The number of dead from the killings in Kajuru local government area of Kaduna state has risen from 66 to 130, according to the governor of the state, Nasir El-Rufai. Speaking at the presidential villa on Tuesday after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, El-Rufai said, “the last report we got is that over 130 people were killed not even 66.”
Back Story: On the eve of the postponed presidential elections, El-Rufai announced the killings in Kajuru but his comments were greeted with disbelief based on the timing and his perceived divisive tendencies. He was accused of timing the announcement to coincide with the elections in order to make the elections about religious and tribal divisions. But since then more evidence have come out that corroborates the governor’s claims. On Tuesday, he said that “anybody that is still questioning whether these attacks took place or not is being grossly irresponsible.”
Why he was in the best position to break the news: El-Rufai said: “As governor of the state, the first thing I receive every morning is a security briefing on what happens in the last 24 hours. That is the first thing I read and I ask questions and I work on the basis of security briefings from the experts, the garrison commander, the commissioner of police, the head of the air force. We have every security agency in Kaduna State and they send me briefings, including the Directorate of State Services (DSS). I work only on that basis.”
He said that it is impossible for anyone else to have “superior information” about happenings in his state with the exception of the president.
Media narrative on Fulani killings: El-Rufai took the nation’s media to task, lambasting what he described as a “narrative” that presents certain lives as more important than others.
“We see that clearly in the slant of reporting and the denial. The fact that you are still asking me these questions two days after we have proved all doubts of all those people claiming that this didn’t happen, show the truth in what I am saying. They first said I lied, that it didn’t happen, then they started saying, no, the numbers are not what they are,” he said.
More details to come: El-Rufai said his government was ready to make public the pictures of the victims and footages of how the army had to be there to help bury the dead two days after they were killed because their bodies were decomposing.
More military presence: At the meeting with President Buhari, the governor said he requested for more military presence during the rescheduled election on February 23 and March 9 in the state.
“In Kaduna State, we requested enhanced military presence in particular locations that are affected by rural banditry, these are Birnin-Gwari and Giwa Angchukwu local government areas where there has been a history of either electoral violence or ethno-religious intolerance.”
Bottom Line: Nigerians, especially the media, need a conversation about the narratives that did not give as much strength to the coverage of this issue as it possibly would have been if the attacks had been perpetrated by the Fulanis. The media needs to do a soul-searching on why: Could it be that the governor’s reputation affected the credibility? Is there a bias in our newsrooms? Is it a case where this was ignored because it did not fit the mode we have seen too frequently? Whatever the case, 130 killed is a frightening number, and action needs to be taken.