BY Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri
The celebrations of this year’s feast of the Resurrection of our Lord is coming at a time that Christians in southern Kaduna and in many parts of the Middle Belt region of Northern Nigeria have passed through lots of persecution that had left many of our members dead and properties including homes, churches, shops, schools etc were destroyed. The message we wish to send out is that of encouragement to all victims to be strong and not be fainthearted. Despite the ordeals suffered in the past year, we must remain steadfast in our faith in Christ. Our situation is like that of the early disciples of Christ whose mood following the suffering and death of Jesus on the Cross was one of sadness and seeming disappointment. But with the joyful news of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday, such sadness gave way to a joyful celebration. In the same manner too, our faith in the resurrection of Christ, and the resurrection of those who suffered and died believing in him should also enkindle us with joy. The joy of the resurrection revolutionized the lives of the early disciples of Christ. It transformed them from despondency because of the Good Friday dramatic events to people who exuded enthusiastic joy because Christ is Risen. It changed them from being a cowardly, fainthearted and timid people to being a courageous, forceful and mission driven band of witnesses who were able to turn Jerusalem upside down with teaching on Jesus’ resurrection.
Southern Kaduna has for so long now been under siege by terrorists who are confirmed to be Fulani Herdsmen that are often well armed with sophisticated weapons. The attacks have been unrelenting, bloody, unprovoked, unwarranted and indeed unjustified on innocent and vulnerable peasant communities of our environment. As a result of this hundreds of people have been killed as statistics show below, several communities burnt and the inhabitants internally displaced and in many cases, the remaining houses not burnt have been vandalised and stripped of roofs, windows and doors to discourage them from returning back to their homes. We wish to commend all people of good will who have stood in solidarity with the southern Kaduna people by their condemnation of these forms of unjustified aggression against a defenseless people. We are also grateful to all those who have given support to the victims through their prayers and material support in view of the very little attention received from Government at both the State and Federal levels or their agencies. The impact of the relevant agencies responsible for relieve services such as NEMA and SEMA have been minimal. And because of Government’s bias towards the people, there is no plan for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of the ruined environment as is the case with the North Eastern region of Nigeria, including parts of Plateau and Kano States. It our considered position that if Government had wielded into this matter with sincerity and seriousness, in the way she responded to the menace of cattle rustling in Zamfara State and Birnin Gwari area in Kaduna State, things would not have gotten to the messy state they are today. The federal government exhibited a spirit of nonchalance until recently when the Vice President made some pronouncements, warning that decisive action must be taken so that the crisis will not consume all of us in the nation. The attitude of the state government has been marred by lots of complicity and bias which exacerbated rather than ameliorate tensions. The Governor in most cases seemed to have abdicated his responsibility of being Governor to all us, and instead gave in to the luxury of waging an unrelenting media campaign against Southern Kaduna people.
He unabashedly takes sides with the armed herdsmen (His kinsmen) thereby failing in his responsibility as a true statesman, becoming therefore a biased umpire who blames and criminalizes Southern Kaduna victims as the cause of the mayhem. The Governor has made several efforts in the media to discredit figures of casualties that were arrived at through painstaking research, and is known for trying to change the true narrative by presenting the victims as the villain and the aggressors as the prey. The Governor has the penchance of using state apparatus to insult, denigrate, intimidate, arrest and put in prison all voices of reason from Southern Kaduna who dare to challenge his handling of this crisis. Among those that have fallen victims of his tyranny are: traditional rulers, journalists, youths, political leaders, academicians, while threatening our lawyers and other leaders (Religious and Unions) with arrest for daring to speak out against the genocide.
The primary responsibility of government as enshrined in the constitution is the protection of life and property of citizens irrespective of ethnic and/or religious persuasion. Any breach of this fundamental principle of social contract contravenes the very reason for which Government exist for. Unfortunately, our government both at the Federal and State levels have failed woefully in this regard because of their inability to rise above ethnic and religious bias. If anything, government has shown outright partisanship in favor of the herdsmen to the disappointment of the majority Southern Kaduna indigenes and Christians. Because of Government’s inability to serve as an un-biased umpire in the face of these crises, we are sometimes tempted to belief that there is a well planned Jihad against the people of Southern Kaduna, and Christians generally in Northern Nigeria as this is amply demonstrated by the incessant attacks and atrocities committed against the aborigines of the Middle Belt region in Northern Nigeria. The sole aim of these attacks is to conquer our people and occupy their lush lands and turning same into grazing fields for the marauding nomads. The Governor of Kaduna State is pursuing this detestable policy by his plan to forcefully take over lands in Southern Kaduna and turn same lands into Grazing Reserves and Routes for his kinsmen. To show Government’s insensitivity on this volatile matter, there are ongoing expansionist plans to annex more land to the already existing grazing reserves at Ladduga in Ikulu Chiefdom of Zangon Kataf Local Government area and transmute that locality from being a district into an eimirate.
