Mallam Nasir El-Rufai may be right about allowing due process to run its course. Given his feelings, getting Audu Maikori rearrested does not come as a surprise. According to the governor of Kaduna State, the security bodies will investigate the impact of his tweets on violent outbreaks in the state. The way social media actually works, it may be really difficult to quantify the level of damage it has contributed to peace building in Nigeria. Yes, it is not totally a bad idea to allow the law to prosecute persons who distribute or circulate false information. Especially when it is linked to any crisis.
For example, some nefarious groups may be intending to use the Ile-Ife Crisis to instigate reprisal attacks and more violence. There is a video circulating that paints the crisis as an attack on a single ethnic group. The Hausa-Yoruba crisis in Ife clearly affected several people from different groups and religious affiliations; but this malicious video circulating in social media seeks to fuel violence based on ethnic or religious sentiments. The Governor of Kaduna has warned that no reprisal attacks must occur and this sounds quite noble of him. Certainly, he seems to be at grips with the issues on ground.
Or is he?
Recently at the Social Media Week Lagos, the teeming number of social bloggers, OAPs and TV personalities were in a talk with Mallam El-Rufai. The four major issues recurred till the end of the talk:
- The arrest of Audu Maikoro.
- The Southern Kaduna Killings.
- Payment of Compensation to Herdsmen.
- A tweet made by El-Rufai while he was yet to be governor.
Concerning Audu Maikori, the governor explains that he had been irresponsible by posting his tweet despite the fact that the school he mentioned in the tweet had denied any killings. The governor went on to explain that despite his release on bail, he would most likely be rearrested following further investigation. This week, Audu Maikori was rearrested.
In the same vein, a member of the audience at SMWLagos asked the governor about a tweet he made in 2012. The tweet reads:
“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”
He explained away the tweet as a mere statement of fact. He reiterated that if anyone does not believe him, they should go against his words and see. This to me sounded more like a threat than a word of reassurance coming from a leader who has sworn to protect the lives and property of the occupants of his state irrespective of tribe, religion or gender.
In an article in the Vanguard, a comprehensive list shows all the divisive tweets made by Mallam El-Rufai during the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. The article begs the question as to his sudden interest in a clamp down on social media.
It’s sometimes very difficult to listen to a person when he is not being forthright. This was the case for me while listening to the Mallam at the Social Media week.
When he was asked for reasons behind payment of compensation to Fulanis, he went through a long narrative about the history of the killings. He mentioned how previous administrations had been sending emissaries to the Fulani groups “all over Africa” to explain to them that they should stop killing Nigerians. Explained that this was always accompanied with payments. Apparently, he came into power and continued the same tradition of sending emissaries to compensate murderers for a clash that happened years ago. How long will these people be paid? It also aligns with his tweet: does this mean that if Nigerians do not continue to contribute and pay these people, there is no other way to let them know that we are not tolerating murderers or terrorists?
Again, someone suggested that perhaps we should look at the crisis beyond the scope of communal clashes as described by the governor. El-Rufai however said:
“I don’t know what it is or not. All I have to do is to use any means possible to get results.”
Does this “any means” include paying compensation over and over again? Using public funds to appease a select group of people who, according to you, would always come back to take revenge? Should this attitude among the Fulanis not be addressed as a threat to civil existence? Should they not be reformed, rehabilitated or arrested? Rather than being paid to stop killing innocent civilians? Civilians who may not know the genesis of their anger or vengeance? We might as well pay every hired assassin in town who feels they have an axe to grind.
There are too many questions left unanswered but one thing we can be sure of is that the governor himself has used social media in ways that are capable of much more damage than Audu Maikori has done, yet he has not apologised nor paid for such activities. He has also brought our attention to the fact that his strategy towards resolving the problems of Fulani herdsmen killings may need proper scrutiny as he himself may hold the idea that they are only acting within their rightfully provoked senses.
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