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The Most Significant Step Towards Peace and Reconciliation in Kaduna

By Philip Hayab John, PhD


Telling the Truth: The Most Significant Step Towards Peace and Reconciliation in Kaduna State, Nigeria

Lately, the government of Kaduna State constituted a committee to draft a White Paper on Zangon Kataf, whose original name is Mabātādo, given the lingering conflict in the area connected to the ownership of the land.

While I support everyone to live wherever they find suitable to pursue their livelihood, historic accounts show that the present-day Zango Kataf became a stopover point, from about the 1750s, for Fatake, mostly Kanuri and Hausa traders.

As a linguist, one of my first instincts for a clue in construing any idea is to turn to Linguistics for etymology and import. Accordingly, the meaning of ‘Zango’ in Hausa in Abraham’s Hausa Dictionary (First Edition, 1946) is a “camping-place of caravan/lodging-place of travellers on their route.”

The people who lodge at a place could not be taken as the owners of the land. Hence, many places bear the name ‘Zango’ such as Zangon Ayya, near Zaria in Kaduna, Nigeria, Zango, pronounced ‘Zongo’ in Accra, Ghana, etc.

Another piece of evidence to the above assertion is found in Moses E. Ochonu’s book, Colonialism by Proxy: Hausa Imperial Agents and Middle Belt Consciousness in Nigeria (2014: 47), which records how Paul Staudinger, an eighteenth-century German explorer, notices that “Wherever the [Hausa] peoples find a friendly reception and good quarters… there, they remain for years and perhaps never return to their native city.”

The above exposé must have been the case with some of the Fatake who made the stopover in Atyap land their place of dwelling. Despite the foregoing evidence, there seem to be concerted attempts to change the narrative and make the descendants of the Fatake the original landowners.

Sadly, owing to the lack of honest efforts to instituting the truth of the origin of the settlement, which is one of the root causes of the crises in the locality, what one hears and reads from the government is the false narrative that ‘the Southern Kaduna people are not accommodating’ or that ‘the southern Kaduna people groups do not want other people to live in their locality.’

Not only are the above claims incorrect, the ones making such groundless statements have failed to acknowledge the truth of what the Southern Zaria – now Southern Kaduna – peoples had been through in the past 200 years or so.

If they are honest, they would salute the peace-loving nature of the people, acknowledging that the southern Kaduna people have always been at the receiving end of never-ending provocations, the self-importance of superiority, the fabrication of non-existing history and whatnot.

Consequently, the bitter truth is that no White Paper should aim to change the historical proof that the people south of Zazzau are indigenous to the land they now occupy.

Another indication to the view of the indigeneity of the southern Kaduna people is that despite suffering slave raids organised and orchestrated by the entire old Hausa states of Zazzau, Daura, Katsina, Gobir, Kano, Rano and Biram from the establishment of the Caliph in 1808 to 1903, the time the British colonial government officially stopped the buying and selling of people as slaves, they did not abandon their heritage but remained amidst bullying and annihilation.

For want of proof, M. G. Smith’s Government in Zazzau: 1800 – 1950 (1960) conveys the accounts of how hundreds of able-bodied youth from the area of present-day southern Kaduna were lined up in chains yearly to Zazzau as annual tributes and further carried to Sakwatto, Kano, and the rest of the old Hausa states, with some reaching Sierra Leone and the Americas in the 1800s.

Besides, when the British colonial rule compelled Africans to pay taxes, oral stories and history books have it that the feudal Fulbe (Fulani) and Hausa Chiefs would break open the food storehouse of the then Southern Zaria people to feed their donkeys and horses with hard to get grains in the guise of penalty for delayed or non-payment of taxes.

Another part of the problem is that the Fulbe are not a homogenous community. There are the cattle-Fulbe, grazing their herds seeking for places where they can feed their herds and there are the “town-Fulani” who often convince the headers that southern Kaduna people “hate” them.

However, the cattle-herders had lived, according to my knowledge in the past 45 years, in peaceful co-existence with the farmers around the southern Kaduna villages.

For times uncountable, I have been, together with some of my village people, been invited to take part in a Fulbe naming ceremony and other feasts.

