On Perennial Religio-Ethnic Conflicts In Kaduna Gregory Opuiyo

Religious and ethnic crises have since the 80s become albatrosses around our neck and one of the major challenges for Nigeria’s nation-building project despite the various strategies the country has adopted to reduce the national conflicts.

The federal system of government is one of such strategies expected to curtail the stakes for the central power and federal institutions are supposed to reflect the diversity of the nation. Still, the country has continued to be polarized along religious and ethnic lines.

In Kaduna State in the northern part of the country, this polarization is articulated in a long-lasting conflict between Muslim Hausa-Fulani and different Christian ethnic groups resulting in recurring outbreaks of violence. The state has gained notoriety for permanent crises since the days of the military till date. 

Not even Borno State regarded as the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency surpasses Kaduna in the recurrence of sectarian and communal conflicts. Kaduna has a balanced number of adherents of the two major religions – Islam and Christianity. Kaduna north is a predominantly Muslim population and the south has a more significant number of Christians. Two major conflicts have plagued the state last year. The last one which occurred on October 18th, 2018,  consumed several lives and properties.

In other climes, losing so many lives in a matter of hours due to a needless conflict is enough to elicit questions as to why. But this is Nigeria where human life has lost its sanctity and veneration. This is a country in which crisis-induced deaths only attract attention if the number is in considerable multiples.

In a quick response, the state governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, imposed variegated curfews to stem the trouble. So, there was calm. But the calmness was like the peace of the graveyard. Worse still, security agents swung into action belatedly, only after so much damage had been   effected.

During the regimes of Col. Ja’afaru Isah and Ahmed Markafi, both former military and civilian governors respectively, the state witnessed a long period of relative peace. How was this achieved and why are subsequent governors unable to repeat the feat including the incumbent?

In my years of following the Kaduna crises, I discovered that two main factors conspire to pull the state apart, and they are responsible for the frequent onslaught. They are superiority complex and the lack of trust. The two dominant religions and the ethnic groups have deliberately failed to show reverence for one another hence they breed intolerance and defiance.

Lack of trust is second and the more crucial. The absence of mutual trust amongst the major religions and the ethnic groups is a veritable source of trouble. Trust is not only absent in the above regard, but it is also lacking between residents of the state and law enforcement agencies. Recall that law enforcement agents have frequently been accused of partisanship whenever the state boils over.

It is interesting that Kaduna is an expression of the incompetence within the nation’s security architecture. At every moment, the security paraphernalia is taken by consternation. They are either partisan or are always caught napping. They have boxed themselves into positions where all they do is engage in fire brigade approach to dangerous dissensions, an example of which is what plays out in Kaduna.

Proactive measures that can nip crises in the bud are fast becoming an anathema among our security operatives. They prefer to wait, in a manner of speaking, for the dam to break and then they run around to quell the resultant flood.

Equity, fairness and political will are what are required to resolve the age-old conflicts in the beleaguered state. Where are the famous Kaduna Mafians in the days of yore and why are they unable to broker peace in a state that was once home to people from different religions and ethnic backgrounds?

The Kaduna question, as bad as it can possibly be, is not the only issue here. Any observer of the security situation in the country will be pained by the reckless disposition of the political class which may be perpetrating and relishing the killings across the land for inherent political gains. But they must be reminded that, often, no one knows for whom the bell tolls.

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