Nasir El-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, spoke on the Southern Kaduna crisis on a Lagos TV station yesterday and demonstrated why many consider him to be a Fulani supremacist and unfit for public office.
In case anyone was ever in doubt on where El-Rufai stood on the crisis in his state between Fulani herdsmen and local farmers, he made that absolutely clear in this tweet in July 2012.
We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not that kills the Fulani takes a loan repayable one day no matter how long it takes.
— Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (@elrufai) July 15, 2012
He wasn’t governor then, he is now. So he tries to tone down the inflammatory statements, something he now accuses others of doing and threatens to prosecute them, but the ethnic chauvinist in him just can’t be suppressed.
Watch the interview:
As farmers in his state told newsmen in the clip at the beginning of the interview that herdsmen have taken over their farms, El-Rufai sought to muddy the waters about the crisis. First, he downplayed the killings under his watch, by claiming “thousands” were killed in similar outbreaks before his time. He claimed “100 or 200” were killed in the recent attacks. The Christian Association of Nigeria put the death toll at over 800.
El-Rufai, whose fans like to portray him as intelligent – and he may be so in comparison with other rulers in a country where the bar has been set very low, admitted he didn’t “understand” the situation in Southern Kaduna before he came into office, even though he claimed that when they were campaigning for office they knew “security was a problem”. This is serious self-indictment. By his own admission, the problem in the area had been going on for 37 years, there were several commissions of inquiry with reports on the problem, and a man running for governor did not “understand” the issue and did not have a plan on how to deal with it when he came into power!
If El-Rufai is as intelligent as his apologists claim he is, then it is safe to conclude that he understood the problem very well. The ramble about understanding was really a fig leaf to cover up for doing nothing because of where his sympathies lie. Many from Southern Kaduna have long accused him of bias in the crisis.
The governor then said he set up a committee to help them understand the problem. Why didn’t he just read the previous reports of all the other commissions that looked at the crisis? What his committee told him was hardly groundbreaking: There were three groups of Fulani – transhumant (wandering from place to place in search of grazing land), semi-transhumant and settled Fulani (like himself). The committee also informed him that there was an ECOWAS regional agreement in West Africa that allowed grazing along historical routes across countries. This sort of basic information is available for anyone that bothered to do a little Google search.
One of the recommendations of the committee was to compensate those that lost lives and property during previous outbreaks of violence. El-Rufai, hardly surprisingly for a Fulani supremacist, interpreted this as paying the herdsmen to stop them seeking revenge. He then said: “If we have to pay you not to kill our people, we are happy to do it” and challenged anyone to come up with a better solution, claiming that compensation has a foundation in the quran and the bible.
El-Rufai is alleged to have sent emissaries to Fulani herdsmen outside Nigeria saying: “Tell them the governor is Fulani like them and give them this money to stop it.” The head of his committee reportedly disagreed with the governor’s interpretation of their recommendation, clarifying that compensation was for all those that lost lives and property and not just the Fulani.
The problem with the governor’s suggestion of a religious foundation for his approach is that Nigeria is a secular country, with a criminal justice system modelled on English common law. The system holds that murder should be investigated, with the suspects apprehended, prosecuted and jailed and not paid to stop the killing.
Instead, El-Rufai seemed more eager to prosecute the people he claimed were treating the crisis as a “business” and escalating tensions.
When pressed for a solution, the governor said it was a three-step approach: Restore peace through security, prosecute all those involved, and peace building. There was no mention of the root of the problem – the fact that ancient herding and grazing practices are totally untenable in any society with aspirations of modernity. The destruction of farmlands by cattle also threatens to derail the federal government’s attempts to use agriculture to wean the country of its over-reliance on oil.
As the governor challenged people to come up with a better solution than paying the killers, here’s a solution we prepared earlier on Fulani herdsmen and freedom of movement.