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Resignation to the reign of terror

In 2010, the first civilian governor of Kano State, Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, died of a shock-triggered cardiac arrest following a robbery incident on his…

In 2010, the first civilian governor of Kano State, Alhaji Muhammadu Abubakar Rimi, died of a shock-triggered cardiac arrest following a robbery incident on his way from Bauchi to Kano. His brother who was with him in the same chauffeur-driven vehicle narrated how, shortly after the incident, Rimi lamented in shock that the robbers were Fulani. Though they didn’t physically harm them, Rimi’s condition deteriorated, leading to his death.

Of course, if Rimi’s reference to the robbers’ ethnic identity were nowadays, it wouldn’t prompt wonder for obvious reasons. It’s, therefore, necessary to understand the context in which he made the remark to appreciate why the robbers’ ethnic identity was of interest to him at that particularly tense moment.

The incident happened against the backdrop of growing controversial speculations that some Fulani pastoral nomads were increasingly taking to armed robbery. It was difficult then to even imagine a Fulani pastoral nomad committing armed robbery. Perhaps, except who had actually fallen victim to it, or had known of a confirmed case, no one would believe that a typical Fulani fellow could even contemplate turning into an armed robber.

The characteristic ultra-conservatism, excessive, in fact, counterproductive contentment, modesty, and real or perceived naivety of the Fulani, in particular, explained that general assumption about them, and indeed explained Rimi’s shock and frustration, being a Fulani himself.

Interestingly, albeit to a lesser extent, a similar reaction must have trailed the beginning of the involvement of some Hausa folks in armed robbery, a few decades earlier, for, though Hausa and Fulani are ethnically different, they share a lot in common, with the former being typically the “refined” version of the latter in many aspects.

Anyway, since that robbery incident, the reality has done away with those speculations. While armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, or any other crime isn’t limited to any particular ethnic group, the growing involvement of some Fulani folks in them remains particularly interesting due to the foregoing reasons.

Besides, over the past decade within which the traditional highway armed robbery has effectively disappeared as travellers no longer take unnecessary amounts of cash with them, thanks to the growing penetration of electronic money transaction technology, those Fulani folks have switched to the increasingly “lucrative” banditry and kidnapping.

Also, though not all bandits and kidnappers are Fulani, the coincidental dominance of Fulani in the crimes in Northern Nigeria has changed the image of a typical Fulani pastoral nomad from a herd-rearing, stick-wielding, innocent-looking, shabbily clothed, and pity-arousing fellow, to an AK47-wielding, motorbike-riding, and panic-arousing thug.

Now, caught between that reality, on the one hand, and the persistent government failure to guarantee people’s security, on the other, many communities especially in Northern Nigeria have resigned themselves to the reign of terror in their respective communities. They have come to terms with whatever dangerous security situation they have been exposed to by bandits and kidnappers.

Peasant farmers in some communities, for instance, negotiate with bandits to allow them to utilise their own farmlands while they, in return, pay a fortune to the bandits or provide services to them, which include supply and logistics, and even a cover-up to enable them to elude the security agencies. Other communities would raise a fortune and hand it to the bandits in return for their safety for some time, yet they may still be vulnerable to raids by other bandits or even the very bandits who extorted them.

Resignation to the reign of terror isn’t only noticeable in remote and rural areas; urban dwellers have equally resigned themselves to it. The scope of suburban communities repeatedly raided or vulnerable to raids by motorbike-riding kidnappers breaking into homes and kidnapping people is steadily widening.

Besides, given the huge amounts of ransom that families pay to rescue their loved ones kidnapped from home or on highways, cases of urban kidnapping of individuals by familiar and otherwise trusted amateur but equally lethal undercover kidnappers lurking among families or in neighbourhoods, are becoming too common to prompt a surprise.

There have been cases of neighbours, family friends, and domestic helps kidnapping or facilitating the kidnapping of individuals in the very families that trust them. In fact, there have been cases of relatives kidnapping their relatives, brothers kidnapping their younger siblings, and husbands kidnapping their wives.

From a typical recorded phone negotiation conversation between family members whose loved ones were kidnapped and the kidnappers over the amount of ransom and how it should be delivered, it’s very obvious that people have lost confidence in the authorities, and have indeed resigned themselves to the “new normal”.

Also, travellers are increasingly settling for relatively inconvenient rail travel where the service is available, while others including those who can barely afford it opt for air flight.

There are also many other instances of people’s resignation to the reign of terror in the face of the failure of the authorities to live up to their responsibilities. After all, that’s quite understandable. Because in an increasingly hopeless situation where, for instance, a gang of bandits would simply descend on supposedly protected government schools and herd students into the bush, whatever concession or desperate move that vulnerable communities and individuals make for the security of their lives isn’t only justifiable but is actually the only right thing to do.

Though resignation to the reign of terror is suicidal in the long run, it remains the only option for the vulnerable while the shame and blame rest with the authorities who have failed them.


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