By Danjuma Musa
For those that continue to wonder why the Southern Kaduna crisis seems irresolvable, the simple reason is the hard-line of some tribal associations and their umbrella body, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), to the issue of Hausa/Fulani, though long settled in the region, are denied recognition as bona fide indigenes and often derogatorily referred to as “settlers”. That position is not likely to change soon, considering the hardening body language of the irredentist SOKAPU, which indicates that the only acceptable condition for peace in Southern Kaduna, agreeable to them, is the “immediate expulsion” of “settlers” like the Professor Kabir Matos’, and the Sanusi Maikudis’, either by extermination or threat of violence tactics obviously learnt from the Israeli that randomly expelled Palestinians as part of its scorched earth annexation policy. Jonathan Asake, the rabid President of SOKAPU, denied registration by Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) due to its divisive political activities, pointedly told Sanusi Maikudi on Channels Television “go back to your state”, a statement that bears testimony to the fact, that every other issue about the crisis, flows from or revolves around this fundamental issue.
SOKAPU, over the years, has succeeded through sustained campaign of half truths, outright lies and misinformation, in portraying the crisis as genocide and land grab by a rampaging militia allegedly backed by the state, even when no piece of land is occupied by local or foreign forces. It has surpassed Joseph Gooebbels, Hitler’s notorious propagandist, in notoriety, with the strategy that has perfectly enabled it to easily hoodwink the evangelical Christians that already believe in a Hausa/Fulani “Islamization” agenda. Cashing in on these strong religious/political sentiments, it has aggressively pushed several misleading narratives; portraying Christians as victims, a people that have been more sinned against, than have sinned, exaggerating skirmishes as atrocities, while bluntly refusing to admit heinous crimes perpetrated by the indigenous people against the so called “settlers”. But while the largely illiterate Hausa/Fulani lack the media manipulative skills of the more educated indigenous Christians, they always exact on their own terms their pound of flesh, which generates media attention due to the disproportionate proportions.
But like every lie, the one sided narrative by SOKAPU, that obviously finds the prospect of peace disturbing, was eternally vanquished by the August 22, 2020, peace agreement between the various communities – Atyap, Hausa and Fulani, in the Atyap Chiefdom. The first narrative, eloquently demolished by the good people of Atyap Chiefdom, is that land grab or occupation by local or foreign forces SOKAPU continues to shout wolf over is a blatant lie. The clincher was the repudiation of violence, and the admittance that the various communities engaged in killings, another fact SOKAPU stridently continues to deny, and more fundamentally, the acknowledgment by the Atyap of the inherent rights of the Hausa/Fulani to reside on Atyap land, with all the benefits, in line with the 1999 Constitution, as amended, to the embarrassment of SOKAPU that wants them out. The August 22, 2020, Agreement in every respect equates with the Good Friday Agreement that restored peace to Northern Ireland, if not far more significant in the sense that it liberated truth, long suffocated by the false narratives bandied over the years by SOKAPU.
Clearly, the main losers in the new peaceful Southern Kaduna, a rainbow region of the Atyap, the Hausa, the Fulani, Jaba, the Bajju, the Kagoma, etc, are not only SOKAPU and their co- travelers that share their “Southern Kaduna for only indigenous people” ideology, but their Abuja and Lagos based sponsors, who had subterraneanously cashed in on the exaggerated crisis to demonize El-Rufai, who they perceive as an obstacle to their ambition, the reason SOKAPU should make hay while the sun shines, because the transactional relationship sooner than later will come to an end. Thankfully, the march towards a peaceful new Southern Kaduna, going by the commitment to peaceful coexistence from Atyap Chiefdom in Zangon Kataf local government area to Zipak Chiefdom in Jema’a local government area, will not only deny oxygen to the well “organized opponents” of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state, who have used the “crisis” to thoroughly harass the governor, but will also raise the urgent question, of what next for his traducers?
It will be a delusion to conclude that those opposed to El-Rufai will suddenly go to sleep, believing that would be suicide, because the 2023 stakes remains very high, and El-Rufai, in spite of public pronouncements backing power shift to the South, is still considered an obstacle, a threat by the Bola Tinubu political group to the ambition of their mentor, whose presidential ambition is an open secret. The recent disinvite of El-Rufai by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as a speaker during its recently concluded conference was financially orchestrated by forces that saw the possibility of political mischief by “demarketing” him, so as to diminish his chance in whatever way 2023 plays out. El-Rufai’s opponents are expected to creatively continue to exploit every opportunity to “deal” with their nemesis, including the campaign to deny him visa to Britain. But if only they bothered to learn from their previous futile efforts, when they sponsored the likes of Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi to challenge his every programme, towards creating disaffection between him and the people of Kaduna state, as they plotted his defeat for the 2019 elections, which spectacularly failed, they would have changed strategy. The problem with El-Rufai’s political opponents is they constantly miscalculate and underrate his political skills.
Fighting for the “people” has huge material and political benefits, especially in Southern Kaduna where political belligerence is hugely rewarded and applauded. For instance, the main reason Architect Bala Bantex was rejected by his kit and kins, was his refusal to be antagonistic to El-Rufai and why Senator Danjuma La’ah, who has bluntly refused engaging with the Kaduna state government on matters of policy, and especially security, was rewarded with an undeserved second term, that was denied a more productive Esther Nnenadi Usman, whose only crime was being married to a Muslim. From 2015-2019 as deputy governor, Bantex only managed to “command” some respect from the zone, when he reportedly slapped El-Rufai, an incident which though never occurred, indicated the kind of tumultuous relationship that “his people” tragically expected of him, without thinking of the consequences, like impeachment or sidelining in governance. Moving forward, SOKAPU has done irreparable damage to the fortunes of the region with its message of hate and exclusion, but it can still redeem itself by jumping on the Peace train, failure to, guarantees it an ignoble place in history.
Postscript: Those who called General Chukwuemeka Okonkwo, the Commander of Operation Safe Haven Jos, overseeing peace operations in Southern Kaduna a liar and other unprintable names for telling the world that all the communities in Southern Kaduna are involved in killings, owe him an apology with the admittance by the various communities in Atyap Chiefdom that they have all killed.
Musa writes from Kaduna