Viewpoint

January 10, 2022

Banditry, governance and need for change in media coverage

Declaration of bandits terrorists a step long overdue — Akingbolu

Bandits

By Chris Tony Akhabue

Truth is like surgery. It hurts a great deal. Yet, it has the capacity to heal wounds. Wounds of those willing to accept and administer its healing potencies.

In the words of a famous French writer, feminist and political activist, Simone De Beauvoir: “The oppressor would not have been so strong, bold and powerful if he hadn’t accomplices among the oppressed”.

The above line aptly and succinctly, without ambiguities, logically and didactively illustrates our present quagmaric circumstance as a nation in dire need of time- tested and result-oriented remedies. Banditry and kidnapping for ransom collection have become the most pervasive and intractable violent crime against humanity in Nigeria in recent times. Hardly a day passes without ugly reports of kidnappings and killings in and around the country.

It used to be, before now, a very rare occurrence to read on the pages of newspapers or see on television about violent crimes as opposed to what is now the order of the day. Before now, reports of violent killings by robbers or by assassin’s used to elicit empathy from well-meaning individuals in the society. That was then. The good old days.

But now, people have grown indifferent to daily reports of incessant gruesome killings. This is so, probably due to the frequency and alarming high number of persons exterminated needlessly without provocations. It is fast becoming a way of life in Nigeria. Nigerians, with unbelievable and remarkable capacity to stomach any nonsense, are already getting used to this new normal.

There is absolutely nothing Nigerians cannot get used to. Their patience and resilience in  accepting and rationalising the indefensible is irritantly legendary.

It is no longer possible for anyone to keep accurate record of the dozens of innocent people slaughtered daily  in their homes, in their farms and on transit.  A report like: “39 killed and 26 missing in renewed attacks”, is common place in many parts Nigeria today, particularly in the Northern parts of the country.

Take up any newspaper of your choice any day of the week, what you see are gory tales of reckless but needless massacre of innocent women and children and peace loving peasants in their farmlands. It is now a dangerous adventure travelling by road in any part of the country as the fear of death or of being kidnapped for ransom has become a recurring factor in the list of considerations of many travellers on our highways. It is simply an understatement to say it has reached an alarming crescendo.

What is probably more worrisome is that no one seems to pay any attention to the attacks and gruesome killings. Nobody talks about the unacceptable decimations.

Instead, politicians are aligning and strategising on how to win the next elections. What has gone wrong with everybody?  I have since come to the painful conclusion that Nigeria is critically sick and in dire need of drastic time-tested remedy if we will ever make it back to the part of sanity as a nation.

The feeble and ill-coordinated fight against the plague of criminal herdsmen, banditry and other allied virulent pestilences plaguing the Nigerian nation is multi-dimensional and somewhat intractable because of the support the criminal elements enjoy from among the oppressed and the highly placed individuals in the society. The insurgents are becoming more daring in their approach and operations partly because they have felt the weak pulse of response and defence from the government which clearly is expository of lack of will power or paucity of leadership.

Otherwise, how does one explain, for instance, the audaciousness of bandits and other criminal elements taking the war to the doorsteps of the military in their fortified formations?

The almighty Nigerian Defence Academy,  NDA, was attacked and men killed, and the bandits walked away after the attacks unmolested, just like a scene in a motion picture. Several other government institutions and various police stations have been attacked and desecrated without resistance. Highly placed individuals and serving security personnel have been abducted effortlessly without resistance.

The other day, operatives of the DSS were taken like little prey on the street. Divisional police officers, military and other paramilitary officers abducted and ransom are paid to bandits to secure  their release.

With countless communities paying millions of naira monthly as taxes to bandits in a sovereign nation where there is a constituted government. Tell me, who is safe in Nigeria? No one is. And nowhere is safe either.

So, you are on your own. You secure yourself if you are able to. You provide your own security, your own light, your own water, your own education, your own transportation, your own everything.

Almost everything, you provide for yourself. The body language of government is defeatist and the bandits are acquainted with this knowledge and are cleverly working with this understanding to their advantage to the consternation  and dismay of government and the governed.

Government’s criminal negligence or remissness to secure the lives and properties of its citizens and the nonchalance and complacency of our political class in proferring timely solutions to the intractable socio-economic menace is not only appallingly unacceptable but grossly incontinent and incontrovertibly nonsensical. It is ridiculously preposterous to sane minds.

Otherwise, what is your definition of a government that allows induced intimidation and psychological mutilation of a section of the populace just to whip them into some form of ungodly submission?

The lack of will power or paucity of internationally acceptable best practices mechanism in dealing with the menace of  insurgency has seriously tainted the credibility of the current leadership.

Just some few days ago, the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, in utter frustration, occasioned by the ceaseless attacks and wanton destruction of lives and property by bandits under the watch of constituted authorities, on a  BBC TV programme, expressed the readiness of his government to assist citizens  to acquire arms to protect themselves since the military and government have not been  able to  secure  even  themselves and the ordinary man on the street.

By that singular declaration from a sitting governor of a state, it is clear that there is a growing vacuum of thinking and paucity of leadership that makes for a statement  such as this to sound almost credible and a way forward.

This is completely an expository of a failed government to provide leadership and direction when it mattered most. What is your evaluation of a government that negotiates and pays ransom to bandits and terrorists?

A government that is asking citizens to come and have guns to protect themselves? I don’t know about you. But in  my estimation, such a government is not only irresponsibly undependable and unreliable but also a burden and a great liability to the electorate. Such a government stands accused as a willing accomplice in the furtherance of the evil course of the enemy of the state. Of what use would it serve here to highlight the various ways government has unwittingly become accomplice?  It would only amount to overfloging  the obvious.

The instrumentality of the media in nation building is monumental and can never be underestimated.

In order not to be seen as a  willing tool, an accomplice to banditry and terrorism, the media should, as a matter of urgency, re evaluate and  fine-tune it’s reportage of the activities of insurgency.

The current style of the media reporting millions of naira collected as ransom by bandits is glamourising.

The reports make it sound lucrative and financially rewarding to the simple-minded.

The media should, therefore, deemphasize reporting the huge millions collectable from the pervasive and illicit trade so as to make the evil trade less lucrative especially at this trying and auspicious times of our life as a  nation groping for time tested, sustainable and wholy dependable solutions to the malevolent and recalcitrantly malignant malaise of banditry and terrorism.

***Akhabue, a social commentator, wrote from Benin City.

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