The Fulani identity continues to dominate the agenda of Nigerian politics, gathering comments and practices across the country. The latest to enter the arena is Kaduna State governor, Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai. He says in an 11 paragraph statement February 3rd, 2021 that Nigerians should not be seduced into what he calls the dangerous passion of blaming innocents, declaring them guilty of the crimes of others, evicting them, killing and destroying their property. “In difficult times, we must uphold the right of everyone to live, with security and safety. The frenzy of ethnic labelling makes solutions difficult and can only guarantee disorder, violence and pain”, said the governor.
Kaduna governor’s intervention is coming on the heels of similar comments by platforms and individuals, notably the Northern Elders Forum which is asking herders of Fulani identity to return to the northern parts.
The Nigerian elite is credited with capacity for tension management and pulling back from the precipice. Modern technology and the post-modern imagination appear to be wrecking that, particularly in the context of a strong suspicion of the president to have a sinister plan. Instead of dealing with that suspicion, the Federal leadership appears to think that everyone should know that there is no truth in that. It could be a very costly error arising from the obvious belief there that there is ONE, single truth for everybody at all times when, in fact, there is never ONE but multiple truths about any and everything.
And without individuals with the commanding moral heights or neutrality to call the nation to order or a radical nationalist front with mobilisational capacity to undercut ethnic narratives, this could be an absolutely dangerous moment for a highly diffuse, pre-industrial society of mega demography like Nigeria. Is it possible that the enemies have got Nigeria at last?
It is not clear what Governor El-Rufai’s statement adds or subtracts from the momentum of violence he fears but the governor would want governments and security agencies to rein in all non-state actors, tackle hateful rhetoric and protect all communities. He is asking that those that engage in criminal acts must be arrested and prosecuted without regard to their ethnic or religious persuasion, adding the task of helping to calm nerves to civic leaders, across ethnic and religious lines and in all communities. Believing that “we cannot quench one fire by setting more places ablaze”, the governor asks all to not only reject the path of disorder but also marginalise, expose and prosecute all criminals and promote peace.
“It is time for governments and leaders at all levels to step in, exercise firm action, engage people and ensure that the responsibility these dire times demand are not derailed by those who only see opportunity for their own myopic agendas”, said the Kaduna State governor whose own state has been an epicentre of violent inter-group relations.
This time, however, he is unsettled by video clips circulating on social media platforms like WhatsApp in which citizens of a particular ethnicity are being massacred and their properties destroyed in parts of Nigeria and as aggravated by “avoidable rhetoric, frenzied ethnic profiling and unlawful eviction of citizens from their places of domicile”.
Basing his intervention on citizens’ reach out to him as the governor in search of confirmation of the authenticity of such video clips and allegations of support of the incidents by leaders of the places where attacks have occurred, he is calling on governor colleagues to disavow the attacks and massacres which he though admitted he is unable to confirm their authenticity based on the video clips.
Contextualising his statement, the Kaduna State governor says they in the state are learning from decades of unfortunate and needless experiences. “We have faced the tragic manifestations of the indigene-settler divide. This has been compounded by criminal activities that often have fatal consequences”, said he but quickly adding how they have resisted the attempt to tar all members of any ethnic group for the criminal actions of some of their members.
He cites this as the reason the state government ordered the arrest of persons who issued an unlawful eviction notice to our citizens of a certain ethnicity in 2017 but regrets that “the impunity and calculated disregard for a common humanity that prompted such irresponsible rhetoric is sadly at play again”.
He is convinced that the nation cannot allow, by inaction or otherwise, the reign of anarchy where fear creates a tragic momentum of violence, blurring the lines between victims and perpetrators and complicating a difficult moment. And he is urging representatives in the National Assembly to expedite action on the Constitutional amendments that would usher in state and community policing, declaring it as the ultimate panacea for effective law enforcement nationwide.