Luka Binniyat is a well-known independent journalist, a human right advocate and is the immediate past spokesman of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU). In this exclusive interview he granted, he was reserved about what looks like an internal crisis in the pan Southern Kaduna umbrella socio-cultural organization. But he opened up on the forthcoming SOKAPU delegates election coming up on the 9th December, 2023 in Kafanchan, the commercial hub of Southern Kaduna. He enumerates a set of attributes which, in his estimation, delegates to the election of the National Executives of SOKAPU should be looking out for if they must vote the right candidate to lead the union of over 57 ethnic nationalities spread in 12 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Kaduna State.Excerpts:
What’s going on in SOKAPU? It has been long we heard from that once vibrant union which has been standing so well for the people of Southern Kaduna.
As you may be aware, I am no longer the spokesman of SOKAPU. Our exco was dissolved under very controversial circumstances which I am not supposed to expose to the press for reasons of keeping the unity of our people and for preserving the integrity of the union. So, I am no longer in the position of speaking for the current CareTaker Committee (CTC) which has replaced us. But I can speak about what took place under our tenure and any other matter I may want to speak about being my privilege as a Southern Kaduna indigene.What led to the dissolution of your exco?
I have told you that I’m not at liberty to speak on that. At least that was what was agreed during the last National Executive Committee (NEC) in Kaduna in October. But I want to say that we contested our dissolution, but in the best interest of our people we have allowed it to go.
Okay, I understand. So, what’s next for SOKAPU?
I don’t know what the CTC has up its sleeve, but it has now been in the public domain that SOKAPU is having an election that will bring in a new set of Central Executive Committee (CEC) that will run the Union for the next 4 years. The election is taking place on the 9th December, 2019 in Kafanchan l.
Are you in the contest this time again?
No! No! No! I am not in the contest because I am very bitter with the manner we were treated towards the end of our tenure after putting so much sacrifices and taking risks standing for Southern Kaduna. We have done so much for our people and at a time, I was even put in prison. Despite our several landmark achievements we were treated badly and thrown out over trumped up charges. I believe that a cabal has taken over the union and want to continue running it in a manner that I don’t think is in the overall interest of Southern Kaduna. Despite all that, I still feel very honoured and indeed, quite privileged to have served SOKAPU as its spokesman, especially when Hon. Jonathan Asake was still the President of the Union.
Are you saying that you have no interest whatsoever in who becomes what in the next national exco?
Well to me, who becomes the next president of SOKAPU, the Secretary and the spokesman matters a lot. But the president ranks topmost in my priority. As a Southern Kaduna native, and as someone who was in the national exco, I want to see that SOKAPU moves higher from where we left it. And as you can see, as soon as we were pushed out, the union has become standstill. That’s what happens when opportunists with no vision, no goodwill and no leadership qualities seize power.
Anyways, after consulting with a broad range of interests and some critical stakeholders from Southern Kaduna we have set down some criteria that a would-be leader of SOKAPU should possess if truly SOKAPU is in need of serious leadership. Much of the criteria is borne out of what has been observed to have worked for SOKAPU under the tenure of Jonathan Asake who was the bona fide, elected President of SOKAPU in November, 2019 before he left to join politics in 2022.
Is this something you want to share with me?
Why not! I believe that it will guide our delegates to elect a President that will lead SOKAPU during this period that Southern Kaduna is trying to rise from a genocidal era in which our people were exposed to mass slaughter. injustice and humiliation never seen in our land centuries after the infamous slave raids of the 19th Century.
Okay, let me have what you have sir.
1) The President of SOKAPU should be resident in Kaduna State at the least and should be resident in Kaduna metropolis at best. This is because he can easily mobilise and take actions within a short possible time frame when an urgent matter arises. That was one of the best advantages Hon Asake had when he was president. Something happens in our community at night, the next day he had mobilised the press and available members of his exco to the village for the world to see. You were part of the press in some of our missions, if I remember very well.
2) Any leader of SOKAPU that is still within the service of government or under the employ of another person is surely going to be limited in his actions and utterances as regards the defence and pursuit of the wellbeing of our people. Had Hon. Asake been working for anyone or for the government, some of the things he was able to say and some of the actions he took would never have been possible, unless he was no longer interested in his job.
Are these criteria in the SOKAPU constitution?
Absolutely not! But it may be something that could be considered for an amended SOKAPU constitution. They are very germane guides at this criteria exercise.
3) That leads me to the third point: Anyone who wants to lead SOKAPU should not fall from the blues. He should have a record of service to the Union or at least at higher regional bodies. This is very important because it will be easy for the new president to gain the trust and goodwill of funders and friends of SOKAPU as such a one has been within their circle. For example, Hon. Asake and I have not only been part of the Southern Kaduna struggle, we have been in the Middle Belt Struggle for decades. In fact Asake was one of the top officials of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) and only relinquished his position when he became SOKAPU President. That was why it was easy for him to get the leaders of the Middle Belt Forum, Ohaneze ndi-igbo, PANDEV and Afenifere to Kaduna in 2020 to show solidarity to Southern Kaduna and to also donate food and money to our IDPs.
Yes, I remember covering that visit at that time.
Good, you were there, I remember.
4) SOKAPU should not elect a leader that does not have a web of well-off contacts, friends and associates that he can mobilise for all forms of assistance since SOKAPU does not generate revenue and does not get subvention from the government. It was because of such contacts that Asake had that we were able to get the multi-million-naira palliatives we used to intervene for our people during the covid-19 lockdown among others. We were also able to move our national secretariat from a rundown two-bedroom apartment to a six room duplex fully furnished and to continue to pay our secretariat staff without any hiccups.
5) A leader of SOKAPU should be educated and well exposed in a manner that will make him understand the issues at stake and present them in a very articulate manner anywhere at any time.
6) The 6th one is that anyone who can easily negotiate SOKAPU away when tempted with cash or favour should not be allowed to lead. And that’s where integrity plays its role. The background of anyone who intends to lead SOKAPU should be checked for some past misdemeanour.
7) Courage: Though I don’t think that Kaduna State and indeed Nigeria will ever face the kind of vile and backward leadership that el-Rufai and Buhari offered us to warrant a man of steel nerves to lead SOKAPU like under our term, courage and confidence is a very crucial attribute a leader of SOKAPU most possess. He doesn’t need it for undue confrontation against anyone or our authority, he needs it as a means of negotiation and for standing up to what is right no matter what it will cost him.
………To be Continued……………