We Spoke to members of the creative community in Kaduna about the ongoing conflict

The past week has been utterly disheartening. Along with news of the brutal crimes committed against young girls all over Nigeria, came a harrowing reminder of the ongoing conflict in the North as the #KadunaMassacre began to trend alongside the various “Justice For” hashtags on Twitter.

Though news of the constant violence that plagues Southern Kaduna often makes headlines in mainstream media – to the harrowing extent that sometimes they may not even be the headline – many young Nigerians outside the region find themselves grossly uninformed of the extent of the violence. The truth is, these killings have in fact been ongoing for over three decades. Unbelievable as it may seem that Nigerians are being slaughtered in one part of the country whilst the rest of us remain oblivious, this has been the reality for a very long time. So, let’s take a brief look at the history of the Southern Kaduna attacks. What are these killings all about?

Well, the root of the conflict is a struggle across numerous states in Northern Nigeria between the Fulani Herdsmen (also labelled the Fulani Militia) and farmers over depleting land resources – owing to the encroachment of the Sahara due to climate change and urbanisation. Historically, the government allotted grazing reserves to herdsmen in a scheme whereby they provided the herdsmen with land, water and the requisite resources for them to rear their cattle in return for taxes. However, with the ‘70s oil boom, came a decline in the agricultural sector, and this resulted in the neglect of the grazing reserve system.

So the situation at present is that stripped of their security and stability, the herdsmen now resort to seasonal nomadic grazing; however, as other communities have built upon the land they wish to graze, contention between the herdsmen and the local people invariably arises. In recent years these clashes have increased – which is why we’re hearing (more) about it – and the ensuing conflict has resulted in mass displacement and needless, tragic deaths.

Designed to raise awareness about the killings, the trending topic, #KadunaMassacre was met with hostility by the police and political figures in the region, who believed the hashtag to be a divisive tool to undermine the efforts of security personnel in achieving peace. With the Kaduna Police threatening to prosecute journalists ‘for spreading fake news’ (the news was true, just reported late), and conflicting reports on the magnitude of the killings, social media news of the #KadunaMassacre was shrouded in uncertainty.

Given how terrifyingly rampant this genocide is in the region, how distressing it is that innocent people are losing their lives and their land by the masses, it’s imperative that we familiarise ourselves with the facts so that our mobilisation for peace in aid of our country-people is well-informed. To that end, The NATIVE reached out to members of the creative community in Kaduna, who have helped us shed light on the conflict in the place they call home, giving much needed perspective of those living, working and creating amidst the unrest.

Yamai Kholie Patrick

Yamai is the owner of classic menswear brand Kholie, formerly known as YKP. Born out of a healthy dose of vanity and necessity – Yamai’s need to dress to impress on a university student’s budget – Kholie began as an up-styling project, where Yamai would buy second-hand clothes and then customise them according to the latest trends he’d spotted in the movies.

These early days dating back to 2012 – a time when MTV Base Africa had successfully spread the gospel of South African urban wear sensation, Ama Kip Kip – music videos were another huge inspiration for the young Yamai as they were for most young Nigerian creatives of all walks. Eight years, an accounting degree and his NYSC service later, Yamai’s Kholie retains some of the playful exuberance characteristic of the whacky videos which coloured most millennial childhoods, whilst conforming to the matured tailoring of traditional Nigerian menswear.

Ruth Joan Waziri

Ruth is also a designer, though Ruth Waziri Atelier is much younger than Kholie. Entering into the creative sphere as a model (she’s represented by Few), Ruth began designing her own ‘fits just two years ago. In this short time, Ruth Waziri has evolved from a traditional bespoke tailoring brand into a contemporary womenswear fashion label. Attending Bingham University in Karu, Abuja, and beginning her brand during her Youth Corp year (she was lucky to pass out in March, right before the COVID-19 lockdowns began) Ruth boasts an interstate market between Kaduna and Abuja.

Midst Dyeris

Midst is a documentary filmmaker, who came into the game in 2016, the year which marked a turning point in Nigeria’s creative industry, where artistic disciplines began to garner more respect and earn its people social brownie points. From what I remember at least, 2016 gave birth to the ‘cool’ creative (‘cool’ replacing struggling, try-hard, inauthentic and other negative parentheses that some were predisposed to using when describing creatives). Midst wanted in on this “cool thing” called filmmaking and it didn’t take him long to fall in love with the discipline, officially kicking off his career as a filmmaker toward the end of the following year.

