As Kaduna Goes, So Goes Nigeria

Kaduna has remained that quintessential time piece that reflects the Nigeria future. Beyond the state demarcated and the ancient city named after the crocodile “Kaduna” looms large as a concept that captures the collective essence of Northern Nigeria.

Looking into the archives our records reveal that Bishop Tugwell and his expedition team left Lagos on the 21st of January 1900 and reached the great walled city of Zaria on the 6th of April. It was the first capital city of an emirate that the team would visit and they were received cautious but kindly by the Emir.

When the Emir listened to their missionary pitch and the professed desire to visit Kano he loosened up but expressed surprise that the Tugwell team was unaware that Fred Lugard and his British force were encamped nearby.

The Fulani Empire had by a stroke of the pen become the British Protectorate of Northern Nigeria so the Queen of England gave notice to the Sultan of Sokoto and the Emirs of their subjected states that she had undertaken to rule over them all.

The West African Frontier Force had worked its way up river Kaduna in search for a site for its headquarters and everyone was on the edge. The initial assumption that Bishop Tugwell and Lugard were working together was dissolved as Dr. Miller conversed with the Emir and their stay in Zaria became a happy one.

The locals thawed and warmed up to the expedition and pleaded with them to stay instead of moving on to Kano. They even warned that the Emir of Kano would not be as accommodating as they had been and added their opinion of what lay ahead.

The rest is history today although it is clear that things would have been different if only Tugwell had taken up the friendly offer of this kindly Emir instead of being resolute that Kano was his target. I have gone back into history because the future of Nigeria was somewhere in that mix and it is notable that Kaduna has always had wise, reasonable and seasoned diplomats in its ruling classes.

Fast forward to 1958 as the delegates and representatives from all the regions of Nigeria prepared to attend a major pre-independence meeting in London it was tough to find a common ground on the issue of uniform judicial control and administration of a criminal justice system that would promote unity.

It was clear that any attempt to mention the beheadings, stoning and amputations of the criminal aspect of sharia would be dead on arrival at the London conference. With a masterful stroke of British diplomacy, three delegations were appointed to visit Libya, Pakistan and the Sudan, all of these were Moslem countries which had recently emerged from a similar configuration as the Northern Region.

The general terms of reference of the delegations were “to see how countries with diverse populations and religious beliefs were administered after the attainment of self-government with particular reference to the legal system”. When the delegations turned in their reports to the regional government of Northern Nigeria, the decision was made to convene a panel of jurists that would consolidate the reports and forge a working document that would permit Christians and Muslims to live side by side in peace.

On that panel, we had Sayed Mohammed Abu Rannat, the Chief Justice of the Sudan, Justice Mohammed Sharif, the Chairman of the Pakistan Law Commission, Professor J.N.D. Anderson, of the School of African and Oriental Studies, London, Shettima Kashim, the Waziri of Bornu, Mr. Peter Achimugu, an Igala man that started out as a customary court Judge before his political career and Malam Musa, the Chief Alkali of Bida.

They eventually came up with the introduction of the Penal Code option where Moslem Law would be confined to the law of personal status and family relations and, when applicable, to civil cases.

Just as the child Nigeria began to crawl and was struggling to stand Kaduna again threw us a curve ball on the 15th of January 1966 and the military dominance of Nigeria and its leadership for decades to come was cast in iron. Whenever the Kaduna mafia sneezed the nation caught a cold.

Serving as the Grand Khadi from his Kaduna base, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the unaccredited architect of the religious dynamics that is rocking Nigeria primed a device to preserve his life’s work.

So long as Kaduna produced statesmen that could mediate and balance the cacophony of voices, Nigeria could breathe easy but things changed and Kaduna gradually became a divided community, loaded with animosities and a ghost of its old self.

Today the city is split into two distinct residential spreads with Christians living on one side and Muslims on the other. Beneath its calm surface there are deadly tensions that produce periodic bloodbaths at the flick of a switch.

Whatever plays out in Kaduna will eventually spread across the nation. If Kaduna makes a U-turn and sheaths its dagger to promote genuine peace, then Nigeria too will enjoy lasting peace. But if its demons keep going at the present pace, then every news you hear of innocent people massacred will later be played out again on the national front at a much larger scale.

Si vis pacem, para bellum is a Latin adage that says to enjoy peace, prepare for war. If Nigeria will not rush to rescue Kaduna from the unfolding genocide the best our citizens can do is to note the smokescreens, diversions, patterns, propaganda, dalliances and political mischief in high place.

Let’s face facts in Nigeria, the days of conscience- ruled statesmen has gone, all the original accords have been compromised and a stranger has entered Sabon Gari, who feeds on human flesh and drinks the blood of infants.

Ladi Peter Thompson is a Consultant at the Non-Violence for African Development (NOVAD)

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