The people we see attacking us are armed Fulani men, we will not call them herdsmen because they don’t have cows —Kaduna’s Adara community leader, Maisamari
The National President of the Adara Development Association (ADA), Awemi Dio Maisamari, speaks with Tribune’s Northern Bureau Chief, MUHAMMAD SABIU, on recent terrorist attacks on some communities in his area where 32 people were killed and a ‘mysterious’ helicopter that opened fire on his people.
Three years after the death of your paramount ruler, a new chief has not been appointed. What is the problem?
Since the death of our first-class paramount ruler, there has been a worrisome chain of events. After he was buried, the Kaduna State government came out with a gazette saying that the Adara chiefdom has been scrapped. Interestingly, that action had been taken before our paramount ruler died. That is to say that even when he was alive, the chiefdom was no longer in existence. They kept the decision secret until after his death. That looks very suspicious to us. The reason for that, we just do not understand. We have been asking questions. We have been trying to engage the government to discuss the issue but government has been rebuffing us.
We had no option but to take the matter to court. We have been in court on the matter with the Kaduna State government since January 2019 but the government has been using delay tactics. For three years now, this matter has not been heard. They would bring one objection, the court would rule in our favour and then they would bring another objection. That is how the case has been going. We feel that they are objecting to the court rulings because they are afraid of losing.
The law was passed in October 2021 and they are attempting to implement it. When they know the other case is still going on and they were the ones frustrating it. As far as we are concerned, it is injustice on their part to say that we should be law abiding when they are not. About 17 communities joined us to challenge the new law in another court in Kafachan because we felt the law scrapping our chiefdom did not follow the due process.
Who is now in charge of affairs in Adara community?
As far as Adara community is concerned, we recognise the leadership of the Waziri Adara, Bawa Magaji, because, according to the guidelines for the operation of Adara chiefdom, he is the next in command to His Royal Highness. As far as we are concerned, he is our paramount ruler for now.
The security situation in the country is very worrisome. What do you think is the cause?
I have said it before and I will continue to say it: we don’t have security problems in Nigeria but what we have are political and leadership problems and they are manifesting in various ways, including insecurity. Our primary problem, our fundamental problem in Nigeria is leadership failure.
Secondly, we have political problem because we have not got our politics right. The political arrangement we have in the country is not fair and is breeding a lot of problems. So, security problems in the country are manisfectations of leadership and political problems.
What do you think is the solution?
People are clamouring for the restructuring of Nigeria. To put it more properly, we have to renegotiate our existence as a country. Today in the country, we have those who are not feeling at home and we have others who are saying everything is okay. That tells you that there is a problem. Those who are happy and insisting that the status quo should remain are the cause of the problem because they are benefitting from it.
So, we must renegotiate Nigeria. We must discuss at a roundtable. The last attempt to discuss the country during Goodluck Jonathan’s era did not succeed. To our surprise, the government of the day has failed to amend even the peripheral changes that were discussed at the conference. That tells you that there are people who are happy with the current situation. Otherwise, why should there not be fundamental changes as a result of what is happening. So far, all the changes that have taken place are cosmetic, superficial. So, people who have refused to allow for these changes should be blamed for the problems of this country.
The first religious crisis in Kaduna broke out in Kasuwar Magani in the 1980s and it was in your area. What is the situation now in the area?
The causes of these crises are well known to the authorities. The authorities have information from the various committees and commissions set up to investigate these crises. They also have intelligence reports from security agencies. Concerning the first ethno-religious crisis you were talking about, including the one that is still happening, it is just a matter of social injustice. We have a situation whereby people are being oppressed in their own homeland. People came and settled in an area and they were accepted; they feel at home, having been recognised as indigenes, but the next thing is that they want to take over your land.
They want to take control; they want to dictate everything that happens in the community; they want to dictate who gets what. With this kind of attitude, there can not be peace.
Our point is that there is so much injustice in the Nigerian system that if anybody claims they cannot see it, it means they have been compromised. The indices of the injustice are so glaring.
On the recent killings in your area, what really happened?
The latest attack was on the 5th of June, 2021. The attack happened in a village called Unguwar Gamo on a Sunday afternoon. People had come out of church service and were relaxing when a large number of bandits arrived on motorcycles with AK-47 rifles. They started shooting and chasing people into the bush.
We have been living with incidents like this but the situation is getting out of hand. We cannot understand why people would indulge in such barbarism.
Before the latest attack, there was an attack in April on Takura village, near a railway station. We are getting fed up.
Recently, bandits attacked Unguwar Gamo, Dogo Noma. Then they went to Unguwar Sarki, all in the same area. When the neighbouring villages realised that they were going from village to village, they decided to take precautions.
The bandits went to Maikori village but the people were prepared for them. They hid their women and children in the bush. The young men stayed behind and defended their village. When the bandits came, they engaged them outside the village.
They didn’t enter the village?
No, they didn’t. But when the exchange of fire was going on, a helicopter arrived at the scene. We thought the security agents operating the helicopter should have a proper aerial view of the environment and distinguish between the two sides engaged in the fight. We expected the helicopter to recognise the terrorists who are always in army uniform with a large number of motorcycles. Some of them were wearing black clothes and holding AK-47 rifles.
We expected that the security agents would definitely know who were terrorists and who were locals trying to defend themselves. But to our utmost surprise, the helicopter opened fire on the natives.
So, the natives were now faced with combined fire from the bandits and the helicopter. That forced the locals to retreat and flee. In the process, some got injured. That was when the terrorists entered and destroyed the village. Today, only a handful of structures are still standing in the village.
What is the situation now?
There is still tension. People have fled their homes. Inhabitants of settlements along the roads from Kachia to Crossing, to Idon to Kufana to Mararaban Kajuru, have relocated because of the onslaughts of these bandits.
Most of the displaced people are staying with relations and friends whose villages are not affected. We don’t have a culture of relocating to schools, as others do, and wait for the government to come and assist us.
From previous experiences, the government does not help. We have been experiencing these attacks since 2013. Many of our villages have remained deserted; nobody dares to go back there because they have been taken over by the terrorists.
Lately, there have been reports of the presence of Ansaru terrorists in Birnin Gwari and Giwa local government areas. Are they present in your locality, too?
What I will tell you is that we are being targeted by terrorists, whatever else you may choose to call them. The people we see are armed Fulani men. We will not call them herdsmen because they don’t have cows.
We don’t believe these are herdsmen because even the Fulani among us are also victims. They come and kidnap people, including the Fulanis living among us, and rustle their cattle.
I told you earlier that a village, Takura, was sacked in April. The village came under fire because they resisted cattle rustlers. So, we don’t know whether it is Ansaru or ISWAP, or Boko Haram, or Fulani militia. As far as we are concerned, they are all terrorists.
We have been calling them terrorists but the government was saying they are not terrorists. But they have finally agreed with us. Whoever is carrying a gun illegally, going from village to village and attacking peace-loving people is a terrorist and he should be treated as such.
The government is in a better position to know whether the terrorists are Ansaru or Boko Haram. All we know is that terrorists are all over us. The government always tells us that they are overwhelmed but we don’t believe them because if they truly are overwhelmed, they ought to seek help.