Venturing into filmmaking was not without difficulty. Struggling to promote his local content without any funding, Dyeris made the decision to upgrade his TV and YouTube content creation to wedding and documentary filmmaking, as these were more lucrative outputs for his time and resources. With a lot of ups and downs along the way, Midst describes his journey using the universal adjective for the indescribable experience, “interesting”. But having fallen in love with storytelling Midst’s drive to create never relents.

Yashim Abin

Yashim – more commonly known as Sketch – owns a lifestyle brand that specialises in beaded bracelets, although other accessories such as caps and necklaces are also available. An architect by discipline, Sketch has always been industrious with his hands. In fact, it was his passion for drawing and other crafts – from making greeting cards to party decorations – in primary school, that scored Yashim the alias Sketch. SKETCH is the name Yashim appropriately bestowed upon his brand in 2013 when he decided to meld his fashion enthusiasm with his artistic inclinations in honour of his father, who passed away that year.

The loss of his father inspired Sketch to start something for himself, putting his love of fashionable accessories to good use. In remembrance of his dad, Yashim’s first creation under SKETCH was a commemorative bracelet. Realising that he wasn’t the only one who needed a token by which to remember a deceased loved one, Sketch began making remembrance pieces for friends and relatives and so the “something of my own” Sketch had committed to starting in honour of his father was born.

These four beginnings are relatable to any creative who’s gone out and started their own thing. But for Sketch, Ruth, Yamai and Midst, their Kaduna location and the instability in the regions has a real bearing on their businesses, and their personal lives too.

What’s it like being a creative in Kaduna?

Midst: Being a creative here is a bittersweet feeling. Sweet because there are a lot of stories to tell, it’s affordable to carry out projects without thinking twice, which is an add up to any creative mind. Bitter because creatives hardly get the accolades they deserve. People would rather pay someone coming from Lagos x3 to do a job and drag quarter the price with a home-based creative for the same or even better quality.

Yamai: It is really challenging trying to break out into the national scene, you know? People don’t really respect what you do if you’re not in Lagos or Abuja. But so far, the growth has been steady and encouraging. [A benefit is that] we have a fair overhead cost here in Kaduna compared to places like Lagos and Abuja. Rent is a bit fair, there’s ease of going around here, transportation is cheap.

Sketch: It’s been good really, basically because there’s always been an overflow of ideas, [which] could be attributed to [me] being in my home zone. But as much as there a pros there are cons. Sourcing of raw materials, skilled labour and equipment have been really challenging, [as well as] market of products, sales and all of that.

Ruth: Being a creative in Kaduna is hard work, especially when what you’re trying to do isn’t something really familiar in the North. I’ve encountered some struggles with pricing, exposure, at some point logistics were hard. Also getting raw materials, especially when I need to get some things for bridals. [For instance] I’ll go to the market and ask for let’s say, a padded bra cup –I’ll be told I have to order from Lagos because people here don’t use etc. There are fabrics quite alright, but you find out that there are new things in vogue etc and I’m looking for it up and down [in Kaduna] but when I get to Garki market in Abuja it’s there, gbam!

When I was in Abuja, people paid for my services without asking questions and belittling what I charge or so. Kaduna is also relatively cheaper than other places. Hiring tailors and transportation (days when I have to go to the market to and fro or do fittings or take measurements) is cheaper. I also have more clients here, since that’s where started from and grew. I think at some point when I was serving in Abuja, I had to do interstate sewing and send to my clients over here, and that helped me in learning how to take my time and sew properly without having to think of adjustments etc.

 

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How has the violence in Southern Kaduna affected you?

Sketch: Well, it really has affected me on a personal note ‘cause my old man passed during the killings around my hometown, in 2013. For a long time, this has been going on. We used to casually stroll to our hometown, but these days it has to be very important and calculative. I can’t visit my hometown or [my] dad’s grave like I’d love too. It has also really affected my business directly.

Yamai: Directly, as regards to a family member, no. But there are people who I know that have lost relatives. It has affected business [though]. In some periods we have to be on 24hrs curfew, for a week or so. The last one that required a long curfew that affected where I stay was October 2018. I remember having to sneak out of Kaduna to attend LFDW that year, as it was a no movement, stay in your house curfew.

