By Sunday Onyemaechi Eze
EVEN the deaf can hear the rhythm of the prevailing chaos in the country. One could feel the heavy hands of the grave danger. There are no pretences about it. Internal peace and security of lives have departed. Lives are snuffed out of citizens day-in, day-out with impunity by criminal elements and unknown gunmen. In today’s Nigeria, life and living has no meaning! Banditry, kidnapping and Boko Haram insurgency have held sway for too long.
There is growing threat of hunger arising from mounting challenges confronting farmers. What about the increasing sense of collective despair and despondency among the populace. The people no longer trust their government. In fact, government’s inability to crush security threats, despite saying so, has fuelled suspicion in some quarters that either people in government or their allies are behind the carnage. Centrifugal forces like the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB; the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, and others have capitalised on government’s glaring ineptitude to rise in defence of their identities.
The people are glad these groups stood by them when government was nowhere to be found. The magnanimity of these groups, more than ever, has further emboldened their ideologies and attempt to dismember the nation. The very existence of Nigeria is seriously threatened. Nigeria is a country at war. A country in conflict with itself.
Recently, former Head of State, General Abdusallam Abubakar (retd), painted an alarming picture of deadly arms and ammunition in circulation in the country, estimated at over six million. He lamented that the proliferation of weapons has heightened insecurity in the country leading to over 80,000 deaths and close to three million internally displaced persons, IDPs, across the country.
This is coming on the heels of a recent report by SBM Intelligence revealing that civilians were in possession of more arms than security officials in the country. An estimated 6,145,000 arms in circulation in Nigeria are in the hands of civilian non-state actors, while the armed forces and law enforcement agencies put together possess 586,600 firearms.
The report attributed the proliferation of small arms as a major factor fuelling insecurity in the country. This, according to it, has an impact on the country’s internal security, which has led to violence, deaths and injury of many citizens. Apart from that, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State also informed that over 30,000 heavily armed bandits are roaming the bushes of the North West states.
According to the governor, there are over 100 bandits camps across the states of Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi plus Niger State with each having no fewer than 300 members, while there are less than 6000 troops operating across North-West states. The governor spoke through the state Commissioner for Information, Alhaji Ibrahim Magaji Dosara, at a news briefing in Kaduna. He said the Federal Government does not have adequate troops to fight the bandits across the region.
The above ugly scenarios notwithstanding, the nation must rise to its responsibilities and save Nigerians from this menace. In dealing with insecurity, I think Governor Nasir el-Rufai’s recommended approach is a realistic, brave and effective way of pulling the nation out of the current security quagmire. According to the governor: “Bandits terrorising Nigeria have lost their rights to life under the Constitution and must be wiped out. The bandits are at war with Nigeria and there is no other way to approach the current insurgency but for security forces to take the war to the bandits and recover forests where they are occupying.
“The security agencies mostly react to cases of banditry and abduction, we are in a war with these terrorists challenging the sovereignty of the Nigerian state. Our security forces must collaborate to take the war to the bandits and terrorists, recover and restore the forest to enable our law-abiding citizens to engage in legitimate farming and livestock production.”
On negotiating for ransom with the bandits, Governor el-Rufai, after an expanded meeting of the state security council at Council Chambers, Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, said his job as governor is “to protect the people and prosecute those who committed offences.” He said: “We will not engage with bandits or kidnappers. Private citizens like clerics and clergy men can do so in their individual capacities, to preach to them and ask them to repent. We also want them to repent but it is not our job to ask them to do so.”
In 2003, for example, US President George W. Bush (2003) declared: ‘You’ve got to be strong, not weak. The only way to deal with these people is to bring them to justice. You can’t talk to them. You can’t negotiate with them.’
At the height of IRA violence, UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, vowed never to negotiate with terrorists; a pledge also made by other world leaders when they were in our shoes. No government all over the world bends backwards to all the demands of criminal elements as it is done in Nigeria. It is obvious that having understood the weaknesses of government, the criminals have become emboldened and more daring.
According to Harmonie Toros in his work, We Don’t Negotiate With Terrorist!: Legitimacy and Complexity of Terrorist Conflicts: “Traditionally, negotiations with terrorists would legitimise the terrorists and terrorism more broadly. Legitimising terrorist groups and their actions would weaken the democratic quality of states and likely only serve to incite more violence.”
Attack is the best form of defence. The wise does not attempt to kill a dangerous animal with bare hands. Suffice it to say that the entreaties made by an Islamic scholar Sheik Mahmud Gumi, who turned an apostle of amnesty for bandits, should be taken with a pinch of salt.
No serious country will accept most of the reasons given by bandits for indulging in the dastardly acts of killing, rapping, kidnapping and cattle rustling . It may seem unkind, wicked and abnormal for a governor to publicly rule out negotiating with kidnappers to save lives of those held hostage. But is that the best in all fairness to ending this criminality?
We are all aware and have heard confessions and analyses made in connection with ransom payment that the proceeds are used to buy more arms and funnelled back into the illegal business. Resisting the attempt to negotiate for ransom, deploying exceptional intelligence and military higher fire power are the best in the circumstances at the moment.
Eze, a media and communication specialist, wrote via: sunnyeze02 @yahoo.com