By Lekan Sote
There are conflicting reports of an escape by Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar III of Sokoto, who left the Nigeria Army (to ascend the throne of Shehu Uthman dan Fodio), as a Brigadier-General, through a window to avoid a horde of bandits who invaded a mosque.
America’s General Douglas MacArthur once suggested that old soldiers never die, a testimony to the lasting agility of military types. So if anyone saw the agile moves of the Sultan in the face of danger it should not be surprising.
Even if this report is fake, as one would hope, it shows the level to which security in Nigeria has deteriorated, signifying that the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has failed to discharge its primary assignment.
A sultan, gathering his turban, djellaba, cape, slippers and worry beads in his hands as he jumps out through the window to avoid kidnapping or harm is not only undignifying, it is sacrilege.
Oba Israel Adewusi, Olufon of Ifon in Ose Local Government Area of Ondo State, was killed by armed assailants. And others, including Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Yoruba Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti, have been killed in these perilous times.
SBM, a research firm, recently reported that the 3,686 non-state actors killed between October 2020 and September 2021 included Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, Indigenous People of Biafra separatists, militants, vigilance groups’ members, cultists and smugglers.
Also, 985 security agents, from the military, police and customs were killed within the same period. It is, however, evident that Nigeria has gone beyond insurgency, separatists and bandits to a nearly full-blown war though the government is fighting shy of admitting it.
Initially, it was only Boko Haram, with lifestyle and religious grouses (which Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, thinks is ideological), against the Nigerian state and society.
It snowballed into herders attacking farmers and their cattle destroying farm crops, and banditry (euphemism for kidnapping, which should attract sanctions). Bandits, that the President now admits are terrorists, exact levies and taxes from farmers and install district heads and satraps– even in Niger State, near the Federal Capital Territory.
Also, loose collectives of bandits and Boko Haram splinter groups, like the Islamic State of West Africa Province that is bankrolled by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, spread across vast ungoverned spaces of Northern Nigeria.
Musician, Dan Shanawa, praised bandit Bello Turji as “a lion, untouchable and great leader.” Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal was understandably alarmed. But he ordered the arrest of the musician, instead of the criminal, who had the temerity to write a truce letter to Zamfara State Governor. Though Nigeria Airforce fighter jets later sacked his camp.
Founder of Choice of Peace, Gender and Development Non-Governmental Organisation, Hafsat Maina Mohammed, who sought asylum in America after being raped, was on TV, to tell Nigerians about her traumatic experience at the hands of men believed to be Boko Haram insurgents.
Sometimes, amidst sobs and agony, she narrated the story of her abduction and rape, when she tried to shoo the men away from raping a nine-year-old girl. She described the trauma and stigmatisation of rape victims as well as general insecurity in Northern Nigeria.
She and her collaborators are looking for ways to make Northern Nigeria a more secure and safe place for everyone, especially the female child. She hinted that Southern Nigerians cannot afford to act as if the insecurity in the North does not concern them, though Northern leaders kept mum when herders went on a rampage in the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria.
To date, nearly all the Chibok Girls, some of the Dapchi Girls, and many abducted students in Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger and other Northern Nigerian states are either dead or presumed missing because no one can account for them.
As predicted by Obafemi Awolowo, first Premier of Western Nigeria, and Aisha Yesufu, activist and co-convener of #BringBackOurGirls pressure group, uneducated (Northern) Nigerian youths will one day rise as a menace to society.
Awolowo puts it this way: “The children of the poor (that) you refuse to train will never let your (educated) children have peace.” This reminds one of the 13.5 million out-of-school children roaming the streets, mainly in Northern Nigeria.
Aisha puts it more graphically: “The day the abandoned (Northern Nigerian youths) decide to hit the streets (in protest or rampage?), the North (and Nigeria too) will burn. These ones will not spare anyone.”
By demanding that the Buhari regime should, at least, secure the lives and properties of Northern citizens, (and by extension, other Nigerians), the demonstrating youths displayed nearly the same savvy as their (mostly) Southern Nigerian #EndSARS counterparts who took Nigeria by storm in October 2020.
The caption on the banner of the demonstrating Northern youths screamed, “#NorthernNigeriaIsBleeding.” They added the kicker, “Buhari Is Sleeping,” so that none, especially residents of Aso Rock Villa, will be in doubt as to who should wear the cap of the restorer of peace to Nigeria.
Sokoto State chapter of Coalition of Northern Groups declared in unequivocal terms, ‘’We hereby place the authorities on notice that if the killings and abductions are not significantly or totally controlled within the next three months, mass action would be called that will not prelude occupying all towns in all the frontline states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.” Remember #OccupyLagos during the Goodluck Jonathan presidency?
Note that former President Olusegun Obasanjo thinks Buhari has gone past his sell-by date; that he has done his best for the security and welfare of Nigerians who should now be thinking of the post-Buhari era.
Obasanjo recounted that Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, who visits bandits in the thickest boondocks of Northern Nigeria, told him of boy-soldiers in the order of kids who fought the Liberia and Sierra Leone wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
In the early part of the Boko Haram insurgency, young girls with bombs strapped to their bodies went out to kill victims in mosques or markets. Some of them, caught before they could detonate the bombs, were found to be high on drugs.
Governor Bello Masari of Katsina State, President Buhari’s home state, appears to agree with Minister of Defence, retired Major General Bashir Magashi, who suggested that Nigerians should stand up to bandits man-to-man.
Masari wants the government to allow Nigerians to bear arms in self-defence one presumes.
This may lead to the idea of state police, whose precursors are Amotekun or Western Nigeria Security Network, Northern Nigeria’s several Joint Task Forces (euphemism for government-approved vigilance forces), and emerging Ebubeagu in South-East Nigeria.
As some pressure groups, like Yoruba Afenifere, insist that the Nigerian polity must be restructured before the 2023 general elections, Prof Attahiru Jega, former Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, thinks insecurity may jeopardise the 2023 elections.
He warns: “As we look forward to the 2023 General Elections there is increasing apprehension that the pervasive insecurity in the country may present a formidable obstacle, if not an obstruction, to that election.”
Maybe now that significant voices in Northern Nigeria, including that of Sultan Abubakar, have been added to those from Southern Nigeria, President Buhari will lead the fight against terror from the front, and allow state police.
Those Northern Nigerian supporters of the President, who finally found their voice of dissent, must not be shot at like #EndSARS protesters.