The Yobe incident would further heighten the insecurity prevailing in the North East Region of Nigeria which has virtually grounded social and economic activities in that part of the country. The Kaduna and Zaria incidents present a very grim prospect for very obvious reasons. At the best of times and that was a long time ago, Kaduna city was easily the unofficial urbane capital of Nigeria. Kaduna provided a more sedate alternative to Lagos when it was the capital of Nigeria where the who- is -who in those less complicated days chose to have their residences, serving thereby as a kind of resort when they needed to escape from the bedlam in Lagos. Thus it provided the quiet and peace of mind that were grossly lacking in Lagos that had been turned into the hunting ground for all manner bandits and cutthroats.
A journalist friend based in Lagos who had tried to make me relocate to Lagos without success, one day popped up at the New Nigerian where I worked then to see why I had resisted all entreaties to join him in Lagos and help myself to the multiplicity of opportunities on offer in Lagos. By the time he had spent a couple of days, there was an obvious reluctance on his part to leave. Apparently, he had been overcome by the tranquility and calm disposition of the city and it had to take the strident protestations of his missus who had become restless and agitated fearing she was losing him to another woman before he decided to go back! When I teased her that her husband had been bitten by the Kaduna bug, she promptly threatened that she was going to file an action against me for abducting her husband. I quickly deployed all my native wiles and dispatched her husband back to Lagos! His encounter with Kaduna became a lifelong infatuation of a kind, as he continuously contrived and rigged one assignment after the other just so to visit Kaduna.
But all this was a long time ago, incessant ethnic and religious crises have seen to it that that particular attraction of Kaduna has since disappeared, given way to a palpably unhappy city chained down by perennial bitter feuds. Having been a resident for several years, I have watched the city transform from being a laid back sleepy city of civil servants with their 8 am –4pm working hours into a bustling commercial city where the three major Nigerian languages of Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo are as indigenous as many of the others spoken in its immediate vicinity. Its many neighbourhoods of Malali, Kakuri, Barnawa, Tudunwada etc. throbbed with life as it gradually took on a cosmopolitan sophistication. I remember as many residents would, the dualisation of Ali Akilu, and Ahmadu Bello Way, right up to the Command Secondary School in Sabo Tasha. And of course, independence way too was dualised- all in attempt to ease the traffic congestion that rose sharply with the influx of people from every nook and cranny of Nigeria. As the town grew so also was its distinctly Nigerian character that made everyone feel he was a stakeholder in the Kaduna enterprise. An enterprise that would have turned it into a cosmopolitan city that could have rivaled Lagos, perhaps in its splendor only, without the latter’s seediness. Alas, this golden opportunity has been lost. Or has it?
The foregoing however is contemplation in nostalgia. For the past three decades the bitter internecine religious and ethnic animosity rather than abate has continue to fester, exploding into violence on the cycle of every two years, and characterized by the orgy of bloodletting and destruction of property.
So deep seated has the absence of trust and fellow feeling become that the city has been effectively Lebanonised, a euphemism borrowed from the Middle –East country where endemic violence effectively balkanized the country into sectarian districts with the Shia and Palestinians holding fort in the South while the Christians and Maronites occupy the remainder of the country. Kaduna is currently similarly divided with the bulk of the Christians occupying the South while the Muslims hold fort in the North—creating in effect a sort of residential arrangement that underscores the implacable chasm dividing the people of the city. The descent into anarchy and bloodletting last week was therefore hardly surprising, since there was a dormant crisis needing only a spark to ignite it into a full blown conflagration, like a volcano waiting to spit out its red-hot ashes.
But what is the point of all the rehash of the gory inter ethnic/ religious past of Kaduna? Well, it is a lamentation for the failure of our effort to forge communality among the various ethnic identities that at one time or the other populated Kaduna which gave it its essence. Before our own very eyes, in a spate of 30 years we watch as a city whose establishment was consciously aimed at whittling down the petty divisions that separate us as a people and in its place create a melting- pot of sorts, where everyone could come and pursue his or her aspiration, has been reduced to one sad and bitter place where mutual hatred and periodic killings have become a regular fare.
Still, as deep- seated as the mutual animosity between the faiths seems and the differences between the ethnic groups there should be a way to reclaim the original aim that informed Kaduna’s founding as a seat of power and administrative hub that provided an abode for all. The essential difficulty however is, with matters as they are, how on earth would that be achieved? This column shall hazard a number suggestions in subsequent editions and readers can contribute to this search by addressing their views to the editor.