Luka Binniyat is the spokesman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU). The group is made up of all the 67 ethnic nationalities of Kaduna State in 12 of the 23 Local Government Areas of the state and occupies 26,000kmsq of area. A journalist and a human rights advocate, he speaks with TAI ANYANWU on a range of issues, including security and politics
What is your overview of insecurity in the country?
Outlaws have unofficially declared war on Nigeria. There has never been a time in the history of this country when (apart from top government officials who are protected round the clock by security personnel), everyone has become so vulnerable.
Nigeria has largely been captured by violent criminals. The so-called ‘bandits’ who are essentially of the Fulani stock, have captured and are occupying territories larger than some states in Nigeria. The essence of having a government in Nigeria has been defeated.
How do you appraise the capacity of President Muhammadu Buhari to handle it?
President Buhari does not have the cognitive ability to handle the situation. He is also deficient of the physical energy to stay alert and give directives to subordinates and supervise them for results.
But, that can still be assuaged one way or the other if we in SOKAPU do not believe that there are concrete reasons to insist that he is complicit in the armed herdsmen invasions and criminality.
What is your view about daily carnage, kidnapping and closure of schools?
Like I said, the level of violent crimes in Nigeria is unprecedented. There was no time that the blood of the innocent has been so wantonly bled since the Nigerian civil war like today. In some parts of Southern Kaduna, children have stopped going to school for upwards of four years today because the communities have moved out after several deadly attacks and kidnapping.
Southern Kaduna is dotted with mass graves all over the place. In 2020, SOKAPU made a rough estimate of N1 billion as ransom paid to kidnappers that the surviving victims all identified as Fulani armed men. There is no time in Kaduna State that kidnappers are not holding 200 people hostages round the clock since this year. As of now, 108 communities whose land size can make several LGAs in some states have been captured and are occupied by these terrorists.
Some people have alleged that there is a hidden agenda in all these attacks. Do you think so?
No sensible Nigerian, who has been following this macabre plot will not agree that there are clear agenda against the rest of the country. There is a Fulanisation agenda promoted by the powers that be. I was in Zuru Emirate recently on a working tour of communities that were affected by banditry.
Some of the affected villages are Muslims communities. Local community leaders told me that the Fulani were out to chase them out of their ancestral homelands after rustling their livestock and burning down their food storage.
They revealed horrifying pictures of helicopters dropping arms and supplies to locations of bandits. The bandits are essentially Fulani. They have already captured some villages and are occupying them now. In Niger State, the story is the same.
In Kaduna State, especially in Southern Kaduna, not less than 108 communities have been captured by armed herdsmen, some dating back three years. The aggressive drive for lands by armed herdsmen became severe after most states refused to cede large swaths of lands to Fulani to be used as ‘Cattle Colony’ and later as ‘Ruga Settlement’ and then ‘Grazing Reserves.’
The most vulnerable parts of Nigeria are areas of the Middle Belt with small ethnic groups and have expansive fertile lands. They do not have people in the top echelon of governance at home and at the federal levels.
These are their targets. They tried that in Benue State. Governor Samuel Ortom chased them out. In Plateau State, scores of communities of the Berom ethnic group are under the forceful occupation of armed herdsmen. In Niger State, the Gbagyi, Kamukus and Achipawa are the owners of the lands captured by the bandits. None of their people are in power.
It is the same in Kebbi State. The Dakakari, who are the majority in Zuru Emirate but are not in power, are the part of the state under siege by the bandits. Zuru Emirate, which is in Southern Kebbi State is considered as part of the Middle Belt.
Come to Kaduna State, where Southern Kaduna has suffered untold persecution under the present government, it is the lands of the oppressed that the bandits have captured.
There are several other areas in the Middle Belt under the occupation of these gunmen that have not been reported. The common thing about all this is that there is no effort whatsoever to chase them out. So, there is an agenda to chase out vulnerable ethnic groups of the Middle Belt and replace them with Fulani demography.
What is the way out?
The way out is very simple. Government should take advantage of the teeming, young, healthy and willing youths of all affected communities.
They should be trained and given basic discipline and taught how to handle light weapons. With their large numbers, knowledge of their terrain and the fact that it is their own communities they are defending, these killers will be decimated under the command of the military and other professional security personnel.
The youths won’t even ask for allowances. That’s the shortest way out. That’s why it makes us wonder why the government would not entertain such a simple strategy. There is something someone is not telling Nigerians.
Do you believe there is a conspiracy of external kind against Nigeria?
The conspiracy of external involvement is not through external states’ involvement. President Buhari, Governor Nasir el-Rufai, Governor Ganduje and so many others have all agreed that foreigners are also involved in the carnage.
