By GLORIA MABEIAM BALLASON Esq.
This piece will be disturbing but that is not a goal in itself. Here is a real life story of an area where peaceful citizens have consistently been hacked to death time and again, episode after the other like macabre scenes in a horror movie and in the face of a sitting government.
While humans slept on Monday 11 May, 2020 blood thirsty men went into Gona Rogo Community in Kajuru, Kaduna State and killed seventeen people- men, women and youths were killed. Toddlers and suckling babies were not spared. They were hacked, sawn down or blown in smithrens… out of life.This is more than an attack on a community. It is not just an act of terror but a horrific testimony of how murderous attacks have formed a morbid lifestyle in Kaduna , Plateau, Zamfara, Benue, Katsina and indeed most states of Nigeria.
Our collective humanity is being targeted. It is up to all of us to respond in righteous indignation. Every person of conscience should lend voice in condemning these killings and call for justice to take its cause.Impunity must never be empowered anywhere across the length and breadth of our country.
We have become a country of selective amnesia to violence, always discounting of the inherent worth of human lives. The very poor sanitary state of our mortuaries speak of how quickly people lose their dignity the moment they breathe their last. This same response is what we give to the death and maiming of thousands of Nigerians across the country who may be lucky to form a flash in the news for a moment but fade as quickly as the bodies are covered beneath mounds of soil. If we do not learn to humanize the memory and worth of our citizens, if we do not give them dignity by placing a demand on government and the Law to acknowledge their value in life as in death, we will never be able to access the depletion in the worth of human life in Nigeria. To be sure: Any government that does not acknowledge the worth of one human life, will excuse the death of thousands.
THE KILLING FIELD IN KADUNA.
In our part of the world, we pray ‘Allah ka sa mu rabu da duniya lafiya’ (May we severe from mortal existence (the world) in peace). It’s the kind of prayer you make in hope that you do not end up being caught up in the things you do not understand. That you do not pay for who you are. That your inherent human dignity does not dissolve into a figure or grim statistic.
In our country, this kind of story is becoming normal. It is at best another news feature and at worst a subject of political debate. Truth be told, very few media houses report these kinds of news- not if they seek adverts.
This is about people. Real. Living. Breathing. People. They went to bed in hope for tomorrow but tomorrow never came.Killed in the nastiest of fashion, they were poured in mass graves. The graves may not have their names neither would it have their epitaph but their families will never forget the sounds of bullet that richocheted nor the clamp of matchetes on human bodies that competed with the shrill, pitched sounds of their dying loved ones.No. They are not numbers. Numbers do not feel nor bleed. They do not weep neither do they have their hope cut short.
In the mass grave dug for the killings of 11 May, 2020 were Jonathan Yakubu (40), Sheba Yakubu(32) ,Patience Yakubu(13), Revelation Yakubu (6) and
Rejoice Yakubu (4). What this means is that an entire family was wiped out in one fell swoop. A human lineage is lost.
There were Paul Bawa (27) and his wife, Rahila Bawa (25), both husband and wife are gone. There were also Asanalo Magaji (32) and Yayo Magaji (13). Two members of a family are no more. Mailafia Dalhatu (60), Yaro Dalhatu (56) Saratu Dalhatu (45) and Blessing Yari (14) belonged in one family.Two brothers, wife and granddaughter have perished.
Popular Teacher (17) was gunned down to death. John Paul (6) was hacked to death. Sarauniya Lucky (25) was found dead with her 3- month baby cuddled in her arms.
That could have been me, or you or just anyone. The pain and the fear are beyond words but we can determine that our citizens and indeed all of us must never live in fear for our lives or in perpetual worry of murderous night.
EVEN BABIES WERE NOT SPARED.
Babies have been killed. They were never in the way of anyone.Let that simmer and sink for a moment. What did those precious babies do? I was at one of the hospitals to visit the patients. Nothing prepares anyone for the spectacle that bears witness to the devaluation, dehumanization, denigration and desensitization in the conscience of man like what remains of the patients in those hospitals. Here are a few:Isaiah Jonathan is 13. He has a deep cut on his right hand. His father and mother and two older siblings were killed. He is yet to be told.
Zipporah Jonathan is 8 years old. She has a deep cut on her right hand. Her parents and two older siblings were killed but she does not know yet. She is also a sister to a 3 -month old baby who was grazed by a bullet in the attack but miraculously survived.
Evelyn Magaji’s case is beyond critical. The 3- year old lost her family members including her mother in the attack. Her father lies critically ill at St. Gerard’s hospital. The wound on her head is so deep it reveals a white portion. Her eyes are now inverted blank stares. 10- year old faith has a deep cut across the front-right side of her head. Her mom is dead but she has not been told. She suffers panic attacks that are not unrelated to the trauma of the incident. There is Mama Markus. Mama is about 80yrs. Her left hand is in a sling. Mama sustained a gun shot wound on her left shoulder. Her daughter in-law, Sauraniya Markus was killed, leaving behind a 5-day old baby.
These children have paid the heaviest price of government’s failure to stop these killings. How did we sink so low as not to remember that we have a collective responsibility for the protection of children? The world already whirs and dizzies from the horrors of a pandemic.It is a shame, a big shame that while animal species preserve their young fiercely and jealously for continuity, human beings have failed to exclude children from the nadir of suffering and the horrors that come with these mindless killings.
How can anyone look into the vacant, terrified eyes of a child only to respond with a matchete or bullet? Common! even wars have rules of engagement. We have a duty to remember that of all the things that can kill our humanity, the most potent is our loss of rage against the murder and violation of children. Fly high little angels …This world was not worthy of you…Fly into a home where there is no night.
GOVERNMENT & WHY THE KILLINGS KNOW NO END.
The killings have not stopped. In Kauru, Godogodo, Attakad areas of Southern Kaduna, the stories of murder have remained the same. Indeed, the story of Southern Kaduna is the story of Benue, Plateau, Katsina, Zamfara, Niger or Taraba. Shortly after the May,2020 killings in Gonan Rogo, the President of Nigeria was widely reported as condemning the ‘revenge’ killings in Kaduna. In a statement signed by his spokesperson, Garba Shehu, the President ‘…condemned the wave of attacks and counterattacks among Fulani and Adara communities of Kajuru local government. ‘ He said ‘… the recourse to self help instead of the Law of the land was the real cause of the killings and counter killings between the two communities’.
The reaction by the President is deeply troubling. Who were those who began the killings and who are those taking out reprisals and where is the government when all of these are happening? We certainly have a crime situation here that flies in the face of a circuitous talk of condemnation. What has condemnation done in Zamfara,Niger, Benue, Plateau or Katsina? When did these killers become so above the Law that police would receive distress calls and head in the opposite direction? The weapons used for these attacks are clearly too sophisticated and unaffordable to the ragtag trained army that carry out these attacks on our citizens. Why have we never received a report on government’s action against the sponsors of these violence? Is there a political economy to these killings ? Who may be the beneficiaries? Why would Governor Elrufai be more invested in the Kano-Kaduna border road blocks for instance and not channel energies on Kajuru, Birningwari or the hospitals where these victims lie critical?
The killings across the country would know no end except the government follows the constitutional procedure of what ranks highest: security and the welfare of the people. For if government speaks in the tough eloquence and ecstasy of a paper tiger, if it pours in a million condemnations but fail to go after the real perpetrators, if they take to the stakes security votes and enable narratives of why the killings occur but fail to bring the sponsors and perpetrators of these violence to justice, the blood bath will never cease.
Ballason is the C.E.O. House of Justice & Executive Director, Molluma Medico-Legal Center, Kaduna. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org