Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has condemned the manner President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State handled the killings in Southern Kaduna. Indigenes of Southern Kaduna claimed that more than 800 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have been murdered and villages burnt down by suspected herdsmen without the state and Federal governments doing anything to stop them.
Soyinka spoke at the launch of the book, Religion and the Making of Nigeria, in Abuja, yesterday. His words: “Religion in the history of this continent has been a disastrous venture, a disaster in many zones and continues to be even so today. In this very nation in Southern Kaduna, over 800 souls were brutally extinguished suddenly. While the issue of grazing lands versus farming is unquestionably part of the conflict, it is equally undeniable that religious differences have played crucial role in the conflict. And yet some weeks before the latest outrage, the governor of that state was quoted to have claimed that peace was nigh since he had sent funds to the earlier wave of killers and they had agreed to end their killing spree. What astonished me was not the admission by the governor, but the astonishment of others at such governmental response to atrocity. There was nothing new about it. Has appeasement to religious forces not become a Nigerian face of justice and equity? The sitting President of this nation, General Buhari, once said ‘If you don’t kill corruption in this nation, corruption would kill us’. I would like to transfer that cry from the moral zone to the terrain of religion. If we do not tame religion in this nation, religion would kill us.” Soyinka said.
In his remarks, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, regretted that those who commit heinous crimes in the name of religion are left unpunished in the country. His words, “Very few people have been prosecuted for religious violence but none has ever been brought to conclusion. Why is it that such cases are never concluded? Too many cases of high profile murders that are not concluded in this country. National character is very hypocritical. When we are playing football, we all clamour for the best legs because we want to win. We don’t ask how many Muslims or Christians are in the team. When you are sick, nobody asks the religion of the doctor. We only ask about competencies. The manipulation of religion by the elites has led to the problem that we are facing. Nigerian elite will use religion when it is convenient and at other times they may use ethnicity or some other form of identification. It is that frequent use of religion for manipulative tendencies that has led to our predicament. And this is because we always discuss the issues after conflicts where lives are lost and it thus make such discussions emotive.”
Meanwhile, Nigerian Army has said it would launch Operation Kaunama 11 in Southern Kaduna. It also stated that the military exercise in the South-East, code-named Operation Python Dance, would be renamed while still carrying out other engagements across the country. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Yusuf Buratai, made the disclosure while fielding questions from newsmen at the end of the Security Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, yesterday. He said the exercise in Southern Kaduna would be extended to Plateau and Kano states.