Southern Kaduna killings: Nigerians are not happy with government —Reverend Para-Mallam

The killings in the southern part of Kaduna State have been raging for quite some time and appear to have defied solutions. In this interview by ISAAC SHOBAYO, a prominent religious leader and elder in Southern Kaduna, who stood surety for Dr Obadiah Mailafia, Reverend Gideon Para-Mallam, speaks about the killings and why insecurity in Southern Kaduna and other parts of the country has persisted.

 

Sir, the killings in Southern Kaduna have been on for some time now, as one of the elders from that area, what do you think should be done to end the killings?

Thank you very much. I interact quite a bit with some of the elders in Southern Kaduna. They are not happy; they are not happy about what is happening. They are disappointed and ashamed. I have reached out to some of the elders and know some of them are working very hard to find solution(s) to these sustained attacks and killings that are going on in Southern Kaduna. But what is unfortunate right now is that some of the elders are being faulted and blamed for the crisis, unfortunately, by the governor [Mallam Nasir el-Rufai] himself. This posturing is neither helpful nor healthy. If the governor has issues with Southern Kaduna elders, I think there are better ways to handle them than to discuss it on the pages of newspapers. I understand our governor wants peace and we all deserve peace for the people of Southern Kaduna State, but we can’t say we need peace at home and then be so antagonistic on the pages of newspapers. You can’t talk of peace at home and be talking war in the public or worse still, talk peace in public and be stoking war in secret. Right now, there are too many war drums being beaten when we should all be beating peace drums. There are too many disconnects going on when one looks closely at the unfortunate violence in Southern Kaduna right now. And this why I can tell you that the elders are working extremely hard and doing everything within their power to end these killings. But I also know that the governor wants the killings to end. I can tell you for sure that he does not want the killings to continue. However, sometimes I feel his utterances end up sending the wrong signal. I still think we need to give the governor a chance to prove his desire to finding lasting peace in Southern Kaduna. Sometimes people who talk war end up being the best peace advocates. For example, the SinnFein leader in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams, ended up embracing peace and has worked hard to keep it for his people.

Therefore, I would like to appeal to the elders of Southern Kaduna to still look out for ways to reach out to the governor so that we can build bridges of understanding. I will strongly encourage the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, to do same; he can and he is capable of initiating the right steps to build bridges with leaders of Southern Kaduna. The truth is this: people that are being killed are human beings created in the image of God. We should never allow our quarrel – whether it be it political or religious – to lead to the to the death of innocent people of Southern Kaduna.

The people of Southern Kaduna are working hard to ensure that they live in peace and it is disheartening that the National Council of Sharia in Nigeria in a public press conference on August 13 demanded that the likes of General Zamani Lekwot and seven of his brothers should be killed so that peace will return to Southern Kaduna. This is strange to me. What else is hate speech? Has anybody gone after them? A few days later, another Islamic group in Southern Kaduna addressed a press conference and offered a barefaced lie that they were the original owners of Southern Kaduna and the rest of us came from outside to settle there. This Islamic group took credit of the names of some of the villages because those villages bear Hausa names so automatically with this group’s logic the villages are owned by the Hausa or the Fulani. This is not a good sign; it is not a good omen and it is not healthy. Some of such talks only represent drums of war. It is not to our advantage or to anybody’s advantage. I will look to see what the government of Kaduna State or the federation will do. The government will have no moral right to challenge the ethnic nationalities of Southern Kaduna when they speak out strongly against such distortion of history in the 21st century. There are many Hausa-Fulani people who have migrated from the far North and settled in Southern Kaduna even in recent years. Would it be fair for their descendants later in the future to claim that they are the original owners of those lands? Such only breeds crises and the government should take note.

 

Do you subscribe to the notion in certain quarters, especially by the Special Task Force in charge of security in Southern Kaduna, that the unfortunate development is being fuelled by reprisals on both sides?

As one of those considered a religious and opinion leader and also an elder in Southern Kaduna, I would ask what kind of information do they have that led to that kind of conclusion? Additionally, I will also appeal to the STF to intentionally seek out opinion leaders in Southern Kaduna and say, ‘look, these are the kinds of intelligence reports we have’. The more we work together collaboratively, the nearer we may be to resolving this lingering crisis.

In suggesting the above, I am saying that engaging at the private and more confidential level might help to give us more results at the end of the day. But to just say the killings are a result of reprisals is difficult to understand for two reasons. Are we saying that because they are reprisals, therefore, such should be allowed to continue? Are reprisal killings justified? Actually, just what do you mean by ‘reprisals’? You have a situation where you have a disproportionately large causality figure we can’t ignore. Yes, I have read, heard and seen images of the Fulani that have been killed. It is wrong to kill Fulani; it is wrong to kill any Hausa. Nevertheless is it justified for the Fulani to come out with AK-47s and go to sleeping communities, villages and massacre several people? There is no logic except politics of death in the reprisal narrative. That is the contradiction that is Nigeria and, sadly, a clear failure of right-thinking within our leadership circles.

