It is becoming ‘curiouser and curiouser’ that this industry called banditry being nurtured by an art called sophistry and gift of the spirit called oratory will dominate public affairs in Africa’s richest and most populous nation for a long time. The reasons are not too far to seek. Even immediate past Army Chief of Staff, Lt. General Tukur Yusuf Buratai had looked into the seeds of security and defence times and seen frightening dimension: that it could take up to 20 years before the newly integrated business genre, insurgency and banditry could be tackled. At least, this artistry, sorry sophistry has earned him a brand new promotion as a Nigeria’s ambassador to a significant foreign land. ‘Seest thou a man who is diligent and oracular on his military beat? He will not be idle a day longer than necessary immediately after retirement! As politicians who have power of oratory can be hailed and hailed, public and military officers who can see tomorrow too can snatch promotion as oracles. Where are the powerfully anointed men of God who can lay hands on more people to be transformed from oratory (power) to be oracles? As it has been widely noted here, orators speak the mind of the people while oracles speak the mind of the gods. General Buratai too has been rewarded among the prophets of our time!
So as banditry has been identified as business that will be for us as data is to the First World, the combined effects of power of sophistry nurtured by oratory will be critical factors that will shape the future of the country. These are tools, sorry powerful weapons that our leaders are now employing to be prominent, even if they are eventually insignificant, after all. And here is the thing, in the new dispensation in this country, this phenomenon called banditry that has displaced militancy and insurgency, has become a front pager and prime time news lead. And so leader (editorial) writers cannot ignore the power of banditry and then the sounds of sophistry and oratory that nurture the business that has forced Global Rights Group supported by McArthur Foundation to come out with a report on ‘Mass Atrocities Report: 2020’. Despite all these factual reports on the state of the nation, the masters of sophistry and orators on banditry that is also setting off ‘mass atrocities’ are also dominating discussion points on development issues. Who wouldn’t be thrilled by a contrasting story I saw the other day when Volkswagen, a German auto giant opened a factory in Rwanda at the time Nigeria’s governors were asking for decentralisation of police operations power to be able to deal with banditry that has assumed a national character.
Rwanda, a country ravaged by genocide in 1994 barely nine years after our leader was removed from office as head of state, has attracted a remarkable foreign direct investment (FDI). Despite our ‘excess love’ for Japanese cars, Toyota, Honda, etc, everywhere we go in this country, there is no factory for any of the Japanese products. What is worse, there is no auto factory for any of the common cars and SUVs, etc we use in the most populous black nation in the world. We now have ‘modular factories’ for bandits as banditry appears to be the fastest growing industry in the country. Professor Pat Utomi is in a better position to write a lamentation story on the fall of Volkswagen in Nigeria where he was deputy managing director some decades ago, when there was a country.
Let’s return to the brass tacks of banditry and the crisis entrepreneurs who would want to continue to resort to sophistry and oratory to be relevant for 2023. It is a time to deconstruct and reconstruct the ‘merchants of banditry’ and their strategies at this time. Banditry. Sophistry. Oratory. These are powerless powers that have ruined empires and can destroy ours.
Banditry, according to some journals, is a type of organised crime committed by outlaws typically involving the threat or use of violence. A person who engages in banditry is known as a bandit and primarily commits crimes such as extortion, robbery and murder, either as an individual or in groups. Banditry is a vague concept of criminality and in modern usage can be synonymous to gangsterism, brigandage, marauding and thievery.
The term bandit (introduced to English via Italian around 1590) originates with the early Germanic legal practice of outlawing criminals, termed *bannan (English ban). The legal term in the Holy Roman Empire was Acht or Reichsacht, translated as “Imperial ban”. In modern Italian, the equivalent word “bandito” literally means banned or a banned person.
The New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (NED) defined “bandit” in 1885 as “one who is proscribed or outlawed; hence, a lawless desperate marauder, a brigand usually applied to members of the organised gangs, which infest the mountainous districts of Italy, Sicily, Spain, Greece, Iran, and Turkey”.
In modern usage the word may become a synonym for “thief”, hence the term “one armed bandit” for gambling machines that can leave the gambler with no money.
