Southern Kaduna killings: The albatross of a nation

August 12, 2020

Muhammad Sabiu writes on the escalating killings in Southern Kaduna and the unresolved issues dating back to 40 years ago.

At a prime time on a television programme on Wednesday, cerebral economist and columnist, Dr Obadiah  Mailafia,  effortless fought back tears as he gave a gripping account of the ongoing act of bestiality and cruelty in the southern part of Kaduna State.  Tried as much as he could, the former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and presidential candidate in the 2019 elections betrayed emotions over the savagery that has left many killed, others displaced and communities razed or deserted. That is the gory tale of the people of southern Kaduna that has consistently witnessed an orgy of violence for months now.

According to reports, the murder of Musa Magaji by alleged Fulani gunmen on June 11, 2020 in Zango Kataf sparked the recent crisis in Southern Kaduna. Since the murder of Magaji, peace has eluded the area, as the warring groups have continued to accuse each other of complicity. Indeed, from the recent attacks, more than 200 lives were lost on both sides. While the Hausa /Fulani claimed that more than 100 people were killed, others also claimed that the same number of their people were killed.

But the recent killings, which started in Zango Kataf have now spread to other three local government areas. Today, Zango Kataf, Kauru, Kaura and Kajuru LGAs were all under 24 hours’ curfew. The curfew, it was learnt, was imposed to curtail the further spread of the crisis to other local council areas of the state.

Background to the crisis 

Southern Kaduna was once a peaceful area, where all the ethnic nationalities: Kaje, Kataf, Ikulu, Jaba, Kaningko, Nizam, Hausa, Fulani, Adara Gbagi, and so on lived as one happy family. It is an area that has a unique culture, the Nok culture, and many other historical events brought people from far and near to participate in, especially in such festivals like the famous Ham Annual Festival. Significantly too, the diversity of the people of Southern Kaduna, then made the area once a tourist haven. The famous Kagoro hills attracted a huge number of visitors. Similarly, the annual Hauwan Daushe hosted by the Jema’a Emirate attracted many people to Kafanchan to watch horses dressed in colourful attires entertaining guests and tourists. It was usually a delight to watch.  Apart from that, the Southern Kaduna zone is also rich in commerce and trading. During the Trans-Sahara Trade period, people came as far as North Africa to buy ‘katanbiri’, a mineral resource found in the present Zango Kataf. Findings also revealed that there were inter marriages among the different ethnic groups dating back to hundreds of years ago. This was the type of life people in the area lived until the 1981 Kasuwar Magani sectarian crisis which planted the seed of hatred among the people. Since then, peace has apparently eluded the area.

A political pundit, Ahmad Mohammed, stated that the Kasuwar Magani crisis triggered issues like the indigenes/settler dichotomy, religious bigotry and distrust among the inhabitants of the area. The Zango Kataf crisis of February and May of 1992, which started over an attempt to relocate the market gave birth to other issues like land seizure, creation of chiefdoms, self-determination, politics, serial killings, among others. The other issues included the individual role of traditional rulers, government, the elite, religious bodies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Land issue 

The issue of land soon throw spanner into the works. One account has it that the uprooting and final seizure of farmlands belonging to the Hausa community by the Kataf in 1992 reportedly snowballed into killings and the destruction of property in Zango. Dahiru Shuaib, an official of Zango Urban Development Association (ZUMUDA) recalled the unfortunate incident and said that the crisis was uncalled for. His words: “There was no need for the wanton killings. It was a senseless crisis.” He recalled that the 1995 peace parley meant to heal the wounds was initiated by the then military administrator, Colonel Ja›afar Isa.  “Everything the Kataf asked for they were given. They asked for a chiefdom and they were given. They requested for the release of their people arrested, they were released,” Shuaib stated.

The government then created the Zango Urban district. And 28 years after, the peace parley paved the way for the return of some of the people to their areas. Today, steadily, many of them are in Zango carrying out their legitimate businesses. But there are allegations that the promise made by the Kataf to return their lands to them is yet to be fulfilled.

