“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Ernst F. Schumacher
The past week was filled with festivities as expected. The Cross River Christmas festival was in full gear with the Calabar Carnival capping an already fun-filled week. In Calabar you cannot totally dodge the fun in the air. The sights and sounds remind you constantly what season you are in. Calabar just knows how to manufacture fun.
However, there was a part of Nigeria that did not experience such excitement and fun. Their celebration was cut short. Their heart was filled with mourning. There was blood everywhere, yes blood. They were about to celebrate the birth of the One whose blood was shed for them (for us all), but their blood was shed by those whose hearts have been taken over by hate. And the land turned red. The violence which has bedeviled Southern Kaduna for over five years now, and which recently had taken a worrisome trend, escalated. Recent attacks on villages in Southern Kaduna by Fulani herdsmen had caused the state government to impose a 24-hour curfew on some towns. The curfew however did not stop the herdsmen, who have become more blatant recently, who attacked the village of Goska on the eve of Christmas. This was in spite of assurances from security agencies.
What really is going on in Southern Kaduna? Why is everybody quiet?
What is most worrisome is that the Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir El-Rufai exacerbates the situation with his utterances and postures. Recently, El-Rufai, himself a Fulani, said that the Fulani Herdsmen’s attacks were a revenge for attacks they suffered in the hands of the people of Southern Kaduna in 2011. He also said that the attackers were not Nigerians and that after he became governor he traced them to Chad, Cameroun and Niger and sent a message to them that one of their own was now governor. He further stated that he had paid off the attackers as a way to stop them from continuing the killings. So the governor, who is the chief security officer of the state, admitted that he paid foreigners who illegally breached Nigeria’s borders to attack citizens of his state. Isn’t that supposed to be a crime against Nigeria or something? He paid them, not with his personal money, but with the state’s money; so basically, that means the people of Southern Kaduna are paying their killers.
El-Rufai is seen as a Fulani supremacist because of his past utterances, especially in the buildup to the 2015 gubernatorial election. He used ethno-religious sentiments to great effect. Consequently, he now lacks the credibility and political capital to solve the problem. The people of Southern Kaduna do not trust him; they consider him part of the problem.
Recently, El-Rufai blamed the attacks on Niger Delta militants. He seems to be blaming everybody but himself. He needs to look inward and realize that as governor, his constitutional obligations to the citizens of Kaduna trumps any ethnic or religious relationship he has with anybody, in or outside Nigeria. And as a leader, his utterances and gestures ought to be measured and must be such that they engender peace. The violence started long before he became governor, but his posturing and rhetoric appear to have emboldened the killers and created an atmosphere of division and hate in Kaduna State.
His statements are also disturbing because it paints the picture of a country where anybody can just stroll in and do whatever they like. What gives foreigners the permission to freely violate Nigeria’s borders and penetrate deep into the Nigerian hinterland with their cattle and destroy farmlands in the process? What is our Army doing? Have they neglected their primary duty in favour of setting up cattle ranches? Whenever I travel out of Calabar there are usually Immigration officials who delay us on the road because they claim to the searching vehicles for foreigners. Don’t they do the same in the north? Are our borders in the north as porous as a children’s playground?
And as if the madness that is going on in Kaduna is not enough, Mr Femi Adesina, the spokeman of the President came out to say that President Muhammadu Buhari will not talk about the persistent killings in southern Kaduna because the governor “is on top of the matter.” He said, “You don’t have to hear from the president on that matter. You see, when it pays us, we talk about federalism and true federalism, yet you want the president and presidency to talk about everything.
When things like this happen in a state, there is a chief security officer. He is supposed to be on top of the matter. Governor El-Rufai was at the villa on Thursday to brief the president, so why should the president then be talking about it? True federalism is the governor should be in charge and he is in charge of it.”
I disagree with Mr Adesina. The governor is not “on top” of any matter and certainly not “in charge.” Firstly, the particular nature and structure of Nigeria makes it imperative for the president to address Nigerians whenever security is breached anywhere. What exactly does the governor control when the federal government controls the police and military? The governor does not control any security agency, so how can he be on top of matters? The President as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and head of the police must speak to Nigerians whenever they have cause to feel unsafe. He is the President of Nigeria, not Abuja.
Can you imagine a family in America being killed by a gunman and the American President not talk about it? It’s not possible. Which part of the American Presidential system of government did we really copy? Because it appears that we interpret it as it suits us.
And secondly, Mr Adesina, it is particularly important that the President speak about it, else, people will begin to formulate conspiracy theories. That is because the President is Fulani (and owns cattle), the governor is Fulani, the attacking herdsmen are Fulani, but the victims are not Fulani;attractive ingredients for a conspiracy theory if you ask me. This is even made worse by the fact that an estimated 53 villages lay in ruins, some of them occupied by Fulani herdsmen and their cattle. So, you see, Mr Adesina, it is not in the President’s best interest to keep quiet. Come up with another excuse. And stop talking at Nigerians as if they don’t know what they are saying.
It is situations like these that make a people to resort to self-help. There is a limit to what people can take. Security officials sent to southern Kaduna must act professionally, with the aim of restoring peace and healing. They shouldn’t go there to abuse a people who already feel like hostages in their own land. Else, we will have a situation that can spill to other parts of the country. They should not forget that there comes a time when one is forced to defend oneself. You must exhaust all means to protect your family, wife, children and all that you love. No one can fault you for doing that.
What is happening in Kaduna should serve as a lesson to our politicians who deploy “divide and rule” tactics during elections. Yes they will achieve their aim, but it is only pyric victory. Happenings in southern Kaduna is made worse by the utterances and the posturing of the governor and the earlier he realizes that he is part of the problem and retraces his steps, the better for everyone. As the governor of the “entire” state, he needs to start encouraging peace among the several ethnic and religious groups in the state. That requires the cultivation of a large heart.
So, to the people of Southern Kaduna, in this season where you mourn, we mourn with you. We share your tears and we pray that God gives you the strength to heal gracefully; not to become bitter and hateful, but to be more loving and wise in choosing your leaders.
“Hatred paralyzes life, love releases it. Hatred confuses life, love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life, love illumines it.” Dr. artin Luther King Jr. (1929 – 1968).
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