Events in Southern Kaduna have been a cause for deep concern. There is ripple of discontent, with anger overwhelming the area. Trust between the Natives and the Hausa-Fulani has broken down completely. However, in the search for peace, the roots of the conflicts should not be ignored. A deep understanding of the sociology of the existing mutual distrust between the Natives and the Hausa-Fulani would have to be employed as yardstick to attaining genuine peace and harmony among the opposing inhabitants of the region. This toxic mix of factors is packed as historical, cultural, religious, and political.

Cities in Transition, an international organization, had in November 2013 converged in Kaduna for five days and deliberated on the persistent strife within the communities. The deliberations, according to the organizers, were aimed at creating a platform for reconciliation between communities that have suffered from conflicts and are divided along ethnic or religious lines, in order to create dynamics that serve as catalyst for change. They made copious recommendations and proposals for peace, but this did not yield the desired results.

It would also be recalled that following the mass killings of innocent people in four villages of Moro’a on March 14, 2014, the then Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, apparently disturbed by the development set up a committee to find lasting solution to the constant invasion of Southern Kaduna villages by suspected Fulani herdsmen. The reconciliation committee was headed by a Deputy Inspector General of Police, Michael Zuokumor. The meeting took place at the Gen. Hassan Usman Katsina House in Kaduna where a cease-fire arrangement was put in place.

But many, especially the Southern Kaduna people had reservations over the peace deal. And their reservations were confirmed when just a few months after the agreement; unknown gunmen impudently attacked a Police station at Fadan Karshi in Sanga Local Government Area, leaving six people dead. Similarly, barely 24 hours after an international conference organized by the office of the National Security Adviser, which also aimed at finding lasting solutions to the constant attack by suspected Fulani herdsmen, a couple was killed in their farm also in Fadan Karshi, while two villages were attacked, leaving many people dead.

The Zuokumor initiative in 2014 had resulted in a peace pact between the SOKAPU and the Moro’a Development Association on the one hand, and the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association; the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore; and the Mogbal Fulbe Development Association on the other. But the peace move hit a brick wall as the familiar path of bloodletting was once again taken.

Besides, in January, 2017 the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the crisis in Southern Kaduna, headed by Senator Kabiru Gaiya, was in Kaduna. As stated by Gaiya, the committee was set up by the Senate to “investigate and unravel remote and immediate causes of the frequent attacks as well as find solution to the crisis rocking the area.” Also, the National Peace Committee, chaired by former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, came to the state on the same mission. Abdulsalami noted that “only genuine reconciliation between the natives and Fulani would bring the crisis to an end.”

Equally, for three days, also in January, 2017, a team of the Nigerian Bar Association, (NBA), led by its President, Abubakar Mahmoud, was in Kaduna on a fact finding mission to identify the causes of the crisis and to ensure lasting peace. Mahmoud explained that from initial briefings the team had from experts who are familiar with the situation; his team learns that the escalation in the crisis in recent years had bred public mistrust, widespread anger and frustration in some of the communities. Similarly, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was in Kaduna in early March, 2017, and met with stakeholders in a move to put an end to the killings in Southern Kaduna. All these attempts at bringing lasting peace in the area was done through interacting with stakeholders, discussing with government, community leaders, security agencies and other relevant bodies.

Be that as it may, if the past peace initiatives done at a time the people of Southern Kaduna were less restive, the possibility of any peace process driven under the governorship tenure of el- Rufa’i will fall short. The people from this area are unanimous in their grievances against el-Rufa’i, who they see as ‘sinister.’ But, even as friendless as el-Rufa’i seems to the people of Southern Kaduna, nobody expect the kind of utterances that has come from him. Many wondered at the mindless killings of innocent people vis-à-vis his vituperations.

Curious things were to happen that lend credence to the allegation by Southern Kaduna people against Governor el-Rufa’i of having adopted an ethnocentric approach to their issue rather than the rule of law. That no one has been arrested for the killings is open to conjecture. But he has fouled the ground over the Southern Kaduna crisis, first by celebrating his ethnic link with the herdsmen, and then by pacifying those who publicly and violently advocated self-help.