But the secretary of the Atyap Development Association, Sule Bodom debunked claims that the Atyap still occupied the farmlands of the Hausa, as the then paramour ruler had directed all those who were still in possession of such farms to graciously return them to the Hausa community. The secretary also claimed that the idea of a buffer zone was muted by one of the commissions of inquiry set up by the government in the past. The zone, if fully established, was designed to be the boundary between the Hausa and the other ethnic group.

In addition, a native of Kagoro, who pleaded anonymity agreed that land remained the major issue behind the Southern Kaduna crisis since time immemorial. He said that as a child, he knew that the Fulani had been grazing in various communities, stating that his grandfather, who was a traditional ruler, gave a vast land to the Fulani to stay and graze. However, he lamented that some of them soon involved their children in rearing cattle while their parents stayed behind with their wives. “Eventually, their children grazed on people›s farmlands and destroyed their farm produces. At the end of the day, a fight would ensue between the Fulani boys and the farmers. Everyone, who grew at the palace can tell you that this has been the major issue. Till date, the situation has not changed,” Kagoro said.

However, he observed that what started as a farmer /Fulani clash, later became a community issue, alleging that: “The Hausa later came in; other local tribes came in, as well as tribal associations and religious groups.”

Indigene/settler dichotomy 

Many stakeholders are particularly worried about how such tendencies like the indigene/settler dichotomy have aggravated the crisis in the Southern Kaduna. One of such major stakeholders seriously bordered by the trend is a renowned journalist, Mr Tajudeen Ajibade, who though affirmed that every society was a mixture of indigenes and migrants, and often, migrants develop the society. In southern Kaduna, according to him, apart from those called indigenes, the Hausa/Fulani too have a long history in the area.  He said: “There is an Emirate in Kafanchan, which shows that the Hausa or the Fulani have been there several years. How do we now destroy this history?” Apart from that, he said in Kachia and Kajuru, there is equally a large concentration of the Hausa and the Fulani in those areas.

However, a native of Zango, Samuel Peters contended that the Hausa came and met them in Zango. He argued that they came from somewhere and settled in the area. “They have a different language, culture and way of life different from us. We see them as strangers,” he declared.

However, Shuaibu argued that the issue of saying they were settlers was not even the problem to the Hausa community of Zango. According to him, several literatures and documents have identified how their town came into being; who are the original inhabitants? “Our great grandparents founded Zango over 350 years ago. Go and check; we did not write it. It might interest you to know too that the Zango Kataf they are claiming today emanated from the word ‹Zango Katanbiri.’  From there, they manipulated the word to ‹Zango Katab.› Again, they manipulated it to Zango Kataf. . Now, they said the Hausa man doesn›t know how to pronounce these words and  they now called themselves ‹ Atyap.› Asked them the names of their villages whether it is in Atyap or Hausa. The names are all in Hausa. We have names like Rogo, Unguwar Wakili, Magatan Kura, Gidan Zaki, Magamiya, Kigudu, Unguwar Babaro etc. It is now they are changing the names to their dialect  like Takanaye, Mayubiyi, Mabuhu, Gora Gan, etc. He said that the concern of his people was to be free from Atyap control: “We want our own autonomy, if you like, our own chiefdom.”

Killings must stop 

Who are the killers? Are they the Hausa or the Fulani. Or the Atyap or Kaje? The inability of the sides to accept the fact that both are guilty of the killings and that the trend must stop tend to aggravate the crisis. Speaking on the killings, the Commander of Operation Safe Haven, Major General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, blamed the killings on the activities of criminal elements on both sides. He said the incident was not ethnic cleansing as it had been speculated in certain quarters. He said: “What we had were attacks on some communities and reprisal attacks.” He also accused the media of one sided reports. “You have Kataf youths, Fulani militias and criminal elements on both sides. Some people are also leveraging on the security situation to perpetuate their criminal activities, aside communities involved in the crisis,’’ Okonkwo added.

Politics as an albatross 

Since the Second Republic when the crisis in Kasuwar Magani erupted, the warring groups have always belonged to different political camps. Ajibade observed that the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) was the most popular party among  the Southern Zaria (Southern Kaduna). While the state chairman of the party then was Isiah Balat, the secretary was Ali Madaki, all from Southern Kaduna. Ajibade  also remarked that trend of such political affiliation subsisted in the area under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). According to him, this has always affected the relationship between the ethnic nationalities thereby widening inter-ethnic animosity. “Politicians are, unfortunately, capitalising on this factor to divide the people in the area; if you like, call it a political albatross,” Ajibade said.

