Former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, saw it coming, the current rampant killings in our dear country, that is. They worried him, as indeed, they should anyone who has a human heart not made of marble.
At a one-day seminar at his farm organised by Search for Common Ground on October 30, 2018, the general spoke passionately about the killings and reeled out grim details in clashes with Fulani herdsmen in four states in 2016 alone.
The states were Plateau, Nasarawa, Kaduna and Benue. That year, 2,500 people were killed; 62,000 were displaced; $13.7 billion lost to the clashes and 47 percent of the internally generated revenues in the affected states were also lost.
The picture is even grimmer a d the general situation is gloomier today than that if you add the blood soaked handwork of the bandits in Zamfara and Katsina states. And it continues to get progressively worse throughout the country outside the main theatres in Borno and Yobe states where Boko Haram reigns. It is the worst of times for our country and its people.
The general said the killings were wake-up calls to all “relevant stakeholders, state and federal governments, legislatures, traditional rulers, civil society organisations, security agencies and communities to address these deadly conflicts (because the killings were) threatening the fragile peace of the nation.”
No one appears to have woken up to the sound of trumpet and so the killings go on in almost every state of the federation. In recent weeks, the incessant killings in Kaduna South attracted national attention and rallied groups and individuals from various parts of the country to protest in an attempt to wake up the state government from slumber and force it to take on its responsibility fully under section 14 (b) of the constitution. The said section states that “The security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”
Southern Kaduna has been a killing field for as long as anyone can remember. The state governor, Mallam Nasir E-Rufai, once told the members of the local branch of the NBA that “since 1980, about 10,000 to 20,000 (people) were killed in Kaduna State during crisis and government did not prosecute anybody.”
Most of those killings took place in Southern Kaduna. SOKAPU put the latest figures in Southern Kaduna alone at well over 100,000. In one of the eruptions sometime in 2018, the vice-general of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan, Rev Ibrahim Yakubu, said 880 people were killed, 53 villages destroyed, 1,422 houses set on fire and 18 churches and one primary school burnt down.
The greater worry is that with the attacks on churches and the potential for retaliation the clashes could inadvertently be turned into a religious crisis. If that happens, what has happened so far would be a child’s play. Everyone dreads a religious crisis. Whatever might be the immediate or remote cause or causes of the lingering crisis in that part of the state, it must not be allowed to drag the state and the nation down the unwanted path of a religious crisis.
I had expected El-Rufai to make the difference in tackling this very existential problem in his state. Given his record as minister of FCT when he forced the rich and the influential to comply with the Abuja master plan, I thought we had in him a new generation of courageous northern leaders who would not compromise with illegality and would seek to ensure that things were done properly in the interest of the many at the expense of the few, if need be, who seek to live above the laws of the land. I saw the crisis in Southern Kaduna as his immediate personal challenge.
I am sorry that he has so far not shown forceful leadership or exhibited the kind of empathy I had expected of him in this matter. I do not think he has compromised his principles but it would seem that he has chosen to truck with politics instead of with justice and fairness. If he does not solve the problem now, who would?
It is an important question he must constantly ask himself. He does not need to pass the buck to anyone after him. It must stop at his desk – and now. The entire state is his constituency. It is up to him to make his state peaceful or allow it to remain violent. The choice is his – and it is not such a hard choice either. He cannot have peace if one part of the state is permanently drenched in the blood of the innocent. The trumpet for the wake-up call is loud and clear.
In his position, El-Rufai must give some serious thoughts to his legacy in the state. He is running his second and last term in office. His election and re-election were opportunities for him to make a difference in the lives of his people. If he found the state violent and a killing field, he must resolve not to leave it the way he found it at the end of his tenure.
Legacy matters because it is what remains of the work of a ruler when his time on the top of the political totem pole is over. I do not know what his legacy would be but I can offer him a piece of advice gratis. The peace legacy is the greatest legacy he could leave for his people. If, in the past, he has said, no one was prosecuted for the killing of 10,000-20,000 people in the state, he could do much better by making sure that in his time all those who crossed the threshold of the law would be made accountable to the law.
I also wish to point out that the killings and the absence of peace in Southern Kaduna diminish him as the governor and the chief security officer of the state. Fewer things are more worrisome to a people than that they are treated like sitting ducks by those whose constitutional duty it is to protect them in their homes, in their offices, in their farms and on the roads. I am sure the governor, a smart and courageous man, has no difficulty in appreciating that. Let the killings stop and let peace reign in Southern Kaduna. This would be El-Rufai’s greatest legacy for his people. Yes, he can do it.