LAST weekend, bandits alleged to be Fulani herdsmen struck in the southern part of Kaduna State, cutting down scores of people. Like many other Nigerians, popular Nigerian musician, Joel Amadi, lost loved ones: his father and uncle were among the scores killed. Since January, the killings in Southern Kaduna have escalated. Between July 19 and 20, for instance, at least 27 lives were reportedly lost. The attacks have been characterised by looting, rape, abductions for ransom and forced displacement. In its reaction to the massacre, the presidency attributed them to reprisals, politics and criminality. According to Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, the problem in Southern Kaduna is an evil combination of politically motivated banditry, revenge killings and mutual violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious grounds.
But the presidency’s reaction spurned outrage in the polity. For instance, deploring what it called the body bags daily being counted by the people of Southern Kaduna in the hands of alleged Fulani marauders, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF)expressed anger over the wave of killings, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to step in and cause the perpetrators to face the law. Said the forum: “In the past weeks, there have been reports of killings, especially in the southern part of Kaduna State, with the most recent massacres at Kukum Daji and Gora Gan put at 33 deaths, aside from the scores who are in hospitals receiving treatment from various degrees of gunshots. We call on the Buhari government to immediately stop the killings, bring the perpetrators to book and stop making statements seeming to justify the killings and deceive the world about the situation in the area.”
To be sure, the unrelenting killings in Southern Kaduna should be of serious concern to the government. If the government’s primary responsibility is to secure the citizenry, the federal and state governments are certainly failing the people of Southern Kaduna. While the presidency claims that the security on ground in the area was suffice to contain the bloodshed going on is most unfortunate, the response by the state government is no better. In the build-up to the 2019 polls, Governor El-Rufai admitted that the state he presided over was ravaged by internal strife. He said: “No matter who I choose as my running mate, even if I choose the Pope, 67 per cent of the Christians in Southern Kaduna have made up their minds that they will never vote for me. This is what the polls show. So, for me, that is not the issue. The issue is this: Kaduna State is divided, it needs to be united. The way to begin to unite it is to take religion or ethnicity off the table. Since 1992, every deputy governor of Kaduna has been a Christian. What has it done for the state? Has it united the state? Has it assuaged the feelings of the Christian minority?”
Since the governor knew that there was no love lost between him and the people of Southern Kaduna, he should, we believe, have taken steps to iron out his differences with them, winning their trust and taking the battle to the bloodthirsty criminals ravaging the area. There is no indication that this has been done and, worse still, the apparently strained relationship between the governor and the people of the Southern Kaduna has worsened in recent times, with many of them deploring his response to the killings. Governor el-Rufai must address this issue, and urgently too, if the killings are to stop. As a governor, he must be seen as bending over backwards to address the needs of a critical population, and not give vent to feelings that his administration’s failure to end the carnage in the area is due to animosity. It is good that the governor was able to diagnose the main challenge in the state as that of disunity. But he has to work assiduously at mending fences. Besides, he must realise that his administration’s dependence on the curfew it imposed on the area to curb the crisis has so far proved inadequate.
The Federal Government, on its part, must deploy all the resources at its disposal to assist the Kaduna State government in ending the bloodshed in Southern Kaduna. Many of the people in the area have claimed that the killers are Fulani bandits, and President Muhammdu Buhari and Governor el-Rufai need to dispel any notion that they have failed to stop the killings because they are of the same ethnic stock as the culprits.Tagging the killings as reprisals without stopping them amounts to a justification for the orgy of violence. Let the killings in Southern Kaduna stop now.
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