Closure Of Schools: El Rufai, The Southern Kaduna People And The Chibok Hang Over, By Emmanuel Ado




Emmanuel Ado

The volcanic uproar that greeted Governor Nasir El- Rufai’s disclosure of negotiations with Fulani herdsmen,and that he had indeed paid some form of monetary compensation to “Buy Peace” for the troubled Southern Kaduna,was like a thunderbolt.It was fierce and came in rapid torrents.The uproar not only killed the “Buy Peace Programme”, but also fundamentally changed the already strained relationship between the governor and most Southern Kaduna people.If it was a marriage,the court would have had no hesitation dissolving it,because it has irretrievably broken down.The couple are not on talking terms,only the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria seems to be holding them together.

Following the killings and the invasion of some Southern Kaduna villages, by suspected Fulani Herdsmen,that had resulted in the destruction of crops, farmlands, raping of women, killing and maiming of people, accused of being indifferent to their plight Governor El -Rufai had entered into talks with the herdsmen,but rather than the positive reaction, understanding or commendations that he must have craved for, he got ton loads of curses and abuses.The implication is that El- Rufai has no doubt become “extremely cautious” on issues relating to Southern Kaduna,least he is accused of what new crime? He has been variously tagged “hellrufai”,dictator,etc.

The deal – paying “murderous Fulani herdsmen” to stop the killings in Southern Kaduna by Governor El – Rufai,some of his aides confided in me, was one of the most difficult decisions forced on him by circumstances beyond his control.”By his DNA, El – Rufai is a law and order man. Recall the swiftness with which he dealt with the Shites matter. Which is why his opponents should have given him benefit of doubt. The deal was repulsive to him. But it was a testimony to his pragmatism, that caught between the devil and the deep sea, he was willing to travel that road.” said his one of his aides. Kaduna State,doesn’t have the money to throw around (Federation Allocation is in the region of 2.4billion naira, of which 2.2billion is for salary). But in this instance,it was an investment worth every kobo. In war,everything is considered fair, the parties are not really bound by any rule of fair play, but for peace, there are several limitations,as in this instance.

Was El -Rufai guided by Louise Diamond words that “conflicts are a call to creative problem solving”Because even the framers of the constitution aware that certain situations will threaten the general well being of the state, gave the state some leeway in such circumstances to “close” its eyes to blue murder. To the extent that the State can declare a murder case,a homicide case.Why is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice granted the power to terminate trial – nolle prosequi? The State can even set a criminal free in order to crush a larger criminal conspiracy. And if need be, protect the criminal,who would in such circumstances be treated as a “jewel”. The case of Sergeant Rogers,who confirmed killing Kudirat Abiola,is an example.To nail Major Mustapha the Lagos State government “wined and dined”with Sergeant Rogers. To date he hasn’t been prosecuted.That is the power of a State.

The grouse of the opponents of the amnesty deal was the “possibility” that the payment might breed more problems than it sets out to solve,which is rather speculative.Their other objection to the deal,is that governments are elected to protect the constitution and offenders punished and not rewarded. Definitely there were issues that needed to be addressed pursuing the option.For instance, if El- Rufai had factored compensation for victims into the deal, to enable people get back their life, if massive rehabilitation of the areas devastated was also part of what should be a comprehensive package and if only the governor kept quiet about it,maybe it would have survived. From my days as a reporter and consulting,I know as a fact,that the handling of certain intractable situations in the overall interest of society can be tasking and confounding.El-Rufai was forced to beat a retreat,largely because both sides – the governor and the people of Southern Kaduna, rather than talking,or communicating,are talking down on each other.So rather than retool the policy,it was totally shut down.Since it is now obvious that the Nigerian government is engaged in some negotiations with Boko Haram, why shouldn’t Kaduna State Government negotiate with the herdsmen,especially when the immigration,customs and the entire security services has proven incapable of stopping them from entering into Nigeria and causing mayhem? And like they say,when two elephants fight,the grass suffers.

