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Nigeria’s Calamitous Movement: Who is Safe? II By Prof M.K. Othman

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Blueprint newspaper published the first part of this article three years ago on Thursday, January 14, 2021, in my weekly column of Deep Thought. Because of what was written in the article, I received a ton of threats to my life from the dark forces operating behind the scenes. Momentarily, the threats baptized me into the world of being a social critic and its consequences. Fear of death is pointless because everyone eventually has to experience the bitterness of death: kings, queens, and their subjects, as well as murderers, oppressors, and terrors, must all succumb to the cold hands of death at the appointed time without hesitation. Why should anyone be a cause for another person to go to the grave? Still, I was certainly taken aback because I had not written worse than what others had written or said about the security situation in this country. The chaotic situation where lives and properties have no value, people and places are ungovernable, rules of law are undermined and jettisoned, and nepotism, favoritism, and massive corruption hold port.
Three years after my article, the security situation has escalated to a higher level, with kidnappers demanding billions of Naira as ransom as they operate in broad daylight with impunity. So, I am paraphrasing and updating my article with recommendations for the way forward. The article can be accessed at https://deepthoughtwithmkothman.blogspot.com/2021/05/nigerias-calamitous-movement-who-is-safe.html.
In Nigeria, the bullets of insurgents, bandits, and assassins have cut down the low and the mightiest in cold blood, more often than not, without an iota of provocation. Sometimes, a whole village is sacked, tortured, maimed, killed, and their women raped for just a “heck of it,” making one wonder and ponder about the purpose and the aim. Three groups of terrorists are holding and squeezing the nation, making it move in a calamitous manner. In the northeast, Boko Haram is calling shots. With the possible exception of Maiduguri and a few other towns, many towns or villages are not safe in the states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa. There are several “no-go” areas in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states. From 2011 to 2019, about 37,500 people were killed, and 2.5 million displaced people in the Chad Basin and the entire northeast (https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/boko-haram-nigeria)

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Among the high-profile personalities claimed by the Boko Haram insurgence was Lt. General Major General Mamman Shuwa (rtd); he was gunned down in broad daylight on Friday, November 2, 2012, at his Gwangwe Area 1 residence at the time he was moving out for Jumma’at prayer. General Shuwa was a first-class soldier who gallantly commanded the Second Division of the Nigerian Army that fought, captured, and won several war fronts during the Nigerian Civil War. General Shuwa was 70 years old at the time of his gruesome murder. A young Army officer, Lt Colonel Muhammad Abu Ali, was another high-profile victim. On November 4, 2016, Boko Haram in Fatori, Borno State, killed him in an ambush. He was in charge of the Army’s 272 Tank Battalion at the time of his passing. Other important personalities were Lt. Col. Shonba, Lt. K. I. Salisu, Sheik Jafar, and Sheik Albani Adams Zaria, among many others.

On the part of low-profile personalities, from 2011 to date, the killings of this category of people were in the hundreds, if not thousands. The climax of Boko Haram’s brutal killing of citizens was that of Zabarmari on December 2, 2020. The killing was mercilessly done and in the most gruesome manner. Killing through a bullet was considered merciful and more expensive, as human life was considered less valuable than a bullet. Hence, the victims had their throats slit with sharp knives, saving the bullets for another time. Over a hundred farmers working on their rice fields lost their lives in that single incident.

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In the northwest, bandits seem to be in control of the region. The daily prayers of the residents in prominent towns within the region are seeking God’s protection against an encounter with bandits. There are many hotspots in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, and Sokoto states where people hardly sleep with their eyes closed for fear of banditry. In fact, there are flashing points, a kind of ‘no-go-area’ to ordinary citizens, except if one wants to ride on the back of a tiger. As a result, in 2020, our beloved country fell to the shameful rank of the third most terrorized in the world. Killing, maiming, rape, agony, and other tragedies inflicted on people have become weekly statistical variables of our dear nation. Nigeria came in second place in the 2020 Global Terrorism Index ranking with a score of 8.314, behind only Afghanistan and Iraq, who scored 9.595 and 8.682, respectively. This most unfortunate position being occupied by Nigeria is the direct result of the combined effects of insurgence, banditry, and kidnapping.

While the northeast and northwest are being grounded by insurgence and banditry, kidnapping is affecting every corner of our motherland. No state is spared of kidnapping. The most embarrassing kidnapping incident was that of 304 male students of Science Secondary School, Kankara, in 2020, Katsina State. It happened less than 24 hours ago when the then Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, came to Katsina State for a weeklong private vacation. The dastardly act was meant to instill fear in citizens, as it took place when the President took the end of the year (2020) to rest and refresh for the New Year. Fortunately, there was no fatality, and the kids were released “unharmed” after six days of captivity, but no person was apprehended or reprimanded for this ungodly act. The country simply moved forward while praying for an end to such an incident(s). Yes, we are a prayerful nation; can we combine prayers and actions?

As a nation, we must wake up to squarely face these despicable acts: insurgence, banditry, and kidnapping. The perpetrators of these acts and, indeed, the whole nation are the losers of these acts of terrorism. The bandits, insurgents, and kidnappers are living in the forest, living a life of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty. Living by the hour, as they are uncertain of what may happen in the next hour. Many of them may be craving to live a normal life but cannot with the blood of their innocent victims hanging on their heads. They should stop these atrocities against their kith and kin and fatherland and surrender. The nation cannot survive these acts for a long time, as every citizen is a potential victim of this terrorism. No nation can develop under the yoke of terrorism. What do we do?

The Nigerian leadership has the sole responsibility to initiate a permanent solution to address these acts of terrorism. The government can use both carrots and sticks to tackle the issues. It should be thought about giving insurgents, bandits, and kidnappers who truly want to repent a soft landing. To use the stick, Nigeria must be well prepared to acquire adequate security personnel, equipment, and prerequisite manpower development. Right now, there are less than 500,000 police officers in the country. They are grossly inadequate to police over 200 million people. There are several strategies, short, medium, and long-term, to address these acts of atrocity and save the country. We must be honest with ourselves to address this calamitous movement of our nation and make it safer for all and sundry. As of today, no one is safe. What are the current security challenges? What were the strategies to address the issues? To be continued next week.

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