Nasir El-Rufai, Nigeria and the killer-herdsmen
Given his eccentricities and insatiable thirst for controversy, those who have followed his colourful political career from when he held the office of the Honourable Minister, FCT during which time countless buildings fell and countless families were rendered homeless controversially, to implement the Abuja Master Plan, to his current stint as Governor of Kaduna State, have never been starved of drama and unpredictability. His most ardent supporters and even many neutrals posit that the face of Abuja as it is today can be chalked up to the courage and determination of El-Rufai who allegedly tore down a house belonging to his father-in-law to give way to the Abuja Master Plan. Many would also argue that Kaduna State today is being set on a path of irreversible development. Razor-blunt and confrontational, since he assumed the highest office in the state.
To put it in proper perspective, the orgy of blood-letting which has enveloped Kaduna State for years now did not start with El Rufai. Years of internecine crises between the predominantly Christian Southern Kaduna area and the predominantly Muslim central and northern parts of the state have reduced one of Nigeria`s most iconic states to a valley flowing with blood. When the Islamic Movement of Nigeria blindly charged into a confrontation with men of the Nigerian Army obviously lacking in professional restraint and were mercilessly massacred in Zaria, Kaduna State added another trophy to its bulging cabinet of mindless killings. A judicial commission of Inquiry was set up by El-Rufai and though the IMN never appeared as the condition it demanded for its appearance which was that its incarcerated leader, Ibraheem El- Zakzaky be released was never met, the Commission duly concluded its work within time and in its findings trenchantly indicted both the members of the IMN and the Nigerian Army for the bloodbath.
Since then, the IMN controversy has raged with its boiling point being Kaduna. When El Rufai introduced an executive bill which he posited was to ‘protect Kaduna State from extremism and hate speech,’ a cry of alarm issued from the throats of those who argued that there was more to the bill than met the eye in a state that has historically been a cauldron of religious tension.
It was against this background that the recent revelation by El Rufai that he had ladled out undisclosed sums of money to criminal herdsmen to placate them and stem their killings has drawn more than a little flak from Nigerians. Nigeria has officially been in recession for a while now and even those whose financial cocoons are the hardest have found themselves pricked even if only lightly by the austerity measures and seeming economic incompetency of a Federal Government which is looking more directionless by the day. Nigeria`s poor, of which ordinary families make up vast swaths have been desperately hit with many unable to maintain supply of the basic necessities of life ad many others losing their lives and livelihoods to the myriad negative effects of economic difficulties. From whence then, it must be asked, did El Rufai draw his ‘ingenious’ precedent of placating killer-herdsmen with money which seems in short supply in the Nigeria of today?
The precedents are not far-flung. As Nigeria has struggled to grow into a stable democratic country after years of insidious and nauseating military incursions, it has had to grapple with discontent from different regions of the country by elements protesting what they mostly arbitrarily pronounce ‘marginalisation’, pounce on the Nigerian state in order to force their voices into the national consciousness. Examples abound and even now, Nigeria grapples with unabating ripples of discontent, and as democratically as it has tried to handle this ripples, their have been countless forays outside the thin, transparent line traced by the rule of law.
Apart from the mindless carnage by the nauseating terrorist group, Boko Haram, the rampaging killings by criminal herdsmen simply take the biscuit. From Agatu in Benue State to Nibo in Enugu State and Southern Kaduna in Kaduna State, there is hardly any state in Nigeria that has not felt the blood-curdling crimes of these criminals posing as rearers of cattle. Many innocent citizens have been slaughtered and communities have been razed. The Federal Government’s response to these chilling crimes has been anaemic at best.
Controversial grazing reserves have been proposed but many have warned that it is destined to generate even more controversies. Probably, it was against this backdrop of administrative and security inertia inspired by ulterior considerations, that El Rufai took the unprecedented step of paying money to killers to placate them into stopping their killings. It is a shot in the dark which has no prayer and wish of halting the blood thirst of the menacing killers. It has also betrayed the fact that government at all levels are at sea as to how to curb a security nightmare that is imprinted with ethnic and religious considerations.
In a country that is richly imprinting into its historical archives a confounding eagerness to reward and placate those who have committed violent crimes against innocent Nigerians instead of summoning them to account, every passing day projects grotesquely the failures of state institutions to act independently and patriotically. While the circus continues and scant Nigerian money is doled out to criminals who in saner and more serious climes should be cooling their heels in jail, ordinary Nigerians should watch and note with their hearts those who put them up for sale while professing they are putting them on the world map for surely the day of reckoning will break.
Kenechukwu Obiezu writes from Abuja.