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IKE ABONYI
Ike's Column Opinion

Which country pays criminals and slays agitators?

We weep for a bird’s cry, but not for a fish’s blood. Blessed are those with a voice
Mamoru Oshii

The insanity in the workings of government has never been as glaring as it is in today’s Nigeria. It would be appalling to any discerning mind what is happening in Nigeria today. The more you struggle to place a finger on one strange happening the more you see stranger things happen. Bizarre is the best qualifier for the present state of affairs.

Backspace to 2015. No soothsayer could have foreseen that 69 months into the presidency of Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria would degenerate to such an abysmal level.

However, a former envoy of the United States, Richard Grenell, warned in “Nigeria on the brink”, a Washington Post article of March 19, 2015. In it, he wrote, “If Buhari was elected it would be a disaster for Nigeria and Africa.” Is doomsday not here with us today? “Why are we here” and “Why should we be here” are frequently asked questions whose answers our leaders shy away from.

We are here because of poor leadership nurtured by entrenched injustice and structural imbalance that fertilize bad governance and celebrate mediocrity. We are here because religion and ethnicity have been given pride of place in our polity.

When you hear a statement like “President Buhari is not in charge”, “Nobody is in charge”, and “Nigeria is on auto-pilot,” it is because of unusual happenings that shouldn’t be if there is a Commander-in-Chief. When things that are supposed to be sheltered from the rain are beaten, it would be safe to say nobody is at home. In the Igbo parlance, a pregnant goat does not labour and give birth in tethers unless there is no adult at home.

When you hear critics screaming that nobody is in charge at the Aso Rock Villa, it is because of poor or inadequate response to critical issues.

The norm is that the primary duty of governments anywhere, Nigeria inclusive, is to protect the lives and property of citizens. This administration has shown over time that their sympathy is more for the criminals in whatever form they appear than the law-abiding citizens or victims of crime. When criminals are given undeserved attention, something is fundamentally amiss and that is exactly the stage we have reached in this country today.

Despite the treason that Boko Haram launched on Nigeria in 2009, arrested members have been treated with kid gloves that are even softer than kid pillows. In the name of rehabilitation or amnesty. This government has given a more human face to othe arrested terrorists than it has done to their victims (orphans, widows, and other displaced persons) across the North-East. At a point, the authorities toyed with the idea of recruiting them into the regular army of the federal republic. There exists a huge and curious incentive for being a nightmare than a law-abiding citizen in our country.

This sickening romance with criminals began in December 2016 when the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, told some journalists that his government traced some violent, aggrieved Fulani to their countries and paid them to stop the killings of Southern Kaduna natives and the destruction of their communities. He said the renewed violence was carried out by bandits.

His words: “For the southern Kaduna, we didn’t understand what was going on and we decided to set up a committee under Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd) to find out what was going on. What was established was that the root of the problem has a history starting from the 2011 post-election violence.

“Fulani herdsmen from across Africa bring their cattle down towards the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria. The moment the rains start around March-April, they start moving them up to go back to their various communities and countries.

“Unfortunately, it was when they were moving up with their cattle across southern Kaduna that the elections of 2011 took place and the crisis trapped some of them.

“Some of them were from Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, and Senegal. Fulanis are in 14 African countries and they traverse this country with cattle.

“So many of these people were killed, cattle lost and they organised themselves and came back [for] revenge. So, a lot of what was happening in southern Kaduna was actually from outside Nigeria.”

What are we hearing here? Because of ethnic interests, foreigners are being paid to stop killing nationals. Even after the payment have the killings abated? Have there been any arrests or prosecution of killers? Why should the killing stop when the same Kaduna governor had earlier bragged of Fulani vengeance culture that must come no matter how long it takes?

With all this why then should anybody be surprised at the refusal of the federal government to declare Miyetti Allah a terrorist group even as it brazenly coordinates the menace of Fulani herdsmen across the country? Why should anyone be shocked that bandits who have been killing and destroying lives and property in the North are being pampered instead of being visited with justice?

Why should criminals who have made abduction of young Nigerian students their stock in trade be paid money to secure their release? Having paid for the first time, the business has become lucrative for the second and third time…and still counting. It was, therefore, a huge embarrassment for the nation’s security apparatchik when Sheik Gumi was led into the bandits’ den by government-paid security operatives to negotiate with fifth columnists and felons. This was happening as the burial of their victims were going on in the region. The peace talks were going on when the villains struck in Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State, abducting students and their teachers. This naturally increased the ransom.

Since the source of the armoury of these bandits is not known, it is, therefore, not unlikely that the ransom is deployed to fortify their armaments. Why then do we still scream insecurity, forgetting late Gen. Sani Abacha’s unassailable assertion that when insurrection lasts more than 48 hours, the government must have a hand in it.

Have we forgotten so soon how northern governors manured banditry when they woke up one day last year and disbanded the almajiri system without providing an alternative? Instead, they hauled the youths into lorries and trailer trucks and shipped them to their various states of origin with no plans for them. Some of them escaped and migrated down South. They became willy-nilly available to recruit for banditry and Boko Haram in the North and as herdsmen-terrorists in the South.

Despite its enormous might, 56 per cent control of the nation’s resources,and a standing army with a huge defence budget, the federal government is at the mercy and dictates of Islamic clerics to negotiate with criminals. And Nigeria has a retired general and former head of state as the Commander-in-Chief.

What an irony that the same government that pays ransom to bandits in the North and defending the herdsmen menace in the South, even saying that they can carry military-grade weapons in self-defence are arming the military to the teeth to tackle militant agitators in other regions. Whatever you may say of him, Sunday Igboho was prompted to defend and free his Yoruba people from the forest-annexing herdsmen. Ditto for Nnamdi Kanu’s Eastern Security Network under the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, set up to protect his people from the same Fulani menace.

When you watch the level of troop deployment in Orlu, Imo State, in the pursuit of Eastern Security Network and juxtapose it with what is going on in the North where the government is virtually begging criminals, you quiver at the kind of government we have in Nigeria.

If Nigeria as a nation appears to be experiencing unhappiness in this sphere of her life because of these goings-on, it is possibly because, as a Hindu scripture (Sam Veda) puts it, “People of double standards never experience happiness.”

God, help us.

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