With manipulation of religion and ethnicity, among other factors, by some Nigerian elite as a major reason responsible for the violence and wanton killings across the country, the conclusive prosecution of the perpetrators has become absolutely necessary, Peace Obi reports
Down the drain it flows; the blood of Nigerians who were neither paying the ultimate price for one heinous crime or the other nor was it their choice to end their lives gruesomely, but were unfortunately caught up by some vampires in the land. The marauders who obviously are inspired by hate, mutual suspicion, unforgiveness, tribal and religious intolerance, have little or no regard for human life, hence the orgy of violence in the land. Since 2009 till date, the country has witnessed so much bloodshed arising from Boko Haram terrorists attacks, herdsmen attacks, erroneous bombing of Rann IDP camp , IPOB protests, among others.
Available statistics has it that not less 20,000 people have lost their lives in the war between Nigerian Army and the Boko Haram terrorists since 2009 till date, with 2.3 million displaced from their homes. And according to United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), as at last year, up to one million children have been forced out of school by Boko Haram. The above only gives one a fair idea of what the country and her citizens are losing in terms of human life from one out of the Dracula groups in the country. The physical and psychological pain, human and material losses of these attacks on the nation are unquantifiable.
Warning on the danger of unabated killings in the Southern Kaduna, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko said that the shedding of innocent blood in the country could further worsen the country’s economic situation. “We cannot be praying for economic progress, if we continue to shed the blood of innocent people,” he said.
Knowingly or unknowingly, the history of the country is being written in the hearts of the today’s youths, who if care is not taken will in due course play out what was handed over to them. With the seed of hate, reprisal attacks, tribal and religious intolerance, mistrust sown through the various wanton killings in the country, it behoves government at all levels and stakeholders to urgently rise to the challenge of quelling the current disturbing killings with impunity. The future consequences of today’s injustice, oppression and maiming of a particular ethnic group or religious group can be nipped in the bud by summoning the political will and the moral burden to stop the impunity of killing under any disguise. Indeed, today’s Nigerian children and youths have not only heard tales of pogrom in the country but have seen it with their own eyes. And so much has equally registered in their minds. What with such attacks and the subsequent massacre in places like Agatu in
Benue State, Uzo Uwani in Enugu State, Taraba, Delta, Edo states and several others.
Responding to the killings in Southern Kaduna recently and in a manner that tends to shift away from the seeming culture of silence that has greeted the herdsmen dastardly acts, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, noted that the upper chamber had resolved to set up a committee to carry out a holistic investigation into the killings. Condemning the barbaric killings in the various communities of Southern Kaduna by suspected Fulani herdsmen, the Senate President said, “We condemn in totality the depravity being exhibited on the streets of Kafanchan. The Senate will not pay lip service to it, neither will it sit idly by and watch innocent Nigerians being slaughtered on the basis of their religion, ethnic group or political persuasion.”
Describing the spate of killings in the country as unbearable, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, said that different arms of government must be alive to their duties. According to him, an enduring solution to the wanton waste of lives and property in the country would start with leaders accepting responsibility. And that with genuine efforts devoid of sectional, religious and tribal sentiments on the part of leaders at different levels, would guarantee communities free of the marauders.
“Many developments in the polity require legislative and executive responses. An enduring solution can only be attained if all of us – Northerners, Southerners, Christians, Muslims, politicians, the apolitical, traditionally rulers and religious leaders – accept the fact that we are responsible and rise to confront and rid our communities of these evils.”
In a motion sponsored by the Senator representing Kaduna South in the National Assembly, Danjuma La’ah noted that “since 2011, various communities in Southern senatorial district of Kaduna State have been consistently attacked by herdsmen, resulting in deaths, injuries, loss of property and displacement of the communities.
“In Kaduna, 808 persons were killed in 53 villages across four councils, while 57 were injured, farm produce estimated at N5.5 billion destroyed and 1,422 houses and 16 churches burnt.
“In the last one year, we have witnessed a harvest of killings by these marauding herdsmen with several cases of massacre in Agatu, Benue State; Uzo Uwani, Enugu State, with several attacks in Taraba, Delta and Edo states, to mention a few.”
With the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly rending their voices in decrying the evil pervading the country, the earlier call made by the Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh still begs for government’s attention. The Primate had in November last year called on government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the barbaric attacks in several Christian communities in Southern part of Kaduna State. The Primate, oblivious of the greater danger and misfortune that would befall the Christian community had called on government’s intervention. And should government have heeded the voice of the Primate among the numerous voices calling for its intervention, story would have been different.
Speaking during the 27th anniversary of the Abuja Diocese of the Anglican Communion, the Primate, had also urged government to increase security across the country. And describing then the spate of killings in the Southern Kaduna as embarrassing to the nation, the Primate urged government to rise to its responsibility of protecting lives and property, adding that the then renewed killings by some faceless group of murderers were signs of federal government’s failure to rise up to the essence of governance.
