The last six weeks or so have been an eye-opener to me as I travelled with members of the Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace (IDFP); a body that was founded in 2016 and supported by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, popularly referred to as KAICIID Dialogue Centre based in Vienna, Austria. This body that is made up of 100 members, spread equally between Muslims and Christians, with General Yakubu Gowon as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. His Eminence the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev Dr Samson Ayokunle are patrons of the forum.
The decision by the interfaith group to embark on advocacy visits to some states in the North was borne out of the desire to identify reasons behind the incessant crises crippling the country, especially in some states of the North. There is no denying the fact that these crises are casting frightening gloom on the prospects of Nigeria’s continued existence, just as security agencies are almost overwhelmed by the recurring rounds of violence.
From Zamfara to Benue; from the Mambilla hills of Taraba to Plateau state, criminals and various groups are enmeshed in various forms of crises that have unleashed frightening uncertainties on citizens. Instead of relying on narratives that have not helped the situation, the forum resolved to visit Zamfara, Benue, Plateau, Taraba and Kaduna with the sole aim of interacting with participants knowledgeable in the dialectics.
In Zamfara state, the advocacy team, headed by the Dankaden Bauchi, Alhaji Aminu Yakubu, visited the Emir of Anka (Sarkin Zamfara), Alhaji Muhammad Anka, Emir of Tsafe, Muhammad Abubakar Bawa, among others. The team also had interactions with the security agencies and critical groups like the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeder Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Jama’atul Nasril Islam (JNI), Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), among others. In that state, the crisis is between farmers and herdsmen and criminal abductions, cattle rustling and armed robberies. While the Fulani complained of their cattle being rustled, the farmers grumbled over destruction of their crops by straying animals. Sadly, no fewer than 3,000 lives have been lost in the conflagration. Despite the Federal Government’s deployment of no fewer than 1,000 troops to the state, peace has become so expensive, with various groups claiming victim status.
The Benue violence is premised on fight for resources between farming communities and the Fulani, with criminal elements taking advantage of the insecurity to unleash further havoc on citizens. Led by the co-Secretary of the IDFP, Alhaji Ibrahim Yahaya, the IDFP members were shocked at the dreadful conditions of the Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp at Abagana and interacted with religious clerics on how to resolve the crisis. Both CAN and the JNI officials distanced religion as factor responsible for the crisis that has pitted herders against locals and led to hundreds of deaths.
In Plateau, the internecine clashes between suspected herdsmen and local communities have left several hundreds dead, just as many villages and towns have been sacked and presently being occupied by invaders. Mutual distrust amongst groups remains an albatross to peace. The Plateau team, headed by Amir Mohammed Jameel Mohammed, met with security agencies who said that what was setting Plateau on edge was the activities of criminals who whip up sentiments to veil their criminal intentions. The visit of the team to the state coincided with the abduction of a retired military officer, Major General Idris Alkali whose car was recovered in a pond in Du district, one of the hotbeds of conflict in the state. IDPs from Gashish district that survived from various attacks on their communities said failure of security was responsible for the current spate of insecurity ravaging the state.
Good Night Agwom Adara…
The late monarch was the first to grant audience to the IDFP team when it arrived Kaduna to commence an advocacy/fact-finding visit. Without hesitations, he spoke passionately on the need for peace among people. Having identified influence of selfish politicians on the youths and insincerity among leaders in the country, he expressed his confidence that peace efforts cannot be allowed to cave in due to current spate of insecurity in Nigeria.
The team was to later stumble on the scene of his abduction at Makyali, less than 30 minutes after his kidnapping, with corpses of his police orderly and three motorists. The IDFP team cheated death as their convoy was barricaded by angry youths at Doka, but we escaped with shattered glasses.
Tempers are running high amongst his subjects, but we must not forget that His Royal Highness Galadima was a man of peace. The best we can do to his memory is embrace peaceful disposition and give honour to all he stood for by ensuring the triumph of peace.
The sad tale of crisis in Taraba seems to have been brought under control, with IDPs making frantic efforts in picking the bits and pieces of their shattered lives. Apart from the IDPs being abandoned to their fate, there seems to be no genuine efforts by government to assist them in overcoming their present challenges or to alleviate their pains. All they depend on for succour is from well-meaning Nigerians and organisations, including religious bodies. Leader of the Taraba state team and co-Chairman of the IDFP Executive Committee, Bishop Sunday Onuoha, called on government at all levels and the international community, especially donor agencies, to provide assistance to the victims of violence living in various parts of the country.
The last on the list of state visited by the forum headed By co-Chairman of the IDFP Executive Committee, Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sanni, is Kaduna where members had interactions with the Police Commissioner, Ahmad Abdulrahman, groups and monarchs, including the Agwom Adara who was abducted less than 48 hours after meeting with the team. He was later killed by his captors in the early hours of yesterday. Incessant killings and abductions have become regular traits in the state. While MACBAN Kaduna state chapter complained that its members were under constant harassment of detentions by the military, CAN said insincerity and lack of fear of God are obvious stumbling blocks in attaining peace. Other groups identified lack of political will to prosecute persons involved in past conflicts in the state.
The synopsis of recommendations proffered by stakeholders in all the states include among others, that government should rise up to its responsibility of protecting lives and property. Religious leaders should embrace sincerity and teach their followers to embrace dialogue in resolving conflicts. There should be enlightenment campaigns to educate Nigerians on the dangers of hate speech and encourage communality of our bond across religious divide. Apart from calling for creating job opportunities for the youth, participants in all the forum called on Nigerians to be wary of selfish politicians who deploy vulnerable groups to achieve their political dreams. Genuine and lasting peace, the stakeholders maintained, can only be realised when Nigerians resolve to stand up for peace. A million of boots on the ground can only achieve peace of the graveyard in a society that is mutually distrustful of one another.
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