The Wild Wild North

Since the debut of an American TV series, The Wild Wild West, in 1965, the title of the film or a variant of it has been borrowed to depict a raging real-life violence. Nigeria’s political crisis in the South West in the 60s, aptly named Wild Wild West, depicted the violence and breakdown of law and order in the region.

But Northern Nigeria is now holding the baton of crisis, passing it within itself – from Boko Haram terrorists to Fulani bandits. Since the birth of Boko Haram in the last decade, the relatively peaceful region has been on the brink. While Boko Haram conflagration ravages the North East, the inferno of Fulani banditry slowly consumes the North West and North Central.

Nothing depicts failure of a government than a breakdown of law and order. In a July 23, 2016 interview in the Punch, one of the political actors of the Wild Wild West crisis, Ayo Adebanjo, presented the graphic detail of the violence and attributed it to failure of the democratic government.

“In fact because of Operation Weti e, some people began to label the people of the Western Region as being violent; they said that we in the West started the culture of violence. And my answer was that the violence did not just arise, it arose after the democratic system had failed…”

Professor Jibrin Ibrahim in his Friday column of May 31, 2019 in Daily Trust also painted a similar picture, attributing the widespread violence to failure of government. “The explosion of armed robbery, mass kidnapping and petty crimes all over the country is a statement from the masses that they are fed up with a country in which national resources are being fought for openly and shared by different factions of the elite and no one is doing anything for the masses. The spike in insecurity is therefore a statement that if the elite are engaged in self-help, the masses too would follow them and play the game. It is in this context that the circulation of small arms and light weapons has escalated as the youth in particular decide to adopt the slogan of one of the political parties of the Second Republic – “You Chop, I Chop”

According to Section 14 (2)b of the Nigerian Constitution, the welfare and security of the citizens shall be the PRIMARY PURPOSE of the government. (Emphasis mine). Security is a compulsory requirement for government to provide to its citizens. Without security of lives and property, food security is also threatened as farmers abandon their farmlands in some parts of the North because of insecurity. Solving security problem is like solving/answering a compulsory question in exams. Even if Buhari were to score high on economy, healthcare and education, his overall ranking would be low due to his very poor attempt at the compulsory question – security. The failure of the Buhari administration to solve the security equation in four years shows irredeemable case of administrative dyslexia.

The North is becoming a Siberia in the Sudan Savannah. Vast arable lands cutting a swath through Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, etc lie fallow, not for the purpose of restoring soil fertility but due to climate of fear. Our fertile land for growing grains and legumes is now a fertile ground for breeding new crop of terrorists and bandits.

A recent TV report in Niger Republic has it that more than 20,000 Nigerians from Sokoto and Zamfara states have fled to Maradi in Niger Republic as incidences of kidnapping, banditry and armed robbery rise in the areas. The governor of Maradi, Zakiri Umar, said the refugees fled to their country due to rising insecurity in the Sokoto/Zamfara axis. The UNHCR, the Sokoto State government and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), have corroborated the TV report recently with near-corresponding figures.

The bandits in the North are so daring that in April 2016, they kidnapped and killed a serving army colonel. In March last year, the daredevils killed 11 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on a Nigerian military detachment at Kamfanin Doka, along Funtua road in Birnin Gwari Local Government Area of Kaduna State. In October 2017, the Divisional Police Officer of Sarkin Pawa Divisional Headquarters in Niger State, Aliyu Amos, was kidnapped by bandits. In September of the same year, an Assistant Commissioner of Police serving in Zamfara State, Emmanuel Adeniyi, was kidnapped by bandits while driving along Dandume/Birnin Gwari road on his way back to Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State.

It is clear that President Buhari’s ready-made panacea for the problem is to appoint Northerners to head the country’s security agencies, although this bias did not add any pragmatic value to solving the acute security challenge in the region in the last four years. In the very eyes of the Northern security chiefs, kidnappers have almost taken over the  Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, Birnin Gwari, Zamfara and now Katsina villages. The bandits had made mincemeat out of ex-IGP Ibrahim Idris’ Intelligent Response Team (IRT), Special Tactical Squad (STS), Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Anti-Kidnapping Units, Police Mobile Force (PMF) and Counter-terrorism Units.

As is the tradition, the new IGP Mohammed Adamu recently launched his brainchild operation and named it after a sluggish African viper, puff adder, known for hissing loudly in the face of danger! Less than a month after Operation Puff Adder was launched by the IGP along the Abuja-Kaduna Expressway, the kidnappers abducted dozens of travellers, including the chairman of Universal Basic Education Commission, Dr Muhammed Mahmood and his daughter.

If Nigeria’s Aso Rock were to be attacked – perish the thought – say twice in quick succession the whole security heads at the State House would be sacked pronto. But when Boko Haram and bandits overran villages, killed and abducted citizens, the army chief or police boss will hardly receive a query let alone sack letter. But why are our leaders insensitive to the plight of common man? If a thief broke your padlock and gained access into into your house, you don’t weld the damaged locks but change the locks entirely. No man is indispensable.

The president is not setting a good precedent by allowing the heads of Nigeria’s security agencies to remain in office in face of their conspicuous failure. While such action dampens the morale of other officers in the succession line, it also makes the security chiefs complacent due to absence of fear for sack or sanction.

In his characteristic blame shifting, President Muhammadu Buhari last week said decades of neglect and resource mismanagement have led the nation into deep poverty and insecurity. But these were his words for ages! Now that he spent four years in the saddle without solving the problem of security in Nigeria or defeating the “ragtag” criminals called Boko Haram terrorists, he should be humble enough to accept responsibility. The hypocrisy of Nigerians is a special breed, a hybrid. Under Goodluck Jonathan, the buck stopped at the president’s desk but under Buhari, the buck stops at former Nigerian leaders’ desk.

Starting the “Next Level” with a junket to Saudi Arabia does not show signs that the aerophile leader has turned over a new leaf. His excessive love for travelling out of the country (even when the nation is on fire) cannot solve Nigeria’s problems. We are not facing any foreign policy challenge but local policy challenge. Nobody appointed Nigeria to broker peace between Washington and Tehran. Nigeria is not a nuclear-weapon state and poses no danger to the West. The only danger, I believe, is the immigration issue, which a minister or diplomatic officials can be delegated to solve. President Buhari lacks persuasive marketing skills to woo any serious investor. You can’t tell the world that Nigerians are criminals and expect investment in a den of criminals.

At the “Next Level”, we are only praying that the president will listen to us by paying attention to internal problems affecting us not external problems affecting others.

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