Southern Kaduna: Close the Inter-Subjective Space
It is bad enough that blood is, once again, being shed in Southern Kaduna, it is worse that, up to this moment, no sensitization programme is up running on the situation, involving credible traditional, religious and community leaders, leaders of leading conflict management NGOs, the security agents always implicated in most of the conflicts as well as selected political leaders across the northern region. A confidence building mechanism operating openly rather than through backdoor channels ought to be up running by now, interacting with the population, hearing their own views of the situation and, at the end of the day, be able to produce a strategic discourse of the situation developing in the region around which various stakeholders could then work.
There is no reason why a region with the concentration of retired Generals and senior military and para military personnel and other such layers of leadership as the north would not quickly utilise this approach to conflict management, if only to nip any and every insurgent temptations anywhere again in the region. For, the point is that violence in Southern Kaduna has gone beyond the question of whodunit. A whole set of narratives of agenda of Islamisation, Fulani agenda, domination, repression, inequality and emancipation have developed around it and around violence across the Benue Valley. It has gone beyond the elite and all those who read newspapers and solve their problems on the phone by recalling old school jokes, shared professional memories and around what Shakespeare said or didn’t say. Rather, it has gone to the churches, communal shrines and mosques, becoming rallying points for counter-mobilisation. It is thus now an emergency when added to herdsmen violence, the communal violence in and around Taraba State and related cases.
When further added to the Shiite conflict and the banditry around Zamfara, these conflicts distinguish insecurity in northern Nigeria from the conflict epidemic in other parts of the country not only in terms of the frequency and intensity but also because the north has been the hotbed of inter-communal and inter-group insurgency since the trend started with the outbreak of violence in Kasua Magani in the same Southern Kaduna in 1981. Ever since then, major northern cities such as Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Jos, Kafanchan, Zaria and recently Agatu, Wukari and Southern Kaduna have been persistent centres of very violent clashes along all manner of fault lines, involving the attendant loss in human lives.
Three reasons make this regional conflict profile worrisome. They reinforce the suspicion and bitterness that makes peace impossible, whether between and among the commoner fault lines of ethnicity and religion or between involved groups and the state. Two, they show a very sick society where conflict management is nearly non-existent. And three, they show to us an image of the future. In all cases, they produce a very bad copy for the region about which something drastic needs to be done.
This time, however, the notion of what can be considered as drastic needs to transcend the peace enforcement approach traditional to the state in conflict management. This is because human beings act in accordance with the beliefs and perception of reality they hold rather than of reality itself. As such, proof, evidence and the truth are all dependent on the dominant perception at work. That being the case, the challenge regarding the current atmosphere of anarchy in the region is about deconstructing and reconstructing the narratives around the specific conflicts. The conflict management track more suitable in dealing with the situation is, therefore, an urgent summit of leaders outside the state sector except police protection. That way, the summit will go beyond blame game, denials, refutations and proof of contending standpoints. Rather, it will seek to, inter-subjectively, arrive at the tension which these conflicts actually measure or which is connecting difference to volatility. It thus has to be a sensitisation agenda, not a back channel process or a question of reading backlog of White Papers.
Southern Kaduna is a symbolic as well as an empirical challenge, a test case for northern leadership to go beyond chauvinistic checkmate politics and ensure that northern Nigeria remains one, not for reasons of regional chauvinism but for the reason that northern Nigeria’s tendency, ethnic, religious and agricultural pluralism has a strategic essence for Nigeria’s democracy and national security. Political parties reflecting ideological pluralism in the north has been a major factor in securing Nigeria. There are, therefore, the historical, ideological and empirical reasons for reconciling the north and Southern Kaduna is the best test case.