However, the growth of population, possibly, has contributed to tensions between the Fulbe and southern Kaduna groups as the Fulbe seek to expand grazing lands.

Given the above painful realities of the crackdown of the peoples of the current southern Kaduna, the all-important question to ask is how do we walk the road to peace and reconciliation trying to hide the truth?

While I give Elrufai’s government the benefit of doubt about its pursuit of a White Paper for ‘Zangon’ Atyap crisis, truth-telling is critical for Southern Kaduna peoples to heal and to achieve a healthier and reconciled society.

Deprived of an understanding of the excruciating past highlighted above, we cannot profoundly move forward. And without truth, there can be no genuine peace.

That is why the Elrufai led government’s decision not to work with the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU) to follow a peace development plan since its inauguration has dealt a huge blow to the already existing peace in addition to the government’s open disdain towards the people of southern Kaduna in terms of security, projects, appointments, et cetera.

Without a doubt, the history of the about 64 different indigenous ethnic groups that make up the non-Hausa and non-Fulbe of Kaduna state extends back to time age-old.

Accordingly, it is on record that the arrival of the Hausa and Fulbe to settle in the area began, in earnest, at the start of Othman Dan Fodio’s Jihad (1804).

Yet the injustices perpetuated against ancestral owners of the land that is, today, southern Kaduna in the past 200 years, are often suppressed from the public domain, except for the colonial government’s archives.

The massacres, enslavements, deprivations, and denial of rights, lopsided policies and selective integration of other groups in preference to others have continued, but in a different form.

For instance, while the town of Kafanchan was plausibly established by railway workers, mostly the Igbo, Yoruba, Idoma, Tiv, Igala, and other railway workers from the year 1923, Jama’a (the Hausa settlement), nevertheless, was moved from Tādon (Madakiya) to its current location only in 1933, yet, many times, the Hausa of Kafanchan would claim that they were the ‘owners of the town.’

If the southern Kaduna people are not peace-loving, why have they not been engaged in conflicts with other groups such as the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Tiv, et cetera?

My analysis is that the problem in the southern part of Kaduna is not religious, but lies in the fact that the Hausa and Fulbe groups, for generations and ongoing, have always sought to short change the groups they met at the point of arrival and one of the methods they have employed is to make false claims of being the landlords.

When a person dishonestly wants to take what belongs to another, such a move, invariably, instigates a crisis and that is the situation that Kaduna state has found itself.

And while the injustices of the past cannot be undone, as we cannot reverse history, what we can do is not to try to distort records to favour the oppressor as that is double injustice.

To me, as the Black Lives Matter movement challenges structural inequalities, the people groups of southern Kaduna seek a truth-telling process about their being in this locality for centuries before the arrival of the Fulbe and later the Hausa as a genuine commitment towards justice for the persecuted southern Kaduna people, allowing their stories, hardly ever told, to be heard.

Even though the committee set up by Governor El-Rufai to draft a White Paper is already working, if the state is truly committed to justice and equality for all, promoting reconciliation in the state, truth-telling is essential to the attainment of the stated aim of the White Paper and other community actions.

As the saying goes, there cannot be peace without truth and there cannot be justice without truth.

The soothing news is that history has shown, the world over, that truth and reconciliation commissions have aided bruised societies to heal and recover from ruptures and injuries, for example, South Africa after apartheid and recently the ‘justice’ the victims of the Kenyan Mau-Mau uprisings got when the United Kingdom’s government established a commission to look into the complaints of injustices committed against the Kenyans, whose land dispute sparked off the Mau-Mau uprising in the 1950s.

As demonstrated by the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague’s statement on 6th June 2013 that the UK government recognised Kenyans were tortured and it “sincerely regrets” the abuses that took place following the deaths of thousands of people killed during the Mau-Mau revolt against British rule in Kenya in the 1950s, my firm belief is that the Kaduna state government’s commitment to a truth-telling process could forge an equitable society that embraces people irrespective of their origin, faith, or creed.

As the truth is the property of being in harmony with fact or reality, I dare to speak the truths of the past, the truths of present-day Kaduna state’s population as I strongly believe that now is the time for truth as a solution to the continued wanton destruction of lives and property.

Philip Hayab John, PhD
Copyright July 2020.

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