Underlining this theory is the statement accredited to el-Rufa’i in the controversial media interview he granted a select group of Journalists which stirred up a hornet’s nest of bitter recrimination. The weird narrative that his government has traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of southern Kaduna natives as well as the destruction of their communities expectedly drew the ire of many.

This allusion by el-Rufa’i backfired and did more harm than good. The narrative, to a large extent, has altered the hitherto held perception of ‘indifference’ to that of ‘conspiracy’ against the Governor by the people from the region. The situation has taken a turn for the worse since then. It came at a time the gruesome murder of tens of people in Chawai communities was still fresh in the minds of the people. Also, it came at a time when many communities were under siege where many villagers fled the area. Even schools were not left. Students of the Kaduna State College of Education in Gidan-Waya faced threats to their lives that the school had to be hurriedly closed indefinitely. What this means is that el-Rufa’i’s claim to a solution is actually an exacerbation of the problem. According to Cardinal Onaiyekan, “if he said so, then the question is, so he knows them? You gave them money, they still went ahead to kill? Surely, he can trace them and this is no longer a situation where you stay in secrecy. Bring them out into the full view of the public.”

No doubt, the killings in Southern Kaduna existed before Mr. el- Rufa’i became governor; so he cannot be accused of causing it as some persons are implying. But, to a very large extent, he has aggravated the problem with his creepy attitude towards the crisis, and especially with some of his utterances. The governor’s nonsensical approach to conflict management has signposted the poor approach to the crisis. It was, therefore, amidst this extant tension that the governor went to Kafanchan on December 20, 2016 for a security meeting over the incessant killings. The people of the area gave vent to their anger through a protest by half clad women and the eventual stoning of the Governor’s convoy. Decrying the mindless killings of their brothers and sisters, they have labeled the Governor as malevolent.

However, the most dangerous development to this unfortunate situation is the ongoing clampdown on some Southern Kaduna people who the government claims are the brains behind some of the attacks in the area. Some of the people have been arrested, detained and arraigned before the court of law for ‘incitement’ and spreading false information. Dr. John Danfulani, a university lecturer; Nasiru Jagaba, a former employee of the state government; Also, the District Head of Goska alongside some of his subjects were last year arrested and detained for over a month. Likewise, the Vanguard newspaper Kaduna correspondent, Luka Biniyat, and Audu Maikori – a Lawyer – were separately arrested and charged to court for ‘incitement’ over unsubstantiated reports on the Southern Kaduna killings. With the jury still out on their cases, many are of the opinion that in the case of Mr. Binniyat, the media organization, in this case Vanguard, ought to have borne the brunt of prosecution over the report. For Mr. Maikori, he had retracted the said report and rendered an unreserved apology to both government and the general public.

The Governor was quoted as saying that a compiled list of those responsible for the crisis in Southern Kaduna has been made by his government and they “will be prosecuted.” Meanwhile, the Senator from the zone, Danjuma Laah’s home in Kaduna was penultimate week besieged by over 100 security operatives. Many have been arrested and are still under detention on such allegations. This particular kind of move by Mr. el-Rufa’i is rightly perceived by the people of southern Kaduna as ‘more combative than peaceable’. “We can no longer watch our people, who are the victims of genocidal attacks and ethnic cleansing, being arrested and labeled as the terrorists and attackers have their constitutional rights to freedom and other rights violated on the orders of the governor,” Barrister Reuben James stated.

It is, therefore, little wonder that the ace Vanguard columnist, Dele Sobowale, wrote that “in Kaduna the Chief Security Officer is the chief problem.” And realistic observers that are not given to sectional chauvinism noted that the government needs to be evenhanded. Bishop Joseph Bogobiri of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan has advised the government to be cautious in its utterances and actions so that a section of the state would not conclude that it hated them. He further advised that the government should always address its citizens in conciliatory and persuasive manners to give them a sense of belonging in state affairs.

Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, All Progressive Congress (APC) chieftain from Kaduna state says of el-Rufai: “His actions and utterances since becoming the Governor of the state had tended to suggest that he may not be in consonance with what it actually takes to be the governor of all the diverse ethnic, religious, and cultural groups co-existing in the state. He has been accused, rightly or wrongly, as an individual who appears to care only for the inhuman terrorists, the murderers, arsonists and pyromaniacs he unilaterally dresses up in the human garb of “Fulani herdsmen.”

