By Mustapha Maikudi Abdullahi
For the record, I do not condone violence in all of its ramifications. Violence by anybody, individual or group is violence, thus, it must not only be condemned, but redress and justice issue to the deserved party. As Shehu Usmanu Dan Fodiyo said, “the greatest injustice is to put something where it does not belong”. Thus, banditry as we are witnessing it presently in Northern Nigeria must be condemned and joined hands to bring it to an end peacefully.
It is one thing to be a leader and another to be a foresighted leader. Leadership is all about caring for your people positively irrespective of your personal beliefs on issues particularly during challenging time. Any leader that arrogates to himself the attitude of “I know better than anybody, and only my way is the path”, that leader needs to prepare for a harsh historical verdict.
The recent comment by Governor Nasiru El Rufa’i of Kaduna state that his government will not negotiate with bandits is too disappointing. A person of his exposure is supposed to know better. These bandits have been admitting variously that they do not like this life-path (of banditry and or kidnapping) they choose. Thus, signaling willingness for repenting. Your Excellency, as you perfectly stated that “Fulani has no religion”, what else do you expect from a person of that condition? As you are well aware of your Excellency, most of these Fulanis involved in banditry, are not exposed to the urbanite system of life! Expecting them to behave like you and me is too much and unrealistic. We should never expect them to think and most importantly act as we do. If you will not be offended by your Excellency by these questions, sir, how many primary schools did your government build in these villages where these Fulanis are living? How many hospitals are built in the same areas? How qualified are their teachers? How many secondary schools you built in these areas? Hope you can see from the angle other people are looking at this issue, Dr. Gummi inclusive.
Since the beginning of his contact with these bandits, Dr. Gummi has been bold enough to tell you (leaders and elites) the bitter truth, that this banditry problem emanated from governance failure to cater for these poor of the poor. All governments in Nigeria take Fulanis for granted ever since! Simple life amenities are believed to be unnecessary for Fulanis. Roads, hospitals, etc., are considered wastage if provided to these villages, thus, now the chicken come home to roost. From 1999 when democratic rule (if there is really one) was restored in the country, nothing tangible can be shown in these villages as a “dividend of democracy”, while at the same time they are casting their votes election after election.
Your Excellency sir, you either negotiate with bandits or not, it is at your peril! The bandits have nothing to lose compared to you and ordinary Kaduna and Northern Nigerian citizenry. You as a leader and politician for that matter have too much to lose. Another question your Excellency is, can you quantify the economic loss to Kaduna state (in terms of revenue generation as well as investment in-flow) from the activities of these bandits? The answer is no. Thus, wasting time to address the issue through the military might not work as we have seen. This issue of banditry is more than three solid years now, if the military might quell it, three years are good enough for that, but yet we are crying for these bandits’ nefarious activities.
Governor El Rufa’i seems to already make his stance bold and clear about bandits in his state and the country at large. According to El-Rufa’i “Anybody that thinks a Fulani man that ventured into kidnapping for ransom and he is earning millions of naira would go back to his former life of getting N100,000 after selling a cow in a year must be deceiving himself”. Your Excellency, this your assertion is not correct. There are numerous examples right under your nose where people making less money and ventured into serious heinous crimes and repented after a while. As you rightly claimed that Fulanis that ventured into banditry have no religion, don’t you think giving them access to religion will help them to repent? It seems you have a problem with the history of banditry and its similar criminalities in our dear country. You might need more history class (refresher courses) sir. We are all living witnesses to the crises in the Niger Delta. The Niger Delta criminals repented after the government offered them “amnesty” due to their elites’ pressure on the government. Not only amnesty, but numerous opportunities were put for them on the table to choose whatever they want. Scholarships were granted to them to top Universities in the World. Sir, you as a member of the elites in Northern Nigeria, what do you think would work for Fulanis to abandon banditry? As a governor that is how you are supposed to be thinking, not the opposite.
Sir, if Niger Delta criminals repented, why would Fulani criminals not repent? Is it because they are from the North or is it because they are Fulani? As you said that Fulanis that engaged in banditry have no religion, likewise the Niger Deltans that engaged the Federal government of Nigeria have no religion. If the federal government negotiated with the Niger Delta criminals, the Fulani bandits also deserved to be negotiated with. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
Looking out of our shores, negotiating with criminals is not new, particularly criminal that is transitional in nature. We are currently witnessing how the lone “superpower” is trying to end the quagmire it trapped itself into since 2001. The United States of America just recently or precisely at die minutes of the Trump administration it announced an agreement it entered into with Taliban in Afghanistan. Thus, if the most superior military of the World would negotiate with an organization like Taliban for its peace and tranquility, why would a mere state government in Nigeria would not?
As we witnessed the United States of America’s government negotiating with the Taliban, either way, Kaduna state or Nigeria central government will negotiate with these bandits. You need to kindly remember your present position sir. If you were an “accidental public servant”, presently you are “presented public servant”. That is, you presented yourself for the rigor of electioneering and all that it involved in selecting leaders. Thus, either you or your party – the APC will be hunted by failure or refusal to do the needful when it matters must. Be rest assured sir, by 2022, when general elections are at the corner, you and your party will be looking for anyone that will facilitate negotiations between your government and these bandits.
Your excellency, as Daily trust editorial captured the issue in one of its editorials that vacuum was created by successive governments in Nigeria, particularly Northern states, which Kaduna is included, people are flabbergasted on who and how this vacuum would be filled. For refusal of governments to either engage these bandits into negotiations, forced Dr. Gummi into it. People just hope that international NGOs will not hijack Dr. Gummi’s effort and escalate the situation as we see in Borno and the entire North Eastern part of the country.
Your excellency, negotiating with bandits is not a weakness, rather it is leadership strength as well as foresight. By negotiating with these bandits, the economic wellbeing of your state and citizenry will be revived, something you have been working on since you assumed office. Whenever peace was restored to Kaduna state as a result of negotiation with these bandits, you will leave golden legacy boldly in Northern Nigeria, as Kaduna is Northern Nigeria sir.
Late is dangerous on this matter sir. The people of Kaduna and Northern Nigeria are yawning for peace and tranquility like all other humans that want to have decent and dignified lives. The earlier the better. Kindly sir, remember that you were one time an accidental public servant and todays’ interested public servant (someone that begged to be voted into office by the citizens of his state, Fulani inclusive).
Abdullahi writes via firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily