The Agony in Sokoto and Buhari’s Misnomer

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RingTrue with Yemi Adebowale, yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 08054699539 (text only)

Ringtrue By Yemi Adebowale 08054699539  Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com

For years, Sokoto State was the most peaceful up North. It was immune from religious riot, kidnapping, banditry and all sorts of terrorism associated with most states in this region. I often remember my NYSC days in this once beautiful state with so much nostalgia. Back then, we frequently roved from one end of the state to the other, visiting co-NYSC members, from Ilela to Tangaza, to Gudu, Tureta, Sabon Birni and further. All these are now history. My beloved Sokoto is now one of the states under the servitude of Fulani militias, with unending stories of innocent people being killed and maimed. The last three years have been horrendous.

The story of how the militias invaded Amarawa village, in Ilela Local Government Area, last Monday, killing and maiming, left me disconsolate. By the time the bastards departed the village, 10 persons had been killed, with scores injured. A wealthy Amarawa businessman was kidnapped during the operation. As at press time, his relatives were still battling to pay the ransom demanded by the militias. The guerrillas earlier visited Gwadabawa Local Government Area and whisked away the PDP local government chairman, Alhaji Nasiru Isah, whose whereabouts is yet to be ascertained.

Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has to wake up, else Sokoto will join the inglorious club of states where Fulani militias carry out attacks on a daily basis. The situation in Ilela, Tangaza and Gudu is worrisome and calls for a proactive response. Fulani militias have established cells around these areas. That was why in May last year, the terrorists killed 60 people during attacks in Sabon Birni, Garki, Dan Aduwa, Kuzari, Katuma and Masawa.

In September 2020, there was another bloody attack by the militias in Tangaza town and in Gudu Local Government Area of Sokoto State, with a DPO and an Inspector killed in a police station in Tangaza. Scores of people were abducted in these LGAs.
In June 2019, many people were killed by the militias in three communities in Rabah Local Government Area. The militias, over a hundred, raided Kalhu, Tsage and Geeri villages near Gandi and killed 25 persons. An Internally Displaced Persons camp emerged in Gandi after the June 2019 attacks. Back then, Tambuwal pledged that the government would take more measures to end the killings. Unfortunately, there has been no result in this direction. Tambuwal knows this. Sabon Birni, Rabah, Goronyo, Gwadabawa, Wurno and Illela LGAs are sporadically attacked.

Some may argue that since Tambuwal does not control the security agencies, there is little he can do in terms of securing his people and ensuring that the state does not join the ugly club that has Katsina, Zamfara, Niger and Kaduna; that it would be difficult to hold him responsible for the security failings in the state. This is not totally correct. Constitutionally, Tambuwal is the Chief Security Officer of the state. As the CSO of this state, there is a lot he should be doing to ensure that the state does not join the club of militia-ravaged states. Before the security crisis in Sokoto State degenerates, Tambuwal must creatively perform his role as the CSO to protect his people by using his security vote wisely. Yes, security agents have performed poorly across the country in terms of taming terrorists, but Tambuwal can get them to perform some magic in his state, by properly motivating them with his security vote. He should work on the military bases in the state. This governor should also explore using hunters in the troubled local government areas to tackle the militias. Sokoto State must not be allowed to degenerate to the level of Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, and Kaduna states.

On the flip side, the verbal responses of President Buhari to the spate of terrorism in the country are a bundle of contradictions. On the one hand, he pledges to protect Nigerians while on the other hand, we see statements asking people to protect themselves. While the Kagara boys were still in captivity, Buhari advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings. After the release of the Kagari boys, our President reiterated his earlier advice to school owners, particularly the state and local governments, as well as religious organisations, to scale up security around their schools in line with the standards laid down by the UN-backed Safe School Programme of the administration. Is our President unaware of the enormity of the security challenge posed by the well-armed militias? What kind of security will school owners provide that will ward off a band of 200 AK-47-wielding terrorists? To what extent has his government implemented its so-called Safe School Programme?

Instead of these languid statements, I will like to see our President issuing real performance targets with specific deadlines to heads of security agencies to end all forms of terrorism in the country. The one issued yesterday was feeble. Again, Buhari should stop sending out “strong warning to the bandits and their sponsors”. He should stop directing security and intelligence agencies (on paper) in the country “to hunt down the culprits and bring them to justice.” How many Fulani militias, bandits and kidnappers have they brought to justice in almost six years? Nigerians are tired of press statements threatening militias. Many want to see the terrorists and their sponsors dealt practical solid blows; not blows with press statements.

