Falcon can no longer hear the falconer
Our irrefutable understanding of the spectre of the large band of persons facetiously referred to as bandits terrorizing the entire landscape of northern Nigeria today as the nemesis of certain political calculations in the recent past, must not foreclose the requirement to interrogate the socio-economic foundations of restlessness in that part of Nigeria.
The facile explanation that the so-called bandits are foreigners, in fact, properly situates the objective conditions under which brigandage of the nature we have helplessly witnessed in the last four or so years could flourish.
The Nigerian environment is so loose and un-charted that even those who have no legitimate claim to the country’s benefices are the ones leading the advocacy or the insurrection for the invidious share of the booty ordinarily entitled to by the “real” people.
No less an emergency raconteur than Alhaji Nuhu Ribadu, a former EFCC chairman, has presented us a synoptic narration of the events leading to or culminating in the induced influx of foreign Fulani nationals as thugs or members of sectarian fraternities hired to murder or otherwise violently snuff life out of the opponents of their patrons. This they had projected in the event of an announcement of an electoral loss or of a feared manipulated defeat of the said patrons in the 2015 presidential election. They were to create general panic and a palpable sense of unease. However, the election held in a situation of relative peace, order, and tranquility. Even before the final counts were taken, it was clear that candidate Muhammadu Buhari had won.
In a rare show of sportsmanship in politics, his major opponent, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan congratulated the winner ahead of the official announcement. Buhari settled down slowly into office amidst expressed concerns regarding a shoddy or unprepared programme of activities or want of an abiding faith in a published manifesto. This party document had promised heaven on earth, affixing timelines to every promised item. In the interim, the soldiers of fortune were becoming restive as a result of redundancy or inactivity respecting their charge or instruction or regarding the failure of a promised stake in the outcome of the election. Fearing that time was ticking away inexorably and with their patrons embroiled in the affairs of their new offices as political office holders, etc. the soldiers of fortune, even as invaders, began to learn or practice new local trades.
The Zamfara gold mines and the ecological scandal of an over-abundance of solid minerals in the central belt region of Nigeria soon attracted the gaze of the invaders. The country’s expansive oil and gas wealth did not allow her to exploit the solid mineral wealth for improving the fortunes and material wellbeing of her citizenry. Over time, or as they practise their new trade, the invaders amassed enough financial resources to procure for themselves arms and ammunition for protecting themselves and their business against any official challenge or interference with their newfound vocation.
The arms were also for cowering the local populace. As a matter of course, they soon assumed the position of beneficial landowners, employing the local population on the open mines and paying salaries and wages way out of the ken or imagination of their employees. Traditional institutions dared not query their audacity or otherwise resist their brigandage. They stood imperiled otherwise. A new sense of loyalty and patronage was emerging. The government was gradually becoming more and more irrelevant to the needs of the ordinary people who now look up for their daily sustenance to the immigrant noveau riche.
This curious development was happening under the supine or helpless watch of a government. The situation is festering so much, everyone but the government is alarmed. For the business of the immigrants to go on unhindered they have had to foist on the environment a situation of general disorder and of unmitigated violence involving kidnappings, armed banditry, and other forms of anti-social malady so the government may be overwhelmed or distracted. Exemplifying all these is the general gory situation of the activities of the criminal elements. They kill, maim, rape women as well as commit many untold indignities against the persons of their victims. The situation has gone so bad that citizens are challenged to seek self-help as the government has curiously expressed its helplessness or inability to enforce law and order.
Buoyed by an inexplicable interpretation of the situation as inevitable or as the wages for the wrongs committed by the indigenous population against the migrant Fulani stock, the violent situation has gone unchecked. The perpetrators have become emboldened by the curious explanation or interpretation of their cause as just and proper or well-heeled. Northern elites in the mold of the Islamic cleric, Sheikh Abubakar Gumi, the Bauchi State Governor, Bala Mohammed, and his ZamfaraState counterpart, Bello Matawalle, have all attempted a non-sequitur explanation of a deplorable situation. They have further, although ineffectually, altered the ordinary meanings of words and phrases that have hitherto assumed their stable places in our lexicon. “Bandits” are by no stretch of the imagination criminals; “Insurgents” are honest or sincere people seeking daily livelihood; “Herdsmen militia” who mindlessly run their stock into farmlands destroying crops and eating up crop harvests and killing their victims in tow are persons seeking grazing lands. Kalashnikov or A-K 47 - that much-dreaded Russian contribution to the modern arsenal - is, in Nigeria, the guiding staff of herdsmen with which they pilot their herds.
Our troubles in Nigeria generally derive from the fact that we are halting between two inconsistent opinions about the nature of democracy and indeed about the function of government. Between the two, we are unable to make up our mind. Both positions claim to be democratic. Both assert they derive their place from the tenets of democracy. Both claim to rest upon the interest of the people. Yet, each is wholly inconsistent with the other.
To be continued tomorrow
Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs wrote vide email@example.com
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