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Zamfara killings: More than a little violence


Operation Sharan Daji by the Nigerian Army led to burnt bandit camps at Zamfara State. Twitter/HQNigerianArmy

There was a profound poem titled “A little violence” by Seun Lari-Williams that finished runner up in the recent Guardian poetry competition that perhaps drives home the devastation of the killing of a person.

The Zamfara killings and kidnappings took a while to get into the spotlight with the media focused on other parts of the country.

One is killed, but two lost a son
One is killed, but four lost a brother
One is killed, but a hundred lost a friend
One is killed, but two hundred lost a teacher

Seven lost a breadwinner
Twenty, a kind helper
Ten, a customer
And I, a lover

Only one is killed
Only one, shot dead
A little violence
That’s what the news said

The throes of anguish that have enveloped Zamfara in recent years are at a level that is nigh unimaginable. The fear and hurt families go through over the loss of a member that make up the more than 2000 reported dead makes the killings way more than a little violence.

The killings, kidnapping and banditry have surpassed scary levels. Though there are no official numbers of the number of killings but estimations puts it as more than a thousand deaths.

Extrapolating the number of people that have lost a friend per the poem, it spirals into scary numbers.

Some towns in Zamfara have that sombre, ghoulish look with their inhabitants unsure of their safety. These citizens are uncertain of far too many things: if their daughters that went to the stream would return; if their husbands at the farm would make it back home safe; if they would make it through the night without a saw cutting through their door with bandits loudly barking orders. The tales of the hollowness caused by deaths and kidnap are numerous.

Bandits storm huts at the dead of night to abduct wives and daughters with the hope that they will be exchanged for cash. On other days they embark on a killing spree.

Desperate times, desperate measures

The spate of killings, kidnapping and banditry sparked the #MarchforZamfara protest led by broadcaster Kadaria Ahmed, who called the Zamfara State governor the most useless governor in the history of Nigeria.

“He is the most useless Governor in the history of Nigeria,” Kadaria said.

“This is a governor whose reaction to the killings in his state was to resign as the Chief Security Officer. He went on the record to say that he cannot be the Chief Security Officer. So, I don’t know what he is still doing in office; he doesn’t care.

“He is hopeless as a leader. He has not done well for our people. Under him, Zamfara has deteriorated.”

The governor, who is in support of the declaration of a state of emergency in Zamfara, said in January that he was ready to step down as governor if it brings an end to the banditry, kidnappings and killings in his state.

Governor Yari has also been widely criticised for spending a lot of time in Abuja away from the state and its challenges.

Running away is hardly a way of solving any problem.

Yet, Zamfara State government is exploring very far-fetched means to tackle the security challenge in the state.

The state, which was the first to adopt Sharia law, plans to employ 1,700 charmers to join the civilian joint task force to tackle the bandits. Critics said engagement of charmers to complement the efforts of conventional security agencies negates the spirit of Sharia Law.

Moreover, it shows the lack of coordination between the federal and state government in solving Zamfara’s security problem.

Buhari, media and FG’s many operations

The often cursory reportage most of the killings have gotten has made people almost inured and unmoved. Another 100 dead in Zamfara and it is just another day in Nigeria. The amount of havoc, the level of hurt just doesn’t resonate with most people.

Reports from Zamfara is often filled with unidentified gunmen, suspected bandits, kidnap and killings. There is hardly any good coming from Zamfara.

President Muhammadu Buhari was also accused of not paying enough attention to the insecurity in Zamfara.

The president in response said it is ‘ridiculous’ and ‘unfair’ to suggest that he is not concerned about the situation in Zamfara, or doing anything about it.

He said that he is in constantly in touch with the security chiefs, and receives regular briefings on the situation in Zamfara.

“We are fully determined to tackle this challenge ferociously until these remorseless killers are crushed and utterly defeated. We have deployed security agents to all the areas currently under attack, and we are constantly fine-tuning and escalating our security strategy,” Buhari said.

The federal government launched Operation Sharan Daji (Sweep the Forest), Operation Harbin Kunama (Scorpion Sting) and Operation Diran Mikiya (Eagle Fighting), at different times to tackle the insecurity in the state but the killings remain.

What began as cattle rustling has devolved into a greater menace as cattle have thinned out. Ransom is demanded for kidnapped hostages, villages ransacked, villagers forced out of their abode.

Looking to tackle banditry and kidnapping in Zamfara and other parts in the North, the government launched Operation Puff Adder on Friday.

The federal government’s latest move was to suspend mining activities, divining that there is a connection between illicit miners and banditry.

Social commentator and senator, Shehu Sani of Kaduna State said the “suspension of mining activities is a good step in ending illegal mining; but a non starter in ending banditry.”

“The nation is at war; the moral, historical and constitutional calling at times like this is for the leadership to frontally rise to the occasion in defence of this republic,” he added.

President Muhammadu Buhari said ensuring the protection of the people of Nigeria is one of my primary responsibilities and functions.

To the deceased, kidnapped and family members affected by the insecurity in Zamfara, President Buhari has failed in his primary duties.

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