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Kaduna: A trajectory of crises

By Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief
18 December 2016   |   5:18 am
From May, 29, 2015 when Mallam Nasir El-Rufai assumed office as the Governor of Kaduna State, he has been responding to the socio-economic conditions of the state ...
The leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria otherwise known as Shi''te, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

The leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria otherwise known as Shi”te, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky

From May, 29, 2015 when Mallam Nasir El-Rufai assumed office as the Governor of Kaduna State, he has been responding to the socio-economic conditions of the state through controversial policies, which seem to have put the entire citizenry on edge. Most people still wonder as to the direction and possible destination of the ship of State.

It would be recalled that El-Rufai was the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja and erstwhile Director General of the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE). His stint in those offices is well known to Nigerians.

But the no-nonsense bearing of the governor is now turning into a kind of nightmare, following the pressures brought to bear in the state, where he presides over a diverse people with different religious and ethnic backgrounds. There is a past history of crises in the state.

The major challenge confronting Governor El-Rufai today in Kaduna seems to be how to carry the people along with his developmental policies and programmes. That also is in the face of many contending crises, such as, the Shiites debacle, Fulani herdsmen and Southern Kaduna community killings.

Then there is his notorious political face-off with Senator Shehu Sani, which led to the suspension of the irascible human rights activist by the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC), confrontation by religious clerics over the controversial religious and anti-preaching bill.

In the midst of those challenges, Nigerians are eager to know whether Governor El-Rufai can confront all and deliver the dividends of democracy to the people. No doubt, the distractions of the contending forces would serve as negative pull against his government from many fronts.

Fulani Herdsmen Attacks Versus Southern Kaduna Killings
It has been all dark and gloomy climate of attacks in recent times by Fulani killer herdsmen. In the most recent episodes, the herdsmen unleashed a torrent of anguish on several communities across the Southern Kaduna axis of the state. They not only wrecked havoc in families, the killer squad also set many villages ablaze, thereby rendering many people in the area homeless.

Since the attack assumed serious dimension last year, not fewer than 2,000 people been sent to their early graves, with about 200 others killed in Godogodo town, in Jema’ah Local Government Area, and its adjoining communities nearly two months ago.

The people watched with horror as their families were buried in great numbers, even as villages were deserted as a result of the herdsmen attacks. Pitifully, it was as if the federal and state governments displayed either lack of ability to stop the killings or were too dazed by the gunmen’s barbarity at the height of their invasion to react in good measure.

Up until now, the miserable climate of attacks and killings by herdsmen has refused to change, despite assurances by the authorities. Many peace committees have been set up, while peace undertakings have been organised by the Government, but all to no as the violence continued.

Since 2010 when the problem emerged to date, suspected Fulani herdsmen are alleged to have burnt down over 500 houses and killed more than 4,000 people in Southern Kaduna. However, the crisis heightened after the inauguration of El-Rufai as governor. And the optimism that the attack would subside disappeared in April, after El-Rufai announced a controversial plan to establish grazing reserves across the state.

The grazing reserves plan was particularly contentious in Southern Kaduna, as it meant yoking the natives, who are mainly crop farmers, and the pastoral Fulani herdsmen in a difficult cohabitation. Many in Southern Kaduna saw it as a plot to dispossess them of their land and give it to a people who had for long enacted a regime of murder and destruction against the natives. Emotions ran high, though the Kaduna State government tended later to relax the grazing reserves scheme for Southern Kaduna.

A fortnight ago, there was anger and apprehension among the people of Southern Kaduna following the revelation that the killer herdsmen were from far flung areas.

Governor El-Rufai’s Revelation
When Governor El-Rufai spoke to journalists, he disclosed that the herdsmen came majorly from the neighbouring countries. He alarmed the citizens when he disclosed that the killers were paid some money to discontinue from further attacks so that peace may reign in the area.

The governor said his government traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities, saying that the renewed violence is carried out by bandits.

He stated: “For Southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) to find out what was going on there. What was established, was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence.”

Continuing, the governor explained that, “Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start, around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries. Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across Southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them.”

“Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge.”

El-Rufai continued: “So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria. We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course after he died, the whole thing stopped.

“That is what we inherited. But the Agwai committee established that. We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor, who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.”

“In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There is one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings, but want compensation for cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some. As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to Niger republic to attend
one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me.”

The Islamic Movement Of Nigeria (IMN) Angle
The trouble generated by the bloody clash between the Shiites and soldiers in Zaria, which resulted in the death of several members of the Islamic group, last year December has continued to brew tension and uncertainty in Kaduna and other states in the north, where the Shiites have many followers.

Coupled with the massive loss of lives suffered by the members of the Shiites as a result of the clash with soldiers, their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife who were wounded during the fracas were detained under security watch of the Department of State Security (DSS), Abuja.

There was a White Paper released by the State Government after the investigation by a judicial panel, which probed the clash between the Shiites and soldiers and subsequently indicted the Islamic religious group. The State Government has already placed a ban the IMN and also declared the Shiites as an insurgent movement, just like the Boko Haram.

The Political face-off between Senator Shehu Sani and Governor El-Rufai
The altercation between the two political figures in the State has almost torn the All Progressives Congress (APC) apart in Kaduna State. Senator Shehu Sani who was elected as Senator representing Kaduna Central zone defeated the former Senator representing the zone, retired Major General Mohammed Sani Saleh, a close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari at the primaries in 2015 to become APC candidate. The cross-firing between Sani and Governor El-Rufai was said to have begun when the Governor decided to pitch tent with the retired General instead of the human rights activist.

Since the battle-line was drawn between the two political figures, there have been a divergence of opinion between the two camps on policies in the State, which resulted to Sani’s suspension by the Kaduna state chapter of APC.

However, the zonal headquarters of the party seemed not to be impressed by the action of the Kaduna state chapter of APC against Senator Sani, going by the recent comments of the party’s North West zonal National Vice Chairman, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadri Magatakada, who condemned the arbitrary action of some state officials on its members.

This situation has in no small way added to the tension in the state, leaving many wondering how it would play out come 2019.