Yesterday, I saw a video clip of the Emir of Muri giving Fulani bandits a 30-day ultimatum to stop killing his people, banditry and kidnapping in his emirate. If they do not stop, he threatened, he will order his people to start killing all Fulani on sight. This is another sign that the security forces are outside the equation. An audio clip has been circulating of a bandit leader called Turji who openly proclaimed that he is indeed a bandit who has killed soldiers on three occasions and his location is known to the security agencies. Rather than come to arrest him for his crimes, the police arrested a soft target, his father, because they are afraid of him. He then threatened the security agencies that he would continue to kidnap more people until his father was released. He kidnapped about 150 people in Shinkafi Local Government Area, his father was released and he released the captives (See reports by Abdulaziz Abdulaziz in Daily Trust of 17th and 18th July). So, who is in charge in this country?
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Today, the fear is that even remote fighting from the air is under threat. Last week, an Air Force jet was sent to bomb bandits in Zamfara State. The bandits, turned terrorists, shot the plane down but thank God the pilot was able to eject and find his way to safety. The problem is that the Air Force has become a major line of attack against bandits and terrorists because their strength is becoming overwhelming for our ground forces. If they can shoot down our jet fighters then the situation is really serious.
Yesterday, Daily Trust carried a comprehensive report on insecurity in the country written by Fidelis Mac-Leva and Idowu Isamotu. It showed that Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states topped the chart as 1,031 people were killed in June 2021 alone, across the country. A total of 275 persons were killed in Zamfara State, while Kebbi and Niger states lost 93 and 91 persons respectively during the month. They drew attention to a report by an Abuja-based security risk management and intelligence consulting company, Beacon Consulting, which said 390 others were abducted in 205 incidences recorded in 34 states of the country, within the same period. Incidences of fatality and kidnapping were recorded in 127 LGAs across 34 states of the federation with the exception of Bauchi and Gombe. Most of the cases were recorded in areas bedevilled by rural banditry. As for Boko Haram and related groups, they killed nine persons and abducted 20 others in four attacks recorded in the month indicating they are now becoming the small players. In the same period, attacks attributed to unknown gunmen, Eastern Security Network and the proscribed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led to the killings of 18 persons in 12 attacks.
The breakdown by the Daily Trust reports shows that the North West recorded the highest cases with 416 fatalities and 280 abductions in 28 LGAs, followed by the North Central which recorded 218 fatalities and 24 abductions in 27 LGAs. The North East recorded 188 fatalities and 22 abductions within the period in review, while the South East recorded 117 killings and 26 abductions. The breakdown also shows that the South West had 74 fatalities and 27 abductions, while the South-South recorded 18 fatalities and 11 abductions. In the North West, Zamfara, where activities of bandits pauperised most rural dwellers, there were no abductions recorded, despite the loss of 275 persons in attacks. Neighbouring Kebbi State had 93 fatalities with 119 abductions. Similarly, Kaduna State recorded 26 deaths with 157 abductions. While Katsina State recorded six deaths with three abductions, Sokoto State had 15 fatalities with zero abduction. Kano and Jigawa states recorded one death each with no abductions and so on.
As students of political science in the 1970s, our lecturers, I believed, were obsessed with the question of political order. The key text was the book by Samuel P. Huntington: Political Order in Changing Societies, in which he argued that societal changes and transformations are resultant outcomes of socio-political tensions within the system. His objective was to forge an enduring understanding of modernisation theory that could point out pathways to political stability, then, and maybe now also, considered as a good in itself. At the beginning of the Nigerian experiment, Lord Lugard had justified Pax Britannica as a necessity for ending political disorder and mass insecurity tied to the slave trade, inter-tribal wars, rural banditry and the requirement for building walls around cities to provide safety for the people. His offer was rural peace which he produced within twenty years. Today, Nigeria is back to the beginning. We urgently need rural peace.
The Nigerian State no longer has a monopoly of the instruments of violence. According to the Chairman of the National Peace Committee and former Head of State, General Abdulsalam Abubakar, there are at least six million small arms and light weapons circulating within the civilian population in the country. The language of expression of youth agency is increasingly being articulated by armed interventions. In the North East is the Islamist insurgency, in the Niger Delta, militancy around petroleum resources and in the North West, cattle rustling. All of the above are today being dwarfed by the transformation of herder-farmer conflicts into rural banditry and mass kidnapping all over the country. No one is safe in today’s Nigeria and the police have narrowed their role to VIP protection for those who can pay. Meanwhile, the military, which is deployed in active operations in virtually every state in the country is over-stretched and cannot defend the people.
The political horizon for the country is state failure. The Nigerian state has not failed completely but the risk is high. The task before the nation is therefore state building. The challenge however is that precisely because of the high level of insecurity, the belief in Nigeria’s nationhood has declined dramatically and many component parts of the country want to take the exit option to build the Caliphate, Biafra or Oduduwa Republics. The Nigerian State is paying the price of its failure to maintain a minimal level of political order. The welfare and security responsibility that the constitution gave the state is no longer being performed. In response, many Nigerians are demanding restructuring as panacea. This is a dilemma as the state might already be too weak to successfully negotiate a new and successful process of restructuring. The weakness of the state is linked to its failure to maintain Nigeria’s elite consensus forged while creating the basis for independence – THAT NIGERIA SHALL BE TRULY FEDERAL AND DEMOCRATIC OR IT SHALL NOT BE. Dear Nigerian State, don’t panic, simply give us true federalism and true democracy.