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El-Rufa’i and memories of Lidice

By Nick Dazang  On the 10th of June, 1942, Lidice, a town in former Czechoslovakia, was destroyed on the orders of Adolph Hitler and Heinrich…

By Nick Dazang 

On the 10th of June, 1942, Lidice, a town in former Czechoslovakia, was destroyed on the orders of Adolph Hitler and Heinrich Himmler. The reason for Lidice’s destruction was in reprisal for the assassination of Reich protector and governor of the strategic Bohemia and Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich.

Reinhard Heydrich went by several sobriquets on account of his outstanding brutality: “Butcher of Prague”; “Blond Beast”; “Hangman”, etc. Besides, Heydrich was known to be the principal architect of the Holocaust. He was thus the subject of an assassination on 29th May 1942 in Prague. The assassination of Heydrich, carried out by resistance members, Josef Gabcik and Jan Kubis, was code-named: Operation Anthropoid. It had the tacit approval of the Czechoslovak government-in-exile led by Edvard Benes.

Heydrich’s assassination resulted in a series of reprisals orchestrated by German Schutzstaffel (SS) troops at the behest of Hitler. The reprisal attacks, prompted by the ironclad cover given to the assassins, led to the mass killings of civilians and the destruction of villages, notable among which was Lidice.

In what seems to be an apocalyptic moment reminiscent of the destruction of villages by Nazi Germany, the Governor of Kaduna State, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i, has brought back to us nightmarish memories nearly equivalent to that of Lidice. During a recent security briefing in which the governor called clarion attention to the relocation of Boko Haram and their fellow travellers from the North East, which they had terrorized for a decade with abandon, to the North West, El-Rufa’i, supported by disturbing statistics, raised the alarm that his state was fast becoming the new epicenter of terrorism in the country. The governor then threatened to relocate, wholesale, the villages of Rijana, Katari, and Akilibu, which he alleged were complicit and had been providing intelligence to the terrorists and bandits who had made the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway the road of death and wilful abductions.

Governor El-Rufa’i is justified to take umbrage at anyone who supports or aides the terrorists and bandits who menace his state on an almost daily basis. Apart from visiting deaths and mayhem on the innocent citizens of his state, they have rendered the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and indeed the Abuja-Kaduna train service forlorn and abandoned. Worse, until last week, flights had ceased to land at the Kaduna International Airport following a recent attempt by the terrorists to halt a Lagos-bound flight from the said airport. Compounding this is the lack of traffic on the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway and the Abuja-Kaduna train service, which are gateways to the North East and North West, have paralyzed economic activities in the two geo-political zones. Kaduna, which was a regional headquarters and a haven of conferences, international and local, has been shunned by Ministries, Departments, Agencies (MDAs), corporate organizations, and development partners. The effect has been devastating to the local economy. The transformation of Kaduna from a hitherto tranquil and welcoming state to that of a haven of terrorism must be deeply concerning for the governor, whose remit it is to superintend over its affairs and to protect the lives and properties of its good citizens.

No doubt, when Governor El-Rufa’i threatened the relocation of the aforementioned villages, he must have done so out of anger and frustration. And we tend to misspeak or issue outlandish statements when we speak in anger. Before Rijana, Katari and Akilibu reportedly turned coat and allegedly consorted with the terrorists, thus making the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway become a ghoulish, recurring decimal in our bulletins, the entire swathe of Birnin Gwari, Kajuru, Igabi, and Giwa Local Government Areas were for more than three years at the mercy of terrorists and bandits who killed, pillaged and kidnapped at will.

But if Rijana, Katari, and Akilibu have overtaken Birnin Gwari and others in the frequency of abductions and alleged complicity with terrorists and bandits, the governor needs to interrogate this sordid and sudden development. A few years ago, when kidnappers stepped up their nefarious activities on the Abuja-Expressway, a former Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Kpotun Idris, visited Rijana to inquire as to why the villagers were not cooperating with his men to apprehend the terrorists. The village head responded that each time a villager volunteered information to the police, such a villager was betrayed by the terrorists who in turn killed him. At the time the IGP visited, the village head announced that not less than eighteen informants had been killed by the terrorists. In a situation where informants are being outed or betrayed by the security agents who ought to provide them with ironclad protection, it becomes foolhardy for others to be forthcoming.

It should also be clear that where the villagers prefer to allegedly collude with the terrorists rather than collaborate with the government, there must be a serious disconnect and gap between the villagers and the government. Where the government hardly delivers good governance or impacts meaningfully on the lives of the people, some of the pauperized villagers are likely to be easily tempted or won over by what they see as tantalizing offers by these terrorists who are always keen to take advantage of their privations and gullibility.

In the prevailing circumstances, the way to go is not to rail at or peremptorily relocate these helpless villagers. These villagers are caught between unreliable security agents and the terrorists. The governor should therefore engage with their leadership and make them appreciate the need to be supportive of the government’s efforts to rid the society of these terrorists. He should also engage with the security agencies at the highest level to eschew the tendency of their men to out or give away informants. The governor should use his good offices to invest the villagers with the confidence that henceforth any information provided by them will not be compromised. This should be reinforced by a decisive decimation of the terrorists and bandits who imperil the lives of others and these villagers as well. Once there is an obvious and concerted effort to decimate the terrorists, it will imbue the villagers with the confidence to open up in the knowledge that the terrorists will not return and eliminate them.

As with Lidice, such extreme and drastic measures as relocations or destruction of whole communities can be counter-productive and can boomerang. Apart from creating further bad blood, and psychological trauma. and an unwholesome image for the governor and the state, most of the villagers will inevitably return to their roots. As we have seen in Lidice, where not less than 340 people were murdered by Hitler and his cohorts, a new Lidice village was created directly opposite the former one. A museum was erected in the memory of the martyred. Several movies, including Lidice, named after the village, and Operation Anthropoid, named after the code of the assassination, were made to celebrate the infamy of Hitler.

The relocation of these villages, as contemplated by Governor El-Rufa’i, is not at par with the destruction of Lidice. But certainly, such a draconian act is unheard of and unprecedented in a democracy. It is the kind of action that will quickly enter the history books, not for its nobility but its horridness.

Governor El-Rufa’i should please rethink this planned relocation.

Nick Dazang is a former Director at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)