By Hassan Gimba
I believe Nigerians should no longer accept to be fooled by those who use their sentiments to get into office. We must not forget yesterday if we want to correct our today for our tomorrow to be great.
On March 26, 2018, when we warned on this page under the screaming headline, ‘Mr President, Nigeria is at War!’, some powerful figures had since told us they had given money to (or empowered the) enemies of Nigeria “to stop banditry”!
But it is on record that we said: “Nigeria is in a state of war but it looks as if we are taking things lightly…We have been at war for quite a long time but it became even more apparent with the return of the Dapchi girls. There was a real ceasefire when the girls were returned, the type we see in areas that are in a state of war, like Syria, Columbia with the FARC rebels, and in parts of Congo and Uganda, where the Lord’s Resistance Army operates.
“But the president was quoted ordering his service chiefs not to allow the abductions of schoolgirls again. A citizen, in the first place, would expect the president to tell his service chiefs not to allow the abduction of any citizen, not only schoolgirls (forget that many schoolgirls from various schools have since been abducted – some ‘married’ off by their abductors). All citizens are citizens and want to feel equal before the law or before the eyes of their president.
“Farmers and voiceless Nigerians are being abducted by those who have declared war on Nigeria, but we have allowed them to play the music while we dance to the tunes.
“And it is this sort of thinking by governments that makes the militants strong. The ordinary citizen sees them as strong and comes to see that their government cannot protect them. It makes the citizen lose confidence in the country. Little wonder some abducted Nigerians have switched allegiance or hail the terrorists (as happened in Dapchi) as ‘saviours’ because the people of Dapchi and elsewhere saw the power that should lie with their government being exercised by enemies of the state.” Yet they did not heed, and now nowhere is safe.
Nigerians should note that on December 7, 2020, under the topic ‘Mr President, Let’s Call In The Chadians!’, we said: “Pride, lies, sentiments, emotions, burying our head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich will not take us anywhere. If we continue this way, we may end up with nowhere to hide. Boko Haram remains a menace, bandits and kidnappers now prowl our streets, and armed robbers rob at will. Already, travelling by road is at significant risk.
“We should come down from our high horse if we do not want our sovereignty taken away by brigands. We should contract Chad to come in and help while we form a wall to stop them (Boko Haram) from escaping into the country. Or else we call in the mercenaries.”
Those who should have supported this view didn’t, but now since they want cheap votes, they are cashing in on our fears and calling for foreign mercenaries to fight the monsters they strengthened, after giving them the financial muscle to become this powerful.
They kept paying money to the bandits – their confessions – even sending messages to them in Niger Republic and Mali. When they became strong, they teamed up with Boko Haram and started this spate of kidnappings, and now, nowhere is safe.
When the Kankara boys were kidnapped, I wrote, in December 2020, under ‘Kankara And The Postponed Dawn’: “I have always insisted that Boko Haram and the North-West pillagers are the same but wearing different togas…we need to take back our once beautiful, safe and hospitable country, for the sake of our children.”
What were those just “realising”, after giving them lots of money, that the bandits are Boko Haram doing? Let us pray our mumu don do and we will tell them that now we know them.
But move on, we must. Proffering solutions should be our concern. Previous writings, however, show that all along, we have been offering solutions for free. We may want to read my write-ups: Boko Haram’s Resurgence and Jonathan’s Magic Wand 1 and 2.
In January this year, writing with the title ‘Banditry and our Quest for Leadership’, we said: “One solution is for the government to organise a people’s militia that will flush out all those marauders. That strategy proved successful in both Iraq and Syria. Here in Nigeria, some communities have stood eyeball to eyeball with bandits and insurgents and, as a result, found themselves some peace. Biu, in Borno State and Azare, in Bauchi State, readily come to mind.
“It can encourage each local government to muster at least 5,000 of its youth to be trained to confront the bandits. The Nigerian government should transform the war against the bandits into a people’s war for self-defence.
“We must take the battle to every inch of space occupied by bandits. Possibly, all settlements in the bush should be cleared and moved to the main roads.” We said this before populist politicians started talking about bombing bushes now that they will start seeking votes.
Still writing under ‘Kankara and The Postponed Dawn’, we presented a quote from Confucius as another viable solution: ‘Excessive wealth creates haughtiness (arrogance). Excessive poverty leads to envy. Envy leads to robbery. Haughtiness leads to lawlessness. This is the nature of the mass of the people. Therefore, the wise rulers institute humane government so that the rich be restrained and not become too greedy, and the poor will then have enough sustenance and not worry about their daily food. In this way, there is a balance between the poor and the rich. Therefore, it is easy to govern and maintain order.”
