Elders and leaders of thought of Nigeria are worried. They are scared stiff that insecurity is driving the country to the precipice. The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Afenifere, Ohanaeze, Middle Belt Forum and Pan-Niger Delta Forum have been speaking. They are united in their position that Nigeria is drifting under the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari.
The spokesman of NEF, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, has been particularly forthright. He has said in very clear terms that the President has failed. He wants the President to seek the assistance of a select group of Nigerians who will help him to point the way out and the way forward. According to Baba-Ahmed, the evils we are fighting today, namely, kidnapping and banditry, were not there a few years ago. So, what suddenly went wrong? He is worried that the President appears detached from a situation that should be treated as a national emergency. For Baba-Ahmed, the insecurity in the country is giving some people the lever to say that they no longer want to be a part of a country that cannot protect them.
Essentially, NEF has voted for a pan-Nigerian approach in dealing with the country’s security challenges. But the snag is that its position is an isolated one. It does not resonate in the North. The Islamic cleric, Sheik Abubakar Gumi, is the ultimate reactionary in this matter. He has been promoting banditry and kidnapping to the consternation of the watching world. The other time, he warned Nigerians about labelling the bloodsuckers, who kill and maim at will, as criminals. He said that such a tag would harden their resolve. Instead, we should pamper them and romanticize their evil activities. Perhaps, that explains why the northern elite called the murderers that operate in the region bandits when they should have been called terrorists. We were all deceived into believing that they were just miscreants who were trying to engage in forceful extortion as a way of eking out a living. But we have since discovered that these are full-blooded criminals who are armed to the teeth. This was exactly what Obadiah Mailafia was protesting against the other day. Why do we have to indulge a criminal by calling him a bandit?
But the terminological inexactitude is not really the issue. What really matters is that the Gumis of northern Nigeria want us to submit to the criminal bent of the murderers. That is why he has been insisting that the Federal Government should grant them amnesty. But that is just a tip of the iceberg. The latest demand from Gumi is that the Federal Government should roll out an action plan for the criminals. It should tell them what it has in stock for them. The offer, whatever it is, must be mouth-watering. That, he said, is the only way the murderer will drop his arms. He is not likely to lay down his arms, if the offer from government is not juicy enough.
Anybody who lives in a sane world will admit that Gumi’s conditionality and submissions are highly provocative. They give the impression that we live in a lawless country. In fact, Gumi has been carrying on as if he is a law unto himself. His position on any national issue, especially those that border on the activities of the criminals operating in the North, must be absorbed even if they compromise national security. But the Federal Government itself is the worst culprit here. It has continued to make Nigerians to believe that all is well, in its estimation. If government feels that the bandits are criminals, then it will do something about them. It is amazing that a criminal group would commit all manner of atrocities, including abduction of schoolchildren, yet government looks the other way. We have never been told that security agencies under the control of the President ever went for the criminals. We have never heard that their hideout was raided by the army or police with a view to decimating them. What obtains instead is that they operate from their comfort zone unmolested. So, why does government treat these criminals with kid gloves? Why is it not worried about their murderous activities? The problem that we face today lies in government’s disposition towards criminal elements in the northern part of the country. Whereas the bandits and kidnappers in northern forests are allowed to operate freely, the same government is constantly at war with vigilance groups like the Eastern Security Network and the Oodua Peoples Congress in the South whose only mission is to secure their territories against criminals and murderers. We are then constrained to ask: what is the Federal Government of Nigeria under Buhari up to? Why the double standard in matters of security? Very curious indeed.
It is the same discriminatory approach in matters of security that is trailing the Federal Government’s disposition towards the attempt on the life of Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, by Fulani terrorists. Ortom, the man who rejected the invasion of his home state by murderous Fulani herdsmen, has been an object of attack by those who see nothing wrong with the activities of killer herdsmen. But the governor is a man that has the courage of his convictions. Just the other day, he was attacked in his farm somewhere in his state. He escaped death by the whiskers. As the issue was smoldering, a Fulani group stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack. The group, with an identifiable leader, said it will not rest until it guns down Ortom and any other person opposed to the murderous activities of the herdsmen.
It is curious that the Federal Government has also treated the incident in the same manner it has been handling the activities of those it calls bandits. Government said it would investigate the incident. And that is as far as it goes. How about the group that claimed responsibility and whose leader identified himself? That should have been the starting point of the investigation. Has anybody been invited for questioning? Has any arrest been made? Not at all. That makes Nigeria a lawless country where the fittest can only survive. Is that the Nigeria that Nigerians handed over to Buhari to superintend over? Certainly not.
What is obvious at the moment is that the Presidency is playing politics with security. A section of the North represented by Gumi is also playing politics with security. That was why I considered the position of PDP Governors’ Forum as naive when it declared recently that it would not play politics with security. How would its position hold when the Presidency it is trying to collaborate with has reduced security to plain politics? It is politics that is making the Presidency not to see the evil activities of murderous herdsmen. It is politics that makes the Presidency to pamper northern criminals masquerading as bandits and criminalize southern agitators. It is politics that is shielding Gumi and his ilk from the long arms of the law. Otherwise, how can a subversive element like him not be a guest of security agencies? Gumi’s unguarded utterances are a threat to national security. Yet the Buhari presidency is comfortable with it. This government should tell Nigerians what its agenda really is. We need to know where we are headed under the Buhari presidency.