Insecurity: Masari, El-Rufai, What Has Changed? – THISDAY Newspapers

By Joseph Ushigiale
It is no longer a matter of conjecture that Nigeria is at war on its northern flank comprising Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, and Niger states. This war is not between Nigeria and an external aggressor but internal, provoked by violent extremists known as Boko Haram. Although the authorities have equally blamed the worsening violence on outside influence especially on some neighboring countries currently witnessing upheavals and also infiltrations from ISWAP and mercenaries from Chad, Yemen, and Libya; the immediate cause of insurgency was the 2009 extrajudicial killing in Maiduguri, Borno State by the police of Mallam Mohammed Yusuf, the terrorist Islamist leader of Boko Haram whose preachings were against western education.
According to different sources including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), between 2009 to date, over 350,000 persons have been killed directly and indirectly by the terrorist group. Another three million people according to the United Nations Commission for High Commission for Refugees (UNCHR) have been displaced while another 310,000 have become refugees in their own country with some fleeing to neighboring countries as far as Chad and Cameroun.
While the federal government through successive administrations since from the days of late President Umaru Yar’Adua embrace his policy engagement and amnesty for the Niger Delta militants who were agitating for resource control as a result of neglect by the federal government to put in place lasting solutions that would bring succor to the devastating effects of crude oil and gas exploration which remain Nigeria’s main revenue earner.
The killing of Mohammed Yusuf in 2009 turned the tables unleashing unprecedented violence resulting in killings and abduction of innocent citizens across the affected states. The former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration unsuccessfully mobilized the armed forces to flush out the insurgents who continue to grow and occupied swathes of territories in Borno State.
But the more government deployed men and resources to rid the affected northern states of the insurgents, the more the insurgents grew in number and became emboldened to challenge the multinational forces comprising of Chad, Niger, and Camerounian forces.
As the cankerworm festered, tongues started wagging and questions were being asked about who were the sponsors of these insurgents? The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Obadiah Mailafia, told one of the television networks that “one of the northern governors is the Commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Obadiah explained that “Some of us also have our intelligence networks. I have met with some of the bandits; we have met with some of their high commanders, one or two who have repented, they have sat down with us not once, not twice. They told us that one of the Northern governors was the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. They have a sophisticated network. During this lockdown, their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown. They were moving ammunition, moving money, and distributing them across different parts of the country.”
His expose earned him an invitation by the Department of State Services (DSS) and probably a reprimand. However, there have been two governors who evidently were perceived to be romancing with the bandits and insurgents. The governors of Kaduna and Katsina States, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai and Alhaji Aminu Masari had through both their utterances and actions clearly favored a soft landing for the insurgents notwithstanding their level of damage inflicted on society.
In one of his treatises, El Rufai posited that IPOB was more dangerous than both Boko Haram and the bandits because, according to him, the Leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu was agitating for the country’s break up while Boko Haram and the bandits were purely in business for pecuniary gains.
According to him, “Nnamdi Kanu is the Leader of IPOB, a proscribed organization. He is identifiable in constant communication, and everyone knows where he is. Let us take Boko Haram, for instance. Shekau was in hiding, and for the past 10 years, and the Military had been waging war to get him. It is not like Shekau was in Saudi Arabia, sitting in one place, tweeting about the breakup of Nigeria, or asking Boko Haram to go and kill Helen and Nasir El-Rufai.”
He also noted that while Kanu could be located at a place and identified as the leader of IPOB, the reverse is the case with Boko Haram and the bandits whom he claims have no leader and are engaged in guerrilla warfare with the government.
Hear him: “Nnamdi Kanu is in one place, while Shekau is waging guerrilla warfare. The insurgency is still going on and the Federal Government is not giving up. Regarding bandits, they are not centralized under one Leadership. Who is the Head of the bandits? Who is the equivalent of Nnamdi Kanu with banditry? Bandits are just collections of independent criminals. It is a business for them. It is not a case of ‘Nigeria must break up’. I want to challenge anyone to tell me the Central Leader of bandits in the same position as Kanu.”
Not done, the governor was to shock the entire country including the people of his Southern Kaduna communities when he said he had paid some Fulani militia to stop the incessant killings in the area. “For southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) to find out what was going on there. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence.
“Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March, April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries. Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them.
“Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with the cattle. So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organized themselves and came back to revenge. “So a lot of what was happening in Southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria.
“We took certain steps. We got a group of people that were going round trying to trace some of these people in Cameroon, Niger republic and so on to tell them that there is a new governor who is Fulani like them and has no problem paying compensations for lives lost and he is begging them to stop killing.” El Rufai asserted.
Masari, on the other hand, began a two-year amnesty programme for the bandits whom he claimed had repented and surrendered over 400 AK 47 guns and other assorted weaponry including returning over 36,000 rustled cows, donkeys, camels, and horses.
In a historic pronouncement after the negotiations, a triumphant Masari announced that “The negotiation is yielding results. Now I can say over 80 percent of people under captivity in Katsina State have been released. So, in terms of group kidnapping, I can only remember that right now (we have) only 13 people that we are searching for.
“We have only 13 people. But in terms of massive attacks, since we started, there was no single massive attack on any village or any community. By my account, about 57 people have been released by them, most of them women and young children. Among them even are nationals of Niger Republic.”
