The following interview was done by Innocent Umezuruike Iroaganachi, a member of the Young Peace Journalists of Pax Christi International (YPJ – PCI), and the World Catholic Association of Communication (SIGNIS). He holds a Bachelor and Master of Arts in Communication Studies, a doctoral student specializing in Peace and Development Communication Studies and a part-time lecturer at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) Nigeria. Currently, he is the blog writer and website content editor for Asante Africa Foundation and an emerging media leader with the Centre for Social Awareness, Advocacy and Ethics (CSAAE).
In recent past, Kaduna, a state located in the central part of Nigeria, having a huge Christian and Muslim population in the south and north respectively. The state has for some time, been marred with conflicts and violence, leading to the loss lives and properties. In this interview, a resident of the state, who for some security concerns, wish to go by the name Mr. Divine, shares his and family’s experience of the conflict and survival of the crisis, with Innocent Iroaganachi, a Peace Journalist, with Pax Christi International (PCI).
Can you narrate how you knew about the crisis?
Mr. Divine: Well, I went to my aunt’s place at Kujama, because she was having a thanksgiving for the successful restoration of her husband and daughter’s health, my mum and little sister also went there with me. When we wanted to leave, we followed my cousin in his Hilux vehicle to save transport cost, hoping to drop my other cousin and his family first at the park inside town, so they could board a cab and head back to Zaria, where they reside. We had barely left Kujama, when my aunt called and told us that there is a little unrest in Kujama market. We taught it was a minor thing, until when we got to the park and she called again, reiterating that it is serious, saying “they are killing people” that “we should leave town quickly before the information reaches there and they start fighting over there.” So we bought all the sits in the available cab for my cousin and he left immediately. Then we saw a lady that lives in Kujama, with my other cousin, she told her what was happening, helped her pack her load into our car, then tried to get out of town as discreetly as possible.
In which particular ways, did the crisis affect you and your family?
Mr. Divine: Well for starters, we were scared, because we were caught up in the middle of the crisis, in a Muslim area and the rest of our family at home were also terrified and scared for our lives. We barely managed to escape, as they blocked us with weapons in their hands. It was a terrible experience. I tell you, my mum is yet to recover from the shock she had that day. Same with my cousin driving the car.
What were the immediate steps taken by the government to address the situation?
Mr. Divine: Implementation of curfew in the affected areas; improving security, especially in the affected areas; organising peace campaigns to educate the public on the importance of peace, unity and togetherness, irrespective of our ethnic and religious diversities.
What can you say about those suggesting, the crisis to be religious and ethnic based?
Mr. Divine: Well, they might be right and they might be wrong, I can’t really say at this point in time, but I can tell you one thing for sure, that is, no religion supports the massacre and killing of innocent people and destruction of properties.
After your experience during the crisis, do you still feel confident relating with those alleged to have caused the crisis?
Mr. Divine: To be honest, NO! But I’m working on it.
In what ways have the crisis traumatised you and your family?
Mr. Divine: Well, personally for me, I don’t really feel comfortable, anytime I’m around those alleged to have caused the crises. It’s really difficult, especially for me that my school is far. Just last week I was in the park to go back to school and pay my fees, I wasn’t comfortable at all, throughout my stay in the park, I was scared that the crises will just start again. My mum hasn’t even gone to town, where the crises met us since that October 21st, she still has dreams of the incident of that day and doesn’t relate comfortably with those of the opposite religion that attacked us. She is still terrified and it is same with the rest of my family members, we told about the incident.
Who are those most affected and how are they suffering as a result of the violence?
Mr. Divine: It’s mostly the poor and those innocent people, who have no idea of what is going on, but find themselves trapped in the middle of the crises. For the poor, when the crises start, curfews are been implemented and when that happens, there is a hike in the price of foodstuffs, thereby making it very difficult for food to be available for them and there is no movement, so they have little access to food. For those innocent people trapped in the middle of the violence, they might end up losing their lives or properties, and this will affect others too, because some of these people affected and suffering are the bread winners of their families.
What can you say were responsible for the continual use of violence by aggrieved parties during such crisis?
Mr. Divine: I think it’s just a lack of understanding between the two parties, if we understand that we are all one Nigeria, irrespective of our religious and ethnic differences we won’t result to violence but find peaceful ways of resolving our issues, because you will agree with me, that if you have a dispute with your brother, you won’t choose violence, rather you will find other ways to sort it out.
What was behind the spread of the crisis?
Mr. Divine: Well, mostly rumors, and as a saying goes, news travel fast in Africa, once it gets to the ears of one person, a 100 people have heard it, especially now that we have things like mobile phones and the internet.
How were the media in Kaduna responding during the crisis?
Mr. Divine: Well, the media really helped in this trying time, because when the crises started, as soon as they got the information, they disseminated it and most people were able to run to safety on time. The media also helped in passing information from the government to the people, especially during the curfew periods. The media was also one of the means, the government used in educating the people on the importance of peace and togetherness, by organizing radio and television programs using the media.
What are the visible steps taken by the community and government to avoid a reoccurrence in the future and to reconcile all aggrieved parties?
Mr. Divine: The government is working hand in hand with the community, by organizing peace campaigns to educate the public on the importance of peace, unity and oneness, irrespective of our religious and ethnic diversities and difference in culture. They are doing so, by organizing seminars and also using the media, such as radio and TV stations to educate people on this. They are also working hard to repair places which have been affected (damaged) during the crises.
Are their particular efforts by the residents to assist in bringing a lasting peace to crisis of this kind?
Mr. Divine: Definitely, they are organising vigilante groups to keep the area safe and everyone is being advised to be security cautious and avoid spreading false rumors.