These bandits strike at will, maim at will, destroy lives and property — Governor Bello Masari of Katsina (April 2019)
I HAVE always had this friendly exchange with my brother, Adeyinka Olumide Fusika, SAN, for some years now that Nigeria is a failed state, but he would always tease me that lawyers are still going to court and judges are ruling on disputes. I don’t know whether the learned silk has seen the image of Katsina Governor, Aminu Bello Masari and a gun-wielding bandit after His Excellency finished a closed-door round table with bandits in the home state of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria this past week.
The meeting with representatives of bandits terrorising the eight front line local governments in the state was a condescending session to find a lasting solution to incessant attacks and kidnappings in the state.
The meeting which was held at the State Secretariat had different stakeholders in attendance which included heads of security agencies, the Deputy Governor, Alhaji Manir Yakubu; traditional rulers and districts heads led by the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Kabir Usman; Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa; Transition Committee Chairmen of the affected front line local government areas; representatives of Miyeti Allah and Fulani herdsmen.
It was gathered that attendance of the representatives of the bandits was made possible by the recent amnesty declared for the bandits by the North West Governors at a recent meeting held in the state. Masari stated that the insecurity rocking the affected LGAs in the state has become embarrassing to both the state government and President Muhammadu Buhari who is also an indigene of the state.
The meeting, according to the governor, is expected to go a long way in restoring peace, not only in the affected LGAs but also the entire 34 LGAs in the state. He said: “We are ready to dialogue with the bandits and are ready to go anywhere they invite us because we are not afraid to meet anybody to end this problem. As a leader, I must find a solution to the problem so that if today I die I will know how to defend myself before God. I will not allow this to continue; enough is enough. I have directed the security operatives to take all necessary measures to change the narrative on insecurity in the state, by any means necessary.”
It is interesting that the governor was holding dialogue with bandits two months after the criminals requested for a session under an administration that has refused to take a look at the reports of the 2014 National Conference in four years or facilitate a meeting of leaders across the country that daily descends into the abysmal edge of the precipice. All dissenting voices come under hammer in Nigeria except bandits who are treated specially!
The leader of the bandits, Malam Idris Yahaya, during an arranged meeting with newsmen near a primary school in Dankolo Village, Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina State two months ago said his members were tired of violence and suffering from deprivation imposed on them by the local security vigilance groups in the area. He said the peace pact recently entered into between the local communities and the bandits to achieve uninterrupted farming activities, was what prompted the meeting with the media.
He said: “We are tired of violence. Again, we have discovered that the real benefactors of this violence include highly placed government officials and security personnel, who will want it to go on for their pecuniary benefits. We want Governor Masari to talk directly to us.”
Masari has talked to them directly and they are still wielding their weapons of violence in a way that captures the total victory of criminals over the Nigerian state.
I recall the beautiful review of Kunle Ajibade’s What a County! done by my friend, Prof. Wale Adebanwi, at the Muson Centre years back. After a profound racing through the book and raising poignant questions such as Nigeria being a country where thieves headhunt for the chairmanship of the anti-corruption agency, he declared that Ajibade’s book should have been titled Not A Country!
The first direct signal we got that this is no longer a country was from Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State shortly after this dispensation started. While fielding questions from some reporters in his office on December 2, 2016, El-Rufai stated that his government had traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities, saying that the renewed violence was carried out by bandits.
He said: “For Southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (retd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence.
“Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries. Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them. Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back to revenge. So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria.
“We got a hint that the late Governor Patrick Yakowa got this information and he sent someone to go round some of these Fulani communities, but of course after he died, the whole thing stopped. That is what we inherited. But the Agwai committee established that. We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger Republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.
“In most of the communities, once that appeal was made to them, they said they have forgiven. There are one or two that asked for monetary compensation. They said they have forgiven the death of human beings, but want compensation for cattle. We said no problem, and we paid some. As recently as two weeks ago, the team went to the Niger Republic to attend one Fulani gathering that they hold every year with a message from me.”
Nobody asked El-Rufai to produce the killers he was doling cash to and Masari meeting with bandits has now confirmed the new profile of criminals in Nigeria. When we had a country and there were criminals who terrorised society, the law usually caught up with them and they turn to jelly before the temple of Justice. That was the end of Ejigbadero, Lawrence Anini, Shina Rambo, et all. But in the dispensation of “we against them”, bandits are now being pampered in a way that suggests that: “if Niger Delta boys got Amnesty, our bandits deserve the same treatment.”
Beko Ransome-Kuti must be having a belly-laugh wherever he is now. In the last days of his life, whatever discussions we had with him on Nigeria had a standard response: “Nigeria o le work.” (Nigeria can’t work ). No way as presently constituted!
Users of the borders between South-West Nigeria and the Benin Republic have been subjected to untold hardships since the closure of the borders. Students from Badagry who daily cross the borders to school and return home are having a hellish time of it. Legitimate business people are crying daily.
The reason for the closure, according to President Buhari, is that the borders are being used to smuggle rice into the country and instead of firing his Customs boss for not being able to stop smuggling, he has decided to make the people suffer this way.
Yet, we have not heard the closure of the Niger border where illegal arms and undesirable aliens daily make their ways into the country. These double-standards stink!
…Does Islamisation include Salafisation?
The charge against El-Zakzaky’s IMN by the Federal Government of planning the 1979 type of Iranian revolution in Nigeria to Islamise the country would have ended the whole argument about the body language of the present government suggesting an Islamisation plot.
Cynics are pointing out, however, that if indeed IMN has such a plot, it may just be that all the government has against it is the idea of a Shiites Islamisation that is anathema to the Salafs.
For those who think all Muslims hold the same beliefs, here it is. The Shiites are members of the branch of Islam that regards Ali as the successor to Prophet Mohammed and reject the first three caliphs. They are the dominant sect in Iran. The Salafs also knew as Sunni are the first three generations of Muslims.
Salafis today consider the earliest practice of Islam to be the purest form of the religion and are the most prominent in Saudi Arabia. The Sunnis detest the Shiites and the sectarian war has been playing out in Nigeria.
This is why cynics hold that the rejection of the alleged Islamisation plot by Shiites may just be that the Salafs are not comfortable with Shiites. They would want to know if this rejection of Islamisation plot by Shiites also includes any such agenda by the Salafs.