The goings-on in Southern Kaduna are as unpalatable as they are depressing. A reality that spurs different reactions to the crisis. Consequently, some opinions leaders would rather feign ignorance of the situation than cringe with trepidation under the weight of political correctness. For a very long time, the people have been suffering bloodbath of genocidal proportions in the hands of killer-herdsmen. Today, mass graves dot the landscape of the embattled area. There are multiple videos, pictures, media reports and internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to consolidate this assertion. At the dead of night and in broad daylight, sometimes, armed to the teeth with assault and support weapons they get from God-knows-where, the gun-toting Ghengis Khans prowl through villages leaving trails of sorrow, tears and blood in their wake. Men, women and children are shot sporadically, impaled without remorse and hacked to smithereens with the keen edge of daggers and machetes. Usually, the killer-herdsmen wreak havoc, displace villagers and occupy their ancestral homelands, a situation that reeks of their propensity for invasion and vandalism, these are armed ‘bandits’, foreigners, who had come from Mali, Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and so on, if the testimony of some people in government is anything to go by. Sadly, the precarious situation in Nigeria seems hopeless.
“The attacks are reprisals”, it is often said. This claim is suspect and the reason is simple. How come the aggressors who love to upload videos of themselves on social media flaunting their arsenal or destroying farmer’s livelihood don’t have videos of herdsmen that were slain by people of Southern Kaduna, to drive home their point, at least? Is it a conspiracy of sorts against the marauding herdsmen or a media blackout situation? Could the media, therefore, be complicit, reporting the carnage against one group and turning a blind eye on another? Others point out, bold-faced, that Southern Kaduna people don’t want other sub-groups to live in the area and that they are paying the price today for arbitrarily killing herdsmen in the 1980s.
On the flip side, in February, 2017, youths from Southern Kaduna went on rampage. They blocked a major road in the area, waylaid a bus, identified people they considered killer-herdsmen, circumvented legal and judicial processes and indulged in the summary execution of two people. The act was terrible and unacceptable. No amount of provocation could have justified the killing of innocent travelers because they looked like your attackers. It would only inflame the embers of violence endemic in the area. If the accusation that the people don’t want other groups in their midst has any element of truth to it, it is wrong, unconstitutional, unacceptable and in bad taste. Any Nigerian from Bebeji could reside in Kafanchan and vice-versa. If a Nigerian from Doguwa could aspire to a political office in Kaura, it ought to follow, logically, that another Nigerian from Kaura could also aspire to a political office in Doguwa. That way, the “one-Nigeria” mantra becomes sensible and its outcome feasible.
All men and women of goodwill across ethno-religious-leanings in Nigeria can attest to the truth that people of Southern Kaduna extraction have been suffering massive onslaughts in their locality from killer-herdsmen. The people are barely protected and the perpetuity of violence gives a colouration of hopelessness to the unfortunate situation. However, for a lasting solution to the hapless spate of violence in Southern Kaduna, the government should deploy troops to protect its citizens from killer-herdsmen which the same government had claimed were foreigners. The borders should be guarded against external invasion and the abuse of the nation’s territorial integrity by marauding elements responsible for wreaking havoc with impunity. The proliferation of light arms and small weapons in the country, especially Northern Nigeria, should be checked by the authorities and the people of Southern Kaduna should live in peace with their peaceful neighbours.
Jack Vincent Fidelis is a journalist, a poet and a humanitarian based in Maiduguri.