While the rest of the world is struggling with the growing virulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria is facing its own social weakness of the proportions of the epidemic – indiscriminate abduction of Nigerians by local terrorists called insurgents, bandits and whisperers, etc.
But the pure truth that no reasonable human being can deny is that Nigeria is under siege because civilian authorities have become hors de combat and are increasingly losing control of the state to ban elements. The name they bear or call depends on which part of the country they are located in. While in the northwest they are either bandits or rustlers, in the northeast they go under the name “rebels”.
Slightly lower from the far north to the middle belt region, the outlaws assume an ethnic designation – the Fulani herders! Labels like ISWAP or Boko Haram are starting to recede into the background, although it is becoming anathema to call these outlaws what their unadorned description should be – terrorists. But what terrorists have in common, regardless of the theater of operations and the name they bear, the names that now blur the distinction between outlaws – all unite them: destruction of life and property, including mass settlements, the worst form of sexual violence and abduction and / or animals for or without ransom.
Although violent crimes are also prevalent in southern communities, they are not measured at what is the norm today in most parts of the far north, east or west. So, such criminals still go with such old fashion labels as kidnappers or armed robbers. In the north it is not so, now it is something of a border area where the failure of the Nigerian state is obvious and that even the blind feel if they do not see. The latest in this series of riots is the abduction of 344 boys from their school in the Kankara local government area of Katsina state.
Katsina is not just the home state of President Muhammad Bukhari. When the incident happened, he was on vacation at his country house. Given the scale of the unfortunate incident, is it unreasonable to assume that the president himself, who is going home at random, is not sure? Have traditional rulers, a highly regarded group in the north, not been the victims of similar attacks in the past – not even recently as a few days ago?
That the traditional community leader of his own president Buhari was not the victim of a violent kidnapping? What guarantee do Nigerians have that such bold attacks on respected institutions and dignitaries cannot be directed at the president’s convoy at the speed at which things are unfolding? Should Abuja now deploy the equivalent of a battalion to protect the president every time he visits the house? Are our state institutions, including security operators, paying enough attention? How many of our politicians from the north in Abuja still visit their home communities?
Looking at pictures of schoolchildren from Kankara as they boarded or from vehicles returning them to Katsina after their six days of torment in the woods, one cannot help but wonder what kind of horrors they saw. It was painful to see these young boys, all potential scientists, looking unwashed and muffled, a few limping, while others had clear signs of injury, entering the Government House in Katsina barefoot. One could not wonder what inexpressible pain their families could have been exposed to if their abduction had not been annulled.
What kind of state allows this to happen to their children, the so-called future leaders? That the irresponsibly hasty lie of Garba Shehu from inside Aso Villa that only ten schoolchildren had been abducted had not been exposed to what it was and that these boys had disappeared like the remaining girls Chibok and Dapchi – that these boys had been taken as Leah Sharibu had been, what would was their destiny?
Now they are back and most of them have vowed to turn their backs on their school in a region that, in Nigerian, has been described as educationally backward. How does Katsina state if the whole north doesn’t make up for the hundreds of school-age children who suddenly drop out of school? What does this suggest for the future of education especially in the north and in Nigeria as a whole?
As if that was not enough, within two days of the release of the students from Kankara, 84 other students of the Islamic school in the local self-government of Danduma were abducted and later released from the bandits. In the same state of Katsina! There were questions about the true identity of the kidnappers of the Kankara boy.
Boko Haram took responsibility for it, but Abuja said it was bandits even when Miyetti Allah, a group of cattlemen dominated mainly by the Fulani, negotiated the release of the boys. Nigerians are wondering if the members of the cattle breeders who are the alleged key players in the violence in the Benue Valley region are not those renamed bandits in the Kankara episode? Who are the latest kidnappers? How did Miyetti Allah enter into this narrative and what is their true role? Was it just their vast knowledge of the forest or the location of the country? Or was there more to it than that?
While Katsina was still overwhelmed by the euphoria of the rescued boys, so-called bandits also worked in the neighboring state of Kaduna. In Zangon-Kataf, a perennial killing field, many were sent back to their graves at about the same time that Danduma was abducted. All over the north, from Zamfara to Kebbi, the state of Niger to Sokota, Nigerians are under siege. The Hoodlums ruled, and the rulers of the country were content to pay a ransom or blame innocent citizens for a legitimate deal because they did not get permission before they wandered into the territories ceded to the bandits today.
Pandora’s box of violent kidnapping was opened with the readiness of the authorities to negotiate, and not to oppose terrorists. The military leadership invests more in rescuing victims of violent abductions than in preventing abductions. Can Abuja tell Nigerians what is going on here?
Do Nigerians have to remain trapped in their country now? The current government wants to be seen as working and bragging about it, and yet it makes one lame step forward and ten giant steps back. It moves in a circle that it imagines as progress. Whatever is happening in Libya or Mali that has led to the proliferation of weapons in Nigeria is not the moment, what Nigerians want is the end of insecurity. Is that too much to ask for?
Merry Christmas Nigeria!
Vanguard News Nigeria