Mallam El-Rufai will be remembered for being one of the vitriolic critics of the Goodluck Jonathan government. While on the side of opposition, he went to conferences, to media to showcase a rare brilliance in governance and administration. Many residents of Kaduna who wanted a breath of fresh air were all out to vote for him as Governor of the state in 2015. Unfortunately, it seems that the government of Kaduna has been bereft of problem-solving ideas ever since. Latest news about Kaduna are not about physical and social developments nor are they about infrastructural landmarks. They tell tales of the clampdown on Shite protests, the shock from the mouth of an uncouth governor, the demolishing of an opponent’s private property, and the disappearance of media critics, amongst others.
Mallam El-Rufai is now the tyrant that the people of Kaduna curse when they reach the hilt of their frustration. This is because the governor of Kaduna has done little or nothing to quell the crisis between the Fulani herdsmen and other tribes. He has not taken a governance lesson from the likes of Governor Simon Lalong, who has brought everyone together by providing equal social, infrastructural and governance equity amongst the many tribes that inhabit the landscape, neither has he used his powers to beef up the security of lives and property in Kaduna. It is a free-for-all in that space.
While freedom of speech remains a fundamental right in Kaduna, the fear of being reportedly kidnapped by government agencies like Daddiyata – whose whereabouts remains unknown, after his untrammelled criticism of the governor – is a signifier to tyranny. In fact, the lack of decorum and respect for criticism was expressed by El-Rufai when he told international election monitoring groups that they would be shipped back in body bags if they interfered with the elections in Nigeria. Bello El-Rufai, his son, exhibited the same violent posture when he affronted a critic of his father’s government on twitter, telling the fellow that he, Bello El-Rufai, would rape the fellow’s mother and nothing consequential would happen to him. He had in the process used a tribalist slur and referencing the Nigeria civil war. After a major twitter backlash, Nasir El-Rufai’s son and his mother, who perhaps had misconstrued the issues, apologised to Nigerians. They earlier refused to engage the people and presented a posture of demigods until the backlashes were too much to bear, in order to save face.
Social Critics like Ikhide Ikheola and Chidi Odinkalu have boldly accused El-Rufai’s government of complicity in the crimes in Kaduna State. Their human rights sensors picked up signals when El-Rufai threatened to send electoral monitors home in body bags, besides the mass killings already taking place in the state. Chidi Odinkalu once made a thread on twitter in which he cited 23 instances where critics have been molested or oppressed by Mallam El-Rufai. He named it ‘a litany of body bags’ on twitter. Likewise, Pa Ikhide has never shied away from urging Nigerian creative writers to boycott the Kaduna Book and Arts Festival. For Ikhide, it is dining over the corpses of men and women of Southern, Central and Northern Kaduna, instead of posing an activist stance to address the germane issues on the ground.
Many already fear the governor because of perceived relations with the President Buhari. However, it will be unfair to connect the malfeasance of El-Rufai to the bolstering relations with the Presidency. Many people link his close relations to Aso Rock because he belongs to the CPC bloc of the megalithic party – the APC – from which the President had emerged. Nevertheless, the Presidency needs to urgently intervene in protecting the lives and property of all residents of Kaduna, even if the governor continues to fold his arms, or rely on caustic tweets, and dangerous pronouncements. We have a replica of the Rwandan Genocide playing out in our backyard, yet we are dining and living in palatial houses as if nothing is wrong.
One wonders whether El-Rufai has media advisors. This is important because his utterances as the governor have so far heated up the distrust between Southern Kaduna and Northern Kaduna residents. El-Rufai recently accused Southern Kaduna elders of causing the crisis because they did not get their usual peace bribes from government. Yet, the same governor tweets generously, implying that anyone who attacks the Fulanis should naturally expect revenge no matter how long. He also said the state is willing to compensate Fulanis for their losses, peradventure they lose their cattle or property but did not say same for the other tribes. This is not the equity that the Nigerian constitution prescribes, neither is it the wisdom that leadership requires.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai has also concerned himself with politicking in the nation without giving full concentration to the urgent security affairs of the state that he presides over. He has been rumoured to be in the forefront of a 2023 Presidency by his public utterances. He has been engaging the discourse on zoning for the position of President in 2023. One then wonders where elections will hold in Kaduna in 2023 and what political leverages Mallam El-Rufai will have when Kaduna implodes into a full genocidal war before 2023. Perhaps the disinvitation of the governor to this year’s conference of the Nigerian Bar Association will keep him at home in order to put his house in order.
Governor Nasir El-Rufai, in an attempt to displace the public outcry, compounds the problem by dismissing the peculiar nature of the crisis in Kaduna. He had said that the issue of violence in Kaduna was but mere ‘media hype’ and is no different from the crisis in the North-Western part the country. This is largely untrue. The Kaduna crisis has been in existence for forty years while other hydra-headed problems in the North-Western Zone began to manifest about twenty years ago.
The Human Rights Watch clearly stated that Kaduna has suffered from communal clashes between the Hausa-Fulani, who are Muslims in Northern Kaduna and the 30 ethnic groups, who are Christians in Southern Kaduna. These two blocs are in fierce and dangerous ‘competition over resources including land, and political control,’ the organisation had said. The Human Right Watch also noted in its report titled, Leave Everything to God, Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria, that ‘The situation is more complex in Kaduna State, where the ethnic and religious divisions are more evenly split. In the northern part of the state, Hausa-Fulani hold the majority, and Christians claim they face discrimination, while in the southern part of the state — where numerous predominantly Christian ethnic groups, together, make up the majority — Hausa-Fulani complain that they are treated as perpetual ‘settlers’ and second-class citizens, despite the fact that, in some cases, their families have lived in those communities for multiple generations. The struggle for ‘ownership’ — cultural, religious, and political control — of these areas has been at the heart of much of the inter-communal conflict.’
In a media conversation, Jonathan Asake, leader of the Southern People’s Congress, said that the massacre is a deliberate attempt by the Hausa-Fulani people to displace them from their lands and property. ‘We are facing incessant invasion of our communities – We have recorded over 500 death in over 16 communities,’ Asake said. Meanwhile Sanusi Maikudi, in a rebuttal, had asserted that Asake was merely selecting ‘comfortable facts’ when, according to him, the Southern Kaduna peoples have also killed Hausa-Fulani peoples. This is one matter that Governor El-Rufai can possibly handle with a fairness, while in the process advancing justice, a general sense of belonginess and creating a balanced playing field for political and social relevance for both groups in the governance spaces of the state.
Unfortunately, the posture of Mallam El-Rufai seems to be in favour of the Fulani. His recent tweet warning everyone of the Fulani prowess to carry out revenge no matter how long, is beneath the distinguished and decent position of a state governor. Governor El-Rufai reminds many of President Donald Trump: a man who is quick to tweet and make pronouncements without looking at the perpetual implications of his words.