Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari’s decision to negotiate with bandits typifies the level of helplessness, not just in the state but across the country, writes Shola Oyeyipo
Apicture that emanated from President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state of Katsina last Thursday, where the incumbent governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari posed in a picture with an arm-wielding bandit is nothing but a disturbing sight, which reminds all of the seeming helpless state of security across the country.
Sadly, the governor claimed he had a session with representatives of bandits that have been making life unbearable for residents of eight local government areas of the state in order to arrive at some workable solutions, with a view to stemming the spate of the attacks and kidnappings that have resulted in the loss of lives and destruction of property worth several hundreds of millions.
As in other functions of government at that level, it was a well-attended event. It attracted among other people, the deputy governor, Alhaji Manir Yakubu, traditional rulers and district heads led by the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdulmumin Kabir Usman.
It also had in attendance the likes of the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa, Transition Committee Chairmen of the affected local government areas, representatives of Miyyeti Allah and Fulani herdsmen among others.
For many Nigerians, who were miffed and embarrassed by the celebration of sheer ineptitude at the highest level as displayed by Masari, the question is, what is such crass display of helplessness about? Is it that the government is incapable of dealing with these outlaws and had to go on its knees to pacify the killers of the people, who voted them into office.
Many people are in fact of the opinion that money must have changed hands by way of inducement from the Katsina government to either defray the cost of their agreement to be part of the meeting or as his counterpart in Kaduna State, Nasir el-Rufai, allegedly gave them mouth watering sum of money.
Although the obviously ill-advised governor talked tough at the meeting, the event that will follow will show Nigerians how serious the leaders are about protecting the ordinary citizen, who are daily molested by perpetrators of violence. It will be a test case of how Masari is prepared to walk his talk.
This is because when he was acknowledging that banditry had reached an embarrassing dimension to the state government and President Buhari himself, he stated emphatically that his government was prepared to deal decisively with banditry and kidnapping, which had put the state on a global map of an insecure part of the world. “We are ready to dialogue with the bandits and are ready to go anywhere they invited us, because we are not afraid to meet anybody to end this problem.
“As a leader, I must find the solution to the problem so that if today I die, I know how to defend myself before God. I will not allow this to continue. Enough is enough,” he said, justifying his action.
The ironical part of it all was that the governor, who was finding a means to dialogue with the bandits, would later say, “I have directed the security operatives to take all necessary measures to change the narrative on insecurity in the state, by any means necessary.”
Emir Usman of Katsina was even more decisive. His position was that the State House of Assembly should facilitate speedy passage of the signed mandatory death sentences for cattle-rustling and kidnapping bill into law.
The social media is already abuzz with comments on the decision of the Katsina State government to negotiate with ‘enemies of state,’ especially considering that many Nigerians had died in the hands of these bloodthirsty bandits, who kill innocent citizens without mercy.
Reacting to the development, a commentator on Facebook wrote: “Anytime we say government knows and is in touch with Boko Haram terrorists and you dismiss it, the joke is obviously on you. This here is enough evidence. But have you wondered why we have sunk this further? Leadership! It is evidently absent in all facets of our national life.
“Anyway, what do you expect from a leadership that has surrendered governance and responsibility to God? And to those of you still clapping and goading them on, the result of this staggering ineptitude will get to you too and soon. Do not haste.”
The Masari-bandits picture also attracted the attention of a newspaper publisher, Humphery Onyanabo, who said: “Imagine the absurdity. A soldier is standing there without a gun, but the bandit had a gun. Who cursed us? Only Heaven knows how much was paid to these sets of bandits.
“You will recall el-Rufai even openly boasted that he paid bandits at some point. I can imagine Niger Delta Militants fighting for resource control or whatever. But what are these Northern bandits fighting for? Perhaps, their own share of the national cake or the security vote.”
But one question posed by a commentator, Mike Odebo, who said: “What is the difference between the bandits and Niger Delta militants? What’s the principle of Amnesty all about?” is however important in this debate. Can we compare the bandits to Niger Delta militants and in the case of the bandits, should their dastardly activities be rewarded with the gift of amnesty? Leaders in Nigeria should be wary of attempting to put bandits and militants side-by-side.
Honestly, viewing the situation in Niger Delta, it is not difficult to understand that what led to militancy was the rights to self-determination and resource control by ‘militant groups’ in that region.
The Collins dictionary defined robbers as bandits, “especially if they are found in areas where the rule of law has broken down.”
The dictionary also described a bandit as a gunman or woman, crook or an outlaw, so judging from how Masari posed with his bandit allies and how they openly brandished their weapons last Thursday, it is not wrong to conclude that Nigeria has taken its place of pride among bandit countries or even a failed state.
These bandits do not deserve to be pampered and Governor Masari must know that. They have killed too many people and should be brought to book rather than portray them as celebrities after all this is not another unconventional war.
This will never be the case in other civilised climes. A bandit and a governor should not share the same space negotiating, all things being equal.
In the alternative, if the Nigerian situation has reached such a situation, where the lives of the ordinary people is at the mercy of bandits, Governor Masari, his other colleagues across Nigeria and the Commander-in-Chief, President Buhari, should come out to tell the people that the military, police and other security agencies are now helpless.
It is also important to underscore the fact that it is shameful on the part of leaders and their security agencies that while the leader of the Revolution Now Movement, Mr. Omoyele Sowore is being held by the Directorate of State Security (DSS), self-confessed killers share space with a state governor and not only that, they had the effrontery to display the weapon they had used in killing innocent citizens and finally, they walked free.
Where did the gun come from? What were the terms of negotiation? Against what strength were the bandits at the table? What is the probability that other groups will not demand to be celebrated? What is the deal? Is that the end to banditry in Katsina? How much were they paid?
The questions troubling the mind of Nigerians are endless. Government can only answer these questions by protecting the nation. But one thing is certain: these leaders know these people and have been indulging them all along.
This is the summary of the helpless and shameful disposition of the Katsina State, incidentally the president’s home state governor, who chose to crawl to the enemies of state, because everything else but plea has failed and clearly exposing his crass of ineptitude.
Pix: Masari with one of the bandits after a successful negotiation.jpg