Southern Kaduna is a problem for everyone. It has assumed a problem which must be fixed before it mutates. It is problematic because it has thrown up complicated narratives embodying subject positions that speak to permanent conflict in the winner-loser binary all such narratives carry. In other words, unless Southern Kaduna is dealt with, there is so much at stake. Many suggestions have been made and some state and non-state actors must be working on the problem in their own ways. Still, the argument of this book and the key framework in conflict management it connects to makes it an indispensable, additional raw material for the Kaduna State governor’s engagement.
What is this book saying, what has that got to do with anyone called Kaldor and where does the Kaduna State governor come in? The book does not deny ethnicity and religion but puts ethno-religious violence to state power in the way they become the sparks for violence. That is not Kaduna State but the Nigerian State. It is the details the author has deployed to substantiate this argument since the mid 19th century that makes it intellectually stimulating as well as politically pragmatic. Published in 2003, it captures the inescapability of anyone from the tension of religious violence in and around Kaduna. At the same time, it stays close enough to be read in relation to current phase of violence in Southern Kaduna.
What do we mean by ethnicity? At what point is a conflict ethnic or religious? Is it the case that common language, territory, custom, culture and religion necessarily make people share a common ethnicity? If this is so, then how did it happen that the Hutus and Tutsis who share all these features engaged themselves so violently in Rwanda in 1994? What about the Somalis who are of one ethnic group? Without any linguistic, ethnic or religious differences, their own conflict assumed inter-clan contestation. In Bosnia, all the ethnic groups speak basically the same language and they had to look for a difference in religion because some are Christians and others are Muslims. Otherwise, Bosnia is an exemplar of multiculturalism in Europe – diverse identities cohabiting before the rage of the 1990s. So, he questions the ethnicity-conflict nexus when we do not broaden such connection.
In doing so, he reminds one of the instantaneous aspect one cannot deny him, him being a reference to Alhaji Sule Lamido, immediate past governor of Jigawa State. It was during the Obasanjo regime and there had just been one of the scorched earth violent conflicts in Kaduna. A few journalists found in him a government official to probe. But the first of the journalists to ask him made a ‘mistake’ in calling the violence ethno-religious, giving Lamido who was then the Minister of Foreign Affairs opportunity to cut him short to deliver a ‘lecture’ instead. I can still recall something like ‘You call it ethno-religious violence? If you are correct, then why was it not me and any other minister of Igbo or Yoruba origin leading their people to the violence? Why is it not the Emir of Kano and the Ooni of Ife leading the different ethnic groups? If it is a religious riot, how come no Imam is leading the Muslims and no pastor is leading the Christians to the clashing fronts? No Imam ever dies, no pastor is killed, no emir dies and there is no Oba or Obi seen in the fighting. And yet, you call it ethnic and religious violence’. There was a chill. Neither Toure nor Lamido is denying ethnicity or religion. The question is the point at which these become the spark for violence.
Typical of Historians, Toure, the ABU, Zaria Historian, goes into great details to answer this question in the case of Southern Kaduna by bringing into relief the tension, the contradictions and the dialectic that defined the dynamism of inter-group relations in the old Zaria Emirate and the way these tension and contradictions assumed ethnic and religious identities before, during and after colonial conquest. In some sense, one could read his data as saying that the British saved the situation because there would have been explosion in the relationship between the diametrically opposed economic, political and socio-cultural systems that have developed in northern and southern Kaduna. It is here he provides the first evidence of his thesis that peaceful coexistence or violence between the two entities is a matter of state power much less than ethno-religious identities. This is in the sense that southern Kaduna lost everything once the British that saved both sides from a plausible explosion superiorised one side over the other in the ‘indirect rule’ system they adopted. In other words, if the British had the time to care about the tension underlying the relationship of these entities, even if for the reason of good governance and did something about it, the situation would have been different today.
