My parent’s house at Anguwar Fulani Palladan Zaria is sandwiched between two Christian neighbours. In fact, on arrival, a massive church by name JESUS evangelical mission, built on over 10 hectares of land, right behind a seminary school, is the most conspicuous and distinctive structure at sight. From the name, Anguwan Fulani, it’s very obvious who the dominating inhabitants are. Yet, for ages, the Christians and Muslims have been coexisting peacefully with a lot of structures erected by the Christians on a daily basis. The result of this harmonious and peaceful coexistence is the immense economic growth that Zaria enjoys, both in township and environs. Between the early 2000 and 2020, an area behind the college of aviation technology, now known as GRACELAND, saw to the building of over 20 massive churches.
Regrettably, in Southern Kaduna, where I spent my early childhood, the story is the reverse! Such harmonious relationships have since ceased to exist. During a recent trip to Manchok and Gidan Waya, I noticed some places that I have known and even lived since 1989, maintaining the same position and shape, with no visible sign of recent development or facelift. It was a herculean task locating a befitting restaurant from Kasuwan Magani to Manchok. A two and a half hour journey! For commuters, the absence of restaurants, eateries, Suya or Mai-shayi Joints along highways depicts the economic index of an area. Passing through Kachia, the low-cost housing estate we lived in 1987, senior staff quarters No1, was still intact, with all the space and vast land untouched. Even the locust tree, which shade served as our playground was perfectly in place.
In clear and broad terms, we can deduce that the entire Southern Kaduna is a place that is desirous of structural and physical changes. And only a peaceful atmosphere, coupled with full economic impact, could guarantee that. Zaria for example, couldn’t have witnessed massive migration and urban development if there were frequent ethnoreligious crises over the years. It is instructive to note that every single big city around the world, became what it is today as a result of economic activities, aided by migration.
Recently, both the conventional and social media spaces in Nigeria have been awash with what was coined “The Southern Kaduna Crisis”. With many media outlets, so-called human rights activists and opinion leaders, the majority of whom have never been to Kaduna State, being in the forefront, had been accusing Governor Nasiru El-Rufai of an agenda to “exterminate Christians”. These agents of hate, divisive politics and their local collaborators have been working day and night to cause chaos in Southern Kaduna with provocative and inciting headlines! One would wonder if their own environment is as peaceful as paradise!
They had been making futile efforts to link Mallam Nasiru with the “Southern Kaduna Crisis” without success. Hence, when a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Obadiah Mailafiya, had claimed that a particular North-Western governor was a major sponsor of Boko Haram and banditry, some social media commentators were expeditious in pointing accusing fingers at Governor Elrufai. Thankfully, when the DSS impetuously invited Mr Mailafiya to shed more light on the allegations, he quickly retracted his claim. Instead, he ended up ridiculing himself by testifying his source to be gibberish of some Fulani youths who came into his village on a market day. What an irony!
But what exactly is Governor Elrufai’s “sins” against the elites and religious leaders from Southern Kaduna and the so-called human rights activists on the other hand? This is what I seek to evaluate.
Any close observer of the political development of Kaduna State will essentially admit that since 29th of May, 2015, there has been a “radical shift” from the old ways of conducting government business in the state.
Before now, the past governments used to consult the traditional, community, religious and political leaders in major decisions such as contracts, appointments and other forms of political patronage. Invariably, it had been the norm for these traditional, religious and political leaders to dictate who gets what, when and how in the state. At the time, the fate of the public lay in their hands as far as political gains are concerned!
Mallam Nasiru took the umbrage and revolutionized the process. He had rattled them with his first set of appointments. The subsequent ones also came without any external consultations and interference. As he rolled out his programmes and policies, it was apparent to these “political entrepreneurs” who were feeding off the government’s patronage, that this government begged to differ. This necessitated their going back to the drawing board, resolute; saying that El-Rufai must not get away with this! His policy of not patronizing middlemen before appointing people to sensitive positions cuts across all the 23 local government areas of the state.
However, for some obvious reasons, the elites of Southern Kaduna appeared to be more agitated about it, in spite of appointing sons and daughters of the area into his government. Then, the campaign of calumny against El-Rufai set in and gained momentum as a result! It is important to note that under the old order, it was practically impossible for Saude Amina Atoyebi and Saratu Dikko, both of them Christians from the Muslim dominated Zaria Local Government Area to get appointments as Senior Special Assistant on Administration and Chairperson of the state’s Independent Electoral Commission respectively, just as it was impossible for Murtala Dabo from Kachia Local Government Area and Abu Hassan from Jema’a Local Government Area, both Muslims from a Christian dominated local government areas, to be appointed as Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Finance and Executive Secretary of the state’s Emergency Management Agency respectively. But these personalities are presently comfortably serving in El-Rufai’s administration!
