By Muhammad Bashir Salisu
While attention seems to have been shifted completely to the fight against Coronovirus pandemic, banditry on the other hand has continued to hold sway in northern Nigeria, especially in Katsina state with intense fright and destruction.
The Katsina state governor, Aminu Bello Masari has recently said that the terror and mayhem being unleashed by bandits in the state is worse than the COVID-19 pandemic. This statement portrays the alarming rate of banditry in the state.
Northwest Nigeria, which used to be the bastion of security and stability, has now been hit hard by many security problems such as the Boko Haram insurgency and banditry.
Rural banditry in the northwestern states of Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Katsina and has taken to its toll, a situation that calls for urgent attention by the government to address the wanton destruction of lives and properties of the innocent and defenseless citizens.
This situation has been made worse by the absence of effective community policing mechanism, capable of addressing the hinterlands’ peculiar security challenges. In effect, the issue has raised a fundamental question about the government’s ability to govern effectively.
Essentially, the prevailing socio-existential conditions in Nigeria, specifically the northwestern Nigeria, have complicated the security situation.
Among the principal causes and aggravating factors behind this escalating conflict in my view is: total lack of confidence in governance, frequent droughts and desertification, mutual division, rivalry and sentiment.
The Irony of this life is that, even when it seems as though we are acting from motivations of kindness and compassion, beneath the surface we are still thinking about ourselves.
Selfishness is already embedded within our emotions and thought processes, and we will always be acting in ways that benefit each of us individually.
More than 90% of us seek after basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. If all of our physical needs in life could be met simply by reaching up and picking things off a tree, then there would be no need to engage in conflict with anyone.
The reality of the situation, though, is otherwise. Necessities are in limited supply, and as we compete for the same things, we quickly come to view one another as enemies.
For instance, there was a banditry attack in Katsina that claimed approximately 47 lives recently. The bandits reportedly demanded food items and other relief materials delivered to the villagers as palliative to the locals during the coronavirus lockdown.
So, for a student of history, the daredevilry, cruelty and wickedness exhibited by the Katsina State bandits resembled “State of Nature”. Boko Haram though, is a more practical example. They all have their roots in the above listed factors.
It is a single continuum of banditry that bedevils the the northwestern region. Katsina state in particular, has a history of hostility to minorities of religious, ethnic and political distinction and, the government over the years has done little or nothing to curtail it.
However, when we look at the factors that drive banditry in the region such as cattle rustling, illicit artisanal gold mining, proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, youth unemployment, inequality and poverty, you’ll see clearly the similarities i am talking about.
Moreover, the rampaging gangs of armed bandits have engaged in violent acts, attacking, abducting, killing, and robbing villagers and travelers, are not only the have-not. Even those with enough attacks in order to strike a balance.
The banditry also created serious division between Fulani herdsmen and Yan’sakai, who are mostly Hausa thereby leading to the deteriorating security challenges in the affected councils of Jibia, Batsari, Dan-Musa, Safana, Kankara, Sabuwa, Dandume and Faskari.
The Fulani people, who were alleged to be armed bandits have therefore, restrained themselves from attending weekly markets, burial rites, marriages and naming ceremonies across the state for fear of being attacked or killed.
This displeasing development however, have forced the Fulani people to circumscribe themselves to the forest, without having any interaction with the inhabitants of urban towns, where they used to engage in business and social activities.
As a matter of fact, even their women who used to hawk milk, developed phobia in having free interaction with the people in the urban areas for fear of Yan’sakai.
There was an agreement recently due to the governor’s intervention, as the two warring factions have agreed to live in peace and resolved to surrender their arms.
The governor, was able to restore a temporary peace in the state, by granting amnesty to bandits after a tour to Fulani settlements and strong enclaves of the bandits in Rugu Forest on September 4-9, 2019, during which the famed bandits and forest commanders denounced banditry.
Unfortunately, last Thursday was another sad day for many people in Jibia Town
following the the military engagement of bandits inside the stretch of the Rugu forest in the area.
Once we acquire something in life, we immediately become distrustful of people who approach us, and so we attack them. This is not merely paranoia, but a necessary means of protecting things that we’ve acquired.
Nigeria’s Northwest is gradually becoming another major regional theatre of violence (state of nature), much like the Northeast where Boko Haram terrorists have wreaked havoc in the past ten years. And all these is because we are selfish and we hates each other.
May Allah bring to an end the internal crises we are facing in Nigeria, including the Global Pandemic of the Coronovirus. Ameen.
Muhammad Bashir writes from Kano.