The killings continue unabatedly in fields and bushes, thereby preventing farmers from visiting and cultivating their lands. And this is negatively or adversely affecting the economic life of the people. All this is happening today as the Military and other security forces mount road blocks in towns and major roads while bushes remain un-safe for farming. In the Godogodo and Pasakori attacks in Jemaá Local government area for example, the military merely watched and supervised the killings and burning of homes on the pretext that their mandate did not include fighting the herdsmen. When the youth mobilized themselves to repel the attackers, the soldiers deliberately blocked them from entering the town. The herdsmen and their collaborators turned the towns into killing fields and killed mostly women, children and the elderly who couldn’t run for cover. The level of barbarity was such that pregnant women got their wombs blown out and massacred before their children. And these innocent children were not spared either. This level of viciousness was never witnessed even in the brutal tyranny and regime of Adolf Hitler. What is most intriguing is the level of sophistication of weapons; Ak 47, Machine Guns and many other deadly instruments of death are being freely used by the Herdsmen, leaving wondering how these weapons got to their hands.
EL-RUFAI AND THE PROMOTION OF THE PHILOSPHY OF UN-FORGIVENESS
The Governor has described the Fulanis as a vindictive and un-forgiven people who never forget any ill treatment meted to them. This may simply be the projection of the Governor’s own mindset to an entire people. Our experience living with Fulanis for decades does not prove this. The indigenous communities of Southern Kaduna have been living peacefully with the Fulani herdsmen who came to join them as neighbors until the architects of the view that the average Fulani man is vindictive and un-forgiving came into power. The mayhem and killing with impunity in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt region and beyond by the Fulani Herdsmen, using sophisticated weapons is a recent development fueled by this kind of philosophy. To present any person or group of persons as revengeful and to go ahead to support and sponsor a praxis of retaliation as we are witnessing in Kaduna State today, is not only a detestable behavior but an evil mentality that will not engender social cohesion and harmonious coexistence in a plural and heterogeneous setting such as ours. The natives and herdsmen of Southern Kaduna have always had their differences as is common in herdsmen and farmers relationship everywhere in the world. These differences sometime end up in clashes and skirmishes resulting from invasion of each other spaces, but such differences have assumed an un-precedent height under the current government with the use of very sophisticated weapons of destruction. What we are witnessing in Kaduna state is not the so called un-forgiving spirit of the Fulani people towards others, but the transfer of a hate mentality from a handful of people in leadership within the State to an entire ethnic group, with disastrous consequences. All humans are created by God with rationality and the milk of human kindness in their hearts. This often shows itself in love expressed in mercy, compassion and forgiveness. No rational human person is created without the disposition to overlook some offences committed against him or her. It is those with dead consciences that refuse to shw compassion and forgive. A world that does not forgive is doom to fail. An eye for an eye philosophy renders the whole world blind it is said. Describing an entire people as un-forgiven is not a plus but a minus for such people. If the Fulanis stop the aggression in Southern Kaduna today, there will be peace in the environment and the entire State. The non retaliation of Christians to great abuses and violations of their human rights is termed as weakness, which is not correct. Christians refusal to go offensive, but are defensive some of the time when their lives are under serious threat, is in line with the tenets of their faith that prohibits killings and worst still, killings carried out in the name of God. God has put the feeling of mercy and compassion in each of us regardless of our ethnicity and religious affiliations. If the Southern Kaduna had been trouble shooting people, they too would have established militia groups as the Jihadist are doing, and go on rampage in dormains other than their own. But alas this is not what is happening. They do not for instance go to Zaria to cause trouble there, however militia groups outside the Southern Kaduna environment come to Kafanchan and its environs and attack innocent and vulnerable people with sophisticated weapons with a view to taking over their land. The natives of the land are being attacked in their sleep and sometimes in their places of worship right in the land that divine providence has given as their own. And even at that, they are told not to defend themselves in the face of aggression.