Again, writing under the title, ‘Mandela and the parable of the Fulani’, we said: “But there is also something wrong with the North. It lacks a leader, lacks focus, and lacks vision. Most of the Fulani terrorising Nigeria now could have long been engineers, medical doctors, professors, etc. The regime of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida started what it christened nomadic education. Under it, there were many things involved that could change the way the Fulani lived. But because most of our leaders are short-sighted and prioritise lining their pockets, they never took that programme seriously. Now, with all the money they have sliced for themselves, those who should have been professionals today will not allow them to enjoy it.” And, therefore, nowhere is safe.
“For God’s sake,” we went on, “what will it take to create ranches to settle the Fulani herders and provide every facility that would add value to their lives and livelihood? Why should someone move cattle from Mali to Osogbo or Obudu and, worse of all, leave cries of woes behind him? Apart from being fair to them as human beings, the cattle will have more quality when bred in one place than subjecting them to the stress of trekking hundreds of kilometers and feeding on just anything. And there is the assurance of minimising crime.
“Such persons cannot realise that being proactive is the only way to help the Fulani. Through proper management of cattle colonies, a cow can bring three to four times its value than when transported live to the South. A well-managed ranch can produce and process hide and skin, milk, butter, gum, fertilizer, animal feed, etc., and this will give them greater bargaining power and more money.
“Again, the North is just reactive. The typical northerner not only continues his life the way he has been living it but casts an eye on others as if he is their guardian angel. When they say Fulani must pack out, he comes out bristling with fury and gives southerners an ultimatum to leave his land as well. When they form Amotekun, he becomes agitated, red-eyed and prances about akin to a cow in heat and forms a paper tiger Shege Ka Fasa. If some riff-raff from the South says ‘we will ban eating of cow meat’, the northern rabble-rouser, like someone on a short fuse, shrieks that ‘we will not take cows to the South’. And he uses all these gimmicks to line his pockets because, after a few days, you hear nothing from him again until the next move from the South. But the plight of the Fulani, North or Nigeria does not concern him.
“But beyond all these, the federal government needs to up its game. Many of our problems are because of poor government policies. A lot of Nigerians feel either neglected or short-changed by their government. There is a belief in many quarters that they have been neglected, while a certain breed of citizens is being favoured. Such perceptions by people have to be changed. And it is only the government that can do that through deliberate policies meant to restore the people’s confidence in it.”
Writing in ‘Are We Now Blaming the Victim?’, on December 14, 2020, we said: “By the way, can’t the Federal Government enact a law to the effect that for any criminal arrested with an unregistered SIM card or for any crime perpetrated in which an unregistered SIM card was used for communication, the network provider should be sanctioned? Such ideas might be undemocratic. However, Joseph Goebbels once said: ‘It will always be one of the best jokes of democracy that it gives its deadly enemies the means to destroy it.'”
We also pointed to another way when on February 12, 2020, while on the topic, ‘Of ex-corps member Amuta, Coronavirus and Auno Carnage’, we wrote about the unexpected news of Abraham Amuta, a former youth corps member in the clutches of Boko Haram who renounced his Nigerian citizenship for that of the group that was holding him.
“Abducted by Boko Haram insurgents in April 2019, Amuta reportedly rejected an offer to be freed by the terrorists, telling negotiators who went to the Sambisa Forest to secure his release to go back home, saying he had renounced his Christian faith and is now a member of Boko Haram.
“However, we need to look deeper to understand the situation, and perhaps our nation would see the need to rise and have every citizen’s back. And knowing Nigerians, whatever made Citizen Amuta stay back will not be an issue for long because, soon, he will be forgotten and we shall all move on. We are a forgetful lot. Nothing occupies our thoughts for long.
“The way the innocent child sees his father as a superhero who will give him protection is the way the innocent citizen considers his country. Those Chibok girls have realised the hard way that, in Nigeria, life goes on. Conversely, those under the captivity of the terrorists, being of impressionable ages, would have seen the ‘strength’ in the bandits and could have savoured the ‘adventure’. Any wonder why some refused to return? They no longer have respect for a government or society that cannot protect its own. And sadly so, the average citizen sees all this and loses hope.
“All those abducted by Boko Haram naturally expect their country to come to their rescue. This, of course, does not countenance the fact that our army has recorded exceptional feats by freeing many abducted victims. The issue is that every abducted citizen deserves to be freed by his country. The means matter little; their freedom is the ultimate.”