Understanding the Southern Kaduna Crisis

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The good news, which you are not likely to read in the media, is that communities in southern parts of Kaduna State that were recently embroiled in very unfortunate, bloody clashes now enjoy relative peace, safety and security. Moves by the State Governor, Mallam Nasir el Rufai, community and religious leaders as well as the efforts of security agents have fortunately yielded profound results. However, in spite of the best efforts of the Governor and millions of peace-loving people of Kaduna to stem the ugly tide of communal clashes in the State, there are glaring pointers to the fact that a few, but influential and politically connected persons are bent on reigniting the conflagrations at all costs. Their mission is clear: to distract and defocus the El Rufai administration. They also seek to diminish the achievements of the El Rufai administration in less than two years in office and tarnish the reputation of the Governor.

Like most knowledgeable adults in Nigeria are well aware, Kaduna State has its ethno-religious peculiarities. These peculiarities that ordinarily ought to be harnessed as strength have over the years been the State’s albatross. Interestingly, however, the latest round of crisis in southern parts of Kaduna State has very little to do with religion or even ethnicity. The crisis, as we have since learnt, was ignited by acts of banditry and criminality that were either not nipped in the bud or poorly managed by community and local leaders. Worse still, the downturn in the nation’s economy may well be stretching the tolerance level of the average Nigerian. And this is where crisis profiteers, political jobbers and queer puritans are seeking a window of opportunity to keep Kaduna State in perpetual crisis and possibly make it ungovernable.

Persons fanning the embers of discord in Kaduna State are cashing in on these historical ethno-religious peculiarities in the State and are creating false impression that the recent crises were induced by religious or ethnic differences. It has become compelling and imperative to clarify, once again, that the very unfortunate and extremely condemnable incidents that have occurred in the southern parts of Kaduna State were largely as a result of inherited problems that are steeped in the failure of successive past administrations in the State to decisively punish previous grievous acts of impunity and lawlessness. The El Rufai administration has explained several times that since 1980, Kaduna State has had about 12 major ethnic and religious conflicts and each time a crisis occurred, a commission or panel of inquiry to find out what happened and to recommend measures or ways to avoid or stem recurrence, was usually instituted. Curiously however, no sitting Government in Kaduna State has ever fully implemented the recommendations of any of these panels or commissions. The latest round of crisis in some communities in southern parts of the State is clearly a fall-out of the failure of the previous administrations in the State to decisively tackle security problems when they occurred.

It is therefore unfortunate and patently mischievous for an opportunistic Kaduna politician to suggest in a recent article that “Governor el-Rufai’s personality and brand of politics have not prepared him well to deal with the daunting cumulative legacy in Southern Kaduna State.” What personality or brand of politics is he speaking of? This political leader’s widely publicized comments at a time all hands needed to be on deck to achieve truce among the feuding communities in the State, is most uncharitable and clearly aimed at worsening the situation in southern Kaduna. Even El Rufai’s worst critics readily attest to his uncommon ability to comprehend and tackle complex issues. I dare posit that but for politics (dirty politics, that is), this opportunistic politician and other persons stoking the embers of war in the State would readily attest to Mallam Nasir el Rufai’s dexterity and adroit administrative acumen.

To be clear, Mallam El Rufai understands the sensitive ethno-religious dynamics in Kaduna State and remains resolute about preventing situations like the ones that have unfortunately played out in the southern parts of the State. On assumption of office in May 2015, the Governor was quick to put in place a high-level committee under the globally acclaimed Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd), to review the reports of previous panels of inquiries into crisis in the State, with a view to recommending measures that would help stem recurrences. As expected, the Gen. Agwai Committee made critical observations and far-reaching recommendations. One of the observations made by the committee was that recent flare-ups in some communities in southern parts of Kaduna State were traceable to the 2011 post election violence. The committee in its report said that a number of Fulani herdsmen lost their cattle around southern parts of the State during the crisis and as a result, continue to carry out sporadic raids in these communities in their supposed bid at avenging the loss of their cattle. In fact, it is not a secret that a former Governor of the State, the late Governor Patrick Yakowa, who had this fact, constituted a team that was going round Fulani communities to preach peace and reconciliation. Following Governor Yakowa’s unfortunate death in an air crash, this outreach was stopped. This is exactly what Governor El Rufai inherited and the General Agwai committee established this fact.

