When Silence Isn’t Golden

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s silence over the spate of killings in the country, particularly in Southern Kaduna isn’t golden but a mark of his evident incompetence, writes Davidson Iriekpen

One of the reasons a majority of Nigerians voted massively for President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 presidential election was to put an end to incessant killings in some parts of the country, which President Goodluck Jonathan and his other predecessors could not do. The impression was that as a former army general, he had political will and knowledge to curtail the excesses of ethnic and political killers, who are on the prowl across the country.
But today, the story is different. Almost on a daily basis media headlines are awash with one form of killing or other. Most times, an entire community is invaded and tens or hundreds killed. In just one and a half years in office, it is believed that more Nigerians have been killed under the current government than ever.

From Zamfara to Borno, Adamawa, Benue, Plateau, Enugu States and other parts of the country, Nigeria has become a killing field. Lives are no longer sacrosanct. People are daily being wasted without any word from the government. To know that most area, where the killings and banditries are perpetrated mainly Christian-dominated and opposition strongholds fuels suspicion in the some quarters. To further know that those behind the killings are Fulani herdsmen and without a strong word against it from the government gives room to suspect conspiracy.

Particularly pathetic is what the people of Southern Kaduna are currently going through. Last week, the leadership of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan released a stunning figure, saying that a total of 808 people were killed in 53 villages across the four local government areas in the state in the last one year. Giving a statistics on the killings and destruction in a statement in Kafanchan, the church leaders said 57 people were injured while farm produce estimated at N5.5 billion was also destroyed.

The statement disclosed further that a total of 1,422 houses and 16 churches were burnt during the attacks. The affected communities, they said spread across Kaura, Sanga, Jama’a and Kauru Local Government Areas, where there had been persistent attacks on communities by gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen.

According to the church leaders, “The herdsmen and their ilk turned the towns into killing fields and killed mostly women, children and the elderly, who couldn’t run for cover. The level of barbarity was such that pregnant women got their wombs blown out and massacred before their children. And these innocent children were not spared either.
“This level of viciousness was never witnessed even in the brutal tyranny and regime of Adolf Hitler. What is most intriguing is the level of sophistication of weapons like AK 47, machine guns and many other deadly instruments of death which were freely used.

“The viciousness of these self-styled Jihadists sends shivers into the spines of our traumatised people. In the Godogodo and Pasakori attacks for example, the military merely watched and supervised the burning of our homes. When the youths mobilised to repel the attackers, the soldiers deliberately blocked them from entering the town.”
To know that the president has not spoken since the news on the killings started making headlines is a surprise to many observers. They wonder why the government is in place if not to protect lives and property. Moreso as the same Buhari is always quick to issue a statement when killings happened abroad, while thousands perish frequently under his nose without a word.

This is why some observers feel that President Buhari’s silence has fuelled the killings. For instance, recently, a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, likened Buhari to ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan, over his silent on Southern Kaduna. She criticised the president for being silent over security issues saying: “Centralised control of Security establishment in our federal system makes it imperative for a President and Commander-in-Chief to never be silent in such cases.”

Even the national leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has expressed sadness over the manner the federal and state governments are handling the Southern Kaduna killings. It described President Buhari’s silence on the matter as sad and unacceptable.

CAN National General Secretary, Rev. Musa Asake said the continuous killings have shown that the Kaduna State government “lacks the will power to arrest the situation and bring it under effective control. We know that southern Kaduna has been under 24-hour curfew daily as directed by the governor, yet the enemies of the people are still prowling going from house to house killing defenseless people without government protection.

“While we commend President Buhari for waging war against Boko Haram fundamentalists since his assumption of office, his silence on the ongoing genocide in the last few weeks speaks volume of the perceived official endorsement of the dastardly and ungodly acts. The recent defence of the president’s silence that the president has received briefing from the governor of Kaduna State on the matter is unacceptable, because the presidency knows that the people of the affected area had already protested the governor’s unacceptable biased handling of the killings,” the body said.

But replying critics last week, the presidency said President Buhari had been mute because the state Governor, Nasir el-Rufai, was on top of the situation.

Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, spoke on a Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily, saying it was needless for the president to speak on the bloodletting in the restive part of the North-western state since the governor assured that he was in full control of the violent crisis and had been briefing his boss regularly.

According to him, as the chief security officer of his state, it is the responsibility of the governor, who has pledged to bring perpetrators of the violence to book, to deal with the matter.