We also hear that in 2014, the then opposing APC entered into an alliance with these violent Fulani in some countries to make Nigeria ungovernable should the PDP refuse to concede power in 2015.
But these are individuals and groups, not state actors. I don’t think any African country would like to see the implosion of Nigeria because of the severe effect it will have on the continent, especially our neighbours.
Some have said we have a spineless National Assembly which has failed to do its job. How do you see this?
The Nigeria National Assembly is a rare specimen in indolence, incompetence and fear. Few of such rubber stamp parliaments have ever existed on earth. The National Assembly has totally succumbed to being an obsequious, boot-licking lackey of the presidency. It exists only to service the needs of the presidency.
It is the most disgraceful NASS of all times and it should take most of the blame for the shoddy way the executive have been neglecting its roles.
To most Nigerians, the National Assembly of today is a foot mat of President Buhari. Do you support the call for President Buhari’s resignation or impeachment?
President Buhari should not only resign, but should do so and submit himself for a probe. No, the President who superintended over such large case bloodletting should not leave office a free man.
His shocking lack of interest in the ongoing pogrom in many parts of Nigeria carried out by his Fulani kinsmen should not go uninvestigated.
Why should he put 98 per cent of military and security agencies and para-military all from his region and religion just for the massacre to keep surging?
How come that Meyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) has become a law unto itself and everyone seems helpless? Why is no one chasing away armed Fulani from their captured territories in the Middle Belt and parts of the North West? Buhari must answer these questions after he leaves that seat.
Of course, the most sensible and acceptable thing to do is for the National Assembly to remove Buhari from his office. But that will be like asking a man to behead himself. They cannot do it.
Recently, a trailer load of ammunition was found in Onitsha. What is your view about this?
I have not much information about that. But, I have said it already. There is an undeclared war by outlaws against poor Nigerians.
Do you support calls for restructuring of Nigeria?
Nigeria should be so radically restructured to the extent that you can hardly recognise it. Yes, I advocate for liberal democracy but not the one kind in the 1999 Constitution.
The Land Use Act should be the first to go. All states and regions should be semi-autonomous and should be in full control of their resources. The quota system must die. All states and regions should have their police and sundry security outfits.
There should, however, be one Nigeria Army, Navy and Air Force with a Federal Police, Secret police, Customs, Immigration, etc.
There should be a mono-cameral parliament. The issue of Aviation, Waterways, the environment and many other issues should be on the concurrent legislative list.
Resources available to the government are falling, in the face of corruption. How do you see this?
If corruption under the PDP was enjoying a galloping progression, today corruption has attained a rocket trajectory. It is impossible to imagine how much has been borrowed in the past six years to generate revenue and all you have is misery, poverty, derelict infrastructure and a collapsed economy. Where has all that money gone? Look at the allegations leveled against the suspended Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Usman: N162 billion of unremitted funds among others. Everywhere stinks of corruption.
What’s your impression about insecurity in the South-East considering that some people are of the opinion that agents of government have a grand plan to destabilise the region while deliberately putting it on IPOB and ESN?
The South-East region of Nigeria, perhaps, after Southern Kaduna, has been the most raped and cheated part of Nigeria. Just like Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State, the South-East is about the most productive region and has some of the smartest human beings in the world. The region, sadly, has come under siege by the state and it has the right to defend itself. It also has a right to self-determination. It is a universal right. IPOB and ESN were born out of necessity. While SOKAPU does not subscribe to violence of any form, we stand with IPOB and ESN in securing and defending Igbo land from what we are experiencing in Southern Kaduna. The Federal Government is not using the same proportion of force it is using on groups in the South East with the bandits in the North West and the Middle Belt. The South East must be vigilant against any grim conspiracy against its people.
Pastor Paul Adefarasin last Sunday advised his members to find Plan B and prepare to escape out of Nigeria for safety. What is your take? What are advising Christians to do in these trying times?
I have a lot of respect for Paul Adefarasin and SOKAPU stands with him on the utmost importance of throwing away the 1999 Constitution for a people owned constitution. We do not however think that we should leave Nigeria for anywhere should the worse come into play. Besides, how many can afford a Plan B. As for Southern Kaduna, “we die here!” This has been our home since the Nok Terracotta civilisation dating back to 500BC.
What does this insecurity portend for 2023 elections?
The issue of insecurity and the warped 1999 Constitution all portend danger to the 2023 general elections. Nigeria must not go into an election with the 1999 Constitution as its supreme guide, just as it will be impossible to have an election in an atmosphere full of strife.