The Gubernatorial Interview
Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai is no doubt worried about the crisis in the Christian-dominated southern part of his state, which has claimed many lives. He, however, understands some of the factors responsible for the needless killings and this was what formed the basis for his recent media interaction in Lagos, during which he also addressed other burning issues in Kaduna and the nation. Olawale Olaleye presents the excerpts:
What really is the problem in Southern Kaduna?
People have reduced it to Fulani versus this, no, in at least two cases out of the 11 we have had, it was a clash between indigenous ethnic groups that are mostly Christians. So, I want people to understand this: this has been a pattern. Eleven times it has happened and not necessarily religious and it is mostly ethnic. It was only once in 1992 after the Zangon Kataf crisis that the federal government under Babangida established a judicial tribunal, which tried Zamani Lekwot and others for killings, and they were sentenced to death.
But Babangida politically commuted their sentences to life imprisonment, and thereafter, they were released. It was the federal government that did it, not the state government. The state government has never prosecuted anyone. And this is the pattern, and then we wait for another conflict. In 37 years, we have had 11, and if you do the mathematics, you will see that it happens almost every three years.
So, when we came into office, I asked for all the reports of the commissions of inquiry and I read all of them. The only one I have not been able to find is that of the first one, the Kasuwa Magani crisis. I read all of the White Papers because I knew sooner or later that in our four years, that we might have one. So we were ready for this. But we took steps to ensure that it did not at all happen. The first thing we did was to try to understand why communities in Southern Kaduna were attacked? We set up a committee under Gen. Martins Agwai to study the problem and tell us what the problem is.
The committee was inaugurated, submitted a report in August (2015). They had some findings and recommendations that were very, very interesting. They found that there were three kinds of Fulani – the settled Fulani that don’t have cattle; the semi-settled who have cattle but don’t go very far, maybe within the confines of the state and then the transhumance Fulani, who come from West African countries. There is an ECOWAS protocol that allows them to move across these countries and it appears there are international stalk routes that had been marked in pre-colonial times to enable them to move their cattle up and down.
What has happened is that over the years, expansion of population, urban development, need for farmlands have encroached on these international stalk routes. So, as these Fulani mostly from outside Nigeria come, they get on farms that in their minds were part of the international stalk routes but have now been overtaken by need for agricultural land. This is where the conflicts come. The conflicts, according to the Agwai Committee, arise from the semi-settled Fulani who move cattle within Nigeria and the transhumance Fulani, who come from outside Nigeria.
You alluded to the post-election violence. How do you mean?
The second finding and recommendation of the committee was that under Governor Patrick Yakowa, this dichotomy was understood by him and that when the attacks on Southern Kaduna communities persisted, he figured that it had to do with the 2011 post-election violence and he began to send delegations to reach out to the transhumance Fulani and offered them compensation to stop coming to kill. To some extent, Yakowa was successful until he died, because at some point, the attacks stopped. But when he died, the successor government did not continue, and the attacks resumed.
The Agwai Committee recommended that we should try to reach out to these transhumance Fulani because they are the main cause of the attacks. The committee established that it is not the Nigerian Fulani that are doing most of the attacks and that the bulk of it was coming from abroad. We said to them, ‘look, we offer you compensation for deaths, for livestock lost provided you agree that these reprisals stop. Leave our people alone. This has happened; it happened in 2011. We were very successful because from August 2015, when we started the outreach following Agwai Committee report till May 2016, there were no attacks in Southern Kaduna.
There was silence. We thought that we had dealt with more than one-half of the problem – the transhumance Fulani. Once we started sending delegations, even those who were planning to attack heard that the government is going round apologising, offering compensation, so they waited because the Fulani have their informal ways of communication and we thought that we had solved that problem.
What’s the relationship between the Kaduna State Government and the three senators from the state?
One of the things that I initiated was a monthly meeting with members of the National Assembly from Kaduna State across party lines, because I believe that their job is to advocate Kaduna State’s interest at the federal level and that we should all work together. I hosted them to a dinner immediately after inauguration, but the senator from Southern Kaduna did not come, the two APC senators came, and most of the members of the House of Representatives came. I told them that we need to work together to influence budgetary provisions for Kaduna, to influence projects and so on.
