A helicopter rained bullets on the natives of southern Kaduna, giving the rampaging bandits the advantage – SOKAPU spokesperson
In this interview with GODWIN ISENYO, the spokesman of the Union of Peoples of Southern Kaduna, an umbrella organization of the people of the southern part of Kaduna, Luka Binniyat, explains the incessant attacks on the population and the payment of ransoms since 2020
The kidnappers of more than 30 worshipers during the Kajuru attack demanded 100 million naira for their release. What is your opinion on that?
These are the kinds of stories and realities that we in South Kaduna have to face in today’s Nigeria. Armed herdsmen who attacked Maikori and three other Adara villages in Kajuru Local Government Area, South Kaduna on June 5, abducted 27 villagers. In this attack, in which villagers claimed a gun-mounted helicopter helped the invaders, 32 people were killed. At least the Kaduna state government has acknowledged this figure. They have now placed a ransom of 500,000 naira on each of their 27 hostages. And there are very pregnant women among them. Now they are people whose homes have been destroyed, their food and animals stolen and left with nothing. This is the story of southern Kaduna. SOKAPU speculated that the natives of southern Kaduna alone have been paying the kidnappers at least 4 billion naira in ransom every year since 2020.
SOKAPU raised the alarm that bandits or terrorists had used the helicopter to attack villages in southern Kaduna where more than 30 villagers were killed, but the state government, while confirming the attack, claimed the helicopter was on a rescue mission. Do you agree with that?
Well, it is up to Nigerians to decide who is telling the truth between the government and the traumatized villagers. Victims said the helicopter saw the invaders and their motorbikes on one side, while Maikori village vigilantes were on the other side and fended off the attackers. But the helicopter began raining bullets on the natives, giving the attackers a huge advantage in dealing with the peaceful community. Even with simple guns, they could have secured their village without the help of the armed invaders obtained from the helicopter. They came to the SOKAPU national secretariat here in Kaduna and recounted their ordeals in the presence of journalists and press cameras. An 18-year-old boy, who survived with a gunshot wound to his knee, showed us the bullet that went through there. When the story aired on some TV channels and published in some online and print media, we believed that the Nigerian Air Force would investigate this highly incriminating allegation which has the potential to ruin the reputation of the Nigerian Air Force and to tarnish its integrity forever. Nothing happened like that. Silence, they say, is acquiescence.
On March 25, 2022, when armed herdsmen mass murdered 38 people in Agban, Kagoro in Kaura LGA in southern Kaduna and set fire to the area, a helicopter reportedly flew over Kafanchan town about 7 kilometers away. He fired on residents of Takau, a suburb of Kafanchan, and a young child was injured. The boy is there. His parents and neighbors can attest to that. No one has denied these allegations.
What is the security situation in southern Kaduna at the moment?
The security situation in southern Kaduna is not improving. The kidnappings of poor citizens and the invasion of communities are getting worse.
Every day, people are moved into informal displacement camps to live in inhumane conditions. Much of southern Kaduna has been captured by herdsmen and various hardened criminals. Someone has estimated that the size of land occupied by these outlaws in Kaduna State could be more than half the size of Abia State.
More than 80 days after their abduction by bandits, the other 50 passengers on the AK-9 train bound for Abuja-Kaduna are still being held by their captors. Do you think the government is doing enough to rescue the victims?
I don’t think the government is serious about securing the release of these unfortunate victims. I have yet to read where such a number of citizens are abducted in such brazen conditions and held for such a long time by criminals in any country in the world. I shudder when I put myself in the place of the relatives of the victims, not to mention the terror that the victims experience. In a serious country, this incident, like many others, would have caused enough outrage for the government to resign. But honor has no dwelling in the hearts of our leaders.
What should the government do? Do you agree that the hideouts of carpet bomb terrorists are propagated by Kaduna State Governor Malam Nasir El-Rufai?
What combat experience did el-Rufai have to openly make such chilling suggestions? To me, it’s just grandstanding to be seen as tough on outlaws.
What is SOKAPU’s view on the Muslim-Muslim ticket being muted by some political parties ahead of the 2023 general elections in the country?
SOKAPU is totally opposed to a Muslim-Muslim ticket. If the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party went for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, then SOKAPU would go for the Labor Party and ask for a Christian-Christian ticket and let’s see who wins. This insult has come to nothing in Kaduna State where the population is around 50-50 for the two dominant religions. Any party that insults the sensibilities of Christians in South Kaduna by presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket should count the votes of South Kaduna residents who are 95% Christian. And for your information, out of the estimated population of 10.3 million in Kaduna State, South Kaduna has 5.2 million. We have been so suppressed and marginalized that it makes no sense for anyone to believe that Southern Kaduna is a marginal majority in Kaduna State. If South Kaduna were to be a state, its population would be more than 20 states. And with a land mass of 26,000 km2, we will be larger than 26 states, including Kano State which has an area of only 20,000 km2. In fact, in the 2019 presidential election, South Kaduna gave the PDP about 967,000 votes. This is where Abubakar Atiku of the PDP got the most votes in Nigeria. If he tries a Muslim as his running mate, all those votes will slip away from him and any other presidential candidate. It’s not a threat. It is a promise.
Some have argued that all that matters is competence and not the issue of dragging religion into governance, adding that if the Muslim-Muslim ticket could work in 1993 when MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe been elected, it can still work. What do you think?
Nigeria has since moved away from the Nigeria of the 90s to a Nigeria where the current government has sown the seeds of nepotism and exclusivity and it has produced seeds of anger and resentment from the marginalized population. It can’t work today.
In fact, some have argued that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is working in Kaduna State, where the APC overwhelmingly won the 2019 gubernatorial elections. Do you agree with that?
Even the person uttering this Muslim-Muslim post worked in Kaduna State knows he is lying. This has only widened the divide between Christians and Muslims in Kaduna State. This is a statement intended to show that Christians are such a minority in Kaduna State that elections can be won even without their votes. Yet the majority of Kaduna State residents including SOKAPU believe that the 2019 gubernatorial elections in Kaduna State were heavily rigged. The court result did little to cover this belief.
We are waiting for any other party to try this again in 2023. You can take South Kaduna for a ride with bullets but absolutely not on ballots.
What is SOKAPU’s position on the turmoil of the Southern Presidency in 2023?
Southern Kaduna represents a southern president who is competent and takes on a Christian as his running mate. If he is competent and a Christian, he should take a Muslim as his running mate. ,,