New Telegraph

The Zangon Kataf challenge

Touching a tiger by the tail portends as much danger as trying to beard a lion in its lair. Chief of Defence Staff, Christopher Gwabin Musa, must rise up to the menace of different shades of terrorists plundering Nigeria, with immediate effect. Gen. Musa hails from Zangon Kataf in the troubled Southern Kaduna area. On September 7, 2023 bandits dared him by attacking St. Raphael’s Catholic Church, Fadan – Kamantan. The Parish priest, Rev. Father Emmanuel Okolo and his assistant escaped but a senior Seminarian, Na’aman Stephen Ng’ofe, was burnt to death. The bloodletting in that part of Kaduna State has been going on virtually non-stop since 1992. Initially, it was as a result of clashes between the various indigenous groups and the Fulani settlers. It snowballed into battles involving farmers and herders. Today it appears to be fuelled more by politics. The immediate past administration did not help matters especially when President Muhammadu Buhari announced an ‘Open Door Policy’ to accommodate different elements from all over West Africa. Former Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El Rufai, made assimilation of strangers so easy. From skirmishes before 2015, ethnic clashes assumed more bestial dimensions.

It went round. Hundreds were killed in Godogodo in 2016. More perished in Manchok, tens died in Zangang Atakar, blood flowed around Malagum and weeping continued in Ungwan Juju. In April 2023, the invasion of Runji village left about 30 persons lifeless. The killings have affected all local government areas in Southern Kaduna, from Kaura to Kajuru, Jama’a to Kafanchan and Kachia. President of Atyap Community Development Association, Samuel Achi, supplied more data. Achi disclosed that between 2017 and 2023, a total of 518 persons lost their lives, 20 villages were displaced, 18 settlements were burnt down and thousands have become refugees, scattered in different parts of the country. Many are not willing to return. Musa should be concerned. He has what it takes to strike with the speed of lightning. For a general, who was Theatre Commander of Operation Hadin Kai, commanded Sector 3 of Operation Lafiya Dole and led Sector 3 of the Multinational Task Force in the Lake Chad Region, expectations are ultra-high. The taste of the pudding, it is said, is in the eating.

If the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) cannot defend his village and make it free of bandits, then there is little to cheer. Charity, they say, begins at home. It is encouraging that El Rufai’s successor, Governor Uba Sani is not taking sides. What should propel the CDS is the fear of yesterday. Air Marshal Alex Badeh, a strong fighter pilot, was embarrassed by Boko Haram fighters who captured his home town of Mubi, Adamawa State in 2014, even if briefly. That humiliation never departed from the onetime defence chief until he was assassinated on December 18, 2018. Musa should find out why the attack on St. Raphael’s happened on the Kaduna – Kafanchan Road with soldiers visibly guarding check points. Questions need to be asked. Badeh blamed saboteurs for the losses during his tenure. This line of thought might help. Kachia is the home of Military Artillery. In 2017, Gen Tukur Buratai laid the foundation for a Forward Operating Base, 2 Battalion of the Nigeria Army.

There is also the 101 Special Force Battalion in Ninte. The Armed Forces must do something concrete to stop the incessant bloodletting. Senator Sunday Katung, representing Kaduna South, has tasked the military to depopulate forests around the Kaduna/Kachia axis of bandits. This is doable. With air support and artillery fire, soldiers can smoke out those troubling the area, with less difficulty. Zangon Kataf is blessed with military generals, dead and living. Musa should not shy away from tapping their experience. The CDS grew up in Sokoto and may need to get a few tips from those who spent their salad days in Southern Kaduna. One of them is Gen. Zamani Lekwot. He is a Civil War veteran, trained officers at the Nigerian Defence Academy, was Brigade Commander as well as a former General Officer Commanding (GOC). Lekwot may be useful in another way. He speaks French. Most of the bandits are believed to come from Francophone West African nations. Lekwot was also a former Nigerian Ambassador to Senegal, overseeing Mauritania and Cape Verde. The bandits must be flushed out. If they conquer the Adara, Kagoro, Ikulu, Chawai, Bajju and the Ityap during Musa’s tenure, they will be emboldened to advance to other parts of the country. The CDS must stem that aggression.

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