One of the reasons Nigeria may never succeed in solving her insecurity problems under the Muhammadu Buhari dispensation is that the security forces have been made to operate with double standards.
Way back in 2015, the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, declared the militant Fulani herdsmen as the fourth most murderous terrorist group in the world behind Boko Haram, Islamic State and Somali Al Shabbab. Even though Buhari had adopted security as one of his cardinal objectives, his government has consistently handled the terrorism coming from the herders and “bandits” with kid gloves.
With Boko Haram’s dwindling fortunes, the so-called “bandits” terrorising Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi and Niger states are fiercely competing with the militant herdsmen marauding communities in the Middle Belt and the South for the first place in our local terrorism index. While the Federal Government and even some governors and clerics from the North glamourise the North West terrorists as “bandits” doing “business” with the killings, mass abductions of students and other innocent citizens for ransom, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, was declared a “terrorist” group way back in 2017 when they were merely unarmed agitators.
The killer-herdsmen have been massacring, kidnapping, destroying farmlands and occupying indigenous people’s forests at will in Benue and other states throughout the three geopolitical zones of the South. Rather than declare them terrorists, government calls their acts of terrorism “farmers-herders clashes”. It is also fighting tooth and nail to force Nigerians to give up their ancestral lands and water resources for the settlement of these armed and violent elements.
It was the refusal of the Federal Government to deal with the militant herdsmen that led to the formation of self-help outfits such as the IPOB’s Eastern Security Network, ESN, the Western Nigeria Security Network, better known as Amotekun Corps, the rise of Sunday Igboho, the agitation for Yoruba Nation and the struggle for the restoration of Biafra through referendum.
The so-called “bandits” have grown from cattle rustlers to militant groups now able to shoot down Nigerian warplanes. Only goodness knows what else they will acquire the capacity to do tomorrow because of their steady income from their kidnapping “business”.
There is no way a government can approach the scale of security challenges we are facing with double standards and expect to win. All hands are not on deck. Nigerians who feel unjustly treated by this regime feel alienated. Apart from their feeling of injustice, the perception that the Federal Government is not pursuing a pan-Nigerian agenda, but an ethnic one, cannot promote a united effort, even among those in the armed forces and security agencies.
The “bandits” and armed herdsmen are terrorists. They must be officially declared for what they are, and dealt with in the language they understand.