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Let there be peace in Kaduna

By Anthony Cardinal Okogie
12 March 2017   |   4:03 am
The tragedy of Yakowa’s sudden death is amplified by refusal and failure on the path of political office holders—in Nigeria in general and in Kaduna State in particular—to continue his laudable legacy.

The Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai

In a not too distant past, Kaduna State had a Governor, well-known for his statesmanship and nobility. His name was Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa. Recent tragic events in Kaduna cannot but make one recall the days when Patrick Yakowa was Governor.

Yakowa was Christian. But, in and out of government, politics of exclusion was not his way of life. Rather than exclude, he brought Muslims and Christians together. Yakowa was so effective a bridge-builder that he was nicknamed by Muslims and Christians alike, “Yakowa, Na kowa.” Yakowa who brings everyone together. Yakowa the bridge builder.

Yakowa was from Southern Kaduna. Yet, with him at the helm of affairs in Kaduna State, every citizen was safe. It did not matter if you worshipped in a Mosque or in a Church. Thoroughly detribalised, it did not matter to him whether you were Fulani or Zango Kataf. In a country, where many politicians either play the ethnic card or the religious card, exploiting the diversity in our land for the implementation of self-centred agenda, Yakowa would not be a player in the game of divide and rule, a game in which there are no winners, a game in which the one who divides and those he rules are losers. He thoroughly understood that the primary obligation of government was to secure the land and its people, and, with exemplary devotion, he deployed the skills and talents of a veritable statesman to ensure that Kaduna was secure. But alas! Like good soup, Yakowa did not last.

The whole of Kaduna, and indeed all well-meaning Nigerians—Muslims as well as Christians—mourned his death in a helicopter crash on December 16, 2012, in apparent premonition of the days of bloodletting now visited on the state. How can one forget the portrait of this gentleman politician in a country, where one is made to believe that civility and politics are like oil and water that can never mix? The homily at his funeral, on December 20, 2012, pronounced by another illustrious son of Kaduna State, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, sums it all.

In the words of Bishop Kukah, “His death has robbed our country of one of the finest human beings who brought respectability and nobility to politics, a man who has demonstrated how faith could influence politics, a man who has demonstrated that politics can be played by its rules and that indeed, politics can serve as a means of building bridges. He built bridges across the country, he made Muslims respect and appreciate the Christian faith, he showed a human side of life that very few in public life have demonstrated.”

The tragedy of Yakowa’s sudden death is amplified by refusal and failure on the path of political office holders—in Nigeria in general and in Kaduna State in particular—to continue his laudable legacy. Would that the Kaduna State Government secure the state. Would that the Federal Government secure the whole of Nigeria.

Why is it that our land is becoming increasingly unsafe? How can we speak of effective leadership when our country is not safe? Different nations, solicitous of the safety of their citizens, regularly issue travel advisories warning them not to visit Nigeria. Kaduna State features prominently and repeatedly on the list of no-go-areas. Men of sophisticated weapons have made our country a dangerous habitation. And one wonders what our leaders are up to.

This is no time to treat murderers with kid gloves. Neither is it time for equivocation. The time has come for the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Kaduna State Government to live up to their primary responsibility by making the statement loud and clear that it is unlawful to kill a Nigerian, that no one should get away with murder in a truly democratic polity, in a country where there is respect for law and order. Government must be held accountable where life has become so cheap that human beings are killed like rats. For the sake of our common humanity, and for the sake of our common citizenship, the government in Kaduna, and the government in Abuja, must rise to the occasion.

In June 2016, the administration of Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State honoured the memory of late Governor Yakowa by renaming the Kafanchan General Hospital after the late Governor. It was a fitting recognition of a very distinguished career in which he meritoriously and selflessly served Nigeria as Federal Permanent Secretary, Minister, Secretary to the Kaduna State Government, Deputy Governor, before becoming Governor. But there is a better way to honour his memory, and that is, to continue his legacy of peace, of bridge building in a State that is getting more and more volatile. Those in the saddle of government in Kaduna State today must imitate Yakowa, Na kowa.

Okogie Is Archbishop Emeritus Of Lagos.