Governor El-Rufai’s comments on the 2011 post-election violence, where some migrant Fulani herdsmen crossing over from western African countries were ambushed and killed, alongside their cows, in which he explained that his administration had gone through the recommendations of the General Mathew Agwai’s Committee, and had sent emissaries to the Fulani leaders, whom were suspected to be engaging in reprisal attacks in southern Kaduna to come forward for the compensation were mischievously misconstrued as “paying and even sponsoring the Fulani herdsmen killers”.
Gradually, these false and misleading narratives became deeply entrenched in the minds of many people in southern Kaduna. For some inexplicable reasons, the mainstream media deliberately ignored the calls by Governor El-Rufai to undertake a balanced analysis of what is clearly a combination of banditry; that has unfortunately ravaged the northwestern states; alleged reprisal killings of the 2011 post-election violence and the continued ambush and killing of Fulanis and Muslim motorists on highways in southern Kaduna.
Rather, the whole world is being fed with news of “Christians being killed and maimed in southern Kaduna. Attempts by the Kaduna State Government to explain the unfortunate killings that predate the administration of Governor El-Rufai were rebuffed by these same biased media houses. Another attempt to explain that other “Muslim dominated local governments like Birnin Gwari, Giwa and Igabi also experience similar attacks was equally ignored! Every enlightened person is expected to be conversant with the dangers embodied in being bias with issues concerning life and death. A book written by the Southern Kaduna Muslim Ummah Development Association titled: “An account of April 2011 genocide in southern Kaduna”, would have provided the “foreign interest” and their local collaborators the true nature of the “crises” in southern Kaduna. But no one gave it an audience.
While Governor El-Rufai was striving so hard to find a genuine way of ending the insecurity challenges in southern Kaduna and the entire state, the agent provocateurs are rather seeking to take advantage of the insecurity challenges to remain relevant and enjoy the limelight. It was, therefore, not surprising when some elected officials from southern Kaduna and even the neighboring Plateau State granted press interviews, cunningly blaming the government and Governor El-Rufai for fuelling the attacks. It didn’t matter to them the availability of videos, showing El-Rufai’s predecessors being booed in the wake of similar killings, including the son of the soil, late Patrick Yakowa.
Does El-Rufai really promote violence?
Since the outbreak of the first ethnoreligious conflict in 1980 in Kasuwan Magani in the present-day Kajuru Local Government Area and the subsequent over 30 ethnoreligious violence in the state, no governor had made genuine commitment and progress in ensuring that the peaceful coexistence in various part of the state is restored like Governor El-Rufai. This was evident in the way he handled the first crisis that broke out after his inauguration as governor. He was already airborne to Ghana but quickly made a detour back to Kaduna. Within hours, the situation was brought under control.
Despite repeated requests and recommendations by various commissions of inquiry on communal clashes in Kaduna State about the need for permanent military formation in southern Kaduna, it didn’t come into fruition until its facilitation by Gov El-Rufai. He is the only state governor that created a ministry for internal security and home affairs in Nigeria. He appointed a very courageous and determined young man with ancestral roots in Zangon Kataf Local Government Area as commissioner in the ministry.
Therefore, when El-Rufai explained the remote causes and nature of the “southern Kaduna” crisis, he does it from the point of knowledge, honesty and fairness as expected of a leader. Those berating him for going public with certain facts that ought to have been concealed obviously did not follow his public service’s record. Senator Mantu or Jonathan Zwingina and other senators who demanded for bribes to facilitate his ministerial screening should be a point of reference. El-Rufai is fearless & courageous!
Attempts by those mischievous elements to change the narrative in the southern Kaduna, by blaming El-Rufai and the Fulanis, who are also victims of the “crises” can only lead to its exacerbation. Mallam Nasiru is a unique politician that talks with presentable facts in defence of his views! Just recently, I read something on the internet about NGOs seeking donations to help the “Christians being persecuted in southern Kaduna” which explains why these misguided elements will stop at nothing to ensure that the Southern Kaduna issue remains in the spotlight. One wonders about the “persecutors” behind the perpetual & persistent wars between the Tivs and Jukuns since I was young.
Recently, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State was openly saddened by the killing of a notorious wanted militia by the Nigerian army. But since it didn’t suit their negative and ugly narrative, they went to sleep! Readers should envisage a situation where El-Rufai, for instance, openly expresses his sadness over the killing of a certain gang leader of “Fulani herdsmen” that was established to had taken part in mass killings in southern Kaduna! Newspaper headlines would have been awash with screaming headlines; newspaper editorials would have dedicated their time and space for crucifying El-Rufai, and all hell would have let loose!
