SIMON REEF MUSA
More than any other time in the history of our country, the threats to Nigeria’s unity are made manifest in the devastation and conquest of hundreds of communities and unprovoked killings carried out by criminal Fulani herdsmen. The bloody trails of these murderers have thrown up the urgency to combat them in order to end the blistering uncertainties stalking our bleeding nation.
As the conversation continues in the hope of providing solutions to the myriad of problems plaguing Nigeria, various options are being thought outside the box in resolving insecurity in the country. Last week, there was a video clip that went viral showing a bloody scene where citizens were being slaughtered at an area located in the northern part of the country. Though the video clip is yet to be authenticated, it clearly portrays the extent to which divisive forces can go to engender chaos in a nation that is already on edge.
The earnestness of our exigency is not in the demand for dividends of democracy; it is in the security of life and property of citizens that is violently violated and denied in the most brutal manner. In a situation where citizens are not safe, it thus becomes inconsequential to talk about other rights. The fiends of bloodshed roaming our communities have found profitable ventures in destruction of lives and other reprehensible crimes.
Most of the time, these outlaws that feed on the miseries of citizens are not willing to let go of the killing fields they have created to enjoy the bounty of their wickedness. In carrying out these hair-rising massacres, these criminals feed fat their despicable souls in the pool of innocent blood crying for vengeance.
Though the government has never relent in its determination to cut off the umbilical cord that promotes bloodletting being suffered by our communities, such willpower has always been seen expressed more in verbal declarations than walking the talk to exterminate those who profit from the cynosure of displaying human barbarities.
While there are many options being suggested in various quarters on how best to eradicate ferocious upheavals caused by these AK-47 wielding bandits, arriving at a consensus has always been an uphill task.
The recent meeting in Shinkafi, Zamfara State, between Sheikh Ahmad Gumi and the leader of Zamfara bandits, Kachalla Turji, reflects the complex dynamics in understanding terrorism in Nigeria. The Islamic cleric had called for the granting of amnesty to bandits as means of ending their criminal activities. For the cleric, amnesty for the bandits is capable of encouraging them to lay down their arms to embrace a crime-free lifestyle.
There are posers in assessing the effectiveness of amnesty in tackling insecurity. Can a criminal be truly encouraged to abandon his felonious acts by granting them amnesty? If a system does not discourage crime by punishing the lawless, how can respect for the law be rewarded? Can the moral conscience of those used to a life of crimes be swayed to lay down their arms without any form of force?
To hope that criminal members of society would prefer to be guided by their conscience without deploying coercive forces against them could turn out a mere wishful thinking. Since immemorial, men and women have often been rewarded for good conducts and punished for wrong behaviors.
In line with the concept of reward and punishment, Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai of Kaduna State recently expressed doubts over Sheikh Gumi’s amnesty call as means to tackle banditry. Instead of endorsing diplomacy to rein in activities of these criminals roaming the forests unchallenged, the Kaduna State governor told the BBC Hausa that only the obliteration of these criminals that are supported with logistical support from unknown quarters can end the flame of banditry.
Identifying lack of synergy amongst governors of the North-west to fashion ways of ending the terror unleashed by these bandits as a crucial problem, el-Rufai noted that states in the North must synergise and encourage collaboration towards creating a common platform against banditry. Harping on the need to synchronise strategies against criminals that have taken over the nation’s forests, el-Rufai whose state is ravaged by daily abductions and sizzling waves of insecurity has called on military forces to take the battle to the door steps of the criminals that are now the landlords of the nation’s forests.
It needs no stressing that the incapacity of the state to evolve an effective roadmap to cleanse communities of these outlaws is further complicated by the absence of clear-cut plans to end banditry in the country. The opposition to el-Rufai’s opinion by Governor Abdullahi Ganduje reflects the abysmal disagreement in the forum of governors on how to resolve the insecurity ravaging Arewa. When those at the helms of affairs are not in agreement on how to deploy effective strategies to end banditry, then, resolving problems of insecurity may take a long time to be realised.
It is increasingly becoming glaring that the incapacity of the government to tackle these killings by herdsmen who are not aboriginal to Nigeria holds grim prospects of throwing the nation into another civil war as expressed by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari in which he called for quick combating of herdsmen in order to avert a war.
The decision by the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to ratify a plan to end open grazing has opened a window of opportunity in resolving the age-long menace of killer herdsmen. Despite somersaults in strategies by the Buhari-led administration on how to tackle insecurity, the incessant bloodshed unleashed by killer herdsmen has the potential of tearing Nigeria apart.
The governors’ decision to outlaw open grazing has the prospects of paving the way for the adoption of ranches as an official policy in line with global best practices. A government that is worth its name cannot sit idly and allow its citizens to be mowed by blood-thirsty criminals that are committed to the enthronement of unquestionable chaos.
Now that state governors have agreed to ban foreign herdsmen flooding into the country, security agents should commence flushing out criminal herdsmen from forest reserves to avert the continuing human carnage. Where the government is hamstrung in protecting helpless citizens from the activities of these mindless killers, the government should make haste and rise to the occasion.
Allowing amnesty for these criminals may not provide a long term solution as past experiences have shown. Those behind the current gale of bloodshed are probably not ready to give up on crimes without a fight. It won’t be easy convincing criminals that have enjoyed whooping sums of money as ransoms to willingly lay down their arms without evolving deliberate strategies to economically engage them. To expect someone who has lived on the proceeds of crimes and enjoyed the easy life from proceeds of criminal activities to simply embrace new means of legal acquisition of wealth may turn out to be a mere wishful thinking.
As it stands, I am in total agreement with Governor el-Rufai who has insisted that only complete destruction of these criminals in our forests could prove enough to overcome the dangers posed by these bandits and kidnappers. I am also on the same page with Governor Ortom that the administration of President Buhari must intervene to stop the endless bloodshed perpetrated by criminal herdsmen. All hands must be on deck to end the terror that is driving this country down the valley of annihilation. Any delay in tackling the horrifying mayhem posed by these herdsmen constitutes both present and future dangers for our nation’s survival.