Former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi said in an interview that: “Somehow, it is my opinion, based on what I hear and read that there is these believe that government has taken side. I do not believe that it is government’s intention to take side when its citizens are being maimed and killed but of course, you can also send a wrong signal. It may not be what you intent to do but the body language and what you say can always create an impression. I believe a lot of things have gone into the heart and minds of people to make them awkward. In this kind of situation, it is not to make matters worse, but to try to find a solution.”

If this is so, then the point made by Dr. Baba-Ahmed that “a major part of the problem sees him (el-Rufa’i) as the problem and the assertion by Sobowale that “el-Rufa’i is part of the problem and a major part of it,” is thus within the vicinity of validity. Meanwhile, it is clear that the authorities are trying to reassure the world that peace is coming back to Southern Kaduna. The General Officer Commanding (GOC), 1 Division Nigerian Army, Major Gen. Adeniyi Oyebade said the military had recovered arms and ammunition from Fulani herdsmen and their opponents as part of effort to end the crisis. “People are returning to their villages. However, it will take some time for them to calm down. They are repairing their burnt houses and also clearing their farmlands. We have assured them of maximum protection on their farms, and also the Fulani herdsmen when they need to lead their cows for grazing,” he said.

The temptation by the authorities to bear their weight in bringing about peace in Southern Kaduna is clear. But such a peace can only be for a time. Merely urging the people to embrace peace is far too weak an intervention. The normalcy that is said to return to the area is fragile, so to speak. For behind this façade of normalcy and the euphoria over a lull in attacks is the question of mutual suspicion and distrust, which is becoming deeper by the day. Also, the claims and counter claims will make it nearly impossible to have sustainable peace in Southern Kaduna in spite of efforts at reconciling the contending parties.

Moreover, the entire Christian community in Southern Kaduna has lost confidence – completely – in government as represented by el-Rufa’i; hence it is very likely that they will not respond to any invitation from a Governor, who is a Muslim and who is seen as a Muslim Fulani, and not as their Governor. The Kafanchan Peace Declaration stands as a case in point. The move was perhaps initiated in an apparent move to douse tension. Mr. el-Rufa’i had while launching the Public Apology Billboard said that, “We believe that genuine and sustainable peace will come when we accept that mistakes have been made on both sides. Accepting that mistakes have been made prepares the mind for an apology, and apologizing for our transgressions prepares the ground for genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. Today we are here to launch a Public Apology Billboard, as we grieve over the lives sadly taken in recent violence in the Godogodo Chiefdom. Now, 29 ethnic communities of Southern Kaduna present a Public Apology Billboard to us. These people represented their communities at the dialogues that resulted in the Kafanchan Peace Declaration. They were sent to represent their communities by their leaders. Wide consultations within the communities were carried out in selecting them”

The billboard is a sequel to the Kafanchan Peace Declaration said to be reached between the natives of southern Kaduna and the Hausa/Fulani communities, and contains inscriptions regretting the unfortunate incident that led to the killings that has been ongoing in the area. But the wordings of the billboard conversely turned out to be mere rhetoric and empty verbiage as the attacks in Chawai chiefdom happened barely 24 hours after the ceremony. Therefore, if the step was meant to assuage bitter feelings, the Chawai attack had actually inflamed such feelings. Today, that billboard has been completely defaced. Governor el-Rufa’i must invest more effort in winning the hearts and minds of the people from this region. But, Bishop Mathew Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto says, “the questions are whether the government has the disposition to dismantle, the structures of injustices or not.”

Respect for authority has plummeted. This was more graphically demonstrated in the attack on the Governor, on whose head is a pile of bulky hostility from a Christian community from many sources going as far back as a re-tweet some years back, which they believe insulted their faith. With such a scenario, can we say that the last of the crisis has been heard? The answer is a categorical no. An objective observer would say that “the old wound is still festering.” In other words, the authorities are doing their best but the present situation is only a state of negative peace; because from what has happened in the past, this kind of peace is called ‘peace of the graveyard’.

Written By: Ishaku Yohanna