By Olakunle Olafioye
The piece of advice given to the Federal Government by Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi on how to end banditry in the country has been described as satanic and capable of causing much bigger challenge for the nation. A security expert, Jackson Lekan-Ojo Fatoye, likens Gumi’s suggestion for the government to float a faction to break the ranks of the bandits to an attempt to bring an enemy who claimed to have repented into ones’ bedroom.
Fatoye, in this interview gives fresh insight into reasons the war against banditry in parts of the North has not been fought in the same fierce manners the agitators in the South are being dealt with.
He equally spoke on the gathering cloud and mounting fear ahead of 2023 and proffered solutions to the multi-faceted challenge besetting the nation.
The security challenge in Nigeria appears to have defied all known solutions. What would you say is working against efforts to make Nigeria a secured country?
There are ways out of this challenge only if there is the political will by the powers- that- be to really come into the system with a serious intention to curb the highly tense insecurity in the country. Number one cause of insecurity in any part of the world is deprivation. If you keep food in the kitchen and you deprive your children from entering that kitchen without giving them food, a day is coming that they will break the door to the kitchen and dare you to do whatever you want to do because he that is down fears no fall. If somebody is hungry the next thing without food is death. But if the children know that there is food in the kitchen and you deprive them, the moment you leave home they will be ready to go into the kitchen and take the food even more than they would have got if you had given them at the right time. From that moment, the only thing you can use to control them is to make food available to them. In this country, the problem aggravating this challenge of insecurity is widespread poverty. The poverty in the country is so much. A lot of companies have left the country and many still continue to leave in droves, with each of them sending an average of three thousand workers back to the labour market. Michelin left Nigeria with over five thousand workers sent back into the labour market. Is there any other company that has taken the position of that company? Is there any company that has taken the position of Dunlop? Most of these companies continue to leave the country and nobody is doing anything to attract other companies back into the country. How do you attract investors? There is no way any company can work in a serious abnormal situation of insecurity like ours. And what are the reasons these companies are leaving Nigeria? Power is number one. Because money was made available to fix our electricity, but some few people embezzled that money. NEPA was sold to private owners, but up till today the Federal Government is till budgeting for NEPA and despite that nothing is improving. Nigerians now rely on generating sets to power their homes and offices. The cost of diesel for fueling generators is going up daily and becoming unaffordable to the people. The consequence is what we are witnessing now. All these are happening because some people embezzled the money that they ought to have used to improve electricity projects in Nigeria. So, poverty is the root cause of this high level of insecurity.
How can we salvage the situation to prevent it from degenerating further?
Unfortunately, corruption is still a major problem in the country. We must realize that when people begin to die of hunger, they will be ready to take to self-help. We should not forget that self-help will always bring about anarchy and all these abnormal situations that are facing us now in Nigeria. Secondly, we see agitations here and there. There are so many indecent people that are ready to infiltrate these people with evil intentions. Some of them are just looking for ways to steal, loot and kidnap. What is the cause of these agitations? It is because there are no equitable distribution of power and resources. Sunday Igboho, for instance, is of the view that the Yoruba are not being given their fair share in the country. Similarly, Nnamdi Kanu also realized that the Igbo are not being treated well and equitably in the country, so he decided to take to agitation. To start with, the underlining causes of these problems must be properly addressed by the government. If there was no agitation from the Southeast, there would be no burning down of police stations and offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission, (INEC). Those responsible for these actions have the brief of their sponsors who had instructed them to go deadly in their mission. What is happening in the Southeast is going to draw Nigeria backward. All burnt police stations and INEC offices must be rebuilt. All arms and ammunition they are stealing must be replaced by the government. We are talking about another billion of naira. But the destruction that has trailed the agitation in the Southeast is unnecessary. But why are these people agitating? It is because the people are being deprived of what is due to them. Where you are supposed to get five, you are getting one and another person that ought to get five like you is getting nine. Definitely people are bound to revolt and when you revolt a lot of people are going to have sympathy for you. At the end of the day, the problem will escalate. No matter how peaceful you plan to agitate, there will always be sympathizers that are ready to go wild. There is no protest that will not affect the economy adversely. What the government should do now is to call the agitators, their traditional rulers, religious leaders and have a serious talk with them.
You have identified deprivation as the major cause of the problem in the South, what do you make of the banditry ravaging parts of the North?
There is pervasive poverty in the northern part of the country. Can you identify any serious company or organization in the northern part of this country today? When Boko Haram came, they ravaged farmlands. Don’t forget that the major occupation in the North is farming, but the people can no longer go to their farms due to insecurity. The bandits will kidnap and government will pay ransom. At times, individual will be left to pay ransom to get their kidnapped loved ones released. Of course, we have a military that is capable of reining in these bandits, but they won’t do that until they are given the directive to storm the forests where these bandits are operating to fish them out. Has there been any order to the military to storm, let’s say the forest in Katsina and ravage the bandits there? The same thing in Zamfara. Now, it has reared its ugly head in Niger State. What is the government of the day doing? What are the people in the National Assembly doing? To me, I see a government that is not willing to stop this insecurity. And if this lingers beyond now, then there will be more trouble come 2023. Sunday Igboho is going round to tell people that there won’t be election in 2023; IPOB is saying the same thing. As it appears, Nigeria may be heading for the father and the mother of insecurity in 2023. I urge the Federal Government to call a serious security summit. They should invite security experts, serving and retired military and paramilitary officers, religious leaders, and traditional rulers to proffer solution to tackle this menace. The problem has gone beyond what the only Federal Government can handle.
Why do you think the military has not been given the order to tackle banditry in the North?
That is what a lot of Nigerians are still worried about. Senator Sheu Sanni sometimes ago said: “When it comes to the legislative and the judiciary arm, the presidency would send insecticide, but when it concerns the executive arm, the presidency would send deodorants. The terrible havocs bandits have wreaked in the Northwest, the agitators in the Southwest and Southeast cannot do it in the next 20 years. Yet the Federal Government has not deemed it fit to proscribe or declared them as terrorists. IPOB had not done anything by the time it was proscribed in the Southeast than to protest. An attempt has been made to arrest Sunday Igboho, but I think they have been advised that the consequence could be brutal and that was probably why they stopped that. The cooking pot for chameleon ought to be the same cooking pot for lizard because they have the same shape. The way they are treating IPOB and the way they attempt to treat Sunday Igboho, they should also treat the most notorious group in the country, the bandits, likewise. Those they refer to as bandits are worst than Boko Haram terrorists, but they have not been declared terrorists. You have two children and one stole meat while the other only drank water. You rubbed the one who stole meat on the head, but brought your gun against the one who drank water. If they are not of the same mother, you can be sure that the mother of the one who stole the water would react very badly. I don’t know why Sheik Gumi could go to the forest and locate these bandits, but our security forces have not been able to locate the whereabouts of these bandits. Definitely, there is something behind it. And until what is amiss is corrected there won’t be any improvement.
What is your take on Gunmi’s advice that the Federal Government should sponsor splinter banditry group to fight the other group as a way of ending banditry?
There is nothing like splinter bandit group. What they meant by that is that some of them should be invited and given money and other things in order to kill the other group. These bandits have made up their minds; they are satanically minded. What will happen is that any information you give to them will be relayed to the other group and that will be the worst thing that will happen to Nigeria. It is like bringing your enemy who claimed to have repented into your bedroom. The advice is satanic. I don’t see any reason the government is yet to arrest Sheik Gunmi by now.