Frankly Speaking

October 25, 2020

Anarchy: I told you so last year


By Dele Sobowale 


My fellow Nigerians, I told you what to expect last year. Read:NEXT LEVEL IS PURE ANARCHY


“Katsina State government has cancelled all activities lined-up for the inauguration ceremony of the new administration in the state” – PUNCH, May 24, 2019, p 2.

The government gave its reasons: “The decision on a low-key celebration was taken following the unfortunate incessant attacks by bandits in some areas of the state which led to the death of many people and left several others injured or homeless.”

Katsina, it needs to be repeated, is Buhari’s own state. Unless charity no longer begins at home, we have the scary scenario of a leader who cannot defend his own home not to talk of assuring the rest of us of our safety. Anarchy is here. When Buhari is sworn-in on May 29, 2019 for his second term (which cannot end soon enough for me), his state would have been on record for posterity as the first state to succumb to the dictates of hoodlums – now called bandits. When, a few weeks ago, the article, FROM BEGGING TO BANDITRY: REVOLT OF THE ALMAJIRIS, was published, a lot of things were deliberately omitted from the facts presented in order not to frighten too many fellow Nigerians – especially those who we were told provided Buhari’s winning margin. Katsina was one of them. Close to ninety-eight per cent of the voters there voted for their ‘Baba’. I have bad news for them. A Baba is supposed to take good care of his kids in any society. Otherwise he is unworthy to be called ‘Father’. 

The government’s submission to the will of bandits – formerly almajiris – is the beginning of more state surrender of power to unelected governments called warlords controlling certain areas of the state. Let me cite another one.

Unknown to Nigerians and perhaps also unknown to their Baba, the criminals have already CHANGED the annual farming calendar in the state. Hitherto, farmers, mostly women, start as early as the end of harmattan to prepare the land for a new year. This year, not only in Katsina but in all the states of the North, the bandits have already driven millions of subsistent farmers off the land. A woman, stupid or crazy enough, to go to the farm alone, as in the past, would be fortunate if all she suffers is rape. She might disappear; as many have done. 

READ ALSO#EndSARS: PANDEF accuses FG of stoking crisis

Thereafter, the farm lies fallow. So, the bandits of Katsina have already decreed inescapable mass starvation as the year progresses. Anarchy is here.

“A man’s home is his castle”. That was several years ago. Today, in most communities, the home is turning to a detention centre while bandits ransack the entire place – taking with them food, money and women as well as girls. Increasingly, home is becoming not a place you run to for safety but a place you run from for dear life. 

The Katsina government was unavoidably honest by admitting what informants from that state had told me months ago. Main urban centres in the state – Katsina, Funtua, Dutsin Ma, Malumfashi etc – are now bursting at the seams as thousands of refugees stream in from rural areas now ruled by bandits – without challenge from anyone. Anarchy is here.

Katsina is not alone now. Hemmed-in between Kaduna and Zamfara states, where several communities are also under the control of rough necks, the state will not experience respite until the other two states can control their armed gangs. Outgoing Zamfara Governor, Yari, abdicated his responsibility years ago and handed the state to cattle rustlers, farm produce thieves and, of course, bandits when he fled to Abuja to govern from there. Only in a country where impunity gives way to chaos can a state governor abandon his state and nobody – not even the President of Nigeria – called him to order. Can the Governor of Kentucky or New York State run to Washington DC to set up his office? Yet, this was the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum.

 Anarchy is here.

“Nature abhors a vacuum”. That is what physics told us in secondary school. That is what political science tells all those who care to learn the truth. While Yari was AWOL in Abuja, he left a power vacuum which was increasingly filled by hoodlums. He was not alone. Buhari and the armed forces also ignored the growing menace of the Organised Private Criminals, OPC, of Zamfara State. Buhari’s negligence was especially incomprehensible. I had thought that an old man, like me, would know that “when your neighbour’s wall is on fire, it becomes your business” (Horace, 65-8BC). 

I had expected the President to understand that Zamfara cannot long remain in the hands of OPC, who took control after Yari abdicated without eventually affecting Katsina. He ignored Yari’s dereliction of duty; did nothing as the OPC crept closer to his state border. Now anarchy is here.

People in several places in both states now pay protection money to the OPC who don’t pay tax. They know which government controls their lives; and it is not the one in Gusau or Abuja. During a stopover in Chafe, last year, after the terrified residents of a small community had coughed up the ‘tax’, I asked “what is government doing about it?” The looks on their faces said it all. “This fellow must be a lunatic”. One finally politely told me: “By the time the police or soldiers arrive we will all be dead; so we pay them.” Anarchy is definitely here.