In an elaborate peace plan laid out by Masari, he said “The next step is the issue of disarming the bandits and commanders in the forest that command 200, 300, 400 fighters, fully armed on motorbikes. The first stage is about the release of some of them that were not even convicted or even charged to court and by the time they release all those people under their captivity, we will start reconciliation between them and their neighbors.”
Today however all agreements, negotiations have completely collapsed and the governors have made a volte-face turnaround are all singing different tunes. While one is calling on the federal government to deploy technology through drones and physically eliminate the criminals, the other is asking citizens to resort to self-help to protect themselves from the criminals.
El-Rufai recently advocated the total annihilation of the bandits stating that “Our position as governors and we are unanimous in this because we, the governors of the northern states, met with the president on this subject…our unanimous position is to annihilate the bandits. We must go into these woods, where no one is innocent, and simply destroy all. That’s the only way to put a stop to it.”
On adopting technology, El-Rufai posited that: “I think the security agencies also need more advanced technology. The Air force needs more drones. Drones are much cheaper than planes, and there are drones now that can carry missiles. But drones can be more targeted, more selective, and quiet. And drones can also fly in circumstances that airplanes cannot due to bad weather.”
According to him, “We need the combination of airpower, and we need troops on the ground augmented by local expertise and knowledge. We need just one, two, three months of operation just to kill all these bandits. It’s the only way to stop this. So the only option that we have is to ensure that we kill them all.”
Rationalizing why he is putting his earlier plans in reverse mode, Masari blamed the criminals for reneging on the agreement “They could not honor the agreement, they betrayed us. He insisted that ”We choose to sign a peace agreement with the bandits so as to avoid loss of lives and properties, but it didn’t yield a positive result. This time around we will hand it over to security personnel.
Explaining how the state government kept to its own side of the bargain, Masari explained that “As a result of the peace agreement, the government banned vigilante groups and identified cattle routes and facilitated free movements of bandits to convey their livestock in the markets.”
The governor said now that they have chosen to renege on the agreement, the only option open is the elim-ination of the boastful bandits’ leaders which would send clear mes-sages to their foot soldiers and boost people’s morale; adding that “The leaders are known; their hideouts are known, they even appear on social media boasting about their criminal exploits. This makes it easier for the secu-rity to reach them and elim-inate them”.
Like El-Rufai, Masari also advised the security agencies to fully embrace the use of technol-ogy in fighting banditry and other criminalities, saying “you don’t have the number to cover everywhere; there-fore the use of technology will cover the gap.”
Masari also said the reason he asked citizens of the state to carry arms and defend themselves against bandits was to ensure that the citizens do not fold their arms and allow the bandits to kill them without any form of resistance; noting that since there is no adequate security personnel to guard every community, and hardly a day passes without innocent people being killed by bandits or abducted, citizens have the option of resorting to self-help to defend themselves against the criminals.
The governor said it was very important for the people to rise up and support the government effort in challenging the criminals; adding that “apart from the money we are spending on security, hardly a day passes by without a person being killed or kidnapped. No single day, although the situation is not as bad as it was last year.”
The lessons deducible from the trial and error attempts to pacify the criminals by both El Rufai and Masari are that criminals are driven by greed and are stuck in their heinous ways to kill, maim, steal, rape, and destroy. They hardly change and because they stand for nothing other than their pecuniary interest, any agreement signed with them is clearly an exercise in futility, it would eventually collapse like it did in Katsina.
There is also a reason why these criminals were pampered and are perhaps being treated with kid gloves in the north. It is not unconnected with the seething anger in the north over the successful implementation of the amnesty programme for repentant Niger Delta militants.
The thinking in the north is that since the repentant Niger Delta militants were not killed even though they took up arms against the government, the criminals ravaging the north, most of who are foreign Fulanis should also be compensated. But the question is: compensated by extending amnesty to them for what reason?
Why the Niger Delta militants had clear grievances bordering on environmental degradation they still suffer as a by-product of crude oil and gas exploration, what are the criminals in the north fighting for? Some like Sheik Abubakar Gumi argue that they have been neglected by the government and the question is how has the government neglected them?
Cattle rearing and nomadic lifestyle is the way of life or culture of the Fulani. While modernity has transformed cattle rearing as a business through the adoption of technology and ranching, the Fulani tribesmen have refused to change with the times, choosing instead to retain its archaic culture like a talisman.
Without a doubt, what the Fulani are claiming is nothing short of entitlement and this is simply because a Fulani man is President and is bending over even breaking the law to appease his tribesmen. Had a different person from another tribe been president, the evident blatant disregard for the Constitution, threats from Miyetti Allah to constituted authorities could never have manifested.
Talking about the use of drones, it all boils down to the political will to do the needful. When Gumi pins the blame of the killing of bandits, kidnappers, and Boko Haram insurgents on southern soldiers and propagates the agenda that northern insurgents are not as dangerous as Niger Delta, militants and northern insurgents and criminals are embraced as brothers, deploying drones would be interpreted to mean you are deploying them to kill a fellow northerner.
While drones have been deployed to more fierce frontlines and have proven themselves as remarkable replacements and alternatives to foot soldiers because of their capability and capacity. Drones are precise, will save our soldiers from harm’s way, and deal summarily with any security challenge as seen in advanced countries. In Nigeria, it will remain a pipe dream and wishful thinking. It will never happen.
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