In the same vein, “social banditry” is a term invented by the historian Eric Hobsbawm in his 1959 book Primitive Rebels, a study of popular forms of resistance that also incorporate behaviour characterised by law as illegal. He further expanded the field in the 1969 study Bandits. Social banditry is a widespread phenomenon that has occurred in many societies throughout recorded history, and forms of social banditry still exist, as evidenced by piracy and organised crime syndicates. Later social scientists have also discussed the term’s applicability to more modern forms of crime, like street gangs and the economy associated with the trade in illegal drugs.
The following definition is quite distinctive: Banditry is used to refer to acts of robbery and violence in areas where the rule of law has broken down.
Sophistry refers to the use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving. Sophistry is the deliberate use of a false argument with the intent to trick someone or a false or untrue argument. An example of sophistry is when you use a fact in an argument to make your point even though you know the point is false. It is plausible but fallacious argumentation. Some experts have written about ‘intellectual sophistry too: it is derived from the ancient Greek sophistēs, meaning “wisdom,” is the practice of employing appealingly sound reasoning in the defencee of a conclusion that is inherently false or subjective by nature.
While Oratory is defined in various journals as ‘the art of speaking in public eloquently or effectively: It is public speaking that is characterised by the use of stock phrases and that appeals chiefly to the emotions. Oratory is also defined as a long, formal speech. Often one that’s a bit puffy and overblown, making you think the speaker really likes the sound of his own voice. Oratory is from the Latin word oratorius for “speaking or pleading”.
We can see from these definitions and references that these three words are so weaponised in the country at the moment. And so we need to be careful and pray to the God of all grace for us to be delivered from the power of banditry that sophists and orators among our leaders, opinion leaders and even writers are struggling and scrambling to feed upon. The political and religious leaders, traditional rulers and even not-so-independent publishers and some influential ‘men without chests’ are using sophistry to defend and speak for bandits, common criminals. Some orators even among the governors who see themselves as leaders of tomorrow are resorting to sophistry to defend even the indefensible banditry in a rat race to please the powers in Abuja. Some others are curiously employing ‘intellectual sophistry’ to claim that banditry is the same with ‘freedom fighting or militancy. This is clearly intellectual dishonesty that should qualify for one of those four things the earth would not tolerate as revealed in Proverbs 30: 21-23 (MSGB):
‘Three things are too much for even the earth to bear, yes, four things shake its foundations – when the janitor becomes the boss, when a fool gets rich, when a whore is voted “woman of the year,” when a girlfriend replaces a faithful wife’.
When a governor of a state who has sworn to defend the only federal constitution we have is using sophistry and his power of oratory to claim that bandits should be allowed to carry the powerful AK-47 that the law doesn’t allow as a metaphor for the defence of the Fulani nation, there is a cause for concern for the security of our nation. When a governor of a north-central state who chairs the north’s governors’ forum is publicly claiming that even some farmers carry AK-47 instead of calling his Bauchi State’s colleague to order, then it is time to demonise sophistry. When the governor of a neighbouring state to Ondo begins to speak in tongues using power of sophistry about atrocities committed in his state, then the southwest governors need to remove the logs in their eyes first before crying foul about others. If the governor of Oyo State, an opposition, indeed a pace-setter state is hiding under the power of oratory and even sophistry about a clear and present danger in the state, then there is every reason to believe that there is no more ‘tigritude’ in the tiger that the Western Nigeria used to be before Fulanisation kicked us in the face. Oh truth, where is thy power? I have read in some journals of social justice that, ‘truth is the most powerful force on earth’. I have written here several times that you may use your power of oratory to put ‘truth in a grave’ but it won’t stay there: it will certainly come out. It hasn’t been disproved. Where have the southwest federal legislators and other sundry representatives been in Abuja since the president of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan used unguarded sophistry to blast southwest governors for their ‘bad verses’ he claimed have triggered violence in the region bandits are desperate to rule? What manners of representatives do the southwest region now have in Abuja’s bicameral legislature? Are they afraid of suspension by the chairman of the joint session of the National Assembly? The deliverable from all of this is this: let our leaders note that the power of sophistry and oratory they now resort to won’t salvage negative perception that they are dealers and not leaders in this age of banditry. They should seek the power that truth can give, not sophistry and oratory in defence of banditry.