THE reported bloodshed in Southern Kaduna over the last few weeks has been profound enough to break the sinews of the most heartless soul. Needless to say that such bloody siege in this ethnocultural bloc of Kaduna State has been a ubiquitous theme over the years.
Rather more melodramatic in this latest ethnoreligious conflagration, is the colouration of religious persecution and campaign of calumny as alleged by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Association of Imams in the State. That nonetheless, does not still desensitize the grim fact the brunt was largely borne by Christian dominated settlements.
President Buhari as well has come under severe criticism for his seeming apathy over what has been described as a meticulously perpetrated genocide. Social networks in their usually uncensored fashion, have been awash with the Kaduna tales of horror gravitating towards biblical prophecies and political ploys aimed at Islamizing Nigeria.
Even as a bystander, one is almost tempted to take sides considering the partisan cum inflammatory antecedent of such clashes in the past. For the sake of posterity and the dire need to stem the frequency at which such ritual rear its ugly head, it behooves our collective bunch to prod deeper into the institutional malaise behind the ethnic minority tension in Southern Kaduna.
Chronicling the history of what is today known as Kaduna State brings to mind, the old Zazzau Emirate Province.
The Muhammadan Hausa-Fulani group constitutes the major cultural segment and occupies the Northern part of the province. While the other ethnocultural bloc occupying the Southern half of the province was still punctuated by few Hausa walled villages and enclaves, it was often derogatorily described as being comprised of a pagan population. The imbalance in their demographic spread was further aggravated by the feudal system of political governance in the Emirate.
The Lord and vassal relationship, unfavorably skewed against the politically inferior ‘pagan population’ made them legitimate target for slave-raiding and exaction of tribute. The prejudice shown towards the Southern Kaduna made the pagan population particularly receptive to Christianity when it was introduced by early Missionaries.
With an entrenched socio-political and religious cleavage, the tone was set for ensuing frictions when the Kaje ethnic group protested over perceived discrimination by the Native Authority administration in 1948. Prequel to the 1976 Local Government Reforms, claims of deliberate marginalisation raised by frontliners from Southern Kaduna often fuelled resentment among locals. Hausa traders sparked a riot in 1980 after laying sudden claims to Adara land in Kasuwan Magan, Kajuru Local Government.
In 1986, power mongers blamed the Kurama for daring to oppose the candidature of a prominent Bakurmi Muslim who contested for the district headship of Lere District.
Attacks by the Muslim Students Society against students of the College of Education in 1987 elicited the widespread Kafanchan riots, leading to wanton destruction of lives and properties. The SUG election won by a Christian student at the Ahmadu Bello University in 1988 stirred reprisal attacks from some Muslim students, leading to ethnoreligious riots as well. The Kaduna House of Assembly in 2000, arbitrarily proceeded to debate the imposition of Sharia in Kaduna State which eventually led to large scale riots not only in Kaduna but also in several Northern States.
Space would really not permit an exhaustive citation of the litany of misundertanding that has engulfed this ethnoreligious fabric reminiscent of the defunct Yugoslavia.
So how effective has been the regulatory responses of the Government to the series of crisis in this region? In retrospect, one can say that the series of White Paper Reports submitted by committees set up to identify the immediate and remote causes of some of these crisis, have failed to correct the inherent anomalies among rival ethnic groups. Against this backdrop, the onus is on the Buhari-led government to explore new policy options that deviates from what was obtained in the past.
It is equally imperative for lawmakers in the State to work towards the creation of more local governments and chiefdoms in volatile areas occupied by both Hausa-Fulanis’ and other tribes.
With respect to helping the psyche of most Nigerians, President Buhari needs to be more proactive in his response to issues that reverberates on the consciousness of the average Nigerian. His seemingly lackadaisical reaction sent the wrong signals and has heightened public scepticism concerning his ethnoreligious insularity. Following the general elections in 2015, this writer argued that President Buhari ought to have embarked on a nation-wide tour with emphasis on those areas where he was less popular.
By so doing, he would have worked on the minds of those who were sorely aggrieved with the ouster of the PDP and ex-President Jonathan. Beyond appealing as a jamboree, it would have also doused the misgiving which eventually fuelled the renewed struggle for a sovereign State of Biafra and militancy in the Niger Delta.
Keeping over 250 nations in one enclave is as delicate as reading the white lines in a marble column.
By Kadiri Tolani.
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