By Muhammad Hassan-Tom
Of course, we all know it is one of the first trades to evolve in all human societies, probably after farming and before the proverbial prostitution because bandits are trousers-down the biggest customers of prostitutes and drug-peddlers. Politicians, with the exception of a few uncompromised souls, are also the prominent patrons of both bandits and prostitutes. Together, these three professionals can totally take over any shanty, state, country or even an entire sub-continent.
Citizens across the classes and divides need to seriously calm down when facing such a combo. Panic is absolutely counter-productive to a rapid evolution of any panacea. The angrier we get at the horrendous killings and destruction taking place across the country, the more confused we will become and confusion is exactly what bandits and their paymasters need to succeed. Remember what the combination of angst and misunderstanding led to in Rwanda of 1994 and you realise that we do not want to travel the Kigali Road.
Calming down does not need dismissing or even diminishing the facts and figures. Indeed, it requires facing them. Between January and March 2021, Kaduna State alone recorded over 320 deaths and almost 1000 incidents of kidnapping. Over 200 other persons including infants and women were wounded and thousands of cows rustled in what appears as a free reign for the terrorists. The toll in terms of internally displaced persons is even untold. Dozens of whole towns and villages have been pillaged and razed, thousands of lives mowed down in the nearly decade-long rampage by the bandits elsewhere in Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Nasarawa, Niger, Taraba, Benue and Plateau states.
More ominously, farms and ranches including those located in the Kaduna International Airport general area are now totally no-go areas. Without the food, everyone, except the bandits who stole all the cattle and grains and their sponsors who’ve stashed hundreds of millions of dollars in the UAE, UK, US and elsewhere, should naturally starve to death. Presumably, the survivors will then inherit all the land and repopulate it using the abducted Chibok school-girls and thousands of other women still in their captivity. Foreign vultures are also waiting in the wings to devour the priceless carbons, precious stones and other countless natural resources. This is the veritable nightmare unfolding.
The fundamental question, however, is why are bandits from Borno to Lagos and from Sokoto to Rivers suddenly enjoying such a sensational rise and reign especially since the reinstatement of democracy in 1999?
Primarily, it is because politicians arm, brainwash, drug, use and then dump them. For instance, Boko Haram began with the unholy alliance with some politicians. The confrontation that engulfed nearly all the country came when members demanded exemption from a state law requiring the use of safety helmets by motorcyclists. Heavy-handed response by law enforcement agents leading to the death of 17 of these violators, the arrest and extra-judicial liquidation of Yusuf in 2009 started the killing spree that is yet to be stopped.
Today, Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states remain shells (pun intended) of what they were just a decade ago. The ragtag terrorists have so far bombed around 80 percent of public infrastructure in the zone and sent successful suicide bombers that hit the Nigeria Police Headquarters and the UN office in Abuja.
Even though Boko Haram’s days of brazen bombings that kill hundreds in Abuja garages, Jos markets and Kano mosques seem over, we remain under threats from the ruthless beasts for the foreseeable future. This is just one brand of bandits set off by the selfish and illiterate antics of a single egomaniac.
Similar scenarios in most states account for the viral ascension of the outlaws everywhere.
Stopping the proliferation of banditry should begin by ending the demand pronto. Politicians must accept that polls, not thugs, ought to determine the outcome of elections. Winding up the supply chain of bandits requires disarming, disbanding, engaging, reorienting and rehabilitating the outlaws scattered in hundreds of camps located in remote forests and other ungoverned spaces nationwide.
Good governance is urgently required to reduce abject poverty, corruption and fraud, political influence, joblessness, lack of capital punishment and reverse the changing value system, aka quick-money syndrome. Others are public enlightenment and empowerment programmes, Sim cards registration, stopping ransom payments, introduction of community policing and reduction of small and light arms proliferation in the country.
Ending the demand and supply in a sustainable manner also requires members of the general public to be more law-abiding. There are so many bandits because we have all learned to bend the rules – divine and secular. Fraudulent artisans, bankers, businessmen, civil servants, clerics, journalists, jurists, parents, medics, teachers, security agents and even common traffic law violators among others cause more death and destruction than all the bandits combined.
Citizens are the recruitment arena and breeding ground for all felons. Injustice and not irreligiosity is the fertilizer. As Mahatma Ghandi put it, “Wealth without work, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice and politics without principle lead to violence.”
Above all, we must realise that the hordes of bandits in the dark jungles will not substantially disappear until the crooks in power do. Corruption and conspicuous consumption, especially among political and public office holders, must be brought down to the barest minimum. Criminals become seemingly stronger than the state and utterly unstoppable whenever leaders at all levels lack the moral gumption to deter them.