The truth is that the recommendations of all the committees and commissions of inquiries set up from 1980 to date on communal clashes in Kaduna State were never implemented. This failure of previous administrations in the State to implement far-reaching recommendations made by these commissions of inquiries is to blame for the latest flare-ups in parts of the State. Following Governor El Rufai’s dogged insistence, several persons involved in the recent incidents have since been apprehended by security agencies and are now being subjected to the full weight of the law.

However, the greatest challenge to peace in Kaduna State now is the antics of political jobbers and opportunists who have gone as low as spreading hate speeches; telling communities in Kaduna State to “defend themselves.” This, is of course is an unmistakable call on the people of Kaduna State to procure arms and ammunitions and start killing themselves. This is not just very low but extremely dangerous. This call on the citizenry to take the laws into their own hands totally undermines all on-going efforts to achieve lasting peace in Kaduna State. A former Minister from the southwest of the country in particular, who ought to know better but prefers to dance to the tunes of his latest paymasters, has even gone to the ridiculous and extremely provocative extreme of hosting meetings of supposedly aggrieved groups from Kaduna State in his Abuja home, where he incites them to indulge in violent acts in the State. We have also noted the fact that in a series of articles published widely in both mainstream and social media, this former Minister has been orchestrating falsehood and stoking the embers of ethnic and religious cleansing in Kaduna State. Our worry really is that the destructive antics of this former Minister and several other political jobbers and their paymasters are sending out signals that are militating against peace efforts in the State. This must stop. We are strongly urging them to desist and leave our beloved Kaduna State alone.

In their haste to malign the Kaduna State Governor and create a fertile ground for their malicious intentions, the politically connected persons stoking the embers of war in Kaduna State have shamelessly resorted to falsehood, particularly quoting Mallam El Rufai out of context with a view to creating the very wrong impression that the Governor may well be taking sides in the conflicts. What will it benefit a Governor who is working round the clock to fix the economy and speedily redress the inherited decayed infrastructure in Kaduna State, to have his people fight each other or side any group against another at a time of unfortunate and highly condemnable conflict?

On the contrary, Governor El Rufai and members of his team are tenaciously restoring order, brotherhood and solidarity in communities in the southern parts of the State where conflicts were recorded. For the umpteenth time, let it be clarified that the recent conflagrations in southern parts of Kaduna State were not induced by either religion or ethnicity. In his bid to accelerate the peace and reconciliation processes, Governor El Rufai during one of his several visits to violence impacted communities said: “Anyone that feels he has been grieved because his relations were killed or has lost anything, he should come out and complain and we will compensate him if that is what it will take but no one should resort to killing because of anything. We appeal to you to be patient and allow authorities to bring justice.”

Persons who do not wish Kaduna State well have now made the twisting of this olive branch waved by the Governor their latest occupation. “Oh! El Rufai is paying Fulani herdsmen money to stop killing!” Well, if only they bothered to seek information, we would have rightly informed them that the Kaduna State Government is not paying any money to herdsmen or anyone for that matter to embrace peace and that several aggrieved persons have indeed embraced peace without seeking any form of monetary compensation. Virtually all of them have seen the sincerity and transparency of Governor El Rufai and have embraced peace unconditionally. So, the stories that are making the rounds in both the social and mainstream media about Mallam El Rufai paying some Fulani herdsmen is just a figment of the imagination of unrelenting political jobbers and crisis profiteers in the State and of course they are in league with their paid agents outside the State. Our worry really is the destructive antics of political actors and jingoists as well as queer puritans who are bent on seeing Kaduna State go up in flames. Our passionate appeal to them is to allow our people to continue to leave in peace. We are however confidant that ultimately, truth, sincerity and good works will triumph over the evil intentions of proponents of discord in our dear State.

• Uba Sani is the Political Adviser to the Governor of Kaduna State