President of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU), Jonathan Asake has accused the government of looking the other way as, in his words, Fulani militia continues to wipe out Southern Kaduna communoties.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, the SOKAPU leader wondered why criminals killing and kidnapping children are tagged bandits whereas IPOB and others seeking self determination are called terrorists.
A frightening dimension to the security challenges was added penultimate week when bandits shot down an Air Force jet. What do you say to this?
It is unfortunate that we have found ourselves in this very terrible security situation in this country. It has never been like this before and I pray that we get out of this. The state of killings, particularly in our communities in Kaduna State and the kidnappings that go on daily, most of them unreported, and the huge ransoms that are collected from the victims’ families, and yet the authorities are not doing anything about it.
It looks as if they are helpless, and many people say the government doesn’t have the capacity to do anything, but I have refused to believe that narrative. Nigeria, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and our state governors, particularly Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has the capacity to arrest the state of insecurity that we found ourselves in.
All the while that we have had what they call, ‘bandits’ in the North or Fulani herdsmen militia that continue to invade and displace communities, especially in the Middle Belt Region, until today, none has been prosecuted, not to my knowledge. But if it were in the Southern and the Middle Belt areas, where you have some people perceived to be involved in criminality, the government will quickly deploy all intelligence, all resources and security fireworks until such people are apprehended. The government of Nigeria was able to deploy intelligence to bring Nnamdi Kanu from Kenya to this country blindfolded and he is in detention. The same government was able to chase Sunday Igboho to Benin Republic and arrested him, and the military was able to kill the commander of ESN in Imo State, Ikonso and his colleagues. The same military was able to chase Akase Atawase, known as Ghana in Benue State and killed him. So, they have been able to trace and kill perceived criminals to wherever they were and bring them to book, but they have failed to arrest these Fulani militia and what they call bandits. They have failed to bring them to book and they keep calling them, ‘bandits’, which is another misleading narrative. My position has always been that these people are not bandits; bandits are common criminals. They are terrorists. The level of criminality, crime against humanity these people have been perpetrating; they go into communities, like in Southern Kaduna, they go into communities and kill children, women, destroy our crops, abduct some people into the forest, displace the people and sometimes take over the community. That is the greatest crime against humanity, but the government will look the other way.
Now, they have reached a point where they can use anti-aircraft gun to shoot down a military jet, which is a great challenge to the sovereignty of this country. If this administration continues to look the other way, then it means something else is happening. It appears that the sovereignty of Nigeria is being negotiated into the hands of these terrorists and it would not take long before they take over this country if we continue at this rate.
Why is it that when we have such people that are considered to be criminals or engage in criminality in the South and in the Middle Belt, there is immediate deployment of intelligence and force until they are brought down, but when it is happening in the core North, nothing like that happens? And that is what we are seeing with these Fulani kidnappers, Fulani bandits, Fulani herdsmen or by whatever name they are called in this country. It is a deliberate thing that this government is allowing this criminality for an agenda that is being pursued, which is a gradual change in the demographics, taking over lands from indigenous owners, starting with the Middle Belt and ultimately the South.
The Presidency last week came hard on Bishop Matthew Kukah for going to the US Congress to present a report, which the government considered damning. What is your take on this?
When you say the presidency, have you heard the voice of the president? What you called that presidency are just a few people. They are just on queue that whenever anything happens, they come out as attack dogs with an explanation as to why that thing must happen, even if it is against the people of Nigeria.
Let me give you an example, There have been series of attacks in Kaduna State; series of criminalities where a whole community is wiped out, like in Zangon Kataf alone where attacks took place within days, over 100 people were killed, and in Chukun Local Government Area, virtually 80 per cent of the community has been displaced, and many killed. But you will never hear anything from that presidency. Wherever they want to talk, they will say this is the reason it is happening. When Zangon Kataf came under heavy attacks, Garba Shehu came up in the media and said it was a reprisal. When somebody talks like that from that highly placed position, that means he knows what is going on; he knows who has been offended and the other person is coming to revenge. When that person is coming to revenge, he has taken the law into his hands. If there is rule of law, do we have leaders that are responsive and accountable to the people? Of course, if you are responsible, you ought not to allow a reprisal to take place, because we have the military, the police and the intelligence agencies who can nip that in the bud. Do you call it a reprisal, where a whole community was wiped out; their houses burnt, their crops destroyed and they are displaced from their ancestral land? And you called that a reprisal without going there to see what has happened. That is the kind of people we have in the presidency.
When reasonable members of the society; a statesman like Kukah, who is concerned about governance in this country; a revered man of God, who knows the worth of human lives by divine arrangement, when he makes his comments, these people are shameless enough to attack him and anybody who dares to raise his voice against the atrocities going on in this present administration. Something wrong is going on and that is not what governance is all about.
For the constitutional amendment, you presented a paper where you made a case for Southern Kaduna as a separate state. Do you think that this exercise will see the light of the day?
There are so many things that I have found out, which would make the constitutional review not to see the light of the day in this administration. It appears that this government under Buhari doesn’t have the will to implement the wishes of the Nigerian people.
Just take a look. Right in the National Assembly, when they have been demands from all the nooks and crannies of this country by the Nigerian people for electronic voting and transmission of results. But when this Electoral Amendment Bill was presented before the Senate, you could see the brigandage, the rascality that happened in that hallowed chamber, where the wish of the Nigerian people was trampled upon by a few that are supposed to be the representatives of the people.