“The government is responsible for the protection of the people. That is the essence of governance. So, I call on the leadership of the country to bear in mind that protecting the people from external and internal aggressors is the reason people voted for them. So they should rise to that mandate and protect the people,” Okoh said.
Lamenting on the manipulative use of religion by some northern elites, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Mathew Hassan Kukah in Abuja recently said, “Unless we get round to defining what constitutes religion and in this particular case, the way and manner in which the northern ruling class continues to use religion as a cover to perpetuate and subjugate the people, the problem will persist.”
The bishop revealed that with the feelings in some quarters that people could kill in the name of religion, the hope of having anybody prosecuted for religious violence may not be in sight. “We may never prosecute anybody for killing in the name of religion, precisely because we have been unable to separate criminality from religion.”
Speaking further, Kukah, noted that “The dangerous crimes that have been associated with religion in any part of the North have never been as a result of theological differences or disputation, it has always been economic.
“In Zango Kataf, it was the siting of a market, while in Bauchi, it was about someone being accused of using pork as suya. None of the conflicts started in the church or mosque. They are largely about economic opportunities. In northern Nigeria, schools that were built by the Catholics in Kaduna have now been given names of Muslim heroes and heroines. Would anybody take over a school built by Muslims in Nigeria and turn it into either St. Thomas or St. Margaret,” he queried.
Expressing his concerns on the inability of the country to record a conclusive prosecution of cases arising from religious violence and other high profile murder cases, the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, said very few people have been prosecuted for religious violence but none has been brought to conclusion. Asking rhetorically, Osinbajo said, “why are such cases never concluded? Too many cases of high profile murders that are not concluded in this country,” he said.
Stating that religion has been a veritable tool in the development of the nation’s education, the Vice President however hinted that “the manipulation of religion by the elites has led to the problem that we are facing. Nigerian elites will use religion when it is convenient and at other times they may use ethnicity or some other form of identification.
“It is that frequent use of religion for manipulative tendencies that has led to our predicament. And this is because we always discuss the issues after conflicts where lives are lost and it thus make such discussions emotive.
“Identification leads to advancement and so the elite resort to religious and ethnic manipulation,” Osinbajo said.
“Identification leads to advancement and so the elite resort to religious and ethnic manipulation,” Osinbajo said.
Against the backdrop of the Southern Kaduna killings, the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka condemned government’s delayed reaction to the orgy of violence in the area. Calling on Nigerians to desist from religious bigotry, Soyinka warned that unless Nigeria moderates the growing fanatical approach to issues, the country may not move forward as a nation.
“If we do not tame religion in Nigeria, religion will kill us. Many Nigerians have paid the ultimate price because of religion and religion is now embedded in our society.”
Soyinka who decried the Kaduna State Governor’s admission of paying the perpetrators of the Southern Kaduna’s carnage to possibly prevent the attacks, said, “What astonished me was not the admission by the governor but the astonishment of others at such governmental response to atrocity. There was nothing new about it. Has appeasement to religious forces not become a Nigerian face of justice and equity? First lethargy and then appeasement. Wasn’t Boko Haram’s Muhammed Yusuf a beneficiary of appeasement in a similar fashion?
“If you ask why General Buhari did not act fast enough when these events take place, which degrade us as human beings, well it is perhaps he has been waiting for the governor of that state to send money to the killers first for them to stop the killing.
“What, however, concerns the rest of us no matter the internal wrangling, rivalries or controversies within any religion, is that the innocent are often those who pay the highest price. The non-adherents to one line of belief or another,” he said.
Expressing sadness over the loss of lives and property in the recent Southern Kaduna killings, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, described as unjust, heinous and dastard the acts of destructions of lives and property in Southern Kaduna.
The Sultan who in a statement from the Director of Administration, NSCIA Ustaz Christian Isa Okonkwo, said, “the NSCIA denounces these events in entirety particularly because they run contrary to fundamental Islamic law which ordains human life to be sacred and strongly forbids its unlawful destruction except for a just cause.”
And calling on the Federal Government and the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai to urgently step into the situation with the view to finding lasting solution to the crisis in the area, the Sultan said, “The NSCIA would like the federal and Kaduna State governments to go a step further by proffering lasting solutions to these recurrent acts of hatefulness and savagery in Southern Kaduna.
“We also wish to call on the federal government to objectively investigate the matter and prosecute whoever that is found guilty irrespective of the person’s tribe, creed and/or social status,” the statement read.
The Sultan equally urged all Nigerians not to allow themselves be used by forces of evil hiding behind tribal, political or even religious disguise to perpetrate evils in the society.