By Ismail Omipidan
Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, has said that the only way to ensure enduring peace in Southern Kaduna , was to identify perpetrators and the masterminds of the violence, and met out appropriate punishment to them, saying that there was no way to guarantee peace without justice.
El-Rufai, who has come under serious attacks in recent times, over the Southern Kaduna crisis, revealed that all those blaming him for the crisis, are either doing it out of ignorance, or out of sheer mischief, adding that “while as a government, we take responsibility for whatever is happening, but people must stop making it look like the crisis only started about two years ago, when I became governor. And they must stop giving it a religious or ethnic colouration.”
While, insisting that the state government has put measures in place to not only put an end to the senseless killings, but to also build an enduring peace in the area, El-Rufai, further disclosed that, but for the proactive steps taken by government, what was seen by those outside the state as a Southern Kaduna affair, would have since engulfed the entire state.
The governor, made the disclosures, during an interactive session with Journalists, in Lagos, yesterday.
He also disclosed that, contrary to the picture being painted outside the state, the crisis had nothing to do with religious or ethnic issues. Hear him: “these people are bandits. We’ve arrested over 300 of them, for cattle rustling, for kidnapping and robbery. They are in custody. In one week, they killed 155 people in Zamfara state; they killed their fellow Fulani men in Zamfara. How can you take what these criminals are doing and give it an ethnic colouration? They are all over. They are rustling cattle in Katsina state; they are killing people in Kaduna state. They are bandits and we are dealing with them.”
On indigene/settler dichotomy, like some Nigerians, the governor also believed that those instigating the crisis, among the locals in the Southern part of the state, are making some financial and political capital out of it, saying “as I said earlier, some of the people instigating crises in Kaduna are conflict entrepreneurs and businessmen. The masterminds of the Southern Kaduna crises are dangerous. They are bent on making these crises fester so that they profit from it. The whole agenda is that, no one, who is not, originally from there should be there. Now, what does that mean? We are all migrants; it only depends on how far you go. Many of the tribes in Southern Kaduna came from somewhere. They are not indigenous to the place. So, it depends on how you go, to determine indigeneship. That’s why this indigene/settler issue is absolute nonsense. We should just abolish it. Anyone that lives in a place belongs to that place.
On how the state government was handling the Southern Kaduna issue, El-Rufai, said “our desire is to first stabilise the place. The second is prosecution.
“Peace is not possible without justice. The first foundation is justice. So, we are prosecuting those involved. We are arresting the masterminds of the crises and we will prosecute them. Once we have advanced in that, we will begin the peace building process.”
Asked to give figures of those so far killed, El-Rufai, said: “I can give you a figure but, we are going to do better than that. If you are patient, in a week or two, we are going to release a comprehensive history, from 1980, to the present day, of conflicts in Southern Kaduna, which will also identify all the numbers of those killed as well as classify them across religious and ethnic divides.
“First, some people think this is an event in Southern Kaduna but, it is a crisis, that has been going on since 1980 and many people don’t know this. So, we want to put things in perspective; before you can understand the current one, you have to understand what happened in the past. There are people claiming there’s genocide going on in Southern Kaduna. There’s no genocide going on in Southern Kaduna. That document we will release, will answer that. At the end, we are going to show numbers and they vary. Each government agency has its own figures.
“On the 2011 post-election violence, for instance, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, has its own number, the Nigerian Army has its own number, and the Nigeria Police Force has its own. We will publish the figures online because we want the whole world to read and understand,” the governor, added.
El-Rufai, is also of the view that the race for 2019, could not be divorced from the happenings in the Southern part of the state, saying “there are also those that are already campaigning for 2019 and they know my stand; I am in APC because I was in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, because I believed in what the CPC stood for and I believe in Buhari and, I won’t change; there are others who will consider me a problem, some say I’m a strategist; they give me a larger-than-life profile I don’t deserve,” he declares.
On the claim that 808 persons have so far been killed, as a result of the crisis in Sothern Kaduna, the former FCT minister further said: “the figure is false and Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, didn’t say that. The figure was released by the Catholic Diocese of Kafachan, that 808 Christians were killed. That’s false. An Archbishop caused those figures to be released. He has to come and explain how he came about those figures. I’m going to report that bishop to the Pope. I will personally write to the Pope.
“The Catholic Church is one of the most organised global institutions and before you become a bishop in the Catholic Church, you must have enough thought and knowledge equivalent to a PhD, you must be deep and philosophical. It is a dent on the Catholic Church, worldwide, for a bishop to issue such a statement without facts, without checking.
“Instead of them to stop it, when they were challenged about the figures, they issued another one. On January 16, SEMA went to Southern Kaduna and spent three days, to establish how many people were killed and they issued a report which did not just report on what happened now, they went as far back as 2013 and covered local governments even outside Southern Kaduna and came up with 376.
“This was inclusive of 2013. We have our own official figures but, I don’t even want to give you that until our report comes out. I’m shocked a Catholic bishop would do that. He was on medical treatment outside Nigeria, yet, he issued a statement on what happened in Southern Kaduna. Two days later, the number two man issued another statement of some sorts and he said the 808 includes lives lost from 2011. It’s false! In 2011 alone, more than 808 persons were killed in Southern Kaduna! Not all of them were Christians! In 2011, most of the victims were Muslims,” the governor, added.