By Sufuyan Ojeifo
“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and, therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne
Southern Kaduna is a microcosm of Nigeria. It is, by any stretch of the imagination, emblematic of our collectivity. The people, who are marooned in their troublous ancestral Kaduna locale share a common civilization with us who are, somewhat, liberated in the ambiance of the expansive Nigerian-nation. Therefore, the killings of southern Kaduna indigenes by Fulani herdsmen, for whatever reasons, are nothing but fatal assaults on the humanity in all of us.
The south of Kaduna has, historically, become a minefield of mindless genocide that has left the people immersed in eternal fear. Scores of indigenes have been killed by installments. Unfortunately, many more will, painfully, be victims of Fulani herdsmen’s fatal rampages as there are yet no verifiable foolproof measures in place to avert the incessant cold-blooded massacres that have been the tragic narrative of the hapless people.
One is continuously diminished by the killing of a man or woman, youth or child in southern Kaduna, an enclave that is predominantly occupied by Christian population. “One life taken in cold blood,” according to the late inimitable journalist, Dele Giwa, “is as gruesome as millions lost in a pogrom.” Every life wasted in southern Kaduna is humanity wasted; and, too many lives have been lost. Those alive are living on the tenterhooks; and, to live on the tenterhooks in one’s ancestral home is not the best way to live.
But that has, essentially, been the lot of the southern Kaduna people. Morbid fear has gripped the minds and defined the atmospherics of their homeland. Their sense of longing for and belonging to the homeland is violently attacked. Their foes have consistently taken advantage of their non-violent nature to inflict substantial damage on their lives, positions and livelihoods. There is understandable agony in the hearts of the people over brazen attempts by belligerent aliens to subjugate them in their land.
There is even a greater anguish over the seeming complicity of the state government in the unremitting spate of deadly attacks by the Fulani herdsmen. The governor of the state, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, has been blamed for waging an unrelenting media campaign against southern Kaduna people. He is said to have failed in his responsibility to maintain the peace and order in the area as the state’s chief security officer.
Fearless Catholic bishop of Kafanchan Diocese, Reverend Father Joseph Danlami Bagobiri was on point when, recently, he accused el-Rufai of taking sides with the armed herdsmen, thus failing in his responsibility as a true statesman; and becoming, therefore, a biased umpire who, according to the priest, “blames and criminalises southern Kaduna victims as the cause of the mayhem.”
Perhaps, if the governor had shown sincere empathy, he would have acted proactively to avert the latest attack of April 15, 2017 in Asso Village in Jema’a Local Government Area, in which no fewer than 13 people, including a parish priest, Reverend Father Alexander Yayock, were killed. He should have deployed the paraphernalia of security apparatuses and his security votes to mobilize thorough surveillance based on credible intelligence report of potential flashpoints.
Close watchers of developments in southern Kaduna are inclined to conclude that the state government may have decided, for reasons best known to it, not to care about the entire population facing real threat of annihilation. This must have, perhaps, prompted the alarm raised by the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Dr Samson Ayokunle, over the inability of the federal government to stop the killings in southern Kaduna.
All the attacks that have taken place in southern Kaduna have been executed with precision, leaving devastations in their trails. Both domestic and international observers have been shell-shocked at the persistent ease with which these harbingers of death stealthily make their ways into the communities and villages in southern Kaduna, unleash mayhem therein and egress to celebrate the slaughter of the so-called infidels.
Paradoxically, while the Fulani herdsmen and sympathisers of their religion loathe the infidels who populate southern Kaduna, they love their heritage, their grazing land, and would gleefully take their cattle through their farmlands to graze. They do not only graze, they also kill the owners of the land. And this destruction of fellow humans has been indulged by the Kaduna state government for too long.
To be sure, Ayokunle’s indictment of the federal government at a press conference held Friday, April 21, 2017 in Abuja ahead of the 104th annual session of the Nigerian Baptist Convention came on the heels of the launch of Harbin Kunama II (Scorpion Sting) at a forest between Kagoro and Kafanchan, southern part of Kaduna State by the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai.
The Operation which, according to the Army, would last for a month is aimed at addressing the issue of insecurity in southern part of Kaduna state and parts of Kano, Plateau and Bauchi states. Ayokunle must have, in the meantime, been circumspect about the sincerity and success of the operation.
The extent to which the operation will go to put a stop to the massacres in southern Kaduna is yet unknown, given its ad-hoc nature, which targets a one-month period. Fulani herdsmen should be credited with some strategic intelligence. They can suspend their surprise attacks for that long, wait for the military to pull out before launching fresh hostilities. The operation should be sustained until the chances of further attacks by the armed herdsmen are either rendered very slim or completely eliminated.
As the Army plans to lock down some forests of Kano, Plateau and Bauchi states in the operation, more attention should be paid to southern Kaduna given the peculiarity and the nature of the constant tragic attacks by armed herdsmen. The area should be the launch-pad to drive the operation to other identified states. And, as positive results are yielded, the operation may well renew the people’s hope and confidence in government’s ability to protect them.
Ojeifo writes from Abuja via [email protected]