We are descending into hell
The governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, visited one of the badly affected areas in the recent eruption of a killing spree at Kasuwan Magani in the state on October 22. The Daily Trust of October 23 published a front page photograph of the visit. The photograph tells the story without words.
The usually lively governor looked shell shocked and obviously dazed by the scale of destruction he saw. Not many people would look at that photograph without identifying with his pain. He imposed a 24-hour curfew on the state to help stem the crisis - a necessary step but one with unintended consequences of disrupting economic and social activities in the state to the loud complaints of residents. I offer him my commiserations.
We now know for sure how many people were suddenly despatched to the mass graves in this latest madness. The governor put the number at 22. It could be anything but that. But whatever the number is, high or low, does not matter. Even if only one person was killed it still points to the inescapable fact that while our political leaders are strutting the stage of political and economic power, our country is rapidly descending into hell. And no one seems particularly moved to halt the heady descent.
Kaduna, no stranger to similar killing and destruction in the past, is merely the latest in the grim statistics of a nation awash in the blood of its own citizens in the hands of its own citizens. Think back on these states that have buried more men, women and children in mass graves this year than at any time in our history: Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe and Zamfara. This is no way to unite the people and build a united and egalitarian society.
What has gone so badly wrong with our country that we have become our brothers’ killers, not their keepers? I am willing to bet that millions of our compatriots are asking themselves this question. I am sure that they too, like yours sincerely, are baffled by the silence from the quarters from which we expect some informed responses to the question.
Here is a tiny but possible clue to what our nation faces today. In November 2017, killings and destruction in some parts of Southern Kaduna were attributed to Fulani herdsmen - the same roaming band of elusive men who make our security forces look inept. The members of the Kaduna State branch of the Nigerian Bar Association paid what was said to be a solidarity visit to the governor. He told them that “since 1980, about 10,000 to 20,000 (people) were killed in Kaduna State during crisis and government did not prosecute anybody.”
Do you find this baffling? It is called impunity. It is what happens when people are not held accountable for their actions. It is what happens when there are no consequences for the naked commission of heinous crimes. It is what happens when the government neglects the number one duty imposed on it by our constitution: security; meaning its dutiful protection of lives and property.
This is not about Kaduna. It is about Northern Nigeria and the cynical abdication of responsibilities towards the former region by the leaders who were and are because they are northerners. How did the most peaceful and secure region in the country suddenly become the most violent and the most insecure in our contemporary history? Boko Haram has held the north-eastern parts of the country hostage since 2009. They choose when and where to carry out their very deadly strikes.
These killings and destructions have been going on for so long that I would expect the northern leaders, including the pretenders to the throne, to hunker down in search of solutions towards the recovery of the soul of Northern Nigeria and make it peaceful and secure once again for their sake and for our sake and for the sake of our dear country. Is there no northern leader today who has the clout to summon such a meeting to deliberate on ending Boko Haram, stopping the Fulani herdsmen and the bandits in Zamfara State? Let such a man stand up. Times like these try patriotic men and women. It is a shame that while the other regions are peaceful and secure, everything is rapidly falling apart in Northern Nigeria.
I think it is no longer wise or responsible to leave the problem of insecurity in Northern Nigeria to the federal government alone. Its assurances to end the killings ring jarringly hollow because the more it offers those assurances, the more the killings go on. A northern security summit recommends itself in the circumstances. We need fresh and pragmatic thinking on how to end these killings as soon as possible. Problems do not solve themselves. Since they are created by human beings, they must be solved by them. But the human beings must wake up to the clear and present danger. It is the business of a leader to lead; it is the responsibility of the followers to follow. Lethargy or insouciance is fatal to serious security challenges such as we face in Northern Nigeria today. I ask our northerners to think about the implications of the insecurity in the region for the region itself and the country as a whole. Political power is not held or secured for its own sake. It is a means to an end in this case security in the land and peace among the people. It is the business of leaders to make us our brothers’ keepers again. Yes, it can be done if we show the will and the commitment.
When a country is confronted with this sort of challenge, it has two options. The first is to seek ways and means of addressing those things that have over the years promoted economic and social inequalities in our different communities and disunited the people. Circumscribed economic and political opportunities infect communities like the virus and drive people to take the laws into their hands to effect a favourable paradigm shift in their social, economic and political circumstances.
The second option is to take control of the means of violence. Various informed reports and studies have repeatedly pointed to the proliferation of arms and ammunitions throughout the country. The ready availability of these weapons has fuelled armed robberies, kidnappings and killings. These arms and ammunition have gradually shifted from the Niger Delta to Northern Nigeria. Things can only get worse if nothing is done to stem the proliferation of arms and ammunition.
Our northern leaders need no one to persuade them that these mindless killings threaten their power, their wealth and their comfort zones.