The abduction and brutal killing of some of the students of Greenfield University is one of the many pictures of the North that is painted in the colour of blood. Coming at a time when students abducted from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation are yet to be released by kidnappers, it highlights the depth to which we have descended in this trench of insecurity. This, to a very scary extent, is a head-on collision with the status of Kaduna State as Nigeria's "Centre of Learning" given the large number of institutions of learning that the state is host to. In literal terms, Kaduna State is not just a centre of learning; it is also the heart of security training in Nigeria owing to the presence of military and security training institutions in the state, notably, the Nigerian Defence Academy, Airforce Institute of Technology, DSS Training School, and the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji.
So in the first instance, it is a tragic paradox that Kaduna could fall in the hands of petty criminals, kidnappers.
Forty-seven days after capturing the students of Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation at Afaka in Kaduna, the kidnappers released a video of the students in captivity. It is the second video to be released by the kidnappers; the first was released immediately after the abduction. The video suggests that the students have gone through a lot of physical and psychological trauma. However, it also shows that the kidnappers are getting tired of keeping those students. In the video, the kidnappers ask the students to speak, to plead with their parents to come to their rescue. This invariably is an indirect indication by the kidnappers that they are getting tired of keeping the students. The ultimate aim of abducting students from a government institution is to extort hundreds of millions of Naira as ransom from the government at the end of an extensive and exhaustive negotiation.
Unfortunately, this time around, the kidnappers have hit a brick wall. The Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasiru El-Rufa'i, has declared that he will not negotiate with criminals, kidnappers. The resultant implication of this is that the state government will not pay ransom. But why will El-Rufa'i make such a wild decision? The lives are at stake. People may be killed. But the government will not negotiate. By the way, in 2014 when Chibok girls were abducted by Boko Haram, this was the position of El-Rufa'i; "I am in support of every option. When you have lives of your citizens at risk, you do not take any option off the table. You should reflect, you should listen, you should negotiate and look at the price you have to pay, then get those girls out. You should not say you won't do this or you won't do that." A video of this statement resurfaced on social media recently in the heat of the call for the release of the Afaka and Greenfield students.
I don't want to believe that this time around the reason why the students have not been rescued is what El-Rufa'i said on the abducted Chibok girls in 2014 that; "The only reason these girls are still in captivity is that they are not the daughters of any important man in Nigeria... " But no one will understand or accept the logic of El-Rufa'i this time around. In the wake of the Afaka abduction, El-Rufai told Aljazeera that; "Our stand was based on principle and a very careful and logical evaluation of the consequences of state negotiating with non-state actors or even giving them money. It is a moral hazard that the Kaduna State government has decided to avoid completely." This stand by the Kaduna State government should not surprise anyone because El-Rufa'i is widely notorious for making the toughest decisions in difficult times. But no matter the pains that come with his decisions, he has always persisted on the path of what could bring about the greater good for all, though such decisions have never gone down well with those affected.
At this point, therefore, what is obvious is that there is a serious need to break this dangerous cycle of kidnapping in Kaduna and the North. One of the likely potent ways is by truncating the source of funding for the kidnappers. It is understood that the major source of finance for kidnappers is the millions of Naira they collect from the relatives of their victims. Without the ransom, they would not be able to purchase arms and ammunition. They will run out of business. And the state may be safe and free again.
But parents see this non-negotiation decision as a Russian roulette.
If negotiation is the right way, let it be explored. If gunfire is the ultimate solution, let it be utilised to the maximum. The bottom line is that students must be made to feel safe in schools and on campuses. The state should go beyond avoiding negotiation with these non-state actors to taking all necessary and possible measures to ensure that such an ugly incidence is never repeated anywhere in the state.