Aisha’s Story Reflects Life in Southern Kaduna

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A woman wearing a black chador cries as she attends the funeral of Omar Abdul Bakar, a young student who was killed on March 30 when soldiers shot into a crowd of young men on the side of the road in Kaduna, killing him and wounding four, in Kaduna on March 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLE SOBECKI / AFP / Nichole Sobecki (Photo credit should read NICHOLE SOBECKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Umar and I had met on a misty evening when rain fell on the brown roofs of the little huts in sheets. I was returning from the market- my clothes drenched with rainwater- when I caught sight of a tall and slender man, taking shield under a thatched hut. The man- whose height was like that of an iroko tree and whose skin looked like the inside of papaya- looked like every other man I set eyes on every day in the village. What caught my attention was the fact that he was holding a big book. As I ran into the thatched hut to take shield from the heavy downpour, I read the title of the book the man had clutched to his chest. ‘Education as a panacea to growth and development.’ I read the book’s title with widened eyes. Whipping his head up, the young man, who would be in his late twenties, glanced at me and lowered his head. We stood under the thatched roof for what seemed like minutes, listening to the ‘splash’ sound the rainwater made as it dropped on the ground. About five minutes later, the man cleared his throat and glanced at me. “I’m the author of the book,” he stated. It was then I realised that he had caught me staring at the book. Surprise engulfed my face as I stared at the book again. It had a brown and blue cover that made it look colourful and captivating. “What is it about?” I asked, lowering my eyes, and wondering if he had noted my thick Hausa accent. “The book is about the harmful effects of illiteracy. It is important for every Nigerian citizen to be educated. I believe it is the only tool that will boost the growth and development of Nigeria as a nation. If a majority of Nigerians are educated, the poverty rate will be relatively low. This will, in turn, reduce the rate of criminal activities in the nation. If we are all educated, we will understand the importance of living together as one. Unity and love will be fostered. Tribal disputes, banditry and terrorism will be reduced to the barest minimum. We need to enlighten everyone on the importance of education. Or else, ignorance will be the death of us all.” The young man said with certainty, gesticulating to buttress his point. I stared in bewilderment as I wondered how a young man could have such brilliant ideas. He would tell me that he founded a non-governmental organisation to enlighten parents on the importance of sending their children to school. He would also reveal that he had visited my village, Kukum Daji, to speak to the villagers and sponsor thirty children’s education. “I dream of a better nation. I dream of every Nigerian citizen contributing his own quota to national development.” the man, who I would later know as Umar, had said as I beamed in excitement. Days would pass and I would spend my evening with Umar, learning about life in the city and the courses that were being studied in the university. A flicker of delight would pass through my face when he promised to take me to the city one day. “What would you like to become?” he had asked as we walked through the busy market. Umar chewed grains of roasted groundnut as he watched my face with eager eyes. “I want to become a nurse. I want to treat the sick and wounded,” I replied as I imagined myself dressed in white, checking the temperature of a patient and administering treatment. “You should purchase WAEC form before the year runs out. You are very intelligent, Aisha. I know you have a promising future ahead of you.” Umar had said as he stared at me with fascination.