One often wonders why there hasn’t been any editorial on the fact that El-Rufai has set an exalted, unifying and a befitting pace of nation-building and good precedence of the Nigeria of our dream, Where a certain Martins Akumazi is the special adviser to the governor on programme implementation in Kaduna state; a Dolapo Popoola is the MD Kaduna State Power Supply Company; among host of others. That is aside from abolishing the indigeneship and giving equal rights to every resident, irrespective of his/her religious belief, to enjoy every rights and privilege of a Kaduna state indigene.
It doesn’t matter to these editors, community leaders and emergency human rights activists, that El-Rufai has attracted both local and foreign investments worth $800m to Kaduna State in the last five years. Neither does it concern them that the El-Rufai administration has flagged off a multibillion Naira Urban renewal programme, even though mischief makers are trying to “ethnicise” the programme, forgetting the fact that there are about 10 million people in Kaduna state – with more than 6 million people in between Kaduna, Zaria and Kafanchan towns. While Kaduna town has four metropolitan Local Governments, Zaria has two and Jema’a has one, making 7 metropolitan local government areas. And on a daily basis, people from these surrounding local governments troop into the metropolitan local governments, thereby putting pressure on the infrastructures. Going by the records, about 70% of the population is going to benefit from these urban renewal projects in one way or the other. El-Rufai is a visionary and focused leader!
But people like Reno Omokri and Chidi Odinkalu would rather dwell on frivolities, like collecting signatures to ban El-Rufai from traveling to UK/EU countries or sponsoring their lackeys in the now highly polarized NBA to disinvite El-Rufai to its conference. It doesn’t matter to these so-called activists that Kaduna state is perhaps the only state without a single ghost worker in Nigeria. Neither does it matter to them that Kaduna state under El-Rufai had emerged as the best state in the open governance system and transparency in Nigeria! The truth is, Mallam Nasiru is a Nigerian leader, the perception of which has sent jitters to the spines of his antagonists. Hence, the daily campaign of calumny against his person!
Is El-Rufai Intolerant?
Some opposition politicians and elites from southern Kaduna have openly accused El-Rufai of punishing the southern Kaduna for not giving him their votes in both the 2015 and 2019 general elections. They linked every single policy of Mallam Nasiru to that erroneous notion that they are being profiled and targeted because of their refusal to vote for him in both the 2015 and 2019 general elections. But this writer was, at some point, a strong member of KD restoration group, a pressure group solely formed to discredit El-Rufai. We openly criticized and challenged him at various fora, news conferences and radio programs. Happily, we were subdued by his superlative performance in infrastructural development and good governance, left with no option than to bow to his superior knowledge. It was magnanimous of his Excellency to have invited some of us to serve in his administration.
El-Rufai’s engagement in public service reforms, where the public service was rejuvenated for efficiency and service delivery, provided yet another opportunity for these same conflict entrepreneurs to falsely describe that laudable initiative as an attempt to weed out the civil servants of southern Kaduna extraction.
Not until the governor came up with the statistics of the number of civil servants in the state, with southern Kaduna having 27% population of Kaduna state but accounting for 62% of the civil service in the state, that they went back to their shield.
El-Rufai was also accused of denying the southern Kaduna people appointments in his government, but that was also punctured with the statistics of the political appointees from other local governments that massively voted for El-Rufai and that of Southern Kaduna. Soba Local Government in Northern Kaduna, being one of the local governments with the highest votes for the APC, for instance, gave Mallam Nasiru 55,046 votes in the 2019 general elections, but only have one Special Assistant and a Permanent Secretary. Jaba local government which gave the least votes of 6,298 was given a Commissioner and Special Adviser. The Neighboring Zangon Kataf Local Government which gave APC/El-Rufai 13,448 votes were even given two Commissioners! This gave credence to El-Rufai’s assertion that his only “sin” to these people is his stoppage of certain patronage and appeasement!
It had been the norm and tradition for strong organizations like JNI, CAN, SOKAPU, emirate councils to nominate people for consideration as political appointees. El-Rufai made a halt on that, hence the consistent antagonistic rhetoric against his appointees from southern Kaduna. They are being labeled as sell-outs and outcasts, treated as a lone sheep, simply for accepting to serve in El-Rufai’s cabinet, with many of them avoiding going home for fear of uncertainties, possible humiliations and castigation. Against this backdrop, it is imperative for us to embrace peace, as only a peaceful atmosphere could guarantee speedy infrastructural and economic development. Those so-called human rights activists that are showering us with fake love have never seen us as part of them. Every one of us is Owo Hausa or Mallam down there. We have no other state than Kaduna State. The regular hate speeches, championed by youths; encouraged by elites who work behind the scenes, portend danger to not only the peaceful coexistence of our dear state, but the economy of the state.