I am not in any way surprised that Mr. Bello Masari, the governor of Katsina State, openly confessed his helplessness in managing the security challenge faced by those who massively elected him to lead them. This is because he only gambled his way to office without a deep knowledge of what it means to administer a state. Get my drift? Masari, like many others of his ilk, is a product of the ‘2015 Buhari effect,’ which swept many unprepared people into office as governors even when they did not have plans or programmes to advance the cause of those states. As have seen in his confusion, his complete lack of understanding of the management of the security challenge facing his state has forced him to take decisions he now regrets.
Masari, not too long ago, made a public spectacle of himself posing for photographs with an armed leader of the ‘bandits’ in Katsina. On that day, he told Nigerians that he had reached an agreement with the rapacious murderers to stop their thirst for blood and money. He was so sure that he had scored a most important point in negotiating with a criminal gang to down their weapons. Though he did not disclose details of the negotiations, but it is understandable, from his confessions, that the agreement couldn’t have been possible without some payment. In other words, the bandits must have made some money from him before they agreed to fool him. Coming out at this time to throw his hands up in the air is an indication that the agreement broke down probably because free cash is no longer available to buy peace from the bandits. This is one effect of COVID-19 on the economy of states.
Sadly, this is the reason for the resurgence of banditry and terrorism in parts of the country, which in two weeks had taken more lives than COVID-19 did in two months. The reality of insecurity in Nigeria expresses itself as indication of failed strategies of which buying peace with cash has been one. Classically, everyone knows that there cannot be a perfect conspiracy. Therefore, when a governor conspires with criminal gangs to buy peace, he inadvertently tells the gangs, and its principal actors, that there will always be another payment. That probably is why Masari said, “I don’t know what to tell them.”
That comment is deep. To my mind, it means he had told the bandits all that he could to make them keep their guns down. It also means that he had told people of the state, all that he could, to assure them that the bandits won’t hit them again. Now, even as Chief Security Officer of Katsina State, he has nothing else to tell them.
He further said: “I cannot look at them in the face because we have failed to protect them, contrary to our pledge to ensure the security of lives and property throughout the state. I never expected the behaviour and the attitude of people living in the forests, the bandits, whose behaviour is worse than that of animals. In the forest, a lion or tiger kills only when it is hungry and it doesn’t kill all animals, it only kills the one it can eat at a time. But what we see here is that bandits come to town, spray bullets, kill indiscriminately for no purpose and no reasons whatsoever like the recent massacre of people as Faskari and parts of Dandume Local Government Area. They just killed the people.”
That was Masari talking! Here is a state governor expressing his lack of understanding of behavioural pattern of criminals. Does Masari need specialised training in psychology to enable him understand the behaviour of criminal gangs? He has been governor for five years. Isn’t that enough time for him to understand how criminal gangs behave and their modes of operation and, using same information, work with security agencies to be ahead of the gangs? A serious-minded leader would by now be analysing options for an onslaught against the bandits. But Masari says “for me, there are no longer innocent persons in the forests.”
Come with me, please! Do innocent people live in the forest in this present age? Is Masari suggesting that he has been building infrastructure inside the forest for the ‘innocent people’ living there? This line opens a new vista of understanding of the lifestyle of the people in Katsina State. It is not beyond Masari to know the sort of the people that live in the forest because, as governor and chief security officer, he has access to daily security reports. He should know the sort of people living in the forests he mentioned. If he does not have access to such security report, then it is either he is not in charge of his state or the heads of security outfits in the state do not trust him enough to make such reports available to him. If he knows that some people live inside the forest and has not done anything to bring them out and resettle them in open communities, it would mean that he blinded himself to their activities and tacitly approved of it, in which case he has no reason to complain.
Finally, he puts the blame on the Federal Government, insisting that it is the duty of the Federal Government to secure states. Really? A state governor tells us that it is the constitutional duty of the Federal Government to secure states, in a democracy. Masari must be told that it is not just the duty of a state governor to pocket security votes of a state but also to think out of the box in securing life and property. The constitutional mandate of government, for the security and welfare of the people, does not indicate which tier of government manages security and which manages welfare. Masari must begin to see himself as chief security officer of Katsina and also seek proper understanding of the functions of that constitutional role. He cannot elect to manage welfare while the people wait endlessly for the Federal Government to secure them.
What I see in Masari’s confession is actually an admission of incapacity and incompetence in the task of securing Katsina residents. Lack of capacity and incompetence has been signature of the Nigerian leadership, at all levels, since 2015. This has been overshadowed by propaganda that seeks to hide the actual fact from the public. Unfortunately, the situation is like an old leather bag, as you patch it up, it tears from another point. Government has been patching the security situation with half-truths and, at times, no truth at all. The more half-truth it dishes out to the public, the more criminal gangs bust same with action. This suggests that government and the leadership of security apparatchik of the country need to retire to a conclave where each one would look the other in the face and tell him the truth about the inefficient management of security in the country. This has become very necessary and urgent because it is obvious that the post-attack security briefings between the President and service chiefs on one hand, and National Assembly leadership and service chiefs on the other hand, which has been observed with religious dedication, is not yielding the desired outcome.
Despite this, Masari’s confessions is a challenge to Nigerians against electing the unprepared, the incapable and the incompetent to lead them. Like Masari, many of our governors lack the capacity to think through the security challenges facing their states and adopt measures that could stem the wave of killings while awaiting federal forces. Disturbingly, we have armed herdsmen marauding freely in otherwise peaceful fields and unleashing violence on peaceful communities. Those armed herdsmen are already an organised militia that is properly commanded. The adrenalin they unleash on peaceful communities could be redirected into protecting villages in Katsina and other places that are facing ‘bandits’ attacks. That way, they become useful agents. Not the terrorists they currently are.