By Ali Sabo
Today (Tuesday, 9th December, 2020) I woke up to a very traumatic post on Facebook from a friend who was narrating how armed bandits invaded his village and carted away more than 20 people including two of his siblings. Anas is the second person I know personally who have been affected by this dangerous wave of banditry. Back in 2019, another friend of mine was abducted alongside his friend at their village which led to the death of the other person who at the time of the abduction was sick and couldn’t get medical attention. As could be envisaged, in the absence of the medical attention he needed, he fell for his sickness.
While my friend was only released after his family had paid a handsome ransom to the bandits. This particular attack on Gamji village, Sabuwa local government area of Katsina state is different because traditionally the bandits would attack villages on motorcycles, but this time they trekked to the villages, opened fire on everyone on sight and abducted many including the Village Head thereby proudly advertising their newly found narcissistic audacity. What they did, in effect, has exposed the level of unseriousness, negligence, poor attention to the deepening calamity and lack of sympathy from those in power to the agonizing distresses of poor, rural inhabitants.
The issue of security in the North Western part of the country is deteriorating with an alarming consistency to the extent that in many villages in Zamfara and Katsina States people have to pay bandits before they can till and or harvest their farms produce and even when the pay, sometimes the bandits would destroy the crops before it is due for harvest and no one would dare to speak. This has become a brutal norm because security personnel who are saddled with responsibilities of defending these innocent citizens have for long failed and abandoned them, leaving them cowering at the mercy of these heartless beasts, who are themselves, products of bad and corrosive governance in Nigeria.
The Kano-Kaduna-Abuja road has long became a no go area, for more than three years, the road has become a nightmare for its users forcing the rich and the middle class to seek an air travel alternative. Bandits on this axis have become so emboldened by the systemic failure of governance that they can operate two or three times in a broad day light within a day without being interrupted by security operatives.
This has led many citizens to start asking whether or not we have a responsive and responsible leader in this country. To add salt to an already fatal injury, airline owners have also found a way of milking the helpless citizens by tripling their air tickets, though Economists will tell us that this is only a practical illustration of the famous law of “Demand and Supply”. A ticket that costs 27,000 to 35,000 Naira from Abuja to Kano is now being sold at 65,000 to 95,000 Naira even at that price you have to book it for at least 3 to 5 days ahead.
Gory stories coming from the North Eastern part of the country are also heart broken, last month, Boko Haram slaughtered more than 60 farmers in their farms at a time when government spin doctors, social media gladiators and paid agents are telling the citizens and foreign governments that Nigerian security forces have eliminated the terrorists in the region. The president, who is fairly notorious for his unsettling and irresponsible silence on matters like these took many days to even sympathize with the bereaved families despite sustained pressures from media users, civil society organizations and International Organizations (and still he is yet to address the country on the matter).
To further aggravate an already tensed situation, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media, Malam Garba Shehu announced on his social media handles that the slaughtered farmers didn’t seek for clearance before going to the farms, to him he is protecting the government he is being paid to protect while in actual sense he is indirectly reaffirming the claims made by experts that Boko Haram is still in control of many villages in Borno State just like bandits are now in control of many communities in Katsina and Zamfara.
Another trending topic in the country is the well thought out agitations demanding the immediate sacking of Service Chiefs by the Buhari led federal government. This has been on the forefront of Nigerian’s agenda for over two years due to their ineffectiveness, overstayed and failure to address the persistent attacks, killings and abductions of people in the country.
This call is not only coming from the ordinary citizens who have been affected by the acts of these bandits, the National Assembly who is the second highest organ of government in the country has for many times recommended the sacking of these Service Chiefs but the president for reasons best known to him has refused to heed to these calls and advice. This has left the citizens with only three assumptions; the president is not in-charge of the affairs of the country; the president is afraid of the service chiefs; or he is happy with what is happening in the country.
Ali Sabo is the Campaigns and Communication Officer of the Centre for Information Technology and Development and he can be reached either by his email address: email@example.com or twitter handle: @a_sabo12