The second evidence he provides for his claim is how it was not until the ‘restructuring’ the military carried out in 1967 that the historical tension eased a bit in favour of the non-Muslim component of Zaria Emirate relative to the Muslim component within the context of the colonially structured hegemony of one over the other. What this means is that there is something serious when people say that the problem in much of Africa is that the indigenous elite inherited the colonial state without doing much work on it. Subsequently, the idea of the state became a burden. Most of the African states have not been able to absorb the outburst of accumulated resentment in the aftermath of formal colonialism. British colonialism, more than French colonialism, is most guilty of these.
In northern Nigeria, the Northern People’s Congress, (NPC) which inherited power was so insecure to even contemplate any counter-colonial management of differences or even pose it the way someone like Nyerere did or Nkrumah in Ghana to the extent that, till today, Ghanaian elite are not strange to national minimums, very much unlike their Nigerian counterparts. In the debate with Mallam Aminu Kano, the Sardauna, though acknowledging the imperative for change, argued that it must be gradual and done in line with the culture of the people. In spite of his own skillfulness in symbolic inclusiveness and spirit of merit, such an approach made issues of social justice, democratisation and peaceful co-existence dependent on power.
In the north where this power went along with control of the police, the court and the prison, the degree of physical and structural violence can only be imagined than mentioned. It would not have been different if the divergent ethno-religious groups in southern Kaduna were the one pushed to such historical advantage by the colonial order. It is probably the nature of human beings to oppress the next vulnerable groups or we wouldn’t be witnessing any such experiences in the non-emirate polities today.
The author provides a third point where power has complicated the ethno-religious divide in the manner that southern Kaduna refracts today. It is the January 1986 outbreak of discursive hostilities over Nigeria’s membership of the OIC, a debate which he insinuates to have provided the ground for some of what is happening in Nigeria today. Tragically, apart from the group of Muslim and Christian intellectuals at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria that rejected Nigeria’s membership of OIC in writing, no honest brokers came forward to calm the nation. Everyone took intemperate position. We were creating a problem and walking into it in the name of defending our religion. Today, the country is spending billions to fight insurgencies that claim religious identity.
Situated thus, Kaduna which he describes as “a beautiful rainbow of vibrant diversity, of pluralism and potential cosmopolitanism”, (p. 27) is now anything but vibrant. How can it be vibrant with Muslims living separately and Christians too. The vibrancy has evaporated with a series of what Mary Kaldor, London School of Economics scholar of Global Governance has called ‘New Wars’. She is referring to the kind of wars that characterised the post Cold War; that are not fought by people in uniform but by private securities, hooligans, insurgents and ethnic armies or guerillas. Nobody commands them in the sense in which we knew of established armies and the reasons for the wars are not about defence of the state but the creation of new ones from existing ones or the defence of one identity against the other. Kaldor’s focus must have made her give less attention to how the colonial state in Africa is, inherently, productive or reproductive of ‘New Wars’. Her counterpart, David Basil has got a very sharp and sensitive sense of this in his book, The Blackman’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation State.
The idea is that, as someone who sees and portrays himself as an outsider of the establishment in Nigerian politics, it should be interesting to see one or two steps in the direction of an honest broker on the part of Governor Nasir el-Rufai. Southern Kaduna gives him an opportunity to take such steps. That is not in the sense of doing Southern Kaduna a favour but using Southern Kaduna an experimental ground to not only validify his claims to exceptionalism but also to signal the possibility of a new wind of statecraft in Nigeria. In that way, he goes beyond the destructive instinct of demolishing old structures and, instead, takes up the more tedious construction of social justice to whoever deserves it.
Such can only be possible with a balance of a theory and its practice because it can be one thing to have the report of commissions of inquiries, probe reports and sundry documents and another to have a pragmatic framework by which to operationalise a turning point. The argument here is that, in this book, read intertextually, you have the empirical and the framework advantages that should enable you to escape the constraints of systemic and/or personal temptations.