Governors, from North to South, recently acted out the proverbial naked dance in the market square as they openly disagreed on how to tackle the wild banditry that has unsettled Nigeria. It is shocking that governors who are Chief Security Officers (CSOs) in a country where banditry has disorientated the social system have continued to speak and operate without unity of purpose, giving ample space for the common enemy to flourish.
In the North-West, for instance, there is disagreement about whether or not to negotiate with bandits. Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State has argued that, “Whoever tells me that a Fulani man that is getting millions from kidnapping will go back to his previous lifestyle when he has to sell his cow to get N100,000 or N200,000 in a year is deceiving himself. What have we done to the bandits that we have to compensate and forgive them before they will stop their activities? They kill people, burn down houses, kidnap many and they are waiting for us to pay them?”
- PHOTOS: Police occupy Lekki tollgate to prevent protesters from reassembling
- #OccupyLekkiTollGate: Drama As Officials Are Forced To Push Van Conveying Arrested Protesters
The governors of Zamfara, Sokoto and Katsina States are opposed to El-Rufai’s position, insisting that they would hang on to the “carrot and stick” option in dealing with the bandits. Incidentally, these states have entered into peace deals with bandits several times, but each of those deals have been violated, as treacherous bandit leaders returned to their easy-money-making trade shortly after shaking hands of fellowship and understanding with governors.
Negotiations with bandits must be done from the position of knowledge and authority, but it is apparent that governors lack the essential knowledge when they throw amnesty at these criminals or sign peace accord with bandits. Negotiation is primarily meant to establish lines of communication and build relationships between parties to conflicts. But the content of the deal is determined by the typologies and characters of the opponent, like bandits or terrorists. There are geographical bandits, who carry out their activities at national, regional, state of local levels, and there are ideological bandits, who engage in violence for religious, political, or social cause. There are also strategic bandits who use violence as an end in itself. Such bandits see negotiation with the authorities as a way of removing food from their table. Even when they shake hands with governors and sign peace pacts, they would return to their game because violence, kidnapping, banditry are their means of survival. They are never swayed by instant cash or rhetoric, whether political or religious. Tactical bandits use criminal acts as a means to an end, so if negotiations would provide their desired “end,” they could abandon the “means,” which is violence.
Unfortunately, eight years after banditry became a constant and dangerous phenomenon in the North-West and sailing through North-Central to the South of Nigeria, governors seem not to have a firm grip on the nature and strategies of this common enemy. Or better put, the enemy has strategically planted a seed of discord among governors so successfully that governors cannot unite against bandits. Bandit leaders have been on the fiddle, extorting state governments and innocent Nigerians in what could be termed criminal wealth transfer.
We call of North-West governors to come together and evolve a principled and integrated framework in dealing with this common problem. In 2015, these governors dealt a deadly blow to cattle rustling, and successfully sent rustlers packing. Now, these governors must replicate the same feat by developing the political will to deal with the situation, putting aside any kinds of sentiment – religious, ethnic or regional. No religion condones criminality, whether Islam, Christianity or even Paganism. In dealing with banditry, North-West governors, working with all governors in Nigeria, should come up with a template on how to tackle this common crime.
We welcome the meeting convoked for tomorrow by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), with the North-west state governors, to find a common answer to this intractable problem.
It is time to unite and be decisive in order to knock off bandits from the map of Nigeria.