Insecurity: How do defenceless Nigerians defend themselves?

Without mincing words, it is evident, the Nigerian state, cannot guarantee, or safeguard the peace and sanctity of lives of its citizens. Insecurity had taken a downward drive to the abyss. What has been said in hushed tones, at the dark corner has, glaringly been brought to the fore. The abduction of yet another set of students, after the  Chibok, Dapchi,  and Kankara signalled one thing — government is incapable of protecting its citizens. To affirm this position, Nigeria’s Defence Minister, Gen Magashi, stunned Nigerians earlier in the week by urging us not to be cowards, in the event of attacks by terrorist/bandits. He further asked Nigerians to brace up and dared the bandits, whom obviously are better equipped and had sophisticated arms than Nigeria’s military. His statement cannot be misconstrued, or taken out of context. He unambiguously called on armless citizens to face armed terrorist. Clearly, huge budgetary allocation for defense (his Ministry) and other security operations cannot be justified.

Government officials had the notoriety for making contemptuous or insensitive remarks, displaying crass disregard for toiling and insecure Nigerians. Most would agree, the existential threat to the country is undoubtedly security. From North to South, Nigerians live in constant state of despair, not knowing the next pattern of attacks, and from which angle. Such is how insecure we are, as a nation.
From the foregoing, two things could be deduced from the reality of Nigeria’s current predicament. Either, political actors are maliciously fuelling insecurity for sinister and ulterior motive, or, they’ve simply run out of ideas on how to steer the affairs of 200 million Nigerians, in the 21st century.

Absurdly, bandits continue to overrun communities with ease across Northwest and other Northern states. Again, inter tribal clashes engulfed Oyo, and other parts of Southwest, while  the unending Biafra agitation in Southeast has assumed a more frightening dimension.
The shocking remark by immediate Army chief, and Ambassador-designate Gen Burutai, of a continued insurgency in the country for another 20 years just showed the vulnerability of the Nigerian state. His reasons are unambiguous, given he was privy to classified security information, and sat at the very top of the Army. 
Nigeria’s continued existence by no means is threatened daily. Government  keep selling to Nigerians a dummy — whether or not ransom are paid to kidnapers, or the modus operandi. Huge amount was allegedly paid to secure the release of Kankara schoolboys. Till this day, both Katsina and federal government refutes and dismiss such allegations, insisting nothing was paid. Now, with Kagara abductions, huge amount is dangled before the bandits to secure release of the boys.As it is, kidnapping is good business and very lucrative for the bandits. Those angling for, or pushing for an amnesty are either delusional, or  sinisterly admitting failure of governance.

Banditry is sadly inspired by sheer 
criminality and a quick access to cash. An average peaceful Fulani herder, guards his cattle jealously, and probably sells when he runs out of options. His nomadic life is such that portray humility and prudence. The most he makes from a single sale averages 200-300k. Criminal elements in their fold found out the easiest way of making triple the amount is via kidnaping. There are reports of victim paying as much as N50 million in ransom. Bizarrely, the bandits mostly get away with it, and lived off happily. Remarkably, this had emboldened them, and others joined the trade. Ending banditry isn’t a wishful thinking, granting them amnesty could be counterproductive. For instance, in 2016, Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina state, initiated an Amnesty Program for rampaging gunmen, initially, it was successful, months into the program, most bandits reneged and return to banditry. Obviously, they realized, or make far more money, from criminality than what Government offered. The urge for quick and easy cash became insatiable.

By June, 2020, the Governor vowed never to grant amnesty, or enter into any negotiations with the bandits, stating further his Government was betrayed twice by the gunmen.

Meanwhile, Zamfara Governor, Aminu Mutawalle, had insist on granting pardon to bandits, this could probably be his working formula in ending insurgency and insecurity in his state. But, the Golden rule is — You don’t negotiate with Terrorist, especially, on their own terms.
Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna state, on his part vehemently opposed the idea of granting amnesty, or negotiating with them. He vowed to promptly arrest and prosecute any terrorist demanding such. His stance showed just how resolute and pragmatic a leader should be. From experience, he knew  any Fulani that “tasted” millions as a result of kidnappings, would most definitely return to banditry when he could not get more.In the past, the Governor was quoted to have said he paid huge amounts to bandits, ostensibly to pacify them, to wade off any attack on Kaduna communities. That however did not deter them, as they ruthlessly continue to attack. Therefore, attempting to make peace, or grant Amnesty to bandits is an open invitation to more criminalities.On his part, Gov. Ganduje, who years ago, routed bandits from the notorious Falgore Forest on the Tudun wada-Doguwa- Jos highway, had earlier in the week proposed a ban on open grazing, or movement of cattle.

Banditry across the country had become hugely contentious, and worrisome, and stoking flame of disunity, especially between the North and Southern part of the country.Bauchi State Governor, Sen Bala Mohammed, opined that Forests across the country does not fall under the purview of state governments, and Fulanis had the right to carry arms!  He further blame his Benue counterpart for stereotype and aggression against Fulanis. He remarked, more awkwardly on how his state played host to non-Fulani farmers across the country. While it is an incontestable fact, H.E needs to be reminded that, such non Fulani dwellers in his state has so far not been fingered in any form of criminality or kidnappings. Such inciteful and divisive statement should not be made by a State Executive.At the moment, we have on our hand, a national calamity. Blame-game by political actors would intrinsically aggravate, rather than quell the situation.

Remarks, by the nation’s Defence Minister, a retired Army General, on Nigerians to confront, and engage armed bandits/terrorist is  callous, to say the least. Considering huge amount expended on security, and fight against insurgency, in a saner clime or society, the Minister would have been compelled to resign. Because, in a way, his remark was a subtle admittance of failure, and his continued stay a threat to national security.
Apparently, it has become imperative Nigerians approach governance in the country more appraisingly. We must set off values, track and focus on Government policies and programs, we must not be passive citizens. It is our collective responsibility to demand purposeful leadership from those in the position of authority. As it were, Government, it seems is incapable of securing and protecting the nation, which is a clear violation of the oath to which they swore to.
Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.He writes from Kano[email protected]

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