“You don’t fight terror with appeasement. You fight terror with terror” – Adolf Hitler, 1897-1945.

Even a world class terrorist can teach us something. Hitler, as one of world’s first class terrorists himself, had a point when he uttered those words now carved in stone. When the Federal Government under Buhari started to openly allow herdsmen to terrorise farmers and communities with impunity, the last thing they must have considered is the boomerang effect.

 When millions of farmers discovered that government was not about to check the atrocities of the herdsmen, who soon became ranked among the deadliest terrorists globally, some farmers resorted to self-help. Herdsmen, to some extent, created cattle rustlers.

 There are some communities in some states which herdsmen avoid like the plague. Some of those communities were once docile victims of herdsmen invading their farms and destroying everything they had laboured to produce. Eventually, according to information reaching me, some of the young men banded together and formed the avengers. They went after the herdsmen at night and the rest is history. They never returned to farming. What is more, they now police their community and prevent herdsmen invasion. Some of them have since gone beyond defending their community. 

They now rustle full time and send meat home frequently. Anarchy is here too.

A sign should be placed at every entrance to Kaduna State reading: Hell is here.

Once the most congenial of the three regional capitals, Kaduna has now almost become a ‘No go area’ for many people. Bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers are here. Governor El-Rufai is also here. While the other northern governors are mostly victims of anarchy created by collective neglect and incompetence, Kaduna has another element added to its list of perils – its governor.

Governor El-Rufai, I have read, is extremely intelligent. But, nobody ever called him wise. El-Rufai is on course to provoke lasting anarchy in Kaduna long after it has been erased in other states. More on that later.

“But, far more numerous was the herd of such, who think too little and who talk too much” – John Dryden, 1631-1700.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is once again threatening to go on strike. The Federal Government has allegedly failed to redeem its pledge to them and they are unhappy with the leader of the FG’s negotiating team – Dr Wale Babalakin. That is not surprising to me. ASUU had been led since 1999 by people who talk a lot but think very little. Like the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, they threatened to make the 2019 elections impossible by withdrawing their members. In the end, they suspended the strike for the sake of their pockets. I can recollect how many times ASUU had been dribbled by the FG before elections only to renege after the votes were counted.  

The current leadership learnt nothing from the experiences of their predecessors. Now, another strike is threatened. It will get them nowhere. They will only succeed in sending the kids out into the warm embrace of drug dealers and other criminals. There is hunger in the land and anger is pervasive. 

And, the devil will definitely find work for some of those hands which they will make idle. Anarchy will be multiplied.

That said; two things astonish me about this perennial threat of strike by ASUU and FG’s inability to solve the problem once for all. If the FG cannot pay, why not say so and we move on to the next option? If the funds are available, why not pay; and we still move on?  Secondly, ASUU appears uncomfortable with Dr Wale Babalakin, apparently because of his strong belief that public universities should charge more if they are going to survive. 

To be quite candid, I find it difficult to disagree with him. The notion of ‘free education’, which started in the old Western Region under the late Chief Awolowo, was practical and feasible under a different political system. By contrast, the presidential system is ruinous and inhibits any attempt to provide social services – including education – as we should. Nothing will come of the threats, the negotiations and ‘agreements’ until we undertake a comprehensive overhaul of the political system and the fees.

‘Who is Osinbajo?’ – Trailer driver on Eko Bridge, 2017.

Acting President Osinbajo had staggered into Lagos when Buhari was ill in London and had ordered the articulated vehicles blocking the Apapa port area and Eko Bridge to leave in 72 hours. 

Two days after, I was in one of several hundred vehicles stuck in a standstill at the Ijora/Lagos Exchange on account of the vehicles which were still there. 

Two young men had gone to the point where two trailer drivers were arguing about right of parking and blocking the rest of us. One of the young men then angrily asked: “When are you people leaving, the VP gave you 72 hours to leave this place?”

“Who is Osinbajo?” the northern driver of a famous company’s vehicle asked in reply. And, for good measure, he added, “Osinbajo cannot order us to leave, only Alhaji Dangote can tell us to leave.”

This column was started before the latest order from the Federal Government to the transporters. 

This time, we were told that President Buhari approved the order to leave in 72 hours. I suspended the article and waited ten days to see what would happen. History will record that on June 1, 2019, ten days after the FG issued its 72-hour order the trailers are still there in large numbers on the major roads. The President of Nigeria had spoken in vain.

Any President who allows trucks to block the access to his country’s main ports for these years while the economy bled and the people became progressively poorer has encouraged impunity and lawlessness. He is now reaping the harvests of allowing anarchy in Nigeria. Believe me; anarchy is here at the Next Level.