I was doing that monthly until the governors’ forum started fixing monthly meetings the same time I was having dinner with the members of the National Assembly. That disrupted it, and I have not met with them now for about four months, but we have now agreed to a monthly late lunch meeting.
What is the problem with the senator from Southern Kaduna?
The senator from Southern Kaduna, maybe, considered himself a PDP senator and maybe thought we would not be fair to him. So, he has never attended these meetings. I think that once elections are over, you are governor of everyone and you should try to bring everyone along. That does not mean that I don’t have separate meetings with APC House of Representatives members or House of Assembly members. We do when we have to meet over party issues, and I meet monthly with State House of Assembly members across party lines.
They come, and I host them to dinner, they ask what we are doing, and we explain. We are on one page, and I think this is why our State House of Assembly is the most prolific in Nigeria. It has passed something like 25 laws in two years.
As a member of the Abuja Cabal, how have you been intervening in some of the decisions of the president?
It is not correct. Am I very close to Buhari? Yes. I worked very closely with him in the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change) when everyone had given up on him. I know him, I know how he thinks and he trusts me. But Kaduna is my primary assignment. The president knows that I am driven by public interest. Do I participate in federal decision making? I don’t. I am too busy addressing Kaduna problems to be part of it. When I am called for an opinion or when I happen to be around, and I have an input or if I see something going seriously wrong, I drive and go and see Mr. President that I have heard A, B, C and D. I don’t think it is right, you should consider doing C, D, E. I do that and I drive back to Kaduna.
My primary assignment is Kaduna. I am not involved in the federal government. People like to say and attribute so much to me, and sometimes it is good for me, it gives me a larger than life image! Is there a cabal? There is always a cabal. Even in your own newspaper, there is a cabal. Nobody can run an institution without a coterie of two, three, four trusted people. There is always a cabal. The issue is whether it is a positive or a disruptive cabal. Am I a member of the cabal? No, I am governor of Kaduna State. I work for Kaduna State 24/7.
Why have you not sold some good things you did in Kaduna like the attachment of portfolios to commissioners-designate to the president?
Every leader has his leadership style, and every governor has his own culture. The culture in the federal government is to send names without portfolios.
But was that the culture in Kaduna before you came?
I have decided to change it. I am not the president. If I am the president, I probably may do things differently, but if I am the president, also, I may get information and briefings by officials and security agents that may help me do things differently. You don’t know how much briefing or information he has – matter of procedures and duties. Every leader has his own style, information that guides how he decides, so I can’t say that what I have done in Kaduna is necessarily relevant to the federal government.
What’s the controversy over the alleged marking of Inuwa Abdulkadir’s house about?
I don’t know that. I didn’t even know Inuwa Abdulkadir had land or house in Kaduna. I know that he has a wife that lives in Kaduna, I would assume that like most northern elite, he has a house in Kaduna, but I really didn’t know. I don’t know about this. These things are done as a matter of procedures and duties, and if he has his title and approved building plans, nobody would touch his house. Of course, there is a problem between us because he is trying to mess up our party in Kaduna State in pursuit of an agenda and I have told him that if he doesn’t stop doing that I will deal with him, and I got three witnesses to that.
I am not a guerrilla warrior, if I am going to fight you, I will give you notice so that you will prepare. If Inuwa Abdulkadir has a house in Kaduna and he built without title or permission, I will not ask KASUPDA not to demolish just because he will blame me for it; I don’t care about that. On the other hand, if he has his title and approved building plans, you better ask him to produce them to KASUPDA because this KASUPDA is three or so levels below me and I don’t get to know what they are doing.
When we came into office, I asked for all the reports of the commissions of inquiry and I read all of them. The only one I have not been able to find is that of the first one, the Kasuwa Magani crisis. I read all of the White Papers because I knew sooner or later that in our four years, that we might have one. So we were ready for this. But we took steps to ensure that it did not at all happen