PRESS CONFERENCE READ BY THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTHERN KADUNA PEOPLES UNION (SOKAPU), HON JONATHAN ASAKE, ON MONDAY JANUARY 18, 2021 IN KADUNA

Gentlemen of the Press, we have called you to unequivocally make known our position on the State of the Nation, especially on matters of security, governance and general wellbeing of our people.

We feel gravely concerned, particularly with the spate of insecurity that has ceaselessly engulfed the nation, especially in communities across the Northern and Middle Belt Regions.

Nigeria as a nation is seriously undergoing severe security challenges where as terrorists
who pose as Boko Haram, bandits or kidnappers continue to unleash premeditated
and unprovoked attacks on our people and turning our communities into rubbles
of devastation and desolation.

The incessant kidnappings, gruesome massacre and displacement of indigenous people from their homes have continued unabated. Presently, in most of our communities across the 12 local governments of Southern Kaduna, there are reported cases of daily abductions on the road, farms, homes, markets and worship centres where victims
have gone through unimaginable torture and relations forced to pay outrageous sums of money as ransom.

As I address you today, no fewer than 143 communities across our local government areas in Southern Kaduna have been completely displaced, with over 160,000 persons, mostly women and children, now living under very harsh and dehumanizing conditions devoid of food, medication and other necessities of life. From reports of kidnappings available to us and the amount of money paid in ransom, our poor, vulnerable
and defenceless people in Southern Kaduna have had to cough out over N900 million from January to December 2020 in ransom to these heartless criminals, with many killed when relatives of victims are unable to raise the ransom and at times even when ransom is paid. This undoubtedly has placed Kaduna state as the nation’s capital for kidnappings and abductions.

While the government of the day in our state and at the federal level have continued to appear helpless in their capacity to tackle these challenges or many at times turn a
blind eye to these horrifying atrocities and crimes against humanity, the chances of bringing back hope for our despairing communities is becoming slimmer by the day.

It is against this backdrop that the Christmas homily by the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto
Diocese, Dr Matthew Hassan Kukah, serves a timely wake-up call on national leadership to confront the monsters of destruction that are committed to the annihilation of our communities.

This is not the first time patriotic citizens and statesmen have raised their voices of concern to draw the attention of our leaders to the need of confronting these security challenges
that seek to destroy our nation which appears to have always fallen on deaf ears.

We recall a similar concern raised by a respected General and statesman, philanthropist and former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (retd), where, having observed the incessant killings across communities in Nigeria, particularly in
the Middle Belt Region, and also observing the non-neutrality of the Nigerian military, urged communities to rise up and defend themselves. This clarion call for self-defence by the General which is a constitutional provision and a right for every citizen was perceived negatively by a section of this country which has continued to behave as if they own Nigeria and that other citizens have no right to criticise the government of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.

In another twist, a refined gentleman, technocrat, accomplished academic, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and a one-time presidential candidate, Dr Obadiah Mailafia, had in a media interview called the attention of Nigerians to the inability of government in tackling insecurity in the country. He further drew the attention of the public to the sad situation where a certain Northern governor was behind the banditry in the region. Despite comments by Dr. Mailafia on those behind the insecurity ravaging our nation, the secret police were more concerned in harassing the Harvard trained economist than looking into the substance of his revelations.

It appears to us, therefore, that comments by Nigerians attract different reactions from the
government, depending on the region, ethnicity and religion of the person making such comments. It’s sad to note that when persons of core Northern extraction criticize government; they are taken as kind words, but when the same statements are made by people of Southern or Middle Belt extraction; they
are harassed and tormented and their comments branded as treasonable by
government.

This discriminatory posture of government clearly shows that the Buhari-led administration treats Nigerian citizens differently; some as first class and others considered as second class. If this is not the case, how can one explain a situation where
the same comments made by Dr Mailafia attracted ceaseless harassment by security personnel, and a similar comments by the Acting Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), did not attract the same reaction.

Again, when the respected Bishop Kukah criticised the government in his Christmas homily, all hell broke loose from Northern elements who have consistently exhibited intolerance since the assumption of Buhari as the President. Despite the fact that some of those who came hard on the Bishop had made statements against the government in a
more critical manner. Considering the rancorous debate that has trailed the Bishop’s Christmas homily, it is clear to all that while some have arrogated to themselves the right to criticise President Buhari-led government, others are denied the same right. More worrisome is the fact that the core North has
consistently exhibited to the rest of the country that Buhari is a president for a particular region and religion, and not for the entire country. Sadly so, his glaring nepotism, chauvinism and bigotry in his governance style seems to
lend credence to this perception.

All that Bishop Kukah is accused of saying against this government had been said by some other people in a more critical manner but never attracted a barrage of condemnation and threats. We note that the Sultan of Sokoto, prominent emirs and the Northern
Elders’ Forum (NEF) had condemned President Buhari over his dismal performance
in tackling insecurity in the country, with NEF calling on him to resign. The anger and threats that are being issued against the revered Bishop was never served on the Sultan, emirs and NEF which clearly shows the discriminatory posture of this government.

SOKAPU stands with Bishop Kukah and others who before him had called to attention the subtle and continuing annihilation of our communities. The people of Southern Kaduna have continued to bear the pains of discriminatory practices aimed at diminishing
our status as Nigerian citizens. In the light of these grievous infractions on our rights, we have taken solace that just as the dawn follows the night, this present darkness of hopelessness that is enveloping our nation will soon fizzle out.

As a union, we hold this fact as incontestable, that all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic and religious divides, have the inalienable right to criticise government with the sole intention of promoting inclusivity for all citizens. Those who have threatened Bishop Kukah ought to be arrested and be made to face the full wrath of the law. For the Islamic group that issued out a threat and an ultimatum on the Bishop, we must warn here that nobody has a monopoly of violence and nothing should happen to Bishop Kukah. Those who call on the government to rise up and do their jobs are not criminals; they are patriots who are genuinely interested
in the unity and wellbeing of citizens.

Thank you for the audience.

HON JONATHAN ASAKE
(President)

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