Like a melodrama in a badly scripted movie, the ominous threat by Christians in the southern part of Kaduna State to take the laws into their hands and embark on self-defence, ostensibly because the state government, to which they submitted their security under the social contract, has failed or refuses to act to protect them, poses a clear and present danger to the continuous corporate existence of Nigeria as a nation. If Governor Nasir El-Rufai and his security chiefs do not appreciate the enormity of the challenge before them, the increasingly confrontational posturing of the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC), is a warning salvo that Christians are running out of patience with the present status quo and will no longer stand idle by and watch as their communities are being devastated by marauding bandits and Fulani herdsmen. El-Rufai must stop playing the ostrich and come to terms with the gravity of the looming crisis and take immediate action to halt the descent into anarchy.
At least 19 lives were lost yesterday after Fulani herdsmen attacked five communities in Zangon Kataf LGA of Kaduna State. Those killed were said to be mainly women and children who were either shot or slaughtered. Many others sustained serious injuries and were rushed to the hospital. The attacks took place despite the 24-hour curfew imposed by the state government on Zangon Kataf, Kauru, Jama’a and Kaura LGAs to stop persistent attacks, which have led to killings and destruction of property. Sources said besides the killings, the Fulani bandits also torched several houses. Rightly or wrongly, the fact that not a single individual has either been arrested or prosecuted despite the havoc they have wrecked in many Christian communities across Kaduna state, smacks of official complicity, and reinforces the growing perception of a hidden agenda that borders on Islamization of Nigeria.
The frosty relationship between the Christian community and the Kaduna state government exploded in the open after the Congress of Northern Nigeria Christians (CNNC), at a press conference in Yola, Adamawa State, warned the federal government that it would not hesitate to mobilize Christian youths in the country to defend their brethren against Fulani herdsmen and bandits, if urgent actions were not taken to end “the genocide” in the predominantly Christian southern Kaduna. According to Daniel Kadzia, CNNC national youth leader and president of Coalition of Christian Groups for Good Governance (COCGOG), the federal government and Governor El-Rufai have failed in their responsibility to end the killing of Christians in Kaduna.
He said El-Rufai’s comments on the latest round of killings in southern Kaduna, is a pointer that Kaduna state government was deliberately playing politics with the lives of Christians in the state. “The killings in Jos during former Governor Joshua Dariye, where a state of emergency was declared by then President Olusegun Obasanjo, was child’s play compared to the level of killings going on in southern Kaduna. So, if not politics, the governor has proven that he is incompetent and the president is supposed to do the necessary thing by declaring a state of emergency in Kaduna,” Kadzia stated. Feeling their backs on the wall, Kadzia warned that, Christian youths, who constitute over a quarter of Nigeria’s population, will be mobilized to defend Christians and their faith.
Undoubtedly, the killing of innocent Christians in Kajuru and other parts of southern Kaduna is already threatening the peace and unity of the country and it would be dangerous to allow Christians to embark on self-defence as this will only exacerbate the cycle of violence where neither Muslim nor Christian communities will be winners; they will all be losers. While El-Rufai claims to have done so much to end the carnage, the latest round of killings, following several similarly gruesome killings in the past, have reinforced the palpable despair that the invasive terrorism-related carnage is far from ever abating. Moreover, given the multi-dimensional tractions of violence by Fulani herdsmen, and its tendency to reverberate in other parts of the country, there is a gradual entrenchment of human indignity or low premium on life in Kaduna State. The government of the day at all levels has its job well cut out: Save Nigeria from the rampaging herdsmen.
There are still fundamental issues that the killings by the Fulani herdsmen raise and which can no longer continued to be ignored. Given the sadistic patterns of killings of Christians in Kaduna, many Nigerians have come to the conclusion that there is something more sinister going on than mere clashes between Christian farmers and Muslim cattle breeders. The situation in Kaduna has curiously become the third national security crisis in a country still smarting from the debilitating effects of Boko Haram insurgency in Northeast and Niger Delta militants. This is worrisome. What is better known but not said is that the Kaduna State and the Federal government are not making any concerted effort to halt what some have described as genocide against Christians in Kaduna. This is sad. No doubt, the snowballing fallout has far-reaching consequences on Nigeria’s image and, logically, has hampered local productive forces and the inflow of direct foreign investment. It is just as well that the Institute for Economics and Peace, Global Terrorism Index (GTI) named the Fulani herdsmen as the fifth deadliest terrorist group in the world.
Coincidentally, the activities of these herdsmen, including the attacks against Christians in Kaduna and elsewhere in the country have grown in provocative proportions since President Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015. Apart from threatening Christians in the country, in a rather vexatious manner, the implicit complicity of local and federal authorities with the antics of these arrogant merchants of death and violence is irresponsible and provocative. There has been no reprimand from El-Rufai besides imposing curfews which the bandits exploit to maximum effect; staging attacks under the cover of darkness. Also, the security agencies have conveniently sealed their ears and looked the other way while Christians are being massacred with impunity and reckless abandon. What narrative is Governor El-Rufai promoting? The standing view is that El-Rufai is willy-nilly promoting the sectarian interests of his kinsmen above and over the public interest. This is dangerous and a threat to the much-needed national cohesion. Such double standards by El-Rufai in dealing with the carnage in Southern Kaduna sow seeds of disunity and distrust and lack of faith in peaceful coexistence the state.
Sadly, since El-Rufai came to power, there has been a deep disregard for the sensibilities of the constituent parts of the cosmopolitan Kaduna state as reflected in appointments to sensitive offices at the state level. No government in the history of Kaduna state had been so clannish, insensitive and sectional in appointments, siting projects and body language as the Buhari administration. It is this clannishness that has given gumption and vent to the attacks against Christians, that are capable of setting Kaduna and the nation ablaze.
If, and whenever he decides to return to the job the people of Kaduna elected him to do, El-Rufai should work to redeem his image in the remaining years of his administration. He has frittered away the goodwill, which brought him to power by allowing rapacious extremists and religious bigots and ethnic jingoists to hijack and foist a sinister parochial agenda on the people of Kaduna state. Murderous herders have remained a constant security threat to lives and property in Kaduna and unless the eccentric governor rises to the challenge, there could be unforeseen repercussions from Christians across Nigeria. Certainly, that would be unfortunate. The people of Kaduna need peace, security and mutual understanding to thrive. El-Rufai would be wise to put Kaduna first and ensure the corporate existence of the state because Kaduna as a state will outlive El-Rufai as governor. However, the history of genocide against Christians in southern Kaduna will remain part of his legacy. How El-Rufai wishes to be remembered is dependent on how he pilots the affairs of Kaduna going forward, given his unbridled ambition for the presidency in 2023. Nigerians are watching.