Sunday, December 4, 2016

El-Rufai And The Genocide In Southern Kaduna

By Moses Ochonu
I don't envy my brother, Samuel Aruwan, his job as Press Secretary to Governor Nasir el-Rufai. It is becoming increasingly impossible to defend and rationalize the tyranny and erratic dictatorial tendencies of the governor. As governor, he seems to think that the state he governs is his private estate to control and dominate, and that he is beyond reproach.

*President Buhari and Nasir el-Rufai
And now, it is safe to say we can add the crime of insensitivity and incompetence to the governor's list of infractions. I couldn't believe the headline when I saw it: "How I Paid Fulani Herdsmen to Stop Kaduna Killings—El-Rufai." Alas, there is absolutely nothing factually incorrect about the headline, only a little sensationalism, which is what newspaper headlines do. To counter the Vanguard story, Samuel Aruwan has released the complete transcript of Governor el-Rufai's chat with select journalists. The part of the transcript dealing with the ongoing massacres in Southern Kaduna proves that the Vanguard report, which copiously quotes the governor's own words verbatim, faithfully reflects what the governor said. The quotes are completely accurate. You can question the obvious sensationalism of the headline, but el-Rufai practically cast that headline for them with his words. So here is what the governor scandalously confessed to:
1. The governor said Fulani herders from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, and other neighboring West African countries are responsible for the massacres, which he claims are revenge for the loss of their cattle and kinsmen during the 2011 post election crisis.
Perhaps this is true. Perhaps he is merely trying to externalize the problem. It is always very convenient to blame foreigners. Even Buhari did the same when Agatu happened. What el-Rufai does not realize is that blaming foreign Fulani herdsmen is self-indicting. It also indicts our security services and the administration of President Buhari. For how is it that these Fulani from neighboring countries are able to breach our borders at will while fully armed and make their way deep into the Southern Kaduna hinterlands, murder women and children, burn down whole communities, and melt away unchallenged to visit the same genocidal treatment on another community? At the very least, it indicates that we've totally lost control of our northern borders. The way the governor said it indicates that he doesn't see this breach of our borders by armed herdsmen as a problem. Rather, for reasons known only to him, he sees it as a normal seasonal migration by herdsmen. Does our border not mean anything?

2. The governor said they sent emissaries to these neighboring countries to plead with the murderous, invading Fulani clans to stop the attack. According to him some of the attackers accepted the plea and promised to halt attacks while others asked and were paid compensation for lost cattle in order to stop.
This is the most scandalous part of the governor's revealing statement. El-Rufai has just confessed to paying off murderous, genocidal Fulani herdsmen attackers, who are foreigners, and who crossed our country's border fully armed and proceeded to massacre, maim, and destroy communities in the Southern Kaduna sector. He has confessed that, instead of working with the said neighboring countries to apprehend and punish these self-confessed murderous herdsmen, he in fact begged some of them and paid off others. This tells every Nigerian all they need to know about (a) the governor's and the government's utter helplessness or unwillingness to frontally confront the Fulani herdsmen menace confronting Nigeria; (b) the treasonous propensity to treat the murderous herdsmen as victims deserving coddling, cajoling, and payoff; and (c) the tendency to blame the real victims.
What kind of precedence does paying off and begging foreign Fulani herdsmen mass murderous set? Completely missing from the governor's statements is an acknowledgement of the root of the problem – the ability of these foreign herdsmen to breach our borders and invade communities everywhere, who are then massacred with AK-47s when they object to the invasion. An unwillingness to acknowledge this root of the problem is precisely what authorizes the desperate and counterproductive resort to payoffs, which focuses on the symptom rather than the disease.
And yet, the same Governor el-Rufai has the temerity to threaten with prosecution sympathetic patriots who are asking the endangered Southern Kaduna peoples to defend themselves against the attempt by these murderous herdsmen to exterminate them. Here are the governor's own inexplicably asinine words:
"There are people that are sending a message, defend yourselves, we will get them; defend yourself is hate speech. You can’t defend yourself if there is a government. We are going to arrest and prosecute all those that pass that message."
Nonsense!! A government has proved incapable of protecting you against genocide in your ancestral homeland; it has proved incapable of preventing the invasion of foreign killer Fulani herdsmen who threaten your very existence as a people; the same government proceeds to pay off the mass murderers, with the possibility that some of them could even use this money to buy more arms to attack you; meanwhile, the attacks have continued almost on a weekly basis, targeting new communities. I guess the governor wants you to be a sitting duck and wait for your turn to face the bullets of the said murderous herdsmen instead of defending yourself, your land, the honor of your women, and the existence of your community. What a callous and vicariously murderous position for the chief executive of a state to take. In what society and by what logic is self-defense a crime? Blaming the victims and appeasing the mass murderers do not constitute hate speech but calling on a beleaguered people to defend themselves against murderous herdsmen that the government has proved incapable or unwilling to confront is hate speech?
Away with this tyranny!! If el-Rufai cannot protect the people of Southern Kaduna and cannot work with Buhari to secure the border against the armed invasion of killer foreign herdsmen (assuming he is right that the murderers are foreign herdsmen), he should at least refrain from further insulting the communities being decimated.

 *Ochonu, a professor of history, resides in the US

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