The new Governor of Zamfara State, Bello Mohammed (Matawallen Maradun), became an instant sensation when he engaged the so-called bandits wreaking havoc in some states of the North West in negotiations.
The perceived success of the gesture was evident in the fact that Governor Bello Masari of neighbouring Katsina State also embraced the strategy after four years of fruitless efforts to contain the outlaws who specialise in the killing, kidnapping, highway robbery, racketeering in precious metals and cattle rustling.
In fact, Masari drew the anger and outrage of well-meaning Nigerians when he led a convoy of state officials into the Faskari Forest base of the bandits and allowed their leader to pose beside him with his assault rifle while an unarmed Nigerian Army officer sheepishly looked on. Many read that picture as symbolising an abject surrender to the impunity and “superior firepower” of the criminals.
President Muhammadu Buhari, during a recent meeting with Northern governors, appeared to have given a tacit nudge for them to go back home and initiate similar dialogues to help reduce security threats, going by what Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, told the media.
We hasten, once again, to call for caution in the use of this self-defeatist strategy. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of these bandits. If after the Police and Army, along with the Air Force, were serially deployed to flush us out but we continued to grow in boldness enough for the government to beg us for negotiation, won’t we feel triumphant? Won’t we have the upper hand in the negotiations?
Our fear is that these outlaws, most of whom are reportedly foreign gunmen supposedly assembled by evil politicians for sinister purposes, will feel entitled to not only become Nigerians but might negotiate their ways into plum political positions. They would have been rewarded for their criminal, armed incursion into Nigeria‘s territorial sovereignty. If they fall out with the politicians they will simply morph into another Boko Haram.
Let our politicians ( Bello Mohammed ) stop misinterpreting the spirit and intentions of the unconditional amnesty that the late President Umaru Yar’Adua extended to the Niger Delta militants in June 2009 which brought peace to the treasure base of our economy. When a government voluntarily offers to negotiate with foreign or even local criminals, it is a sure failure of leadership and governance.
Criminals who killed, kidnapped and raped innocent citizen should not be allowed to walk the streets free. Their place is with the laws of the land.
We must involve the states and local communities in securing the grassroots by spreading the presence of government into ungoverned spaces such as forests, game reserves and abandoned plantations. This will ensure that criminals do not hide there to terrorise innocent citizens.
Enough of leadership failure!