Ruth: Personally, we are all affected because we all know one or two people from these parts. There’s a girl that lives with us who went home to see her parents during this lockdown and she’s from that particular community or around it I think. We couldn’t reach her and everyone was panicking and all. We were on edge about what could have happened to her until we finally heard from her, and explained her situation. 

Mentally you’re always thinking about what if and panicking. Some people who don’t know the distance in Kaduna and your friends who are not from around will be calling to check up on you to make sure everything is okay when they hear that there was an attack in Kaduna. It’s very draining to keep explaining to them over and over again. With regards to business operations and so on it doesn’t really affect me per say since most of my clients live in [the] main Kaduna town.

Midst: For me, the killings hit personally. A lot of times I go online and see it on the trend list, and it breaks my heart. Some weeks back, we were coming from a trip and we passed a village that was attacked the previous night – [it] was not a good sight. Seeing women and children leaving their homes to a distant land, walking miles with lots of luggage because strange people are attacking their land, killing their fathers, mothers and children is heartbreaking. I mean those images are disturbing. A woman we gave a lift cried and said she thought she [wouldn’t] make it, I can’t say exactly [what] the reasons for these killings [are] but the Government are not doing enough or apparently not doing anything about it and it pains the most. 

 

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Is there any form of activism ongoing against the violence in Southern Kaduna?

Ruth: None that I know of

Sketch: Well in recent times I don’t know who’s has been advocating, but I know there have been a few individuals and a few people on social media. I haven’t seen any other [besides SOKAPU] movement/medium that have moved against this violence

Midst: I have heard and read about the Southern Kaduna Union. It is a good one to have a Governing body that will always speak for their people, I am not part of any movement but I will always give support with my craft.

Yamai: I call out the government when they mess up and support them on projects that make sense. I mostly just want what’s right for the people. I don’t know if that’s activism, but I really want the country to be better.  The most common [activist group] is SOKAPU [Southern Kaduna Peoples Union]. Steven Kefason [and] John Danfulani. 

Unionisation is something I think we all consider to be largely a thing of the past; thanks to the Thatcher/Reagan era, peoples unions have seen a dramatic dissolution. These days, unions aren’t as prolific and few wield as much power as they did during industrialisation’s prime. But in Southern Kaduna, the Peoples Union is the primary activist group demanding peace be restored to the region, the only formal organisation speaking out against the lethargic government it seems. As a community, the people of Southern Kaduna believe that they have suffered social and economic inequalities and injustices at the hands of what they deem to be their (state) government’s disinterest in their welfare or their lives.

It’s not difficult to see why the people of Southern Kaduna are disgruntled. Attacks on their communities are largely met with silence: the President of SOKAPU has criticised Kaduna’s governor el-Rufai over his quickness to respond to attacks in the Igabi and Giwa villages in early March, whilst having never condemned it nor issued a statement when attacks have occurred in Southern Kaduna municipalities. When outrage is garnered and shared by the Nigerian people at large, security personnel seek to undermine the gravity of the issue. The state’s First Lady even brazenly denied any obligations to condemn the killings via her public Twitter platform, essentially saying she’s just here for the LOLs.

That isn’t to say that authorities have been entirely mute. President Buhari – communicated through Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Sehu – issued a statement on the latest (May 13) attacks in Kajuru LGA, Kaduna and el-Rufai shared a retweet mentioning how he has brokered peace. Unfortunately for the people of Kaduna, a few words and some retweets of a resolution without any transparency or assurance that it will be lasting isn’t going to cut it. There are still many displaced peoples. There is still a general fear of impending attack. Kaduna (and other states in which the Fulani militia are in operation) need action.

Midst: The government should act. We are not talking about just a life, these killings are happening back to back and The Governor hasn’t said a word yet.

Sketch: There are supposed to be some “conflict resolution“ means of resolving all of this really. Because securing those areas with security personnel is something the government isn’t ready to do.

Yamai:  We just want the government to take actions. We want the killings to stop.

With regards to what the rest of the country could do, Yamai thinks:

“Calling them out and making sure that is done will go a long way for us.”

So load up your Twitter fingers my fellow keyboard warriors, we’re fighting for Peace in the North.


Wojumi is a bad bitch and she’s going to brag about it. Tweet her your latest cultural exploits @dewoju


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