The earlier we rediscover this truth of conscience (that all rational beings are imbued with a spirit of mercy and compassion) and begin to live this truth to the full, the better for our Society. Therefore the promotion of the philosophy that any offence committed is like a debt that must be avenged for either now or in the future is not only false and un-wholesome but it is the figment and projection of the personal idiosyncrasies of a few but powerful people. This mindset if not checked and corrected has the potential to erode the fabric of any social organization.
GOVERNMENT SHOULD STOP IMPUNITY IN SOUTHERN KADUNA
The killings with impunity in Southern Kaduna must not be allowed to continue. And Government in the State has a special and irreplaceable role in bringing this scourge to an end. The current Government in the State must follow the example of past Governments by initiating measures that would unify rather than divide the people of the State on ethnic and religious lines as this Government has been doing since its inception. We have had our challenges on harmonious coexistence in the past. But past Governments demonstrated statesmanship in Governance by bringing stake holders across board, to parley on how to resolve our differences. The current administration in the State seems to dread this kind of interface which had proven to be effective in the past. Government must change its attitude from alignment with people of one ethno-religious group in the State, she must resist the temptation of acting as the mouthpiece of one group against others and begin to display true statesmanship in seeing and treating the entire state as its constituency. The current Government got it all wrong right from the beginning when it openly stated that she will treat the citizens of the State not on the merits of their being Kaduna state indigenes but on the basis of who voted and who did not vote for the party that won the election. This is a wrong premise to operate under a democracy such as ours, which promotes and respects diversity particularly on political matters. We cannot all become members of one Party in Kaduna state. It is unfortunate that this kind of segregational mindset seems to be teleguiding government’s policies, utterances, appointments, and the distribution of infrastructure for development and social initiatives. This Government has taken discrimination on religious and ethnic lines to a height that has never been witnessed in the history of Kaduna. Today we are left with a situation where there is much concentration of development in the North and Central Senatorial districts to the utter neglect of the Southern Senatorial District which is predominantly Christian. The Northern part of the State monopolizes the Executive, the legislative, the Judiciary and occupies all slots of federal appointments such as the ministerial and those of parastatals. This disgusting mentality of premeditated discrimination and marginalization is shown by the lopsidedness in both political appointments, locations of infrastructural facilities, and worst still the delineations of political constituencies and polling units which institutionalizes rigging at source. While the Hausa/Fulani dorminated areas in Kaduna State have cornered over 48 Federal Institutions to their dormain, southern Kaduna can hardly boast of one of such institutions in her domain. Instead of the current government to work towards redressing this disturbing, inhuman and unjust imbalance, she is rather rather shamelessly contemplating the removal of the Kaduna State University (KASU) Campus and the College of Education (COE) from Southern Kaduna to his Fulani dorminated space. What a shame and a slap to justice, fairness and objectivity in dealing with people.
Government must watch her utterances and actions especially on the following areas: Her handling of the indigeneship question which deprives the citizens of the State rights to occupy some offices within the State, because these have been given to non-State indigenes and yet the Governor makes no effort in finding placements for Southern Kaduna people in places like Katsina and Sokoto States forinstance, to justify his negation of the Constitutional principle of indigeneship; the concentration of key political appointments in the hands of people of one religion; the use of provocative and denigrating language on the issue of the population of Christians and Muslims in Kaduna State; the deliberate attempt to silence any voice of reason that is at variance with that of Government; the abuse of the instruments of governance in the wrongful detention and imprisonment of people Government feels un-comfortable with; the arrogance of showing “we know it all” which disallows wide consultation before embarking on major policy decisions like the feeding programme in primary Schools ( a misplacement of priority), which has become an avenue for corruption and siphoning of public funds; and several un-guarded utterances on thorny issues affecting the lives of millions in the State, which are a clear manifestation of the Governor’s insensitivity to concerns and plights of many in the State.
