The LYNX EYE  : Where lies the political will to tackle this insurgency? By Taiwo Adisa



By Taiwo Adisa

These days, reading some news stories evokes dour moments. Some even come with a sadder feel. Banditry here, insurgents there, and kidnappers at another front. That has been the page of the Nigerian book, the citizens have had to read willy-nilly, in the last decade and more. The other page, which opened in recent months, contains lessons in galloping inflation, unavailable essential drugs, and food insecurity. ‘Bandits kill lecturer, abduct his two children’. ‘Kidnappers abduct judge, kill son’. ‘Bandits impose tax on farmers’. ‘We pay bandits to access our farms’. From the gloomy to the grotesque, the headlines make the mind weary. It is as if we are watching horror films. Nigeria, initially classified as the country with the happiest people on earth has suddenly become the most insurgency-traumatised.
If today’s news suggests that we have seen it all, the next day presents another Ogbenutan (strange but true). The nation has moved from the smiling prosperity of the 1970s to the global capital of poverty and misery, home of gory scenes, organised crime, and mercantile insurgency. Sometimes, you want to wonder, how easy it is for the president, his vice, the governors, and their deputies to find sleep amid the abhorrent occurrences. Our leaders must have minds or maybe many of them lost their conscience before they got sworn in.

One of the leaders in the line of fire is the governor of Zamfara State, Dauda Lawal, who voiced out his frustration on a Channels Television programme on Democracy Day, 2024. He declared that Nigeria lacks the political will to tackle insurgency.

The governor had said: “If you can take care of Zamfara today, believe me, you would have solved 90 per cent of the banditry issue in northern Nigeria as a whole. If we are committed, if we are serious, we can take care of this situation within two weeks maximum. But the political will is not there.


“While we are trying to take care of the situation, somebody, somewhere, somehow, behind our back, is negotiating with bandits as a governor of a state, without my knowledge. In Zamfara, there were a series of negotiations with these bandits but what happened at the end? Nothing. How does one even begin to negotiate at the point of weakness instead of at the point of strength? It is just a money venture kind of thing.”

The Defence Headquarters, in its reply through the Director, Defence Media Operations, Maj. Gen. Edward Buba said that the Armed Forces of Nigeria has been professional in its handling of the war against banditry and insurgency.

He said: “The AFN hereby makes it unequivocally clear that it is a professional force that is subservient to political authority, particularly the political leadership of Zamfara State. The military will not take issues with the governor, rather we choose the path of cooperation over conflict with the state governor and look forward to constructively engaging with him on these matters.”

As much as one would find it difficult to blame the security operatives who have been handling the assorted criminals for being lackadaisical, one cannot also run away from the truism in the saying that as far as lice remain on the head, the fingers will continue to get bloodstained. Since the war is not yet won, all eyes would remain on the military and security operatives to perform the magic. And then, every statistic out there justifies Governor Lawal’s assertion.

A March 2024 report of the Armed Conflict Location & Events Data Project (ACLED) indicated that between end of February and mid-March, over 500 people were kidnapped in a series of mass abductions in Nigeria’s North East and North-West regions. The incidents include the February 29 abduction of over 200 people in Borno State, the March 7 abduction of 287 pupils in the Chikun area of Kaduna, the abduction of another 15 children from an Islamic school in Sokoto on March 9, as well as the kidnap of 61 persons in Kajuru, Kaduna State on 12 March.

ACLED further reported that between 2019 and 2023, there were 662 recorded kidnapping-related events in the North West and 246 such incidents in the North East, indicating that the cases in the North West rose by about 169% more than that of the North-East within the same period. The North West has thus certainly won the ignoble crown of the epicentre of insurgency in the country. Indeed, the report noted that bandit groups moved from cattle rustling, which provided them the economic stay between 2011 and 2019 to large group kidnapping, especially of women and children around festive periods, when governments would in panic mode release money for the safe return of the abducted.
Faced with such unhelpful statistics, Governor Lawal cannot be blamed for condemning the seeming lack of determination to end the menace. In reading his mind, I want to say that the governor’s jibes were not directed at the officers and men on the frontline. He mentioned the absence of “political will” to end the threat. For instance, the governor was thinking aloud that the military chiefs do have a Commander-in-Chief. How strong are his words whenever he addresses them? What confidence does he give them to ensure they do not look back in risking their lives to end the unwanted danger? Why is the Commander-in-Chief telling them to observe “Rules of Engagement” in handling a group that has no rule of engagement? As we send them to the field, do we equally leave them to bother about the International Criminal Court and the like? Or do we give them the kind of stony support the system in Russia and Israel give their troops in the prosecution of their wars?
I am wont to ask those who were old enough to describe how the Civil War of 1967 to 1970 was prosecuted, since I was a baby as the war broke, whether what we are seeing in terms of operations today happened at the time, even though the much we read in the books showed a fiercely fought battle, with no-nonsense dedication. Still, I am pressed to ask if the civil war was prosecuted the same way this war against insurgency is being executed. Did they have the Army shooting guns on a separate field, while the Air Force was bombing elsewhere, even as the police and Navy were also doing something else? Did they operate without coordination and synergy? Did they elevate inter-agency rivalry to the front burner of their operations?
I am sure the civil war would still be on by now if it was prosecuted the disjointed way we are seeing the war against insurgency and banditry. Why is it so difficult for the security forces to work in one accord in prosecuting the war against banditry, kidnapping, and the unwarranted insurgency?
We have to say this here and now: If the leaders of today intend to have a nation to hand over to the leaders of tomorrow, they must wake up to dismantle the insurgents, the bandits, and the kidnappers now. They must do away with President Muhammadu Buhari’s inglorious strategy of seeking “repentant” insurgents. The state must ensure that anyone who kills is also returned to his maker with the sword, unless he can return the breath of life he took in cold blood.

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