It must be noted that this crisis is not the first this year to engulf Kasuwan Magani. At least 12 persons, 1,000 houses and several cars were destroyed in a religious crisis that erupted on 26 February over the conversion of a Christian girl to Islam by her Muslim boyfriend. 65 persons were subsequently arrested and charged to court by the state government.
The history of Kaduna state is filled with crises cutting across religious, economic and tribal issues. The various governments, both military and civilian have been unable to prevent the lawlessness in various areas of Kaduna. The state government’s helplessness was laid bare during the 2016 crisis between herdsmen and farmers in Godogodo town. The payment of compensation only for cattle killed in the crisis exposed the unwillingness of government to confront these security threats head-on.
As Governor El Rufai at a meeting with traditional rulers, “it appears that a constituency has developed which believes that violence pays, and is convinced that violence has no consequence for the perpetrators.”
The irony of this is lost on the governor who claimed on video to have paid perpetrators of violence in the past as a compensation for previous loss, without realising that by saying so, he signalled to others that violence pays. The promise of action rings hollow particularly to Christians, farmers and the ethnic minorities of Kaduna who appear to have been at the receiving end during various crises that have erupted in the state.
The division between the various ethnic groups resident in the state was laid bare when in 2010, various groups opposed the nomination of the sitting Governor, Muhammad Namadi Sambo, to become the Vice President under Goodluck Ebele Jonathan if it would result in the elevation of the Deputy Governor, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, from Southern Kaduna Christian as the Governor.
However, with the current election cycle in full swing, it can only be expected that both the politicians and the electorate will become increasingly distracted by the political campaigns that will begin in earnest. While the crisis will most certainly serve as a talking point for both sides, we doubt that government officials, political, religious and socio-cultural leaders or traditional rulers will be focused sufficiently to carry out the far reaching actions necessary to build peace among the various warring parties.
It must be noted that previous governments have taken little or no action on the recommendations of various investigative bodies established to identify the causes of the crises and recommend the way forward. There is nothing indicating that this current situation will be any different.
It is however pertinent to point out that Nigeria runs the risk of both flanks of the North being engulfed in violence all the way to the Middle Belt. On the North Eastern side, Boko Haram is actively engaging military units in Borno and active in Yobe, while pastoralists continue to inflict heavy casualties against farming communities further into the eastern flank of the North East to Central, with retaliatory attacks also rising. On the North Western part, the violence now runs in an almost unbroken chain from Zamfara into northern Kaduna and then Southern Kaduna and Plateau.
A disputed election, either at the Presidential or Governorship level may reignite the conflict similar to the 2011 post-election violence. With the perceived massive support enjoyed by President Muhammadu Buhari in the region, an electoral loss for him is likely to lead to attacks by his supporters on perceived opponents. If not checked, the violence may devolve along ethnic and religious lines, leading to reprisals in minority dominated areas.
A clear commitment akin to Goodluck Jonathan’s “my ambition is not worth a single drop of Nigerian blood” must be made both by President Buhari and Governor El Rufai going into the electoral season with the fortitude to follow through in the event the elections do not go their way.
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