hand. Unfortunately, the government’s dirty power play came at a huge cost: About 450,000 civilians in Laos, and 600,000 in Cambodia, lost their lives. There were over a million internally displaced persons and refugees while Laos laid in ruins by its own making. It goes down as one of the most shameful wars where a people turned the gun nozzle against themselves.
Time would not suffice to tell of the Taiping Rebellion of 1850, the Medieval War of the Roses or the ongoing Somalian war largely because these wars share the common denominator of the nadir of suffering a people may bring upon themselves and their long lasting effects but more especially because Kaduna State, is more relatable and should be more personal to us as a nation.
It is a state that is currently raking high casualty figures from the killings of Shiites in Zaria, attacks at Birnin Gwari and sporadic but sustained attacks in Southern Kaduna. On December, 12th, 2015 violent clash erupted between the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (also known as Shiites) and the Nigerian army. About 348 members of the sect were reported dead with scores injured when they allegedly attempted to attack the then Chief of Army Staff, Lt General Tukur Buratai. Sheik Ibrahim El-zakzaky was taken into ‘protective custody’ while the 348 dead members were buried in a mass grave.
A State judicial inquiry was set up which blamed the sect’s leader for not putting his members under control but indicted the government for army’s use of excessive force and failure to comply with the rules of engagement. The fine details of the report are yet to be complied with however, attacks against the sect have continued with over twenty additional members killed in October 2016. The Shiite murder has proved to be a persecution of sorts. The sect is perceived as unpopular in its belief system by the government and other adherents. Indeed, people who live in Zaria can testify to the lockdown in the area during the sect’s march as well as the long, arduous treks their believers make as expression of faith and observance of rites. The sect is also reported to forcefully take over worship centers, engage in acts reprehensible to public morality and their like.
Let us assume, without conceding, that the allegations leveled against the sect are credible. What ought to be the position of the law? First, it makes no sense to profile a people and label them collectively of crimes that are individually done save where the people act in concert for the final fruition of an action sanctioned by law.
The state through its law instrument need to pick out individuals found to be in violation of codified laws for sanction; unfortunately, this has not been the case. Sheik Elzakzaky has been detained. His right to freedom has been held in abeyance. Although his remand has been described as ‘protective’ his less than ideal state of health and the continuous attacks meted on his followers have raised curious questions while his adherents continue to tell all who care to listen that the State and Federal government are behind their woes.
A people need to trust their government. They need to feel safe under the canopy of constitutional rights and preserves. This is the challenge for the government and the Shiite; a challenge which both parties must surmount.
Then comes Birnin Gwari, an area of 6,185km located in Kaduna West with a population of about 252,363 people. The area is a savannah that distils into the Sahel in Zamfara and Katsina States but has painfully been overrun by armed bandits who rob, kidnap, rustle cattle and rape women. Few weeks ago, a woman travelling in a commercial vehicle watched as armed bandits raped her two young daughters. She became an emotional wreck. Commercial activities have been shut down in the area. The people live in palpable fear.
Saving the worst for the last, is the situation in Southern Kaduna. Since 2012, there have been systematic attacks on Kaura, Sanga, Zangon kataf, Kauru and now Jema’a local government. Over 5,000 people are dead, hundreds of houses were burnt down, children are forced to watch their parents being killed, villages are sacked of their owners and occupied by the marauders; whole populations of people are forced to abandon, in hours, communities their families had spent generations building.
Villages live in misery. Communities have become lands of despair as they are subdued by treachery and brutal violence. In Kaura, there are marked graves of mass burials and a special one where slain infants were poured. The people in these areas have become preys. The belligerent herdsmen have forced the conquered to make room for their conquerors, cattle are unleashed to eat up farm produce, vicious strangers take over communal lands. Clearly, the people have been singled out for destruction.
What is more intriguing about Southern Kaduna is that it is not a war; communities are attacked while asleep and run down by the assailants in a progressive pattern that leaves survivors wondering if the next day would bring death or deliverance. Too often, what they find is death.
The earlier allusion to the Laotian Civil war is not in vain. In Kaduna, the government has woefully failed in its foremost purpose and primary duty to ensure lives and property are preserved. It has not shown sufficient compassion to the cruelty that continually confronts the people thereby questioning the mandate of governance. The state boasts of a monthly security spending of 200million yet there is no correlation between what is spent and the security sought to be achieved. The assailants are therefore having a filled day while the psychological trauma of conflicts and insecurity fast spread.
Would to fairness that there can be an honest answer to whether the State and Federal government has done enough to keep Kaduna people safe; but the honest feedback stares us in the face: While over 26,000 security personnel,3 helicopters,12 Armoured Personnel Carriers, 20 gunboats, war horses and security dogs were deployed for Ondo elections to nib in the bud prospective violence; a 5-year progressive genocide has not received similar attention. Kaduna State Federal Legislative representatives have cried hoarse for government intervention to stop the massacres yet their pleas and prayers have fallen on deaf ears.
It is even more painful that rather than address the problem, reports that counter the reality of the massacres are sponsored and aired by people not unconnected to government. How dreadful! How inhuman!! to minimize the suffering of a people and to trivialize the blood that soak the ground.
This is a call to action. Fellow Nigerians from other states should amplify the sufferings of the Kaduna people because those being killed are not Tchadians, Ghanians or Mexicans but part of those who form the constitutional preamble termed ’We the people.’ As fellow countrymen, we must in exchange for our liberty, pay the price of eternal vigilance. We must demand accountability of how security votes are spent from government at federal and state levels for if such huge amounts are unquestionable; why would anyone be interested in stopping the reason why security nairas spin?