Kadaria Ahmed: How my home town became a bloodbath

In our series of letters from African journalists, Kadaria Ahmed looks at the brewing crisis in Nigeria’s Zamfara State, which analysts say has the potential to become as deadly as the Boko Haram conflict.

Growing up nearly 50 years ago in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara State, I could never have imagined its future of grinding poverty and escalating violence.

The capital of Zamfara State, Gusau, used to be a prosperous town. British company John Holt ran a tannery, which bought and treated hides before shipping them off to Europe. Sugar giant Tate and Lyle had a presence. There was also a textile company, an oil mill, and a ginnery that prepared cotton for export.

As children, our favourite place in Gusau was the sweet factory, run by a Lebanese family who were, for all intents and purposes, locals. There, we could satisfy our cravings at very little cost.

A functioning rail line moved goods out and across Nigeria, and brought people in, many of whom were drawn to the region’s thriving industries.

Image caption Zamfara used to be a thriving trade hub

In Gusau, there was a sizeable population of ethnic Yorubas from south-western Nigeria, Igbos from…

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