By Rotimi Fasan
ONE knew this was where we were headed; Nigerians too saw it coming, a situation where a group of bloodthirsty marauders could put a bounty on the head of the leader of the so-called giant of Africa, the most populous Black country on our planet, while threatening fire and brimstone.
But these are no group of braggarts. They often put their mouth where their money is and are far better at making good their threat than the Nigerian state under the present administration.
Nothing could have been more brazen. That bands of undisciplined men that have chosen to make the forest and similar hideouts in the wilderness their home, could boldly advertise their plan to abduct President Muhammadu Buhari as well as Nasir el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, tells us nothing if not an account of official negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of President Buhari, who continues to issue ineffectual statements of intent and orders to the military and other security agencies to destroy the outlaw elements that have grown stronger by the day.
One should be clear to remind those supporters of anyone in power, people prone to bouts of amnesia, that to speak of bandits in today’s Nigeria is to speak of the career plunderers and murderers that rustle cattle, rape harmless women, abduct men and women on both the highways and train lines for huge ransoms; they also sack villages and military fortes as well as turn their comrades held in prisons loose. Those who still harbour doubts that these different groups have since morphed into one, especially in their new-found theatre of operation in the North-West of the country, have apparently learned nothing from the evidence provided by the attackers of the Kuje Correctional Centre right in the heart of the country’s capital, within miles of the presidential residence.
Even if Nigerians don’t take into account the fact that some kind of relationship existed between President Buhari and some of the groups that have vowed to make Nigeria ungovernable in the years the president was an opposition figure, even if Nigerians choose to ignore the fact that before 2015, a group of insurgents once nominated President Buhari as their spokesperson with the Goodluck Jonathan government, the point remains that Buhari, since he became president and an apparent parting of ways occurred between him and these groups after the failed attempt on his life- since that apparent separation, President Buhari has had more than enough time to take the fight to the bandits and could by now justly claim and be seen by Nigerians to have played his part in combating lawlessness, not just by words but by deeds.
But no, the President failed to do this with any seriousness beyond platitudes – empty orders to an exhausted, overstretched military or commiserations to victims of his government’s ineptitude. What that means is that the entire country is now endangered and life and the basic reason for the existence of government in any human society is being roundly defeated right under his watch as president.
The presidency could issue as many releases on the effort it claims to be making to fight insecurity and offer rebuttals to criticisms of their inept ways as it has so far been doing, but all of this will amount to nothing for as long as Nigerians are still being raped, kidnapped for ransom and murdered in their numbers all across the country.
Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina and Lai Muhammed could talk until their mouths run dry, Nigerians know when and how their lives got to this point. When the attacks started moving from the North-East and erupted in slightly different forms in isolated parts of Taraba, Benue and Nassarawa states, the president and the presidency looked on in bemused silence, if not complicity. They said nothing- or asked the victims of these attacks to make peace with their attackers. When the attacks changed direction and veered west of the far North in the form of banditry and perceptive people could see signs of its connection to the insurgency of the North-East, government chose to live in denial and turned a blind eye to what was emerging. It called the activities of these criminals banditry and went about splitting hair as to what was going on and what its own response should be, in the meantime, leaving the victims to suffer more while their attackers had more time to entrench themselves.
Its spokespersons called critics of its ostrich attitude of pacifying mass murderers spewers of hate speech. It went about celebrating a programme of rehabilitation for determined murderers who never for once gave up their outlaw occupation or sought forgiveness from society even as they went about breaking jail houses, imposing levies and taxes on their areas of operation in a violent show of power. But Abuja under President Buhari got weaker and weaker and continued to issue threats and commiserations as the president thought appropriate while his surrogates vainly seek links between armed robberies and abductions in the South-West or the North-Central with cattle rustling and total evisceration of communities in the North-East and North-West. All for them are one and the same- evidence of global terrorism that should not be blamed on one government or limited to a particular country.
But the so-called bandits widened the latitude of their activities and moved more and more from the isolation of the forests into urban centres, emboldened by the apparent ineptitude of the state. And the security forces, rendered weak over the course of many years of infiltration by enemy forces and severe lack of equipment, retrace their steps to seek refuge from an enemy they were sure was better prepared and equipped to fight their cause.
Thus, while the Nigerian state prefer to wring its hand in utter hopelessness and turn a blind eye as families of victims of abduction give hundreds of millions of naira in ransom payment, the bandits make their way to our cities’ correctional and custodial centres to set their comrades free in plain sight of security personnel.
Within the same time frame of launching an attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre, they took on a presidential convoy in the president’s home town. If those who could attack a convoy they believed included the president’s limousine now vow to abduct him, should or, in fact, could such a threat be set aside with a wave of the hand? Aso Rock deceives itself to feign confidence at these times. In a country where traditional rulers could openly confer a chieftaincy position on a known murderer called bandit, are they not pitching their tent on the side of the winner, those they think have control in this game of power? This is where we are today.