The sudden release of the abducted Kankara schoolboys has continued to generate more controversies, as it has beaten the imagination of even the most pedantic pundits.
The release has come with a thud that has sent back analysts to the workshop to work out who are the “real” abductors of the innocent schoolboys.
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All that is clear to date is that “gunmen” had invaded Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, on the night of Friday 11, 2020, and carted away hundreds of students, who were later released – on Thursday 17, 2020 – after a lengthy “negotiation”.
But there is more to the “Kankara saga” than the mysterious abduction and the subsequent release of the students in a week’s time.
The triangular argument of the Katsina State Government, Defence Headquarters and Boko Haram insurgents has raised more questions than answers.
Following the abduction and the excessive pressure it went through, the Katsina State Government said it had entered into negotiation with the “bandits” that abducted the schoolchildren.
According to the state government, village and district heads alongside federal government officials negotiated with the abductors.
Boko Haram’s argument is not less important. The audio clip Abubakar Shekau (maybe an imposter) released claiming responsibility opened a room for another argument.
The insurgent group followed this up with circumstantial evidence in form of a video clip to justify its custody of the victims.
Shekau’s claim frightened concerned Nigerians much more than the abduction of the boys, as minds flashed back to the backlog of students yet to be freed from the insurgents.
The heart-rending video clip, released on 17th December, 2020, showed a distressed student surrounded by a large number of his mates appealing to the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, to cancel the planned rescue operation.
Similarly, the Defence Headquarters on Wednesday 16 December, 2020, said it had received all the necessary briefing from security agencies and the Katsina State Government and the hostages were with the abductors unharmed, but the military was not part of the negotiation.
The military further disclosed that even though there was resistance from the abductors, kinetic and non-kinetic approaches were used to rescue all the boys unhurt.
Boko Haram’s video
Vetting the purported Boko Haram video of the Kankara abducted schoolboys, a security analyst, Kabiru Adamu, said his impression of the video was nothing but propaganda aimed at achieving a motive.
Adamu said: “In the video, you probably heard when the person giving the directives telling the boy to tell his audience to stop attacking Fulanis.
“That is evidence that bandits were behind the clip, because there is an age-old conflict between Hausas and Fulanis in the North West.
“The Fulanis are not happy with some developments in the region, especially as vigilantes continue to attack them.
“In the same video, they said the vigilante should be disbanded. Cleary, it shows us that that is one of the grudges they bear.
“If it were Boko Haram the message is usually ideological and yet they may make some demands.”
Bandits-Boko Haram romance
The fact that the Kankara school abduction was the first bandit abduction of its kind is clear evidence that banditry in the North East is taking quite a different dimension.
The bandits are toeing the path of Boko Haram insurgents and this portends a great security threat to the region.
Adamu added: “It is clear that the bandits are behind the abduction; but maybe they have a form of association with Jama’atu Ahlis-Sunnah lid-Dawati wal-Jihad; but that relationship is very loose and the control Boko Haram has over the bandits is minimal.
“There are several instances to explain that Boko Haram has infiltrated the groups in terms of technical measures and strategy and that is what encouraged the bandits to carry out the (Kankara) abduction.”
Fear in North West
From ordinary skirmishes between the Hausas and Fulani, to cattle-rustling, to solo kidnapping, the security situation in the North West has degenerated to “cluster abduction”.
Speaking on whether the Kankara abduction portends growing wave of insurgency and abduction in the region, Detective Awwal Bala Durumin Iya, the head of Intelligence and Investigation, Yusuf Maitma Sule University, Kano, said government’s failure to take proactive measure is responsible for the increase in the rate of kidnapping in the geopolitical zone.
He said many things are pointing to the fact that Boko Haram might have started recruiting members in Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto states.
“If the government fails to take proactive measures to forestall the increasing cases of banditry in the zone by putting an end to the nascent relationship between bandits and Boko Haram, the future is scary.
“There are many factors at play. There are various claims and counter claims.
“The bandits are destitute, ruined, devastated and are being hunted by the vigilante [groups].
“Their last hope is to stick to their rifles and attack. They can go to any length to survive.
“As desperate as they are, they can easily be brainwashed into being a party to Boko Haram and if that happens more abductions and attacks are inevitable”, Durumin Iya said.
Speaking also on this fear in the geopolitical zone, Kabir Adamu said that the rise in the number of cases of abduction/banditary depends on how the relationship between the two parties is allowed to grow.
According to him, attempts in the past by Boko Haram to gain a foothold in the North West have not been very successful, and that it is very unlikely that the relationship will grow.
“Boko Haram is an ideological movement and the bandits are purely criminal and the driving force is bad governance.
“The bandits are unhappy about the socio-economic condition and good governance can change them.
“Likewise, in terms of the possibility of partnership, this will be very difficult given the motivation and incentive.
“However, a lot can happen as Boko Haram becomes more strategic and flexible. It is not likely Shekau could do that; but Islamists in West Africa, who have proven to be more flexible, may see through that relationship.
“Of course, with that there would be more attacks.
“We will not be surprised if going forward we see more abductions associated with these groups on behalf of Boko Haram or the Islamic State in West Africa,” Adamu said.
Meanwhile, like the question of who really abducted the schoolboys, there are arguments about who secured their release.
But, as these claims and counterclaims rage one of the many questions that Nigerians are looking for answers to is: what has happened/will happen to the perpetrators?