Adesina said local authorities must play a crucial role in stopping the violence, adding that states and local governments have a major role to play in tackling herdsmen crisis. He said the president was always in constant touch with governors whenever an attack occurred. He also said the position of the president was that there must be collaboration between the states and the grassroots leaders in local governments to stop such crises.

“You don’t have to hear from the president on that matter. When it pays us, we talk about federalism and true federalism; yet you want the president and presidency to talk about everything. When a thing like this happens in a state, there is a chief security officer and he is supposed to be on top of the matter.

“El-Rufai was at the villa recently to brief the president, so why should the president then be talking about it? In true federalism it is the governor that should be in charge and he is in charge of it. The federal government has roles to play but not as much as the states and local governments,” he said.

But pundits have faulted the assertion, saying as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, he is in the best position to deal decisively with the rampaging Fulani herdsmen.

While observers feel that President Buhari’s silence has fuelled the killings, Governor el-Rufai has been buffeted by searing criticism. They feel that not only have his utterances and actions aggravated the situation but have wittingly or unwittingly transformed what was a low-level series of massacres into a full-blown genocide. They are also of the opinion that the governor through his incendiary, inciting, and divisive outbursts has made several egregious errors in dealing with the crisis. Some of these errors are in approach, thinking, and mentality.

Also not left out of the criticism are the northern governors, who have hardly spoken on the incident unlike when in December 2015 that they quickly held an emergency meeting after the Shiite-army clash in the state. Analysts feel that the silence of the governors, who are mainly Muslims might not be unconnected with the fact that the people of Southern Kaduna constitute no threat to them.

They feel that rather than look for a solution to the crisis, el-Rufai’s utterances and actions before and now that he his governor has exacerbated the problem and emboldened the attackers. They also feel that apart from the occasional curfew usually imposed on some areas each time there was crisis, he has not done enough to protect the lives of people for political reasons. They wondered why he has not set up a judicial commission of inquiry to unravel the immediate and remote causes of the crises in the area.

They also accused the governor of tribalism, saying when cattle rustlers and bandits took over Birnin Gwari, it didn’t take time for him to figure out what to do to tackle the situation by deploying soldiers to flush out the criminals and restore normalcy to the area.

“It didn’t take the government of el-Rufai time to figure out what to do to tackle armed robbery and cattle rustling in the Birnin Gwari area. Within the shortest possible time, soldiers were deployed and many of the cattle rustlers and bandits were either killed or arrested and cows in their hundreds were rescued. This is commendable and we are happy that the Fulanis in Birnin Gwari have been rescued from these bandits.

“If the government can deploy helicopters and soldiers to Birnin Gwari to help in tracking down the terrorists, why is the same government unwilling to deploy the same soldiers and helicopters to Southern Kaduna to help flush out the Fulani herdsmen terrorising indigenes of Southern Kaduna?,” said a statement by the leadership of the Catholic church recently.

A chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Alhaji Isa Ciroma, has debunked the governor’s claim that the killings and destruction of lives and property in the area is connected to the 2011 post-election violence. He stressed that the killings in Southern Kaduna has nothing to do with the 2011 post-election violence that was fought in many parts of Northern Nigeria.

“There is no record of Fulani herders from Mali or elsewhere coming to Southern Kaduna as el-Rufai claimed. The Fulani I know in Southern Kaduna are the Kachechere people. The Fulani men they said intruded Southern Kaduna, I don’t know them. I have not seen them and I don’t talk to them. They could be there but I don’t see them.
“I am 60 years of age and I have been living in Southern Kaduna. If there is anything like foreign Fulanis in the area at that time, I should know but there was nothing like that. To the best of our knowledge, there is no any strange Fulani that came from Mali or Senegal and was killed,” Ciroma said.

He also accused the governor of talking too much with nothing to show for it. He explained that the governor was not working to ensure that normalcy returns to Southern Kaduna, adding that, “It is glaring that the security agencies have not been asked to do their job. That is why we are in this mess. But el-Rufai has not taken any proactive measure to ensure the terrorists are cleared. If the terrorists’ camps are cleared, it will nip the attacks going on,” he lamented.

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While observers feel that President Buhari’s silence has fuelled the killings, Governor el-Rufai has been buffeted by searing criticism. They feel that not only have his utterances and actions aggravated the situation but have wittingly or unwittingly transformed what was a low-level series of massacres into a full-blown genocide