The Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs of Kaduna State, Samuel Aruwan, said, “In Nigeria, ethnic and religious affiliations are strong. Of course, this is clearly expressed in Kaduna State, but sadly it has become a source of retrogression.
“Ethnicity and religion are not problems in and of themselves, but their management, viewed alongside several other factors, have made them dicey issues. Ethnicity and religion are things to be proud of, but values must be prioritized, and humanity, ultimately, trumps both.”
The Commissioner made the comment at the Roundtable Dialogue for Religious, Traditonal and Community Leaders for Peace and Security, I-PEACE SK(I – Stand for Peace in Southern Kaduna by the Gideon and Funmi Para -Mallam Peace Foundation.
He went further to say, Another factor, politics, also elicits strong emotions and conviction, and in our climes, it has been infused strongly with the other two issues. It has become so inflamed that at the root of most of our security issues, you will find these factors at play.
We currently grapple with security challenges practically every day, and in many instances, the main response required in areas ravaged by violence, involves the presence of security operatives to keep the peace. While it is usually necessary, I personally find it quite disturbing. If groups of people cannot be trusted to co-exist without the compelling threat of physical force, it reflects poorly on the very essence of our humanity. Boots on the ground may bring security, but only for a time. Only peace can give rise to total security.
Peace is a field of general interest. As the classics expressed, Peace is the highest good. It is not enough however, for us to merely verbalize our love for peace. We must take conscious, deliberate and I dare say difficult steps towards its realization.
Peace cannot be externally enforced. It must be willingly embraced, and that entails certain sacrifices. Peace has a price, and that price may necessarily involve subjugating our narrower interests to the over-arching ideal of common humanity, and this I hope, will be emphasized strongly in the course of this event.
The narrative around banditry in Kaduna State, is heavily skewed to portray acts of criminality as aggression of one religion over another. However, being as close to the facts as anyone can possibly be, I know for sure that this is not the case. The bandits do not select their victims based on ethnicity or religion before they wreak havoc and mete out destruction. Everyone suffers. Not one tribe. Not one religion. Everyone. The carnage is blind. To paint this horror in any other way is quite fantastic, delusional or maybe simply mischievous. It is a crime against our common good and all that we stand for as a people created by God irrespective of our differences.
Also, the unfortunate trend of grievance and counter-grievance, aggression and counter-aggression, killings and reprisals, has thus far mired us in a cycle of violence, instability and bloodshed for years. The sanctity of human life has been destroyed almost completely.
We must put out the flames of revenge and reprisal by urging our citizens to embrace dialogue, empathy, reconciliation and justice. Besides creating platforms where citizens from various backgrounds and identities can listen to one other, dialogue will create avenues for them to collaborate towards improving their communities. This helps to place focus on something everyone can lay claim to, like our shared environment, the geographical space which houses us all irrespective of our beliefs or culture, and the real possibility of collective progress. These are the aspects that need to be highlighted more and more, and the narratives that need to be pushed more vigorously.
The architecture of peace and security is not complete without the institutions which house the core of individual and group identity: the institutions of religion and tradition.
Religion and ethnicity are generally accepted as distinct markers of our identity, with profound influence on how we conduct virtually every aspect of our lives.
Religious and traditional leaders therefore have a huge responsibility as custodians of these two pillars of identity. They are the gatekeepers of our society, and the Government acknowledges that any meaningful peace efforts must be complemented by these gatekeepers.
The Government may create frameworks, but they will be run by people. How these people think, and approach issues will largely be shaped by our religious and traditional leaders.
We therefore call on these groups of leaders to handle the burden of social responsibility with great circumspection. Ensure that you play a positive role in the development of your immediate circle of influence, be it a constituency or a congregation or domain.
I appeal to all of us here, security personnel, traditional and religious leaders, journalists, peace workers and others to promote dialogue and to do so with sincerity and honesty. We must take the steps towards dialogue with a solution-oriented and listening disposition. If our objective is peace, mutual respect, understanding and coexistence, then surely, the time for dialogue is now. To achieve that, we must begin to replace narrow thinking with the presumption of good faith in our fellow citizens. This presumption of good faith is essential to dissolving imaginary boundaries and promoting dialogue.
As leaders, when we speak, the people listen. It is thus wiser to preach messages of peace, empathy, reconciliation and forgiveness. Eschew inflammatory and politically charged rhetoric. Resist the temptation to compromise the true values of community for fleeting profits. Align with principles of natural justice. Condemn wrongdoing in the strongest terms. Call out heinous acts for what they are, ensure criminal behavior is punished, and do not buy into narrow sentiments.
This is a heartfelt appeal for concerted focus from these custodians of our values and identity, to be positively oriented. The government has pulled out all stops to ensure that Kaduna State is peaceful, secure and economically prosperous. The bulk of what is left, lies with you, and our future generations count on you to deliver on this.
I will re-iterate that the Kaduna State Government stands against profiling of innocent citizens because of acts committed by criminals with whom they may share an ethnic or religious identity. Where citizens are victims of unjustified attacks that stem from profiling and generalization, the Government will not hesitate to wade in to prevent further killings and counter killings. The Government also maintains that recourse to the law by all aggrieved sides throughout the State is crucial to bringing an end to bloodshed.
Furthermore, the Kaduna State Government will not negotiate with or compensate criminals who attack our communities, kill, rape, burn, plunder and kidnap for ransom; criminals that cripple our rural economy, set barns on fire, burn down farms and plunge our citizens into abject poverty.