***

It had been five great years. Five years of enrolling for Kaduna State College of Nursing and Midwery, Kafanchan and graduating with an outstanding result. It had been five years of falling head over heels with Umar and planning our future together. These five years had been the best years of my life and I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of my life with Umar. As I sat beside him on our wedding day, my heart juddered in my chest as I watched as the wedding guests danced in merriment. Dressed in a green lace and neck adorned with silver pieces of jewelry, I grinned at Umar and imagined our lives together. Making Nigeria a better place. Fostering love and unity amongst the people. Raising children that will grow to become great leaders and patriotic citizens. ‘You look beautiful,’ Umar whispered as he stared at me with bright eyes. I was about to respond to his comment and reveal that he was the most handsome man I’d ever set my eyes on…I wanted to let him know how much I loved and cared for him…when loud screams were heard. Fear engulfed my face as I spotted men, dressed in black and armed with rifles, breaking into the wedding venue. I could remember the staccato sound that was heard as bullets sprayed the air. I could picture the sight of Umar, falling down in pain as blood gushed from his chest. And then, everything turned black…. Waking up on a hospital bed, I caught sight of patients, withering in pain. I remembered my husband in a pool of blood and wondered if he had breathed his last. I thought of my parents and hoped that they had survived the massacre. As I thought about the nation, I wondered if there was still hope…hope that the people will live in peace and unity. My mind was clogged in thoughts when sleep overcame me. (This is a fictional story, created to reflect upon the lives of people that were killed and injured as a result of the violence in the northwest. These people had dreams and aspirations. They had the right to fulfill their dreams as they live in a safe society. These dreams have been truncated by unexpected crisis such as banditry, ethnic wars, and terrorism. Aisha represents one of the many people that have been a victim of the Kaduna violence).
A new wave of violence has struck the northwest as armed assailants have attacked communities in southern Kaduna. The sporadic attacks in Kaduna have killed dozens of people, leaving others injured. A human rights group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), revealed that: “At least 27 people were killed within a 24-hour period between 19 and 20 July in attacks by armed assailants of Fulani ethnicity on communities in southern Kaduna state.” CSW further said: “The attacks are a part of a campaign of violence targeting communities in southern Kaduna which has been ongoing since January 2020, and is characterised by murder, looting, rape, abductions for ransom and forced displacement.” At around 10:30 pm on July 19, Fulani assailants, who were armed with machetes and guns, attacked a home in Kukum Daji village. They broke into a wedding reception and killed over 15 people. They also injured about 30 people. Reports suggest that most of the victims were young people. CNN reports that hundreds of women in the region have started a demonstration to protest against the increasing number of attacks. These women marched to the King’s palace, dressed in black or semi-nude, to protest against the killing of their own. The leader of the women explained that the government is not helping to curb the attacks by Fulani herdsmen. Local reports reveal that the assailants also attacked Malugum, Manchok, and Kagoro. These are few of the recent news on the electronic and print media regarding the crisis in Kaduna state. This is one of the many attacks that have struck the northwest. The alarming increase in the banditry involving the Fulani assailants and counter-attacks from various other tribes in the state have been very disturbing. It has been difficult for both the state and federal governments to manage the situation.

Tribal and Religious Disputes in the North-West

Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa with over 200 million people, consists of over 200 separate ethnic groups. These ethnic groups have varied lifestyles, cultures, and religions. The northern states are categorized into the agricultural population and the Fulani herdsmen. The Fulani herdsmen are nomadic groups who can be found both in the northern states and southern parts of Nigeria. In the efforts for these two groups to coexist, they have experienced tensions. Several reported violence were recorded and the Fulani tribesmen have been reportedly responsible for raiding several villages. They have majorly attacked unarmed civilians. Political tensions have arisen with limited efforts by the government to ensure that the people are secured.

The Government Must Swiftly Address the Violence

Security agencies have not made a comment on the identity of the motivations behind the violence in Kaduna. Kaduna state government stated that armed bandits are the perpetrators behind the recent attacks. However, witnesses and media reports claimed that the attacks are ethnic wars, targeted at the southern Kaduna communities. Muslims and Hausa-Fulani largely dominate northern Kaduna while Christians predominantly dominate southern Kaduna. The relations between these two groups have been tense. Disputes over resources and political control have created a rift, causing ethnic violence. The federal government released a statement on the 21st of July, which stated that southern Kaduna’s attacks resulted from revenge killings and politically-motivated banditry who acted on religious and ethnic grounds. While the authorities have failed to take appropriate measures to control these attacks, women have called for justice by protesting. A 24-hour curfew was imposed by the Kaduna State government in parts of southern Kaduna. To ensure the safety of the citizens, the police have promised to work with other security agencies. The authorities must ensure that the citizens are protected and justice is provided for the victims of the attacks. They must also ensure that criminal investigations are conducted and the attacks are put to a stop. Most of the approaches used by the government are military in nature. They should explore political solutions, which will likely yield a better result.

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