Southern Kaduna is a boiling cauldron. This does not require the ideologues and strategists of the conflict parties there to say so before Nigeria knows this. Even the Federal Government of Nigeria is saying so in basically the same words, going by a statement this week on Southern Kaduna from The Presidency. That geographical space is in a state of reciprocal annihilation, a miniature clash of civilisations. And it has been like that since 1981. Conflict in Southern Kaduna is thus like no other in contemporary Nigeria, not even Niger Delta.
As bad as that is, there is the worse and disturbing dimension whereby a very risky development as the siege mentality that prevails in that axis has never been brought up in the public sphere as a national security risk in that categorical sense by the front line national institutions or caucuses that should be speaking about it. Let’s say the DSS and other intelligence agencies cannot be blamed because they only gather information for the political authority which can ‘read’ or misread them. What about the think tanks, the universities, people with moral authority and even the military?
Without the frontline national security institutions or the other actors such as the religious leaders in particular, acting as honest brokers, Nigeria has become a society which has no qualms budgeting huge amounts on deradicalising but is never alarmed by situations that have potentials to radicalize newer elements.
Without the aforementioned layers of actors making robust interventions, the very rudimentary principle of balancing the powers of conflict parties as a starting point in all cases of principled intervention has not been met. Yet, the major communities complaining of genocide has currently zero score on all the four forms of power in the current understanding of the concept. In other words, the “indigenous” elements have absolutely no advantage in whichever form of power, be it discursive, structural, institutional or coercive power. Empowerment of a fundamental degree should have been the first conflict management move by the Nigerian State ever since. Has the Nigerian State done that? It has not.
Instead of starting with that, the Kaduna State Government is embarking on another round of White Paper production. That could be the greatest move towards peace in the area just as it could also provoke something else. Anyone who claims to know what would be the outcome ahead of its production is doing nothing but trying to circulate power.
Whether the Kaduna State Government comes up with a balanced, progressive White Paper or not, it is something to worry about that a particular part of the country could be let to drown in a state of siege for 39 years. It is not about the power or victory of any of the conflict parties. It is about allowing a space for certain people to develop and internalize certain convictions which could translate to costly outcomes one way or the other at some point. In that sense, Southern Kaduna is not as straightforward as Niger Delta which is about environmental justice and where Umaru Yar’Adua was able to make a major statement in empowerment within his short time in power. It is with people like Umaru Yar’Adua that it could be said that religion and ethno-regionalism are not the contradictions but the quality of leadership and ideology of governance involved. And no better evidence exists for saying so than how the institutional mechanism for improving on the Yar’Adua Amnesty programme and healing the Niger Delta is what has become ATM for some few persons at the expense of the masses. This is interesting from a different angle: Obasanjo once saying the same thing about Boko Haram having become ATM.
At issue, therefore, is whether Nasir el-Rufai is heading the Umaru Yar’Adua way or embarking on an agenda he alone knows. In other words, can he deal with the situation which explains why banditry in Southern Kaduna is called genocide but called banditry in the nearby states?
As it is now, not even within Southern Kaduna do you get a same answer to the question and it shows in two views Intervention got on the issue, each taking different view of the question. View A which is a comment on the massive conference of the Atyap community on 1992 Zangon Katab violence has a more optimistic view of the White Paper approach while the other is the response of the writer to questions from Intervention. Though of different lengths, each of the two views speaks to its own paradigm of the crisis. They are arranged as View A & View B below, leaving the reader to make up his, her or their minds.
I had thought bringing all previous reconciliation efforts to the table was a fair way forward. There will be no need to reinvent the wheel on issues that have bi-partisan agreement while issues of contention can now be looked at as objectively as possible.
This wholesale rejection of the latest peace moves cannot be in the interest of peace. Peace negotiations demand a shift in entrenched positions. The price of refusal to budge is recipe for continuing developmental neglect of that whole area, despite its potential for rapid agro entrepreneurship
I had desired to respond earlier than this but I had to succumb to the tyranny of the urgent. I was working on a report I had to send out, which I successfully did at about 3:00pm yesterday and immediately hit the road for a family engagement in Kano.
To be sure, you want to understand the following about the violence in Southern Kaduna:
Perception that violence in Southern Kaduna is as a result of Fulani incursion i.e. genocide;
How the violence in Southern Kaduna differs from that of Birnin Gwari, Zamfara and Katsina States; and
How the violence in Southern Kaduna differs from that taking place in Taraba, Benue and Plateau states.
To start with, it will be reductionist and false to reduce the violence to Fulani incursion. To do so will be to ignore historical antecedents of the conflict and the role of Islam as the binding matrix of networks and hierarchies of power in Northern Nigeria. It is also to overlook the role Northern Muslim ruling elite played as marionettes of colonial rule and ultimate successors of the British as the dominant power elite at independence, notwithstanding the fact that they were the least committed to the idea of Nigeria. One would have thought that state power would have helped convert followers of hitherto African non-Abrahamic religions to Islam, but no; those peoples moved in the opposite direction. Our late friend, Toure’s work on inter ethnic relations in the Zangon Katab Area provides useful insights. Your kinsman and fellow BUKite, Moses Ochonu has been working on this issue as it relates to Northern Nigeria.
A principal way I think the Southern Kaduna violence differs from that of Taraba, Benue and Plateau States lies in the fact that state power is not determined and controlled by the Northern Muslim ruling elites in these states, therefore the agenda will appear to be one of changing the status quo by all available means; it is a trite saying among the power elite that “all means is fair in love and war”. A second dimension of the problem in these states is that of the struggle for state power between the non-Muslim majority ethnic groups. Something that leads to the building of all kinds of alliances and trade-offs. In the case of Southern Kaduna and Southern Borno (including non-Muslim communities of Yobe and Adamawa States), the non-Muslim peoples neither determine nor control state power. Hence the strategy of the Northern Muslim elite appears to be one of genocide, euphemistically described as population exchange in the early decades of the 20th Century. I am sure you remember the Armenian genocide, the first genocide of that century which Turkey still denies.
On difference in the violence in Birnin Gwari, Zamfara, Katsina, if I may add Sokoto, you have to factor in solid minerals. Those in the know say that what ends up in private hands from ‘prospecting’ activities surpasses what enters the national treasury every year. Hence the need to sack farming communities in these parts to make way for mineral ‘prospecting’. I am sure you know that there is what appears to be a legendary lack of commitment by the Nigerian State to regulate the mining sector. This factor is also present in Southern Kaduna but is not the most significant. In all of these, the Fulani provided the highest numbers of mercenaries. You may add Zachary Gundu’s perspective.
Above are dregs of my thoughts.