The grass that have been suffering are the people,who can’t go to farm,who have had to endure curfews when the herdsmen strike and their is threat to peace,military operations,that most times becomes part of the crisis, and the students whose educational pursuit has been adversely affected by the closure of the Kafanchan Campus of the Kaduna State University and the College of Education,Gidan Waya.

Considering the State of relationship between the Governor and the Southern Kaduna people, the last disaster El – Rufai needs is the kidnap of students- real or stage managed, if this happens Nasir El Rufai would be politically finished.He doesn’t need a soothsayer to know this. He is one of the All Progressive Congress leaders that gave Jonathan hell.So first hand he knows the experience of former president Goodluck Jonathan. That experience will ever be there as an ever lasting lesson to politicians.The Oyo State governor Senator Ajimobi,is still battling with the image problem,his encounter with students of the closed Ladoke University created for him.His other name now is “Constituted Authority”.

On the night of 14-15 April 2014,276 female students, were kidnapped by the extremist Boko Haram group while writing their West African Examination Council (WAEC). This incident technically marked the end of the Goodluck Jonathan administration.What the election did on 28th March,2015 was a confirmation of his defeat,which was made possible by the well orchestrated campaign of the opposition and the international community,led by the United States.They coalesced and built their campaign on the “cluelessness” and incompetency of Jonathan.

To date there are those,who believe that the kidnap was stage managed,to achieve a set objective – the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan,especially as the school had before the kidnap been closed for more than four weeks,due to the deteriorating security situation, but was reopened,in spite of obvious threats and warnings by the exam body to the State Government to move them to a safer environment for their final exams in physics. In hire wired politics nothing matters,not even life. The poor students were kidnapped and they have became pawns in the hands of politicians and their captors.Their parents with the support of the opposition made a huge noise about the Goodluck Jonathan’s government’s perceived lack of interest and inadequate response.To show that it will always be politics,the Bring Back Our Girls movement has equally clashed with the Buhari administration for its lackadaisical attitude to the problem.

The conspiracy theory has remained unabated especially as some of the girls who were recently released seemed to be well fed and not distressed.The kidnap caused international outrage more against the Goodluck administration,than the Boko Haram.The situation was not helped by claims from Amnesty International,that the military had at least 4 hours notice to avert,the disaster,but failed to mobilize reinforcements.The British claim that “The girls were located in the first few weeks of the RAF mission,” and that “We [RAF] offered to rescue them, but the Nigerian government declined,” because it viewed the matter as a “national issue” to be resolved by Nigerian intelligence and security services,was like pouring fuel,to a burning fire. John Campbell,the former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, further rubbed salt into our National injury when he declared “that Boko Haram’s strength “appears to be increasing. And The government’s ability to provide security to its citizens appears to be decreasing”. Jonathan was no longer the boy without shoes, he was now the incompetent one. The Economist, said Jonathan and the Nigerian military “cannot be trusted any longer to guarantee security for Nigerians”. Jonathan really saw hell in the hands of the opposition.

What makes the situation dicey,is that Southern Kaduna,like Chibok,is a Christian dominated area.And there has also been all sorts of conspiracy theories of planned Islamization,of forced take over of land,due to the arable nature of land in the middle belt area.These are issues that can’t be ignored.Which is why El -Rufai in my view hasn’t risked re- opening the schools. The other reason which flows from the first, is that Nasir El – Rufai believes that nothing is beyond the opposition- within the state and outside the state.When El – Rufai,who has some powerful enemies,sees a Femi Fani Kayode and SOKAPU leaders meeting, he knows it will never be towards making life easy for him. El – Rufai can also comfortably justify the continued closure with the cries or claims of genocide by SOKAPU. So are the Southern Kaduna people caught up in their alarms? By asking that the schools be reopened are they affirming that the security situation has improved? The Governor El – Rufai considering the facts available to him as the Chief Security Officer of the State and his deep convictions,must carry key stakeholders along.If El- Rufai won’t talk to SOKAPU,because he sees them as partisan,then he must talk to the main stakeholders – the students,their parents.The meeting between some of the Student Union officials and the government should be further expanded,to include class representatives and departmental bodies.He has a duty to disabuse the minds,including that of his supporters that he is willingly inflicting pain on the people.

The Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU) sees the continued closure of the schools as “educational genocide”.The body in a statement by its National Public Relations Officer, Mr. Yusuf Kuzamani, described the closure of the Kafanchan Campus of the Kaduna State University (KASU) and the College of Education Gidan Way as unwarranted. “The Kafanchan Campus of the Kaduna State University was closed down on the 19th of December, 2016 and has remained closed since.The College of Education Gidan Waya was also officially closed on the 20th of December 2016, but educational activities were already paralyzed since late October due to the killings around the surrounding towns that were deliberately left to fester” he said.

For SOKAPU,the government argument that the schools have remained closed, due to insecurity holds no water considering that some private and government schools,including the School of Nursing and the Kafanchan campus of the College of Education, have remained open without any disruption to academic activities.My take moving forward ,SOKAPU and others clamoring that the schools be reopened,can push El- Rufai to the wall by promising to provide extra security.They should be able to play hard chess with the governor and go beyond talks and threats,which haven’t worked in the past and is not likely to work now.Play hard politics with El-Rufai.

Another argument that has been advanced to buttress why El – Rufai should reopen the schools,is the fact that University of Maiduguri in spite of the security situation of Borno State, has remained open, so why not the schools in Southern Kaduna? But as I write the University of Maiduguri,is just recovering from another deadly bomb attack.As I write the kidnapped students of the Senior Secondary School students of Lagos state Model College, Igbonla, Epe, are still being held,even after their parents had paid N10 million ransom fee.But the daring kidnappers are demanding an additional N40million,before the release of the poor students. Many have forgotten the attack on the Federal Government College Borno State, in which 59boys were killed and the many other vicious attacks targeted at schools. While death is a form of closure,kidnap is a nightmare.Which is why all sides must tread carefully.

Unfortunately Kaduna State,is not Borno State, because when Kaduna boils it literally affects the entire country. Kaduna State, has a terrible “image” ,going by the number of crisis it had witnessed in the past,even though some of the crisis had to do with issues that were foreign, like the United States bombing of Afghanistan,the publication of an offensive article by Thisday Newspaper on Prophet Mohammed. These were not local problems,but they both led to total breakdown of peace,which has adversely affected the interpersonal relationships, the economy of the State and has also given the Kaduna State the horrible reputation of a “killer state”,where at the slightest provocation people are at each other’s throat. No doubt,there have also been local issues – Sharia riots,religious and communal clashes etc.The bottom line is that Kaduna State has always been in the news,but for all the wrong reasons.If fifth columnist attack these schools,what will be the fate of Kaduna State – the usual circle of retaliatory and counter retaliatory killings? These are factors that are all out there.

For the Sovereign Movement for Biafra killing of one Ibo man in any counter strike, will be presenting to them on a platter of gold,weapon of blackmail to intensify its agitation for Republic of Biafra.Previous indiscriminate killings especially of Ibos, had triggered a chain of counter killings in the South-East, and to some extent in the South -West, North – Central and the South -South Zones.I know for a fact that in 1992,after the Zangon Kataf riots,the Federal Government stopped people from taking corpses out of Kaduna and Kano States,because the sight of corpses taken back to states like Abia ,Delta ,Adamawa , Lagos ,Bauchi ,Rivers , Anambra would definitely had triggered retaliatory killings on behalf of their “people” and there would have been retaliatory strikes again in the North.And the circle will continue,until the military steps in.That is how bad things are with our country.

Moving forward the governor and the Southern Kaduna people,must open a channel of communication.Both sides must talk to each other.We have the example of South Africa,where ultimately it was the old man Nelson Mandela, though in prison,who negotiated the deal that led to an independent rainbow South Africa. The youths of Soweto did their bit, like the Youths of Southern Kaduna- they have protested and the world has heard them,but after the shots,there will always be talks.Where are the Yakowas the Balats, who can lead the South through this challenging chapter of its history?Presently the government spends billions on security and this hasn’t really been effective. The military can’t guarantee us security,it must come from the people themselves.And while we can put amount to such efforts,we can never quantify human life in monetary terms,nor the long term damages to relationships.Nigeria today is dangerously divided.