MANAGING KADUNA STATE AS THE PERSONAL ESTATE OF EL RUFAI
In all these we have watched with pains and patience for about two years now how Government in the State is being managed as a personal estate in a way that excludes many stake holders from the State. We want to state emphatically that Kaduna State is for all of us, regardless of political, ethnic and religious affiliations. Therefore, the Governor should stop running it as his personal establishment. Kaduna State is the only State that we can call our own. And because Kaduna State is our State, we are contributing significantly for its progress not only on the Spiritual level, but also our works in the areas of education, medi-care, social upliftment and building of capacities of the people cannot be ignored. Government must recognize us as equal stake holders in the management and running of the affairs of the State. We do not accept being treated as aliens or reduced to playing the second fiddle position in the only State we can call our State.
Those that divine providence have enstrusted with the chilling responsibility of governing the State politically must govern justly and in a manner that includes not one that excludes other segments of the State. We therefore ask for Good Governance in Kaduna State that will include the following:
1. That those who take up the mantle of leadership will see the whole state as their Constituency and so should devout themselves conscientiously to ensure Justice and fairness for all irrespective of Religious, ethnic and political considerations.
2. That they will work hard to ensure equitable distribution of political offices among adherents of the two main religions in the State.
3. That they will see to it that in the application and use of resources that had accrued to the State and the siting or locating of developmental projects and services for the improvement of the quality of life of the people, that due regard is given to the North/South divide in the State and that no part of the State is placed in a disadvantaged position.
4. That the delineation of constituencies and siting of polling units which was arbitrarily and fraudulently carried out in the past to ensure rigging from the source in favour of one section and religion in Kaduna State must be revisited and corrected using both the geographical and numeric data that were ignored when the current policy was foisted on the people.
- We also demand that giving the destruction that has taken place in Southern Kaduna in terms of loss of lives and properties, that the policy of reconstruction and rehabilitation undertaken by the Federal Government in respect of the North East and some parts of Plateau and Kano State must be extended to Southern Kaduna not as a concession but an entitlement. We asked that a bill for this be presented at both State and National Legislative assemblies.
6. That they will see to it that the success achieved so far in the promotion of a culture of Religious and ethnic harmony in the State by the Makarfi and other past administrations in the State are not only sustained but further built upon and strengthen.
THE SPADE OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN NORTHERN NIGERIA
Christians in Northern Nigeria and especially in Southern Kaduna today, have in the past seven years been facing some of the worst persecutions ever experienced in the world as a result of their faith. The persecution of Christians in Northern Nigeria is so severe that within 10 years (2006-2014), according to the report of a research carried out by the Open Doors Ministry on the impact of persecution and violence on the Church in Northern Nigeria reveals that: 12,000 Christians were killed, 1,3m displaced and 13,000 churches were either destroyed or abandoned (Anne Mulder report).
So we can safely surmise that we have been programmed to be annihilated because we don’t share the same cultural, religious and political convictions as obtainable in the entire North West, North East and North Central Geo-political zones of the Country. These systematic attacks have political and economic undertones. They are aimed at intimidating the populance and weakening their political and economic engagements thereby heightening their level of poverty.
In Southern Kaduna, which is also within the Northern geographic area (where Kafanchan diocese is located), the persecution, killings and destruction of the Church is not only phenomenal but unprecedented. There are mass graves littered in different places within the region that include: Katsak around Gidan waya and Godogodo in Jemaá Local Government Area; Fadan Karshi axis in Sanga Local Government; Moroa Chiefdom in Kaura local Government area; Zonkwa axis in Zangon Kataf Local government area etc. Between 2014 – 2017 current records show that well over 1,000 people have been killed in more than 4 Local Government Areas mainly by Fulani Herdsmen in Southern Kaduna. These sporadic attacks occurred in about 56 villages/Communities. These sporadic assaults left several people injured and some are maimed for life. The number of houses destroyed are over 1,500 and not less than twenty churches were destroyed and properties worth N5billion are lost which include houses, shops, schools, food stores/barns, farmlands and vehicles etc… For the avoidance of doubt, even as we speak now, some Christian communities in the Pasakori area are worshipping under trees, because their places of worship were destroyed by the Herdsmen. These casualties resulting mainly from the attacks of Fulani Herdsmen who constitute the forth deadliest terrorist organization in the world today, qualify Southern Kaduna to enlisted in the Federal Government programme of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation of our ruined environment.
