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Where goes my Kaduna? By Lateef Adewole

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Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna has tested positive for coronavirus

By Lateef Adewole

“The Fulani (man) never forgets. When he is innocently targeted and killed and the authorities do nothing. He will never forget and he will come back for revenge.” – Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State.

For some days, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai has been trending. Not because he is the executive governor of Kaduna State, but for some other reasons. Top on the news is that he has “secretly” withdrawn his children (a son and a daughter) from the state government-owned Kaduna Capital School, Malali, following the escalated insecurity and the increased rate of kidnapping, which happened to be more targeted at schools now.

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This came as a rude shock to many people who were ecstatic when he enrolled the boy, Abubakar, in the public school in 2019. It was with fanfare. While many said it was just a political stunt, there were many who gave him the benefit of doubt. I belong to the latter. As a matter of principle, I avoid second-guessing people and believe in giving people a long rope. As a person, I will not be quick to condemn what someone “plans to do”, even if I have my suspicion about the sincerity of their intention. I prefer to take position based on what someone already did and not what he wants or likely to do. Like the Yorubas will say; “ki lo wi la wi, a ki so wipe ki lo fe so“.

In that light, I wanted to believe that Mallam Nasir El-Rufai was sincere in his “surprising” action at the time. Moreover, he is someone I used to respect and admire a lot, based on his pedigree. His record of performance as the Minister of FCT, during the administration of President Obasanjo, was enviable. I loved him for that. I read his book, “The Accidental Public Servant”, a compendium of his public service during this period. It’s an interesting read and it gave me more insight to the man; Nasir El-Rufai!

So, immediately he had the chance to govern Kaduna state as the governor, I was so elated. This is a state that is also close to my heart. I lived and worked there for some years. It was a great time in my life and career. I will get back to this later. Although, after he left office as the Minister of FCT, many of his utterances became source of concern to me, especially whenever ethnic issues come up, Fulanis’ and northerners’ matters in particular.

Governor Nasir El-Rufai withdraws son from public school over growing insecurity

Governor Nasir El-Rufai withdraws son from public school over growing insecurity

Many people like me were seriously looking forward to a replica of the “Abuja magic” in Kaduna state as he took over the mantle of leadership. Immediately after taking over, he evolved a lot of policies on economy, fiscal management, education, infrastructures and so on. He was the first to adopt TSA at state level. He declared Kaduna as self-sufficient at a time, based on their IGR. He started many things that were models for other states. In fact, many were already seeing him as replacing Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), whose second term as the governor of Lagos State ended in 2015, as the “star governor”. But, with the benefits of hindsight, that may be debatable today, given what the state has turned to in the past six years of his administration.

In reality, that gargantuan constructions and projects we fantasized about, to transform Kaduna state, are not there. The insecurities, which predated him, have terribly degenerated, particularly in Southern Kaduna. Many of the communities there have been wiped out, displaced, or the whole villages, properties and farmlands burnt to ground.  That area remained endlessly under siege of killer Fulani herdsmen and bandits.

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Sheikh Ahmad Gumi says the bandits he spoke with are not responsible for the abduction of Jangebe schoolgirls

Sheikh Ahmad Gumi says he is interacting with bandits from a spiritual standpoint

Most of these bandits wrecking havocs have been ascertained to be of Fulani extraction, as confirmed by Sheikh Gumi, who has been in the camps of these bandits numerous times, as well as the state governor. Most were also said to be Nigerian Fulanis, contrary to what the authority claimed in the past. Initially, it was denials that they were not Fulanis. Later, it became that they were foreign Fulanis from other African countries. This was alluded to by what Governor El-Rufai said in 2016 in his claim that he paid off some foreign Fulanis who were the ones killing in the Southern Kaduna.

Since then, “kaka k’ewe agbon ro, lile lo n le si” (rather than things to get better, they got worse). Instead of reprieve that such gesture should have brought, the area came under more deadly attacks. Why? Now, the situation has gone beyond attacks on the villages but the kidnapping business has taken over. Not just on the now dreaded Abuja-Kaduna expressway or Birnin-Gwari road, but in schools.

Bandits Boko Haram Gunmen

Kidnappers have terrorised Kaduna state in the past months

In the spate of six months, Kaduna has recorded unprecedented figures of bandits’ attacks, killings and kidnappings. A security report made public by the state government, which assessed the security situation in the first quarter of 2021 “only”, showed that 323 people have been killed and 949 persons were kidnapped in the state. This was just in three months. Since March 2021 to date, the state has recorded many other incidents of killings and kidnappings. What would the statistics be from 2015 to date? Scary to imagine!

