For the past few months, the communities of the southern part of Kaduna State have been turned into killing fields due to attacks by militias of Fulani herdsmen followed in some cases by reprisal attacks by the locals. Like previous attacks by these militias in parts of Benue and Nassarawa States, many Nigerians have protested and cried out to government to act to stop these killings and apprehend the killers, but the responses have been very tepid.
It is in the light of such protestations that entertainment executive, Audu Maikori of Chocolate City Group and former minister, Femi Fani-Kayode have found themselves enmeshed in a Twitter controversy after they were found out for using gory pictures of other killings as those for attacks in Southern Kaduna. Since then, there has arisen a group of people baying for blood and even calling for their arrests on the accusations that they are inciting violence.
While what the duo has done in misrepresenting the facts of the killings by using false pictures is wrong and reprehensible, it does not change the fact that killings have indeed been happening with governments at the state and federal level not doing enough to stop them. It does not change the fact that even when there are people who have admitted to the killings and made excuses for it, they have not been arrested.
Rather, what we have is a situation where the Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai said he paid the killers compensation for their cows being killed in 2011, which they say is the reason for the carnage. We have a situation where Northern governors keep saying that the killers are herdsmen from Senegal and Mali, as though that is a reason for why they have been unable to stop it. And worse of all, we have a situation where the Federal Government stays silent on the killings for long, and when it speaks, it is to say that the Kaduna State governor is on top of the situation despite the fact that all crime-fighting agencies are under the control of the President.
The government’s reluctance to take action on the Southern Kaduna killings in particular and on the menace that these militias have become across the country is increasingly putting Nigeria on a ticking time-bomb. As usual, our opinions on the matter have assumed religious and ethnic coloring. This is evident from the attacks on Maikori and Fani-Kayode which have mostly come from people that have been eerily silent on the killings, likely because they share ethnic and religious affiliations with the killers, or because they do not want to cause embarrassment to politicians they support and adore.
In this sort of situation, opportunities for demagogues like Apostle Johnson Suleiman arise and they get support for their statements because what ought to have been clear-cut cases of murder have become religious and ethnic cases. This is the very stuff that sectarian crises are made of.
So while we condemn the use of misleading pictures in talking about violence in Nigeria, we must not then suddenly lose our voice in condemning the killings themselves and calling on government to rise to its primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties.
It is the very failure of government to do this that has caused this situation to arise. The longer the government tarries, the more likely that the crisis will turn into a conflagration beyond control.