“I stand before you, sir, to say that there is good opportunity coming. The election is near. We serve them notice again that we will not relent in our efforts to eliminate banditry. I can assure you that will be our priority.”
Those were the words of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, expressed as a promise, at the palace of the Emir of Birnin Gwari, Mallam Zubairu Maigwari, during his recent campaign tour to Kaduna State. On that day, the Emir appreciated Tinubu’s visit with a turban on him as the Dakare of Birnin Gwari. Tinubu was not alone on that trip. He was accompanied by chieftains of the party, including its governorship candidate in the state, Sen. Uba Sani, whose mindset Tinubu simply echoed. The trip has been underscored as Tinubu’s daring move into a den that many dare not challenge. However, what has not been said is that the success of the trip to Birnin Gwari was a testament to the ability of the state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, to tame the evil monster of banditry using every government-approved means.
It is, therefore, debatable if Tinubu could have taken the ride into Birnin Gwari about a year earlier. Birnin Gwari is known as the heartbeat of criminals, nicknamed bandits, in the state. They have been engaged in cattle rustling, arson, murder, kidnapping for ransom, and all sorts crimes. They make life and living in the Birnin Gwari area a hell of a type. But the quarterly security incident report on Kaduna State, published by the Ministry of Internal Security and Homeland Affairs, indicated a very significant drop in the incidence of violent crime occasioning bloodshed in the state for the period covering the third quarter of 2022. The statistics are expected to record a further drop in such incidence, across the state, in the fourth quarter of the year ending December 2022. This is something like a promise kept. It is also a promise for the future.
El-Rufai had said at the public presentation of the second and third quarter reports on November 4, 2022, an event held at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, with traditional rulers, ministers, military and para-military chiefs in attendance, that: “The figures show a pattern of reductions in the gravity of security incidents in the second and third quarters of 2022, compared to the first quarter. This is a consequence of the intensification of offensive security operations against the bandits in recent months. We have for years called for a comprehensive and sustained assertion of the prerogatives of the state, through combined air and ground military and police operations. This is the most effective way to protect our people, uphold law and order and enhance the ability of our people to the peaceful pursuit of their livelihoods.”
Though El-Rufai calls for further stringent military action on the criminals in the area, his achievements in this regard help set the tone for political discourse, campaigns, and engagement with the people. It also paves the way for his successor, who is seen to have undergone tutelage in the art and science of leadership of a state as strategic but heavily polarized along religious lines, like Kaduna. For his successor to match his feat, El-Rufai recommends continued action at suppressing and eliminating banditry in the state. This is an agenda that seeks to reform the social infrastructure system of the state and win more youths away from banditry and sundry crimes.
He said: “We thank the Federal Government for finally authorising the launch of these military and police offensives. We commend the military and security forces for their efforts and sacrifices as they work to uproot the criminals. I wish to stress that in this region, this vital mission requires a comprehensive and consistent sweep, across the Northwest and Niger State for sustained success. For us, that is the abiding lesson of the security operations that were launched in 2015/2016, as a collaboration between the states in the area and the Federal Government. The initial success that operation recorded in the Kamuku-Kuyambana forest ranges was not consolidated through continuous operations and the criminal elements were thus able to recover, regroup and resume.”
Somehow, this pushback bites harder on the bandits. Though their self-acclaimed spokesman, Sheik Ahmed Gumi, has voiced out their frustration and warned them not to “vote for those who will fight bandits” but to “vote for those who, after attaining power, will call and negotiate with our people (bandits) so as to give them what they want for peace to reign”, most people in Kaduna State believe that the APC candidate is best suited to find a clever way around the banditry challenge by creatively engaging the youths away from the forests.
However, though some persons see Gumi’s comment as a morale booster for the bandits, it still does not nullify the fact that Kaduna has become a lot more peaceful in recent days, and especially in the days after the train attack in March 2022. That in itself is a testimonial to the fact that the approach adopted by El-Rufai, in association with the federal government, has proved to be effective though there is a need to put more boots on the ground and increase the capacity of the security forces to outnumber and rout the bandits from their forest hideouts. This need is not only urgent for Kaduna but also for states in the southeastern part of Nigeria where non-state actors are equally pushing peace-loving Nigerians to the brink of hopelessness.
The reduction in incidents of violent crime in Kaduna State, which has been a USP of the El-Rufai government going into the February election, and a very positive campaign talking point for his would-be successor, has, however, been punctuated by the recent bandit attacks on some communities in the state. The attacks are now further justifications for El-Rufai’s persistent call for the creation of a theater command in the North West with, the area of operation extending into Niger State.
I guess that is one thing that Nigerians, and indeed, the people of Kaduna State want –the restoration of peace to their state. This is one area of serious concern for El-Rufai’s successor. Most people in the state are agreed that he has the capacity, competence and commitment to galvanise and achieve the necessary political support, across the senatorial zones of the state, to achieve lasting peace in the state by capturing and redirecting the minds of youths who had been misguided to take up arms against the state. As El-Rufai said, Uba Sani is even prepared to deploy private resources towards achieving this, building further from where he is signing off and making Kaduna a more peaceful state for all, irrespective of religion and ethnic leaning.