The commendable efforts of the state government to reposition the educational system in the state is being threatened by the activities of the bandits. With incessant attacks on schools at all levels, that may be in jeopardy. Education is one of the things I commend the governor and his government for. Mallam El-Rufai, being an academic juggernaut, a brilliant mind, a First-Class Honours graduate himself, from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, in the same Kaduna state, nothing less was expected of him.

Unfortunately, that progress is being threatened now. In March, 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry and Mechanization, Afaka, were kidnapped. It took over two months before they were released. Whether ransom was paid or not, was unclear, given the state governor’s stand against payment of ransom to bandits, in contradiction to the stand which the same governor took in the past, while in the opposition.

Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna

Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna

A video where he criticised President Jonathan for not doing everything possible to rescue the Chibok girls, even if it meant paying ransom, has been in circulation recently. He accused Jonathan of insensitivity and queried if he would have left the girls like that had his child being among them. This video must have been exhumed to spite El-Rufai, given his stand and actions about all the kidnapped school children in his state now.

While he vowed that even if his child is abducted, he will never pay ransom, he has withdrawn his two children back home from the school because of the threat of being kidnapped. A move that many saw as hypocritical and condemnable.

After the Afaka 39, in April, another set of 20 students and 2 staff were abducted from Greenfield University, Kasarami, Chikun LGA., Kaduna State. Their case was more brutal as the kidnappers made good, their threat to kill the victims one after another, if the government refused to pay them ransom. They eventually killed five of them before the parents of the students were able to raise the ransom. A whooping 180 million naira was paid with additional 10 motorcycles. This was according to the parents. It was an harrowing experience, even to watch on the television.

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On Thursday, 11th of June, 2021, from Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, Zaria, Kaduna state, ten people were kidnapped; eight students and two staff members. Two other students were shot, one of them died later in the hospital while being treated. They have just been released yesterday.

Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic

This Sunday, at least eight people were also abducted from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Centre in Zaria early on Sunday morning. They include a 12-month old baby. They are still in captivity as I write this. That’s an infectious hospital. That’s to show the level of mental degradation that the bandits are suffering. Abducting an infant like that? It’s horrendous.

The latest of these students’ kidnappings occurred on Sunday, 5th of July. The bandits hit a private school, Bethel Baptist High School, located on Kachia road, Rigachuku, Kaduna. 140 students were kidnapped as about 25 students escaped. The security agents reportedly rescued 26 others, leaving the bandits with 114 students. Kaduna state government has since directed the closure of 13 schools in vulnerable areas of the state. But, for how long?

Like I earlier said, I love Kaduna. It was a favourite place I spent time while living in the north. Even during my stay in Abuja, I had my bosom friend and colleague lived there then. His office was in Kaduna. On many Fridays, after close of work, I would take my car and drove myself there to spend my weekends and return on Monday morning, straight to the office. One can then imagine what time I would have left Kaduna for Abuja, and still be able to resume before 8am on Monday. Such was how safe the region and the roads were. It was the same Abuja-Kaduna expressway that has become so scary to travel now. Same as when I was in Kano.

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I made most of those trips without anyone with me. I had no worry or fear. I was later transferred to the place, which made me fall in love with it. I can say that Kaduna “used to be” the most “cosmopolitan” city and state in the north. It has people from different walks of life, from all over the country, despite the dichotomy as north and south, with Hausa-Fulani Muslims as the dominant people in the northern Kaduna, while non-Hausa Christians dominate the south. However, that did not preclude them from living with each other outside this demarcation.

Apart from the historical importance of Kaduna as the political capital of the north since the pre- and post- colonial era, its proximity to the federal capital territory, made it an alternative destination to Abuja, for hosting important functions; political, economic and social, as well visitations from prominent Nigerians on holidays. There are some interesting tourist sites in the state too.

The only refinery in the entire country outside the Niger Delta, is sited there. This made the state attractive to businesses. That’s the hub of petroleum business in the north, before it became moribund as we have seen in the past few years.

Agriculture is one very important occupation of the indigenes. Kajuru, Kujama, Kachia, Birni Gwari, Zaria, Jere, Igabi, and many others communities, which have become “death zones” now, are areas where massive agricultural activities are done. How could this continued with such incessant attacks on the villagers and farmers? Like many other parts of the north where bandits are holding sway, farming has become a dangerous venture. This accounts for the high food inflation at over 18% that we are seeing today in Nigeria.

