Good enough that the banditry in Zamfara State is now a major issue of discussion in our country. It has even attracted a protest in Abuja, which in a way drew attention to the sufferings and degradation our compatriots in the state have been experiencing. It has also allowed our media, which have been largely supine and inert, except for one or two online media organisations, in reporting the horrors of Zamfara beyond what the foreign media provide regularly.
But long before Zamfara became a buzzword and protesting against the madness going on there became sexy, some of us have shouted ourselves hoarse over the savagery perpetrated by bandits. This column in a June 21, 2018 piece We can’t keep ignoring Zamfara drew attention to how we kept ignoring Zamfara. Now, nearly a year after, we are forced to take notice and do something to stem the tide. A simple search of news items emanating from the state in the last few months showed that nearly all had to do with elections and the yet-to-be-resolved APC primaries. For a group of people who recently rewarded with a senate seat a governor that my former editor called “the most useless”, an appellation that nearly all governors with few exceptions deserved in Nigeria, one might be tempted to conclude that they are getting their comeuppance but that would play into the hands of clueless leaders we parade across Nigeria.
Our government’s response has been everything but sublime, it’s been from the mundane to the ridiculous. Mundane as seen in banning mining as though folks have not been mining in the area before or ridiculous as in blaming traditional rulers for the activities of brigandage we see in Zamfara. And that came form no less a personality than our defence minister who himself is a citizen of Zamfara State and one wonders the kind of intelligence reports available to a man charged with overseeing our defence as a country. One also gets worried about the effectiveness of a plethora of intelligence gathering apparatus we maintain from the Department of State Security to Directorate of Military Intelligence to National Intelligence Agency and the humongous money appropriated for security in our budget?
But what do we get in return? Platitudes from our president who keep telling us daily how much he loves us especially whenever he is outside our shores, but without corresponding action in securing our lives to a governor engaging 1, 700 juju wielding individuals to help in securing Zamfara borders. Till date, the highest person in government hierarchy that has been to Zamfara is our acting inspector general of police. We’ve also seen hapless and helpless citizens queuing to buy bullet-dodging charms at Zamfara markets showing how well they’ve gone down the drain. I think the other comical reaction that beats Governor Abdul-aziz Yari Abubakar’s decision to retain the services of juju is that of another governor who alighted from his vehicle and marched to the bush on the Kaduna- Abuja expressway ostensibly to chase kidnappers. We should not be too surprised, however, even a so-called super cop with camera and klieg lights proceeded to the same expressway showing the world how he and his team will catch kidnappers. That’s how serious our leaders take the business of securing our lives and properties. More farcical and vaudevillian, devoid of gravitas, taking us for a ride.
Too often, this government announces to the world that security remains one of its strongest points but across the land killings continue unabated. Kidnappings, banditry and armed robbery remain the order of the day. Sadder is the conspiracy of silence among the leading lights of the northern political establishment who see no evil and hear no evil. We cannot continue keeping silent as insecurity afflicts us all, none is exempted. Over the weekend, the Lagos State fire service chief was kidnapped and as I write, he and the five kidnapped with him have not returned. It’s closer than you think. The Royal Institute of international Affairs, Chatham House, last week gave a damning assessment of our security situation in this report Nigeria Struggles With Security Sector Reform calling into question the security reforms under President Muhammadu Buhari. Again, I ask the question, what will it cost the president to appoint new service chiefs to replace these ones who are past their sell-by date? Lack of willingness to relieve people who are under performing cannot be a virtue neither can it be part of Baba Go-Slow attributes as the president seemed to romanticize in his meeting with Nigerians in Dubai earlier this week.
Beyond the protest, however, we must continue to hold our government accountable, as its first duty remains the protection of lives and properties. That is the least we can demand from those charged with our security. The obvious link between Boko Haram elements and their evil compatriots across the West African sub region is too obvious to be ignored in this battle. People have not only lost their lives and properties but have also fled their homes looking for succor, they deserve all the help they can get.