By Ikechukwu Amaechi
NIGERIANS should not forget the real issue in the interminable Southern Kaduna crisis, despite the diversion caused by the invitation of Obadiah Malaifa by the Department of State Services, DSS.
Malaifa, former Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, deputy governor, was invited based on his allegation that an unnamed Northern governor is the commander of Boko Haram terrorists. What he said should be of interest to the security agencies.
But to be fixated on what he said rather than what stirred his flare-up, which is the carnage in Southern Kaduna, parodies Nero’s fiddling on his violin while Rome burned.
There is an emergency in Southern Kaduna. The bloodbath needs to stop and must stop. Any action that does not address this overarching imperative is trivial, irresponsible and diversionary. But make no mistake about it.
Those who want Nigerians to take their eyes off the ball by dwelling on trivialities know what they are doing. Through unbridled disinformation and obfuscation, they intend to wheedle the unwary and create doubts. Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, is at the vanguard of this attempt to bury the truth.
Rather than rising to the occasion and confronting the challenges headlong, he is throwing tantrums, making baseless accusations, defaming his enemies – real and perceived – and rubbing insults into bleeding wounds.
Rather than use the bully pulpit provided by his high office to restore the people’s moral compass, el-Rufai uses empty rhetoric to divide them. On August 16, he once again mounted his high horse to claim that some Southern Kaduna leaders – who accused him of taking sides in the crisis – are doing so because they want to be “appeased” with “brown envelopes”.
For crying out against injustice, el-Rufai labelled them criminals. For demanding an end to the senseless shedding of the innocent blood of their kith and kin, he said the distraught leaders were idle interlopers.
“I have no time for nonsense. I will not appease criminals. I will not appease idle people who have nothing to do but to raise a spectre of genocide. They do that to get money into their bank accounts and get donations from abroad instead of standing up,” el-Rufai hubristically said.
Assuming, without conceding that el-Rufai was honest in his narrative, it still raises the question of when it became a taboo for him to pay off murderers.
Is this not the same el-Rufai who without prompting regaled bewildered Nigerians with tales of his escapade with murderous herdsmen who he chased to far-flung countries to pay them off for killing Nigerian citizens and begging them to kill no more because one of their own – a Fulani – was now at the helm of affairs?
His words: “For Southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence.
Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries.
“Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them.
“Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse these countries with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, their cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge.
So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria … We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger Republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.”
Have we forgotten this unforced error from a man who tweeted on April 26, 2013 that “Any society that responds to crimes by forgiving and bribing the criminals will inevitably create large contingents of criminal waanabes?” For crying out loud, this was Nasir el-Rufai on December 3, 2016.
So, what has changed? When did it become less fashionable to hand brown envelopes to murderers in exchange for peace? Could it be because in his opinion the murderers this time are no longer Fulani and, therefore, undeserving of the same largesse he extended to his brethren?
El-Rufai is angry that some Southern Kaduna leaders, including a lawmaker representing Zagon Kataf/Jaba Federal Constituency, Amos Magaji, are pointedly accusing him of taking sides in the crisis. His response is to counter punch with allegations.
“Anyone that is moderate, anyone that is promoting peaceful co-existence between various ethnic groups is considered a sell out,” he said.
“And for a governor like me, who does not appease them because they are used to being appeased, they cause troubles. They organise these killings and then, their leaders are invited by the governor, they wine and dine and they are given brown envelopes. That’s what they have been doing for 20 years.
“Most of these people have no means of livelihood; they were living off the governments. The governments before us were paying them money every month, they called it peace money. We stopped it. This is why they say I am taking sides.”
Pray! When did el-Rufai become a peacemaker? Is Saul now among the prophets? Before now, he had also alleged that Christian leaders were behind the killings so they could get overseas funding.
Aren’t these allegations laughable? The governor knows those behind these killings, yet he has not ordered for their arrest and prosecution? So, Southern Kaduna leaders are killing their own people so they could blackmail el-Rufai into paying them blood money?
In 2016, he claimed the crisis started from the 2011 post-election violence, but last Sunday, he changed gear claiming that it has a 40-year history. So, which is which?
In 2016, el-Rufai claimed that “a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria.” In 2020, it is now Southern Kaduna leaders orchestrating the killing of their own people in order to extort money from him.
But the truth is that he is only being smart by half. As long as this carnage persists in Kaduna State, the joke will be on him. It is easy to preach peace as he seems to be doing.
How can el-Rufai claim to be doing his best when nobody is arrested for these butcheries? The villains operate without any restraint, despite the so-called glut of security operatives and vanish into thin air; only for the victims to be harassed, abused and maligned by those whose responsibility it is to protect them.
El-Rufai should continue to have his day in the sun for as long as it lasts but he should remember that moral compass defines leadership. A leader should have empathy, knowing full well that words can summon a people’s better angels or awaken their worst instincts. El-Rufai’s words do not summon the better angels of Kaduna, nay, other Nigerians. They awaken the worst instincts.
He should be worried that under his watch, Kaduna State has become the epicentre of this national tragedy of incessant, unconscionable bloodletting and he cannot explain it away by playing, as Americans would say, whack-a-mole politics with his decisions.
And in the event that he persists on this ill-advised trajectory, Nigerians must make a conscious decision to call him out now with the intention to ultimately hold him to account at the fullness of time.