by Edward Israel-Ayide
Dear Distinguished Senator,
I trust your past week has been great and you are getting set to begin work at the hallowed chambers of our legislature in the coming days. To say the past year has been chaotic for most Nigerians is not only an understatement, it would be tantamount to making light of the grim realities of millions of Nigerians who have had to come to terms with a weakened Naira, lost jobs, and the growing cost of doing business and living. But like that age long Nigerian saying, we believe that in 2017 “E go beta”. Yes, sadly, hope has become a substitute for good governance and the dividends of democracy in Nigeria, and every year brings us another opportunity to pray away the unfulfilled dreams of the past year, and begin again with hope.
Years back, I remember we looked forward to democratic rule with the hope that it would be the catalyst for growth in our dear country Nigeria; we believed that with the ousting of the men in Khakis, a new dawn would be birthed in Nigeria, and that those who had fought tirelessly to bring us away from the edge of the abyss of military misrule and chaos would lead the way to a new Eden where all the visions of “Housing for all by the year 2000” and similar platitudes would become a reality. Oh, how we hoped!
Unfortunately, here we are 17 years later, still battling the same problems we remained certain would have become a long forgotten memory. Here we are still waging a war against the same enemies that made us all, young and old, rush into the streets to protest General Ibrahim Babangida’s annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections won by Alhaji MKO Abiola. Here we still stand, slaves to the same masters who abused us; bound hand and foot by the chains of economic inequality and insecurity that has become part of our tortuous history.
But still we hope…
Dear Senator, I will not like to bore you so much on the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of the Nigerian experience, my focus here today is to plead with you, nay, urge you, to take a critical look at the killings going on in certain Local Government Areas in #SouthernKaduna. Not that I am unaware of your pronouncements on the matter, and the statement released on your behalf by your aide Mr. Bamikole Omisore; but I would like for you to pursue this matter with the same ardour with which you have continued to proclaim your innocence on the allegations raised against you by the Code of Conduct Bureau. With the same dedication with which you have adopted the #MadeInNigeria campaign and owned it.
As it is, the executive arm of the government both at federal and Kaduna state levels have taken it upon themselves to shift blames and spread counter-narratives about the true happenings in the region. And while I continue to hope for sincerity on their promises that they are hard at work to see an end to the escalating crisis, I feel it is important that another member of this democratic construct who has not been rendered toothless by this administration takes it upon itself to grant succour to the dying and the bereaved. I feel it is your responsibility as the number 3 citizen in Nigeria, and believe that you will rise to the occasion.
As at last count, over 5000 families have been displaced in about 50 communities, and farms which have been known to produce maize, rice, Groundnuts, Ginger, cassava, millet, mangoes, potatoes, turmeric, beans and other crops razed. The casualty figures depending on who you ask range from the Christian Association of Nigeria’s 808, to the uncertain low figure given by the Inspector General of Police which prompted him to react to CAN that “Even in Rwanda, where there was genocide, I don’t think anybody can quote that kind of figures. It is very sickening.” That the head of the Nigeria Police does not realize that conservative estimates put the casualties of the Rwandan genocide at well over 500,000 dead is another matter entirely.
Sir, the growing cries on social media for the people of Southern Kaduna to arm themselves and defend their land and their families does not bode well for the volatile geographical expression known as Nigeria. Time and time again, we have seen factions, sects and peoples who have felt neglected by the Federal Government take up arms to defend themselves; spill overs of these have resulted in the Niger Delta crisis, and the terrorist acts of Boko Haram.
It is a well-known fact that apart from self-defence in interstate relations, international law also recognises a right to personal self-defence as a general principle of law recognized by civilized nations pursuant to Article. 38 (1) of the International Court of Justice Statute. It is this right that many are calling for the people of Southern Kaduna to express. But I pray it does not come to that. We cannot afford for that region to become another theatre of insecurity and war.
Many are of the opinion that the crisis in Southern Kaduna is a form of targeted killing, and the words “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” have continued to come up in the accounts of various parties on the ongoing crisis. It is important that we do not wait till these emotions take root, and result in ethnic warfare before we take decisive action to put an end to this scourge.
I expect that as the senate begins its deliberations in the New Year under your distinguished “Chairmanship” you will see to it that the crisis in Southern Kaduna is given all the attention and urgency it deserves. I am hopeful that you will not allow your promise to lead the senate into an investigation on the remote and immediate causes of the crisis will not in months away from now be dubbed mere populist platitudes.
As we all know, there is a seeming international media blackout on the facts of the crisis, while those who have the immediate responsibility to secure lives and properties within their administrative units continue to employ media narratives and conjecture to explain away the deaths and loss of countless fellow Nigerians. I trust that you will not base your investigations on the obviously biased accounts of such people, but will follow the advice of your colleague, Senator Danjuma La’ah representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, who said in an article release in the Punch Newspaper today that “It must be the locals, those from Southern Kaduna, who can speak nothing but the honest truth about what is happening. And for those security men who are on the ground in Southern Kaduna can as well give their advice based on facts, without fear or favour. Let them come and say precisely what they saw.”
I remain convinced that you will choose the most honourable path and help avert another unneeded Nigerian crisis.
Edward is brand and business development professional who tweets from @wildeyeq. This post was initially featured on MEDIUM