Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zanfara State, is the fifth school after the schools in Chibok, Borno State, Dapchi, Yobe State, Kankara, Katsina State and Kagara, Niger State where hundreds of students will be carted away as booties of war in Nigeria’s recent tragic history of terrorist violence.
Jangebe is also the home of the first victim of Sani Yerima’s hypocritical Sharia that ushered in religious terror that prevailed at the threshold of the fourth republic. Mallam Jangebe’s hand was chopped off under Yerima’s sharia for stealing a goat.
Years later, Yerima himself, allegedly stole public fund than run into millions of Naira and Dollars while presiding as the Governor of Zamfara. He was not taken to the Sharia Court he created for his pyloric strand of justice. He was taken to Common Court, where his hands could not be chopped off.
Rather than suffering the same fate as Jangebe, his ‘ partner in thievery’, he was rewarded with election into the Senate as Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This history is necessary so that we understand how mill of injustice produces raw material for terror through class injustices in Nigeria; how the state prepares crimes that people commit through inequality before the law.
There is something within my conscience impelling me to speak out. The mere thoughts of; what if the victim of the now-ubiquitous abduction is my child, wife, brother, sister, friend, relative? This is the game of conscience I love to play; and will never exchange for any exigency! Humanity sets the boundary of what we should tolerate, but you need a conscience to recognize it, especially if you live in a country where human suffering, agony and tragedy have become norms, normal and mere variables of political economy’s permutation.
Nigeria in recent times has witnessed the increased occurrence of violent invasion, extreme violence and outright violent extremism. Insurgent groups have inflicted enormous destruction and pain on people living in the North East region of Nigeria in the last few years and the one being referred to as armed banditry in the North West region, which I have severally regarded as the commercial arm of Boko Haram.
The impact is evident in the incessant horrendous mass killings, kidnap, abduction and sundry crimes with attendant massive displacement of people from their homes and communities as well as the destruction of livelihoods and social and economic infrastructures. According to Global Rights, at least 4,556 persons were killed in “mass atrocities” in Nigeria in 2020. The figure represents an increase of 1,368, a “glaring spike of almost 43 per cent” in the number of casualties compared to the 3,188 recorded in 2019.
This becomes worse when the militating factors assume ethnic interpretations and governance is allowed or perceived to be driven by them. In Nigeria, these weaknesses that represent attributes of a failing state are visible and have assumed lives of their own. It is made worse with a ruler that has consistently grown tree of poverty, nursed tiger of terror and fueled ethnic-religious monsters with policy choices.
The beneficiaries of injustices see nothing wrong in the free flow of blood of the hapless poor innocent. Northern Elites have taken Communion of Silence because their king reigns; sacraments of apathy fill the mouth of their Southern collaborators because they are on the feast table.
They can’t reject the King’s meal like Daniel; by their actions, they furnished a table for demons in the forest by worshipping the devil on the throne. It’s a festival of blood and no one knows whose flesh will become manna in this wilderness of waste. Their intelligentsia, their academics and pseudo- activists; kith and kin of Nero have taken off their eyes from the evils of Sicily. Their own demon is in the palace. Touch not their anointed! You will soon see them, latent enablers of tribalism, waving bayonets of dissent, masquerading as altruists, whenever the sun rises from the south!
However, if you have ever gone through the agony of being kidnapped, the despair and hopelessness of victim’s families and the brutal cruelty of kidnappers, whether as a victim or a negotiator, supporting the process of getting victims off the jaws of the cruel omnivorous jackals, you will understand the magnitude of despoliation that has befallen our nation; a nation that has become desolate, whose people mourn more than they rejoice.
This happens because there is no stronger motivation for committing a crime than the liberty of the lawless; freedom of criminals. It humiliates crime victims, if alive; desecrates their memories, if dead. It’s an assault on those who obey laws and calamity to society that embraces it!
The truth is that there is no sense of justice and patch of wisdom in rulers that cannot present a common front in addressing national problems without wearing a parochial ethnoreligious lens. For every Ortom that wants the law, there is a Bala that prefers AK-47.
For every Akeredolu that says Herder-Criminals should vacate forest, there is a presidency that says it is illegal. Who knows whether this is how Matawale arrived at his infamous definition of ‘bandits are not criminals’? Rulers who are allergic to truth, who consciously substitute timidity for courage; and who themselves have kidnapped society from the people before criminals now kidnap people from society.
Rulers who cannot phantom when and where the rain started beating them. Political bandits who bred the forest bandits! Hope the people have started to realize the nexus between the two strands of bandits?
That it is systemic banditry when legislators fraudulently, illegitimately and audaciously dip hands in Public purse under the guise of criminally conspired Constituency projects, arrogantly dispensing patronage but pretending to be performing as unconstitutional executors of executive duty of poverty reduction. That’s how inequality is widened.
That’s how the slave-master relationship is built. That’s how election manipulation is achieved. That’s what is used for vote-buying. That’s how impunity is oiled. That’s how latent conflict is built before it’s manifestly driven by a disenchanted citizen.
That’s how bandits are born. That’s how the state of anomie emerges! So, whenever and wherever a state is weakened by corruption, the crisis of citizenship, unjust wealth, unjust poverty, high rates of unemployment, expanding inequality and increasing poverty, challenges of peace can be grimly palpable. Until there is a predominance of Justice over parochial interest, equity over undue advantage, equality over vested interest, rule of law over the rule of thumb; anarchy continues!
Tell the Squirrels that invaded ‘Shekau’s farm’ that there were Scoundrels before them who once handed over ‘Flag’ of foes to Emperor as insignia of victory.
For Shekau, what we need is proof of death; not barns of beans as evidence of victory!
We must initiate processes of continuous dialogue in all facets of our national life as a way of building consensus, trust and cohesion.
We may even decide to decentralize processes of dialogue to sub nationals so as to enhance the opportunity to understand one another’s views and perspectives, all ingredients required to manage diversity and build a virile nation.
Dialogue, trust value and cooperation are fundamental enablers of sustainable development. In the course of finding solutions to our intractable development concerns and problems, we cannot afford to ignore the issue of access to opportunities, social justice as well as power imbalance that have been explored and used by unconscionable political and power elites as an instrument of group oppression and tool for furthering ethnic hegemony.
The journey to a decent future can only start when we deliberately chart our path out of structurally deformed governmental edifice that propels social injustices and promotes an environment for mutually assured hate!.
History may guide but our vision for the future can only be anchored on the creative imaginative idea that accepts justice as a crucial compass to navigate the muddy waters of history that have got the boat of peace stuck while frighteningly sinking the ship of development.
The vortex of the storm is running fast, the delicate balance is tipping dangerously but we can still stretch forth the rod before the Red Sea close upon us!
Gbenro Olajuyigbe is the Executive Director of Emergency & Risk Alert Initiative.