Nigeria’s ungoverned spaces

By Ladesope Ladelokun

SINCE Nigeria has yet to liberalise the issuance of arms, not a few Nigerians were gobsmacked when Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Bashir Magashi, challenged fellow compatriots to defend themselves against bandits and other criminals, who, at the moment, have become unstoppable killjoys across Nigeria.

For a people who are not oblivious of reported cases of how gunmen overrun military bases, it is understandable if traumatised and right-thinking Nigerians express shock at the illogic of toxic admonition of the defence minister in a country where unknown gunmen can kill an Army General without consequences.

As a matter of fact, section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) states without ambiguity that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”. Of course, it cannot be incongruous to state that one key reason President Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was sacked by hapless and helpless Nigerians was the failure of government to protect Nigerians from the lethal weapons of Boko Haram that dispatched thousands to early graves.

According to the BBC, 20,000 people had been killed and three million others forced to flee homes before Buhari occupied Nigeria’s highest office. Nigerians had looked to Buhari to wipe their tears and change the ugly narrative being a retired war General.

He, Buhari, had promised a better country where children would be safe in their schools; something that contributed to yielded votes in millions from his employers (Nigerians). It, therefore, explains why it is irresponsible, even dubious, to push the primary responsibility of the Nigerian government to Nigerians.

But when you thought the dust raised by Magashi’s strange call that chops logic had settled, Governor Masari of Katsina State boarded the same caravan. Masari could not understand why his people cannot fight gun-wielding bandits with their teeth.

The governor had in a viral video lamented that his people had failed to do what they ought to be doing, wondering why they must always wait for soldiers and policemen to defend them, even when they have the all-powerful weapon: the teeth. “It is important for you to fight your enemy, even with your teeth, bite him,” he charged.

And, in a hilarious response to the governor’s call, some youths and residents of Katsina had acquired catapults to stone heavily armed bandits. It is not impossible that the aforementioned youths drew inspiration from the story of the Biblical David in his battle with Goliath and the Philistine army.

Boastful Goliath had told the army of Israel: “Why are you lining up for battle? I’m the best soldier in our army; and all of you are Saul’s army. Choose your best soldier to come out and fight me. If he can kill me, our people will be your  slaves. But if I kill him, your people will be our slaves.”

But, with just a stone and a sling, little David had the head of nine feet tall Goliath in his palms. Of course, his soldiers made a rapid dialogue with their legs (apologies Prof. Wole Wole Soyinka). But those were not the days of AK-47, Armoured Personnel Carrier, APC, and bombs that can destroy an enemy in a breath.

Not even in the Stone Age era were battles won with the teeth. Magashi and Masari’s admonition on self-defence casts the Buhari government as one that is overwhelmed by Nigeria’s security challenges and incapable of rescuing Nigerians from the present hellhole.

For a government that has been speaking in the language secessionist agitators understand, it cannot be out of place to expect the same government to deploy the same level of energy to make a mincemeat of bandits and terrorists making Nigeria hell for Nigerians in the country’s seeming widening ungoverned spaces. 

Why it’s easier to nab secessionist agitators like Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho in Kenya and Benin Republic respectively than it is to arrest notorious leaders of bandits like Dogo Gide and Dankarami within Nigeria remains a riddle.

While Buhari and his men look away, these top bandits keep smiling to the bank on the blood of Nigerians. But with the arrest of Igboho and Kanu, we now know the Buhari regime has the capacity to arrest bandits and terrorists. Sadly, it has chosen to technically allow banditry and terrorism flourish.

In some parts of Borno State, for instance, where Boko Haram terrorists have reportedly installed their governor, Abba Kaka, media reports reveal how Nigerians lament how they pay taxes to Boko Haram for road use; not forgetting levies farmers and fishermen have to pay on their produce.

Hear the lamentation of the Director General of Centre for Justice on Religion and Ethnicity in Nigeria, Kallamu Musal Ali Dikwa, in an interview with an online newspaper, Sahara Reporters: “My own area (Dikwa), the people have been under Boko Haram and many other places for long; since the administration of Goodluck Jonathan and now under Buhari, they have been under Boko Haram…These people have an agenda and by the time they start operations fully, people will suffer, especially as ISWAP is involved, deadly sect under Al-Qaeda. How can terrorists take over everywhere, collect taxes and the Nigerian government will sit and be watching them?”

Perhaps Dikwa’s lamentation (or poser, if you like) is one reason the Nigerian government would not allow the media to breathe.With the gag order banning broadcast stations from reporting details of terrorist attacks and victims across the country, the Buhari government has only oxygenated the accusation about its obsession with darkness in some quarters through muzzling of the media.

 But it is only fighting the wrong war. A country unlivable because of insecurity is a country lost. It’s absolutely needless to declare war on the media when known bandit leaders -Dogo Gide, Baleri, Dankarami – are not just having a field day but smiling to the bank.

It is incumbent on those who swore to protect Nigerians to be alive to their primary responsibility. Any attempt to shirk it and hang it on helpless and armless Nigerians is not just callous but dubious.

Ladelokun, a social commentator, wrote  via  [email protected]

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