Putting Separatism and Terrorism On Scale

As a crucial sense of nationhood is being perilously depleted while key managers of that ideal dawdle, jumbled narratives around three recurring and disruptive ‘brands’ need rejigging, writes Louis Achi

Perhaps, aided by a contrived conceptual fog in the face of clear and present dangers, key national stakeholders are pushing muddled models of engagements with disruptive eruptions – ranging from unarmed separatist activism to clearly militarised, brazen and bloody criminality unfolding in the country.

From the presidency, national assembly, various governors, prominent clerics, various political parties, eminent stakeholders and statesmen like former Chief of army staff, retired Lt-General TY Danjuma, Minister of Defence, Maj-General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd) and many more – it has been a discordant tune, drawing out the real internal contradictions in the skewed Nigerian state.

Significantly, there has been a sharp disagreement between notable Northern governors, when a renowned Islamic cleric, Sheik Gumi canvassed amnesty for bandits.

But when General Danjuma warned his Middle Belt folks to stoutly defend themselves against the bloody attacks from bandits and rogue herders whom he alleged enjoyed state protection, he was pilloried to no end.
Last week, his position, though in a different context, was re-echoed by no less a personality than the Minister of Defence, Maj-General Bashir Salihi Magashi (rtd).

On September 20, 2017, Justice Abdu Kafarati, then Chief Judge of the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Abuja, made the order proscribing the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and designating it a terrorist group upon an ex parte application by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).

But the group contended in a motion it filed before the same judge on September 22, 2017, that the proscription order was unconstitutional.
In January 2018, Justice Kafarati, resolved all the three formulated issues against the group and held that the September 20, 2017 proscription order of the court was validly issued, hence dismissing the contention of IPOB’s lawyer, Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor.

IPOB’s proscription arguably remains one of the most politically divisive actions taken by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and seems to have blurred the lines between separatism and terrorism.
For many, to treat an unarmed IPOB as a terror group is to politicise terrorism and weaken the efficacy of Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011, as amended, send a wrong message that the government is intolerant of dissent and separatist agitations, including calls for restructuring the federation.

Clearly, in exercising such presidential powers, the chief executive must be seen to resist the temptation of using the instrument of the statute for advancing ethnic, sectional, religious or political interest.
Arguably, no multi-ethnic federation that is threatened by the divisive forces of ethnicity can survive for long if no genuine efforts are made to engage the disparate ethnic groups in the gains of union to reaffirm their faith in the federal arrangement.

Little wonder, the outspoken Catholic cleric, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah accused that, “It is in this country that the same standards are not held against all. Some can get away with anything but others cannot get away with something. I shudder at those who blame the agitators for agitating.”
While the federal government deployed the sledge hammer against IPOB and is even currently, in a war-grade land/air offensive against elements of that group in the Orlu forests in Imo State with reported considerable collateral damage, the same force cannot be said to have been enlisted against other openly armed groups that have shed even more blood in the country.

According to the National President of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Bello Abdullahi Bodejo “All the lands in this country belong to the Fulani, but we don’t have any business to do with land if it doesn’t have areas for grazing.
“If the land doesn’t have cow food, we won’t have any business with it. If the place is good for grazing, we don’t need anybody’s permission to go there.”

He was reacting to Governor Akeredolu of Ondo State’s one-week notice to herders to leave the state’s forest reserves.
However, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association (MACBAN), a much older sister cattle herders’ body disowned Bodejo’s imperious proclamations and condemned the call credited to the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, which urged herders to defend themselves against attacks by ethnic militia in the southern region.

Largely in the Middle Belt, South-south, Southeast and South-western forests and contiguous territory, kidnap for ransom, banditry, brutal killings, rape, deliberate destruction of property and extensive population displacement have scaled up.
In all these, the security agencies are either incapable or unwilling to rein in the spreading terror with allegations of complicity daily mounting.

Strangely, a key concern of the current administration, seemingly supported by a laid-back national parliament is how best to stop progressive states and regions from birthing security structures that will neutralise the current bloody terror and safeguard their people.

A major enabler of the bloody impunity playing out is the apparent lack of stern consequences for criminals, who breach Nigerian law. Many allege that because the president is Fulani, then the Fulani have licence to run riot.
Though it must not be forgotten that there are many law abiding Fulani, who have spent all their lives in the South, living and interacting peacefully with Southerners.

It cannot be denied that audacious, armed banditry has scaled up in the country Nigeria – adding to the nation’s many security challenges, besides the bloody Boko Haram insurgency in the North.

In the North-Central geo-political zone, herders’ impunity has become a key security concern. Brutal rural banditry in the North West zone has taken the centre stage. But what has been the state response?
According to Chukwuma Okoli, Lecturer/Resident Researcher Department of Political Science, Federal University Lafia, “Rural banditry refers to armed violence driven principally by the criminal intent to steal and plunder. It is motivated by the quest for economic accumulation.

“The victims are individuals and communities with material valuables. The most common examples of rural banditry in Nigeria are armed robbery, kidnapping, cattle rustling and village raids.”
Today, rural banditry in the North Western states of Zamfara, Kaduna and Katsina has reached alarming heights. Bandits terrorise villages with impunity. They have actually cozily settled in Zamfara State, setting up fortified enclaves in the hinterland and on the frontiers, from where they plot and carry out their operations.

Forty-eight hours ago, elites and leaders of the Southwest region asked President Buhari to absolve himself from herdsmen militia killings in their region. The demand was made at a meeting of Southwest security stakeholders, chaired by Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba Land, Iba Gani Adams. This captures the strong perception of lack of even handed justice delivery to lawbreakers.

Significantly, the meeting also aligned with the call of the governors of Southwest that President Buhari proves his innocence in the carnage being perpetrated by herders by not only unambiguously condemning the nefarious acts but also taking clear steps to exterminate it.

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