The poor approach to the crisis was earlier sign-posted by the alleged payment of some ransom to the herdsmen by the Kaduna State government under the leadership of Nasir El-Rufai. Indeed, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) had demanded to know the identity of the Fulani herdsmen to whom ransom was being paid and the amount involved. In response, the government has claimed that it was only implementing aspects of the recommendations made to the previous government of the late Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa by a committee on the same crisis. That committee recommended compensation for cattle killed during the post-2011 election crisis in the same area. Meaning the El-Rufai government’s claim to a solution is actually an exacerbation of the problem.
Amidst this controversy and extant tension between the indigenous peoples of Southern Kaduna, the Kaduna State government once imposed curfew as a peace building measure on Zangon Kataf, Kaura and Jema’a councils. This step, however, proved counter-productive as the same herdsmen attacked many communities on Christmas eve. Goska was attacked by the Fulani militants and herdsmen resulting in the raping and killing of women, children including the 14-year-old daughter of the former Chairman of Jema’a, Gideon Morik.
In the face of apparent negligence by the security forces and incompetence bordering on indifference of the state and federal governments, many citizens have pointed accusing fingers at the El-Rufai administration and accused it of failure to halt the killings. Many groups have also tried to draw the attention of the global community and International Criminal Court to what they deem the government’s complicity. The Catholic Archdiocese of Kafanchan has also called for an all-inclusive panel of inquiry into the crisis while also complaining of government’s partisanship in the crisis.
Intriguingly, the cattle breeders association, MACBAN, would seem to have corroborated the point being made that the killings by herdsmen were reprisals for the post-2011 election crisis in the area, thereby unmasking the idea of aliens being the perpetrators as mere falsehood.
It would be recalled that the pattern of killings has been consistent and sustained. Sometime in August last year, Southern Kaduna villages of Gada Biyu, Akwa’a, and Agwan Ajo were attacked by the herdsmen. The deep and perennial nature of the conflict has engendered various view points as to the cause of the carnage in Southern Kaduna. These ranged from reasons of Islamisation, Fulani domination agenda, conquest, inequity and freedom. Despite differences in opinion, what is not in doubt is that the peoples of Southern Kaduna are under siege from the killer herdsmen somehow encouraged by the inaction of the state establishment. The Southern Kaduna killings are only a chip of the entire narrative of a sinister threat to the lives of many Nigerians. As a matter of fact, the entire Middle Belt, Southern Kaduna and parts of Southern Nigeria have been at the receiving end of chilling killings by herdsmen which many government spokesmen often claimed are aliens.
The last one year has witnessed a harvest of killings by these marauding herdsmen. There were cases of massacres in Agatu, Benue State and Ukpabi Nimbo and Uzo-Uwani communities in Enugu. Attacks had taken place in Taraba, Delta and Edo states. In Gashaka, Bali and Donga local councils, several people were killed in Taraba State; one John Ogeleke, a non-academic employee of Delta State University was abducted by herdsmen and Stephen Omamuge was killed by the herdsmen in Ughelli North Council of Delta State; in Ehor, Orhionwmon Local Council of Edo State, Catholic Archbishop Onaiyekan’s car was shot at by a band of three herdsmen. Oke Ako community in Ikole council of Ekiti State was also caught in the prevailing carnage. A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, was once abducted while his security guards were killed by the herdsmen. The atrocious activities of the herdsmen in Adamawa alone have spurned internally displaced persons (IDPs) of about 40,000.
These deliberately systematic killings demand the awakening of Nigerians across the country with a view to saving the nation from a seemingly sinister plot. The current killings and dynamics have a parallel in the Darfur crisis in Sudan where government’s complicity with migrant Arabs displaced indigenous people and consequently led to an armed rebellion for self-determination by such groups as the Sudan Liberation Army/ Movement (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equity Movement (JEM). The impunity with which the so-called herdsmen wield automatic weapons and the magnitude of their violent activities without much intervention from any arm of the nation’s security forces legitimately opens the state and federal governments up to accusations of official complicity. It is even more troubling when the partisan response of disarming communities primed for self-defence against marauding herdsmen by the same government is weighed against the same government’s indifference to killings of innocent people by the herdsmen.
To say the least, that Nigerians’ collective humanity is being debased is exemplified by the killings in Southern Kaduna. The country’s leadership, therefore, needs to reverse this by creating a society in which everyone can find a pavilion. That Nigeria needs to organise itself into a truly federal structure to harness the diversity for the well-being of all Nigerians cannot be overemphasised. All peoples must find accommodation in a truly federal Nigeria. For now, it is bad enough that there is a growing perception that the state is offering protection to the herdsmen while they perpetrate their atrocities across the country.