Religious factor 

Like in politics, religion too is being used by some leaders to divide the people. Findings revealed that a typical Southern Kaduna man believed that the only acceptable religion in the area is Christianity. According to Pastor Yohanna Buru, such thinking has not help matters as it has created a big gulf among the various ethnic nationalities of diverse religions. Baru, an indigene of Southern Kaduna, noted that apart from Christianity and Islam, atheists are in a great number in the area. But, he argued they did not have a say like the other two religions. “Every man should be allowed to practice his faith the way he understands it. To deny a man the rights of worship neglects the constitutional provision of freedom of religion,” Pastor Buru said. He noted the crisis was often due to religious intolerance, stressing that: “We must live as one because God created us for a purpose.” Baru also observed that the practice of establishing mosques or churches to where only the majority of the people resideed should be discouraged, even as he urged religious leaders to always preach love and peace among their congregation.

Government factor 

Many stakeholders believe that the government at various levels over the years are culpable for the festering crisis in Southern Kaduna. One of the reasons they adduce for indicting the authorities is their inertia over the reports/recommendations of the commissions and panels set up to find an enduring solution to the conflict in the area. This is in spite of the consistent out cry and demand that those recommendations could calm frayed nerves and restore normalcy to the area.  It was in this regard that Ibrahim Adamu, one of the Fulani leaders, blamed the crisis on the failure of past governments to bring the sponsors and perpetrators of the conflicts to book. He said that until there was justice against such dastardly act, people could continue to take laws into their hands. So, Adamu said that he backed the move by the state government to produce a white paper on the past and present crisis. He also supported the establishment of a military battalion in Kafanchan and a mobile police squadron in Southern Kaduna. All these are part of the measures designed to complement the setting up of a peace commission. But findings showered that a lack of funds was hindering the progress of the commission. A recent data obtained by our correspondent revealed that when the commission was established, it has a budget of N130million but in the following year,  it was reduced to N90 million, and for the current year, was further cut down to N30 million. This, many observers said, would affect the activities of the commission, especially now that its services were needed.

Quest for dialogue 

Disturbed by the sustained violence in the Southern Kaduna, however, the chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the 19 northern states and Abuja, Reverend Yakubu Pam, visited Kaduna last week to engage with critical stakeholders as well as government on the need to have peace and end the carnage.  He expressed the serious concern of Christian leaders on the situation and cautioned against utterances capable of escalating the crisis. He said that the leaders should be able to speak to the authorities in the language they would understand and advise appropriately.

On the other hand, he said, he told  Governor Nasir  El-Rufai to put more effort in solving the age-long crisis, seek the deployment of more troops to Southern Kaduna and send relief materials to IDPs camps.  As a religious leader in northern Nigeria and lover of peace, he said his concern was about how to ensure peace in the state. The CAN leader admitted that Southern Kaduna had a long history of violence, lamenting that the crisis was painting the state in bad light.

“I made a pledge before the governor that we would not leave him alone but rather we would come in to help him in resolving the crisis in the area.

“I told him about the planned peace dialogue that we want to organise for the people of Southern Kaduna. We want people themselves to talk and come out with solutions on how they will live in peace. At the end of the day, whatever outcome, I want the government to write a white a paper that will be acceptable to all,” Pam said.

Traditional rulers 

Often, according to sources, some traditional rulers do not help matters. Kagoro shed light on their role a few of them play in the hide and seek among the people. He said: “I have stayed in the palace and saw what these rulers do.” Another dangerous dimension is the alleged involvement of natives in grazing, as many of the traditional rulers allow the natives to raise cattle. “How do they get the cattle? We are accusing the Fulani of destroying our farms; now, it is the natives that are grazing. So the rulers have to caution their people over this because some people might accused them of igniting crisis in future.

From the look of things, the agenda for peace in southern Kaduna has been set. Will the various ongoing efforts to tame the 40-year crisis lead to the much-desired peace and tranquility? Only time will tell.


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