Kadaria Ahmed, the media personality who anchored ‘The Candidate’, a question and answer presidential candidates television programme during the run-up to the last elections, has somewhat become the iconic voice for Zamfara state; very similar to the lady, Alaa Salaah of Sudan, in the ouster of the Sudanese president via civil disobedience and protests that rocked the nation for months. Here in Zamfara state, the activities of bandits and kidnappers had risen to a calamitous situation where an estimated 4000 people have lost their lives since the beginning of the crises almost four years ago. President Buhari had visited the state back in 2016 when it was initially ravaged by the activities of cattle rustlers and subsequently bandits and killer herdsmen. He launched a special military action that was to tackle the scourge and there was relative but short lived peace at the time. Not much voice had been lent to the killings in Zamfara, and northerners were blamed for being silent over the massacres. Were it to be in the south, much more determined, organised and vociferous movements would have been launched in protests of the killings, demanding immediate action from the government.
To say the federal government has turned a blind eye or is insensitive to the loss of lives in Zamfara, is to be economical with the truth. But however, the scourge had continued to rise unabated with various conspiracy theories coming to the fore; analysing the scenario and what factors have sustained the killings all this time. There have been voices in the shadows that have warned that the illegal mining activities going on in Zamfara has largely hosted these bandits and the mayhem they bring upon the inhabitants of the villages with gold mines. In one village, Bindim, in Maru local government, in which gold is situated, 40 people were killed at once. It is claimed that many foreigners are in these bandit groups that have been killing the villagers in Zamfara state. The government has now stopped all mining activities in the state, in a bid to screen out these foreigners and have a more vivid picture of the asymmetrical warfare that is going on in Zamfara. Another factor that is attributed to the rise of the menace is the collaboration between the bandits and some village chiefs as well as some of the inhabitants of the areas where these killings have continued. This is according to intelligence reports which was made public by the Minister of Defence, Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali. Whether this claim is correct or not, a former Vice Chairman of Anka local government of Zamfara state was recently arrested for alleged links to bandits. He is reported to be working with them, giving them information on kidnap targets, which areas to strike, and also giving out details as to the whereabouts and operations of the military and the vigilantes. He is also accused of aiding the release of a gun runner from Gusau prison, who is claimed to be working for the bandits. This development lays credence to the Defence Minister’s claim that the bandits have local collaborators, be they chiefs, or ordinary individuals from the villages in Zamfara state.
Just like Ms. Salaah is being credited for the change of government in Sudan, Kadaria is being given the kudos for speaking up for the people of Zamfara where she hails from; as of today, there has been tremendous progress in government action against these blood thirsty vipers. Operation ‘Sharan Daji’, which is a 1000 soldiers’ strong special force, was launched and as we speak, over a hundred bandits have so far been neutralised with a large amount of ammunition and machine guns retrieved from them. The Nigerian Airforce too launched operation ‘Diran Mikiya’ which is controlled by the Air Task Force (ATF). They have destroyed the bandits’ logistics base at Ajia in Birnin Magaji local government area of the state. Dozens of the bandits were also neutralised and the operations (Sharan Daji and Diran Mikiya) have been ongoing, in a collaborative effort to wipe out these criminals. The continued aerial bombardments by the air force and the ground assault by the military have been yielding positive results as more casualties of the bandits are being recorded. Today, we are witnessing a significant drop in the killings in Zamfara state, and it is our fervent prayer that the onslaught on the bandits continues till they are annihilated completely. If they are allowed to regroup and fester, then we surely will have another Boko Haram on our hands. Also, hundreds of imprisoned persons have also been freed from the bandits by the operations. Certainly all these weren’t put in place over Kadaria’s outcry. When President Muhammadu Buhari was interviewed on Arise TV before the elections, he spoke about how the security organisations are preparing a meticulous approach, albeit slow, to curb the menaces of insurgency and terrorism. Thus, the recent military action is a product of long term planning and strategizing, including the specialised training of the Special Forces.
Kadaria is being queried as to why she didn’t ask the President questions about Zamfara. But if we reflect back a bit, like all other Nigerian crises including Boko Haram and the Herdsmen killings, Zamfara banditry had gone to sleep and months before the elections, there were no killings at all, or perhaps very few isolated incidents. The Benue farmers-herdsmen clashes were also non-existent, as if they never happened. And it makes way for one to hypothesize that some of these terrorist acts are indeed sponsored. At the time Kadaria was questioning Buhari on the programme, he had a good score on his fight against terrorism and that wasn’t where she ached to ask questions on. If she hadn’t at the time, now she has, and she has done so in such a manner that she could never have been able to do back then as a moderator.
People would have cried bias and rightly so. Not only Kadaria, supporters of President Buhari have come out en masse to decry the killings in Zamfara. They have before now been accused of blindly following the President, no questions asked. Atiku’s supporters have been chiding and mocking Buharists over their protests on Zamfara. But the results of the elections have confirmed that people feel safer in Buhari’s hands than in Atiku’s. It spells out that people would rather stick with the ongoing efforts on terrorism and insurgency which is yielding appreciable results, than a situation where a deeper and wilder splurge of insurgency will fester, among other sinister phenomena.
Kadaria has done Zamfarans proud, and her voice has come just in time and in tune with government’s efforts to obliterate these monsters. Laws should be put in place with severe penalties for illegal miners, and citizens that harbour and collaborate with terrorists, just the way Kaduna state is dealing with rapists now; with death penalties prescribed for rapists. It is greatly unfair to the President to say he is not doing anything about Zamfara as a lot has been achieved in the last week. Although it ought to have come a lot sooner, but however, a very decisive and final solution should be meted out on the banditry and kidnapping menaces. The menaces remind us daily, why the work force of our security agencies must be increased and reformed as a panacea to the global wave of crime and insurgency. The security agencies are stretched, untrained and unequipped. The President, as a former military man, can carry out a gradual and meaningful repositioning of the security forces over a four year period to better tackle these criminals. This, he can do, better than a civilian President which we are most likely to have come 2023. A more secure Nigeria with robust security forces is a viable legacy that Buhari can put in place before he retires.
– Tahir is the Talban Bauchi
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