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Is there a way out to all of these? Of course yes. But, are the authorities sincerely willing and ready to act dispassionately and firmly? Are they ready to rise above tribal and religious sentiments in dealing with these existential threats? Are they ready to decisively deal with the perpetrators and their collaborators without fear or favour? All these are very germane questions, answers to which will reveal the truth.

With a mindset as espoused in the opening quote in this article, which was attributed to the state governor, there may be a clog in the wheel of any substantial planned progress or success in efforts to crush the killer Fulani herdsmen and bandits. Such statement extenuates their crimes and it’s like a “concession” to these criminals.

Being a Fulani himself, many see Governor El-Rufai has another tribal irredentist, from that statement, like some other statements attributed to him during the last administration. He was also seen as not doing enough to stem the killings in southern Kaduna because they do not belong to the same ethnic and religious groups, whether true or false. He has been accused of intolerance, incapable listening to others’ dissenting views, arrogant and full of himself. It was said that anyone who tried to advise him contrary to his personal view of issue, is immediately tagged an enemy and such a person is marked for hounding. Instances were often mentioned.

With his distinction between Kanu and Igboho on one hand and bandits and Boko Haram on the other, in his recent interview, where he did not expect bandits to be “swiftly” treated like “separatists” Kanu and Igboho were treated, it is an embodiment of the bandits and Boko Haram. He claimed that these agitators in the south are more dangerous to the country than killers in the north, because, one was planning to break the country, while the other only killed and kidnapped for business.

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So, Igboho, as wrong as many of his methods might have been, demanding for Yoruba nation, borne out of frustration by the invasion of Yorubaland by killer herdsmen, without government doing anything about it, similar to the case in Southern Kaduna, is more dangerous than the bandits. On record available to the public, Igboho has not been reported to have killed, kidnapped, maimed anybody or destroyed any community like bandits or Boko Haram. Kanu’s case might be slightly different. His vituperations could have led to attacks in the South-East and his call for secession more pronounced than that of Igboho. The law should take its course.

Is Governor Nasir El-Rufai saying that, rather than the dissatisfied people voice out to express their dissatisfaction with the country, with the way they were being treated and govern, and even demanding for self-determination, they should have gone the route of Boko Haram and or bandits, who have killed thousands of Nigerians, kidnapped thousands of people, raped, maimed, razed down countless communities? Would they have been considered as “less of a threat” to Nigeria?

In fact, there is likelihood that prominent people would have been advocating for them to be given amnesty, paid money, send abroad to school, built hospitals and schools for. After all, Sheikh Gumi said bandits are not criminals. And that they are only fighting “tribal” war. With who exactly? How could only one tribe, Fulani, be fighting with every other tribe in Nigeria? With indigenes in Benue and Plateau states in North Central, Southern Kaduna in the North-West, Taraba in the North-East. With the Yorubas in South-west, Igbos in South-East, Niger-Deltans in South-South. Something must be wrong somewhere.

So, achieving success and restoring peace in Kaduna, in the north, as well as in the entire country, requires sincerity on the part of leadership of the state and the country. Justice, fairness and equity should guide their actions. Mallam should step back from his high horse, bring the victims closer, rather than castigate them, and get their cooperation in solving the problems.

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Some readers criticised me for condemning the continous banditry and the kid-gloves with which they are being handled. They claimed that bandits are being killed in their numbers in Nigeria daily. Also, the governor has been seen talking tough about crushing the bandits. If that has been the case, how come they continued to have field day? That’s a mystery. We learnt that bandits now asked the parents of kidnapped students of Bethel to send foods to them to feed their children to avoid starvation. They demand for 30 bags of foreign rice, 20 bags of beans, 10 packs of Maggi, 10 kegs of groundnut oil and many other food items. What audacity!

As long as there is inconsistence in the ways criminals are been treated, irrespective of where they come from, the peace we collectively seek will elude us. Justice, fairness and equity form the root of all peaceful co-existence. Leadership must be true to themselves in this regard.

May God continue to guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

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Lateef Adewole is a political analyst and social commentator. He can be reached by email [email protected] or via WhatsApp +2348179512401 and @lateef_adewole on Twitter, Lateef Adewole on Facebook

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