Take account between January and July, find out exactly how many indigenous people have been killed and how many Fulani have been killed. When you get the figures, you will agree with me that the argument of reprisal simply does not fly. I condemn the killings of innocent people, but I will never subscribe to all these theories of reprisals. That is the narrative from the Kaduna State government and from the Federal Government. I think it is unfortunate. This is why people see that the government is taking sides, sadly, at the state and federal levels. Governments are not always right. They are wrong in this case. I rather believe the government ought to be mobilising the people to sit at the round table for peace talks, find ways to coexist with one another, instead of providing explanations that overtly seem to support the killings.

 

Many people have attributed the cause of incessant killings in Southern Kaduna to land grabbing, do you subscribe to this claim? 

On the issue of land grabbing, particularly in Southern Kaduna, I put it this way, because I want to be honest with my conscience and delicate with my approach, I don’t want to be misquoted. But based on what I have seen on social media, the governor said to chiefs of Southern Kaduna and also to the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) leaders he met with on Monday that if there are particular lands that have been taken by those who have been behind the attacks – the Fulani herdsmen – his attention should be drawn to it with concrete names of the locations, etc., he will correct such. By my training as a clergyman, I want to take governor up on that declaration. I did challenge our people to respond with the names of such communities. I am so happy that the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) came out with a press statement on the 19th of August 2020 in which it specifically named 109 villages in Southern Kaduna. I applaud SOKAPU. I hope the governor will make true his promise to act on this, his reservations with SOKAPU leadership notwithstanding. This is not just about SOKAPU or the governor’s reservations. It is about justice for the victims of this violence – the innocent people of Southern Kaduna victims.

 

The Federal Government last week sent special forces to arrest the killings, do you think this approach is apt enough to address the situation?

They call them special forces, do I support it? Yes. There is no serious warfare that people get engaged in that does not require special forces. When America went into Iraq, some of the people that helped to prepare the ground before the arrival of the ground troops were special forces. Special forces have worked and still work in many places. If the activities of the special forces in partnership with STF will result in flushing out all these Fulani herdsmen that are attacking and killing innocent people, then by all means, we welcome them. The ultimate aim must be to stop the killings and help the people of Southern Kaduna find justice.

 

Are you satisfied with the security architecture of the country, especially the North-East, where Boko Haram and other elements are striving to overrun the region?

I am one of those that have argued significantly that it is not correct for the president to keep those service chiefs for as long as they have been kept. I have argued this as far back as 2017. Additionally, the security apparatus in this country at present does not favour Christians and I want to be quoted on that. I am tired and fed up with this government saying Christians are not being persecuted. Christians feel marginalised in many ways. Please, let that be an interview for another day.

 

How can the myriads of problems confronting the country be addressed when those who are summoning courage to speak out are being harassed by security agencies?

I think silence will kill this country; silence will also kill the government. Just because people are quiet does not mean they are submissive. That is why the DSS should spend their time telling the government the truth. I am afraid that is not happening. Perhaps, they are telling the president, but we are not seeing the results. Our security challenge says it all, whether retaining the current service chiefs is helpful or not. Are people happy in this country? I say no. There is a lot of anger. But then if you say people are happy, I can tell you without hesitation that Southern Kaduna people, particularly Christians, are not happy. There is need for the government at the federal and state levels in Kaduna to rethink and do what I call constructive inclusiveness in governance. Many people are feeling excluded. Am I suggesting that all should be government officials or on government payroll? No! But let people have a deep sense of inclusion. For Southern Kaduna, that is a missing element right now both at the federal and state. How can President Buhari, who has spent most of his life living in Kaduna State, treat Southern Kaduna people with such disdain? Do we have a single federal minister in his cabinet? Who is a top Southern Kaduna person today we can point to in Buhari’s government?

 

As a renowned clergyman, what is your position on CAMA?

Earlier, we had argued against it. On face value, it looks like when something goes wrong, government is free to intervene to straighten it out. Is the government of Nigeria a good example of what a good governance represents in the world? Look at NDDC, EFCC, some of the government-run parastatal agencies and institutions are very corrupt. What radical difference will they inject when their appointees take over some of the institutions in the name of CAMA?  There are many things wrong with way the government runs itself; so how will you say they would be able to correct the NGOs and churches? For example, there are ongoing accusations of nepotisms in many federal parastatal agencies which suggest that Muslims are dominating most of these federal agencies. CAMA could easily be seen as another ploy to take over and dominate. I hope I will be proved wrong. Nobody will oppose a government that is open and inclusive. It is very sad that one of the media aides to the president, one Lauretta Onochie, would condescendingly tell Bishop Oyedepo to go and create his own country, create his own laws and live there in reaction to Oyedepo’s  objection to CAMA. That is very unfortunate. A media aide saying to a highly respected religious leader in the country! Haba, Lauretta, all because of CAMA?

 

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