If there is no electronic voting, it means that votes would not count. This administration wants to continue to allocate votes the way it used to be. We are in the 21st Century and if there is electronic voting, electronic accreditation and transmission of results, it would then give credibility to the voting system. It means that one can lose election with one vote and win election with one vote. But where the votes of the people don’t count, we will continue to have dictators in a democracy as we have in Kaduna State.
The man in Kaduna State, El-Rufai has looked at the people of Southern Kaduna and said that he can win an election without them. You are talking of five local governments out of 22 local governments that make up the state. If votes counted and if INEC was a strong institution, then you cannot say that you will ignore a polling unit, not to talk of ignoring a whole section that is more than the size of many states. That is the kind of arrogance that we have all over the country because votes don’t count.
When you talk of whether I have faith in the review of the constitution, I’m beginning to lose faith every day seeing what is going on in the National Assembly. Just a few days ago, I saw a voting of the nomination of INEC commissioner, one Professor Adam, representing North Central. When the Senate President called for the voice vote, and called for the Ayes for those who don’t want the man to be confirmed, the Nays were overwhelming. But he banged the gavel and said the Ayes have it. So you can see this kind of rascality going on in National Assembly in the 21st Century.
We went to make a case for Southern Kaduna to have our own state, and the agitation has spanned over 20 years. During the 2014 National Confab, Gurara State, which Southern Kaduna has been demanding, was one of the 18 states recommended by the Confab, but we know that the 1999 Constitution has made the provision of state creation almost difficult. It is just like the camel passing through the eye of a needle. So, our going to that review committee was not that we knew that they could create states.
In fact, my presentation there on behalf of Southern Kaduna was that we wish to have a new brand new constitution because this present constitution is a fraud; it was made by the military and it says, ‘we the people of Nigeria…’ when there was no constitutional conference that was called to the people of Nigeria to come together and make this constitution. We have continued to suffer all the setbacks in governance and in our democratic process because of this constitution and that is why we always have this dictatorship because there is so much power concentrated at the centre. The president alone has become like a god. In fact, he is playing god that even governors, if he asks them to change party, they must obey him. It doesn’t happen in any democracy anywhere. Every of their proceedings in the National Assembly continues to prove that we have a rubber stamp Assembly that is incapable of standing up to defend democracy.
How can peace return to Southern Kaduna?
El-Rufai, as governor of Kaduna State, is the most unfortunate thing that has ever happened to the state. When the Senate Committee on FCT chaired by former Senator Sodingi, made a recommendation about the activities of el-Rufai, as minister of FCT, they came to the conclusion that el-Rufai was unfit for any public office. Somehow, because of the weak structure and the crude system that we have in this country like INEC, police, and intelligence agencies, el-Rufai emerged as governor of Kaduna State and that is why we are suffering today.
When he said that he traced those people that came to kill our people to their foreign countries, he never told us how much he paid; he never told Kaduna State people where he got the money and where it was appropriated from. He never told us who went and did the payment, but he said he paid them. Let’s agree that he paid them to stop the killings, but the killings have not stopped, in fact, they have become worse. The conclusion is that they collected that money and bought more and became more daring. Ever since he made that statement that he paid them to stop those killings, they have not stopped killing, but he has reversed himself over and over. At a point in time when the killings were ongoing in Southern Kaduna, he said that our clergymen were instigating the killings so that they can go and apply for money from outside the country in the pretence of coming to rebuild their churches. Again, he said our elites and elders instigate the killings so that they can go and meet the governor in Government House to negotiate and collect brown envelopes. He has continued to reverse himself and bring new rhetoric. That means he knows exactly who is doing the killings and why the killings are going on. He is simply being mischievous. Kaduna State has become the epicentre of kidnapping in Nigeria; abductions and collect ion of ransom. Every day on Kachia – Kaduna road, kidnapping takes place at least three times. They will block the road and take the people to the bush. Every day, within the suburb of Kaduna, people have been relocating and squatting inside townships, leaving the houses that they built because kidnappers come by night and pack families away. Nobody mentions this. The governor has said that he will not negotiate with kidnappers. In a grandstanding style, he said he has taken his child to a public school. After the whole clapping and applause; he went and removed the child from the school. After the Green Field University students were kidnapped, the parents paid a ransom of over N200 million, even after the killing of five of the students. No parent will want to see his own child being kept in the bush for so long. The Baptist Bethel School children kidnapped are still in the bush today. But the Emir of Kajuru that was kidnapped, the Inspector General of Police deployed forces and in less than 24 hours he was released. But these children are still in the bush in this rain. Only God knows what is happening. Kidnappers requested that the church and the parents of the students should bring food items and they were able to take several bags of rice, beans, etc and the kidnappers collected them. There was no security to follow up to see the person collecting those items. The parents are busy trying to task themselves to borrow money to rescue those children, but the governor is seated here and the president is seated there, the security agencies are seated there. Something is wrong in this country.
These people have become more daring and they can bring down a fighter jet and you call them bandits? They are terrorists. IPOB never did one quarter of what these people are doing, but they designated them terrorists. But the Fulani herdsmen that are killing have not been designated terrorists. Something is wrong somewhere.
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