Claims by the Buhari government that security agents have hesitated in going for the jugular of kidnappers because of the fear of casualties of the abductees is preposterous. After the abduction of the Jangebe schoolgirls, the Buhari government remarked: “No criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government. The only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement. We have the capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits.” This is a lame excuse. It is obviously not the reason for the failings of our security agents. If our special forces lack the capacity to rescue hostages with limited casualties, then Nigeria should seek help abroad. Recently, the Americans came into this country and neatly rescued one of their nationals in Sokoto State. However, I am convinced that our security agents have the capacity to burst the kidnappers but are being held back by Buhari’s ethnic considerations. This government has a lot of questions to answer in this direction. A lot of dark things will manifest after May 2023.

Presidential statements on kidnappings issued in the last nine days have also tacitly confirmed ransom to kidnappers. Buhari appealed to state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles,” warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously. He adds that “ransom will continue to prosper kidnapping.” It is an open secret that all levels of government, the federal government inclusive, pay ransom. So, what is our President talking about? The Dapchi girls and Kankara boys’ experiences are still fresh in our memories.

The issue of rewarding militias who kidnap for ransom takes me again to Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle. It was the turn of Fulani militia, Zakoa Buhari, the son of dreaded kingpin, Tsoho Buhari, notoriously known as “Buharin Daji”, to be rewarded by Matawalle. It took place 10 days ago at the Zamfara State Government House. Zakoa Buhari and some of his men “repented” and surrendered some rickety weapons to Matawalle. After taking an oath with the Holy Quran in the presence of top Zamfara government officials, security operatives, and traditional rulers, the militias laid down their arms, vowing never to return to banditry. Of course, this was in exchange for good cash.

Auwal Daudawa, who masterminded the abduction of over 300 students at Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State, and five of his lieutenants, also surrendered some weapons to Matawalle about two weeks ago in exchange for cash. That is the charade that has been on in Zamfara State for almost two years; yet killings and abductions by Fulani militias persist. Just last Thursday, the militias abducted 60 women and children at Gidan Baushe village in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State. While leaving the village, they set many shops and foodstuffs on fire. So, what has Zamfara gained from Matawalle’s useless amnesty?
The Zamfara State governor is evidently one of those rewarding militias with money and vehicles. It can only happen in Nigeria. This governor has made kidnapping lucrative. Somebody has to stop Matawalle. This is where Zamfara elders must come in. Non-state actors become so powerful in a country when the government flops. This is what has been happening in Nigeria for almost six years now. This country has never been this mismanaged.

New EFCC Boss as Malami’s Errand Boy

I just laughed when Buhari’s anti-corruption adviser, Itse Sagay, said he was worried about the influence the Attorney-General of the Federation/Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, may have on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under the leadership of its new chair, Abdulrasheed Bawa. Sagay, who is the chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption is uncomfortable with the fact that Malami and Bawa share the same state of origin, a development which he said would not augur well for the smooth operations of the nation’s flagship anti-corruption agency.

Sagay said his fear was further based on Malami’s antecedents of attempting to control the EFCC: “This issue is a very big question because I noticed that they both come from the same state of Kebbi and they may even be related. For me, that is not a very healthy thing because the chairman of the EFCC and the EFCC are supposed to be independent.”

I believe Bawa and Malami coming from the same state is not the main problem with this appointment. It is about our attorney general finally enthroning his stooge as EFCC Chairman. Unlike Sagay, I am not worried one bit, because I am not expecting anything special from Bawa. With his appointment, Malami has now taken full and direct charge of the EFCC. This attorney general of our country influenced the sack of Ibrahim Magu and single-handedly brought in Bawa. This is an open secret. Bawa is Malami’s boy and would report to him on a day to day basis. What we now have in the EFCC is a paddy paddy arrangement with an eaglet chairman. Malami is now running the show. Buhari’s broken vessel called war against corruption has now been cremated.

Arrest of Salihu Tanko Yakasai
The recent arrest and detention of Salihu Tanko Yakasai, the erstwhile media adviser to Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, by the Department of State Security was absolutely unnecessary. Arresting Salihu, because of his critical views on the raging insecurity in our country, shows lack of respect for our Constitution and the rule of law by the Buhari government. The DSS could not have carried out the sordid action without the express permission of powerful guys in the Villa. The culture of not tolerating contrasting views has to end in Nigeria. Freedom of expression is entrenched in our Constitution and anybody that feels aggrieved by another person’s comments should go to court. Salihu’s remarks that the ruling All Progressives Congress has failed Nigerians in the area of security is a fact. The activist, who was miffed by the abduction of the Jangebe girls, says the worsening insecurity situation in the country showed the APC-led government has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of the citizens.

Salihu, one of the sons of elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, added: “Clearly, we as the APC government, at all levels, have failed Nigerians in the number one duty we were elected to do which is to secure lives and property. Not a single day goes by without some sort of insecurity in this land. This is a shame! Deal with terrorists decisively or resign. Each time another tragedy happens, we lament, condemn, create hashtag, the government pretends to do something, no concrete steps to prevent reoccurrence, and then we repeat the process. To what end? Where are those saddled with the responsibility?”
Salihu spoke the truth. Harassing him further reflects the failing of the Buhari government.