Bandits – The Nation

  • The Federal Government must draw a strategy and show nerve over terror in the north

All over the north the roll call is gruesome. One after the other, a tale of unease. Brigandage, death tolls, vulnerable citizens. But on the Federal Government’s part, it is paralysis.

The Buhari administration swung to action when it took over in 2015, and within a year, the promise was heartening. Boko Haram, with is militant swagger and territorial encroachments, halted and retreated. Its boastful strides and the impunity of its flags lost momentum, and the information minister Lai Mohammed was able to attempt the exaggeration of saying Boko Haram had been defeated, the bandits had been vanquished.

While Mohammed was in a propaganda mode, we understood that his overzealous ejaculations had a little strand of fact on the ground. Today, Mohammed cannot try any such enthusiasm, especially when the president in a phrase not remarkable for grammar, said he was the “unhappiest” person on earth.

He was speaking specifically about the slide to near anarchy in Zamfara State where bandits have turned gold into a scramble for existential battles. For quite a few years now, the state has known neither peace nor a promise of it. Ordinarily, a state with such deposit of gold should be a place of investments and commerce and a magnet to persons high and low. Its prosperity would be a launching pad of new cultures, a la Thorsten Veblen.

But the opposite is the case. So bad was it that even the state governor, Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari, once foreswore, though in an act of extra-constitutional symbolism, his power and right as the chief security officer of the state. More potently, his declaration was an unsubtle vote of no confidence on the Federal Government and the president that is still, as we write this editorial, clutching at straws to put any semblance of sanity in the state.

Not long ago, Yobe State came into the spotlight. The state has had its own bloody episodes of the militant absurdist group called Boko Haram. Schools have fallen, villages pillaged and sacked and a general pervasive air of fear has hung over it. Its case has not been as severe as Borno State. But the group amassed a baffling confidence when it threatened it was marching on the Yobe State capital, Damaturu. The last time we witnessed such threat of subversion was in the Jonathan era when the pious hoodlums were a few miles away from Maiduguri, especially the state house. That accounted for one reason why the Jonathan administration was swept out of power.

The threat of Damaturu reflects the fragility not only of the state, but of the entire northeast, especially as bad news from Borno State still pours in sporadically. It has become an uncertain story in that state. Sometimes we hear of the triumph of our soldiers and the retreat of the goons. Other moments subdue our hopes with suicide bombers and the sacking of markets and homes. Apart from the initial successes of routing the Boko Haram group as armies of occupation, our defence team and soldiers have lacked the imagination and cunning to put down and even cripple the insurgents.

Southern Kaduna roared a few years ago with war cries of ethno-religious temperament. It was believed that both the Fulani and the Christian residents retreated to a bloodless affray and noiseless disquiet. But just a few months to the 2015 polls, the story changed. It was not only bloodbath, but a strange triumphalism of figures. It was not whether it was tragic that the neighbours could not live together in peace. It was a recrimination as to who struck first and who retaliated, almost as though at the bottom of the bandying of figures, those who killed more were garlanding themselves as great defenders of their kind.

With his fierce vanity, the Kaduna State governor lost his position as arbiter, as one part saw him as their advocate and the other as an unblushing adversary. The southern Kaduna crisis still smoulders.

The other story is the Kaduna-Abuja road. Before, the fear on that major artery was not nature or even bandits. It was the red-blooded driver and the temptation of its smooth tracks. Then, the plea was to the commuters to beware of speeding, and be wary of death traps. The shoe is now on the foot of the bandits. They do two things. They kidnap and they kill. Sometimes they do either, and other times they do both. It is a great deal of fear these days to want to travel that road.

It is a pathway out of Abuja and to Abuja by many who do businesses with the nation’s capital. Some of the high profile persons of the north, including governors and ministers are familiar denizens of that road. Now, rather than find a solution to it, we are experiencing a familiar Nigerian approach to crisis: Dodgy answers. Those who had enjoyed long convoys and had to move in posh sports utility vehicles now are joining others who travel in trains. Once the well-heeled find an escape route from any commoner’s woes, the doom that problem. So, the poor who cannot afford to gravel on trains with the new fare hike will now be at the mercy of the bandits.

Even in the north, the Jukun andTiv are renewing their atavistic feud. It is an irony that such a conflict would have been headline in the past northern quiet. Today, it is bloody aside in a north swept through with battles that threaten the entire northern elite. Even in Zamfara State, where the Federal Government has lost all clues, the conflict has spilled over with its cinders flying to states like Katsina, Jigawa and Sokoto.

Kidnapping has become an adjunct phenomenon of this heterogeneity of violence. Big names and not-so-big names are kidnapped. It has become a sort of cottage industry in a north that does not have enough jobs for the young, where the young al majiri is growing to an anti-social adult.

The tragedy is that neither the government nor the army inspires any confidence that they have a solution to the region that seems now mated to terror. The service chiefs retain their jobs even though they are specimens of failure in this era where life is brutish, nasty and short in the

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