Governor El-Rufai’s role in escalating the crisis in Southern Kaduna and the Middle Belt
By Steven Kefas
Between the year 2010 and shortly after the 2011 post elections crisis that rocked parts of Northern Nigeria, a new dimension of security challenges began to rear its ugly head in the Northern States of Plateau, Kaduna and Benue, parts of the area popularly known as the Middle Belt region of Nigeria.
Gunmen believed to be Fulani herdsmen began to launch systematic terror attacks on local villages in the region, taking no prisoners and inflicting maximum casualties.
In Plateau state for instance, on the 8th of March, 2010 Dogo Nahawa, an agrarian community near Jos, the Plateau state capital, witnessed one of the most horrific massacres in the history of Nigeria where over 500 people including women and children were gruesomely slaughtered by suspected Islamists.
The attack opened up a new chapter of unabetting raids on villages in the Middle Belt region with attendant countless destruction of both life and property.
Few months later in November 2011, gunmen suspected to be Islamists attack the town of Zonkwa in Southern Kaduna, killing two church goers and injuring over a dozen.
These attacks have intensified within the last 10 years. The attacks and village raids may look like mere coincidences but a critical look at some of the utterances by influential Nigerians in times past may provide an insight into what the attacks and killings portray.
A typical example of such Nigerians is the current Kaduna state Governor, Nasiru El-rufai.
El-rufai, an active social media user with thousands of followers, has over the years continued to use his various social media platforms to propagate his opinions, some of which are not only inciting but also dangerously injurious to peaceful coexistence in a nation as diversified as Nigeria.
For the purpose of this article, I shall be highlighting certain utterances made by El-rufai which I believe have greatly emboldened the terrorist herdsmen operating in the Middle Belt to carry out their relentless attacks against unsuspecting law-abiding villagers.
For example, on the 15th ofJuly, 2012, Nasiru El-rufai, a former minister of the Federal capital Territory, tweeted thus, using his verified Twitter handle @elrufai
“We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes.”
Not unexpectedly, the tweet generated lots of reactions from Nigerians but El-rufai neither apologized nor deleted the tweet, an indication that the tweet was deliberate and therefore should stand.
El-Rufai’s tweet was not just injurious to the public but was also a tacit call for lawlessness and illegality by the Fulanis.
When confronted on the matter by the media, El-rufai tried to explain away why he put out such an unstatemanly tweet by saying that the military were killing Fulanis unjustly, a claim he couldn’t prove. One is forced to wonder if reprisals have a place in the constitution of a country governed by laws.
Barely two year after El-Rufai’s infamous incendiary tweet, three Southern Kaduna villages in the Bondon District of Kaura Local Government Area of the state where El-rufai is governor, witnessed a large scale massacre after armed herdsmen invaded the communities and killed over a hundred villagers, destroyed farmlands and burnt down many houses.
The likes of El-rufai didn’t utter any word of sympathy for the mourning communities, another signal that the reprisals he advocated in his below-the-belt tweet may have finally begun.
Killings in Southern Kaduna, Benue and Plateau states became regular occurrences with many villages wiped out by the terrorists while the government at the centre, under whose command lie all the security forces in flawed security arrangement, watches with little or no effort to stop the massacre.
Prior to the 2015 general elections in which Malam El-rufai was the gubernatorial candidate for the then major opposition party, the APC, campaigns were hinged on security which was the major selling point of all other candidates for the elections.
El-rufai during a campaign tour of Southern Kaduna in 2015 assured the people of the area of improved security of life and property if elected as governor. Unfortunately, the promise became a mirage as killings in the region have only intensified under his watch.
In December 2016, Governor Nasiru El-rufai during an interview with Channels Television confessed that his government had identified foreign Fulanis carrying out killings in Southern Kaduna and offered them monetary compensation to stop the killings in the area.
Ironically, the killings only intensified after his highly controversial confession, signifying that the herdsmen must have used the funds given to them by the governor to acquire more weapons.
This also translated to even more frequent attacks in the states of Plateau, Benue and neighboring Taraba, from 2016 to date.
Hundreds of villages have been completely wiped out by the terrorists forcing survivors to seek refuge in other places as their ancestral communities have been occupied.
In Southern Kaduna for instance, over a hundred villages in Chikun and Kajuru Local Government Areas have been occupied by the terrorists having killed and displaced their original occupants.
Most of these killings and occupation are not reported by the mainstream media for reasons best known to them.
Many of these occupied communities are located in remote areas where there are neither motorable road networks nor communication network.
Majority of the communities in those areas do not even have police stations. Practically, those areas can best be described as ‘ungoverned’ spaces due to the total absence of government.
Governor El-rufai has blamed everyone but himself for the genocide in Southern Kaduna. He has accused the clergy in Southern Kaduna for ‘fueling’ the crisis to secure donations from donor agencies abroad, calling them ‘conflict-preneurs’; and the elders from the area of being responsible for the endless bloodbaths.
Amidst all these accusations, no one has been prosecuted in the last six years of Governor El-Rufa’i’s Administration in the state in connection with the mass killings in Southern Kaduna.
The story is the same in states like Benue, Taraba, Plateau and the entire Middle Belt region. In some cases, especially in Kaduna, the victims have been illegally arrested and detained for daring to cry or speak out on the consistent murders.
Activists, journalists and sometimes people still mourning their dead are thrown into jail for protesting the killings.
In conclusion, if true peace is the presence of justice, then it will be right to say that peace may continue to elude the Middle Belt region with people like El-rufai at the helm of affairs of governance in Kaduna state and Nigeria.
This is because to them it is proper for their kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen, to carry out acts of genocide against native Christian populations under the guise of reprisals without consequences.