DISCRIMINATION AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN NORTHERN NIGERIA IS A STRUCTURAL AND INSTITUTIONALIZED MATTER.
Discrimination against Christianity in favour of Islam is a matter of everyday experience for those who live in the Northern part of Nigeria. It is not an isolated phenomenon. It is something structuralized and institutionalized. This is further compounded today with the extension of the scope of Sharia from merely affecting matters that are personal and civil in nature to those that now affect the criminal dimensions of our existence, where some States now own their Islamic Police force called Hisbah that enforces the Sharia law. In most instances when Christians and Muslims are involved in criminal activities such as violence through insurgency and looting that sometimes accompanied such crisis and both are arrested and brought to face Justice before the judiciary, the Muslim culprits often get released during trial while the Christian suspects are left languishing in detentions and sometimes in prisons over offences that both sides committed. This is one of the dangers of operating a dual legal system or ideology in one Country. In some places in Northern Nigeria where Sharia operates, Muslims sometimes get away with murder cases, as was the case with the Christian woman (Bridget) in Kano. She was lynched to death over trumped up charges of blasphemy. Her killers were quickly acquitted and discharged under a Sharia Court. Discrimination and marginalization of Christians in Northern Nigeria are common daily experiences. The areas where these evils are perpetrated are many and are widely spread and entrenched in the length and breadth of the Northern Region. Christians for instance suffer persecution and marginalization in the following areas:
1. Refusal of Government to grant permit or Certificate of Occupancy for the building of Churches. This makes the situation of our Churches vulnerable to demolition by over enthusiastic State Governments, especially those that have adopted Islam as a State religion contrary to the prohibition of this by the Nigerian Constitution in Section 10.
2. Destruction of Churches at the slightest provocation by Government and sometimes by extremists who like taking the law to their hand. A recent example of this is the destruction of two big churches in Jigawa State belonging to the Redeem and The Lord Chosen churches in that state.
3. Discrimination and unequal opportunities in the areas of employment, recruitment or admissions in Public educational facilities, lopsided nature of appointments into key offices of Government and parastatals.
4. Forceful take-over of Mission Schools in 1972 and lack of compensation for the owners. Some of these Schools had their Christian names changed to Islamic names.
5. The refusal to allow the teaching of Christian Religious knowledge in Government Schools.
6. The abduction and forceful conversion of under aged Christian girls to Islam
7. None broadcast of Christian programmes particularly in the State owned mass media.
8. None provision of burial grounds for deceased Christians etc…
9. Lack of fairness in establishing Federal Presence: In Kaduna State for instance, there are 19 Federal institutions in the Northern senatorial zone, 29 in the Central zone and not a single Federal tertiary School in the Southern Senatorial Zone.
10. Unjust delineation of electoral wards, constituencies . This has put the Southern Senatorial Zone in Kaduna State in a politically disadvantaged position. This policy that is often described as rigging election from the source has effectively made it impossible for anyone from SK to ever emerge as the governorship flag bearer of any major political party. Neither can SK ever decide any issue in the State House of Assembly, because of the great preponderance of representation from the Muslim side.
All these are expressions of injustices perpetrated in the name of religion. We are also witnesses of the systematic proselytization through stealth, forced migration and now the use of UNSPEAKBLE AND UN-IMAGINABLE violence often expressed in martyrdom and mass murder of the indigenous people of the Middle Belt in Northern Nigeria
Despite these imbalances in our Nation and in our State, here we are again celebrating another feast of the resurrection of Christ. The fact of our Lord’s resurrection revolutionized the lives of the disciples of Christ. It transformed them from being a timid and sometimes a seemingly clueless group of disciple, to a fearless and courageous team that turned Jerusalem at some point upside down. Our faith therefore in the risen Christ must so influenced and transformed our lives as it did to the lives of the disciples of Christ particularly at the times of persecution such as we are facing. The injustices in our Society not withstanding, we exhort believers not to be fainthearted but courageous in facing the challenges of our time. We are to renew our faith and commitment to the living and resurrected Jesus, who triumphed over death and evil as the way to surmounting all the abuses and discrimination that we suffer in Nigeria today.
His Lordship, Bishop Bagobiri Is The Catholic Bishop Of Kafanchan Diocese