News items making the rounds about the ceaseless bloodbath and insecurity in the country have aroused my curiosity about whether or not what is happening in Nigeria is war or insecurity. The seeming downplaying of what has turned the country into virtual Syria and Iraq beclouds what would have been a firm resolve to tackle the unfortunate situation.
The frightening report the other day in Vanguard of February 22, 2021, that some 1,525 people were killed across Nigeria within six weeks of 2021, clearly paints a picture of warfare.
“In the first six weeks of 2021, lives of no fewer than 1,522 persons were wasted across Nigeria, Vanguard’s investigation and data obtained from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), a project of the Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Programme have shown.”
Following that was the renowned Islamic cleric, Sheik Ahmad Gumi’s statement that Fulani herdsmen aren’t bandits but militants fighting ethnic war. Ethnic war indeed and Gumi made the statement without mincing words.
According to Vanguard of February 23, 2021, Sheik Gumi, who was a former captain in the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), spoke on Channels Television’s Politics Today, while reeling out his experience with the armed herders.
His words: “It is a complex issue. It is an ethnic war and the solution is dialogue and teaching them Islam. To them, they are talking about ethnic existence.”
The revered Sheik Gumi has been acting as the middleman between the bandits and the state government authorities whose school children have been abducted and so his statement should be taken very seriously. When he says war, he means war. A former army captain understands what war is.
From the foregoing insights, I think there is a wrong perception of what is happening in the country, which is why the crisis is intractable, unending and even escalating the more. Nigeria lives in denial. These insights show that what is ravaging the country at the moment is more of war than insecurity. It is war breeds the kind of insecurity ravaging the country.
Apart from the foregoing, some commentators have unequivocally voiced the reality that Nigeria is fighting a war. The other day, the Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, in a press conference widely circulated in the social media bluntly stated that the Fulani have declared war on Nigeria.
And as if that is not enough, earlier, the former Minister for Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma had called on Nigerians to rise and defend themselves against ethnic cleansing. Danjuma’s outburst corroborated Sheik Gumi’s statement that the Fulani are fighting ethnic war.
Let us be serious and not take these statements by very important leaders lightly. In peace time, normal insecurity, which is part of human existence, could be handled by the police working in tandem with other security agencies but war induced insecurity like what we have at hand overwhelms the police and the military has to be involved. The military takes the upper hand. Government should call a spade a spade for that is the only way this monster could be contained.
The question to ask is what are the fallouts of this war? Are Nigerians bearing the pangs of a war situation or not? Are the realities not on ground? Daily bloodlettings, insecurity of lives and properties, incessant kidnappings, abductions, rape, lawlessness/anarchy, etc are rife.
And perhaps, the most undeniable evidence of Nigeria’s war situation is refugee problems as people are displaced from their homes, mass poverty, food scarcity, hunger and high cost of living. At the same time, under the war atmosphere, no one is safe, as terrorists, gunmen, hoodlums, bandits, insurgents, militants and other criminals hold sway everywhere.
Coming back to the Vanguard report, no section of the country is safe. Kaduna, Zamfara, Borno are reportedly the deadliest states being in the war front. The casualty figures in six weeks were North-West 724, North-East 346, North-Central 155, South-West 112, South-South 103 and South-East 85.
As I write this comment, I got a news flash that 28 policemen were killed in three months. These are different from those lost to the ENDSARS violence. According to The Nation, they were either shot by gunmen, hacked to death or set ablaze by hoodlums who attacked police stations.
Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed reported that six soldiers, 37 policemen and 57 civilians were murdered during the ENDSARS violence last October. The minister added that 269 private and public properties were razed.
Similarly, the catalogue of abductions is innumerable. Practically, no day passes without someone being abducted or killed. Perhaps, the highlight of the vicious abductions is the abduction of innocent school children from their dormitories.
In the night of April 14, 2014, some 276 female students were abducted by Boko Haram from Government Girls Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State. While some have been released, many of the girls are still unaccounted for.
Again on February 19, 2018, 110 schoolgirls aged 11–19 years old were kidnapped by Boko Haram from the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Bulabulin, Yunusari Local Government area of Yobe State.
On 11 December 2020, over 300 pupils were kidnapped from a boys’ secondary boarding school on the outskirts of Kankara, Katsina State. A gang of gunmen on motorcycles reportedly attacked the Government Science Secondary School, with more than 800 pupils in the boarding house.
On February 17, 2021, 27 students, three staff and 12 members of their families were abducted by an armed bandits that stormed the Government Science secondary school in the Kagara district of Niger state, overwhelming the school’s security. One boy was killed during the raid.
The latest in the string of these dastard acts, armed bandits reportedly attacked the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State and abducted over 300 girls who are still in captivity.
Following the series of abductions targeted at schools, Kano, Kaduna and Yobe states have reportedly shut their boarding schools. This is a big blow for Nigeria’s northern states that are struggling to attract pupils to school especially girls.
The reported abandonment of food production by farmers in the war zones is not unconnected with the raging brutal war across Nigeria, which has unleashed terrorists, bandits and herdsmen on hapless citizens in the areas. The people who used to produce enough food to eat and sell to other parts of the country are now beggars famished in refugee camps.
Last December, Boko Haram jihadi claimed responsibility for the brutal massacre of over 76 rice farmers in Borno State. Across Nigeria, local farmers are now afraid to venture into their farms for fear of being abducted or killed.
The over 10-year bloody internecine war that started from the North-East after Boko Haram launched its vicious attacks has virtually spread to all parts of Nigeria by virtue of the ravaging herdsmen, bandits and other criminal elements has claimed thousands of lives and devastated the areas. Borno Yobe and Adamawa states were once the epicenter but today Kaduna, Niger and Zamfara states have also joined the bandwagon among others.
Over two million people comprising mostly women, children and the elderly, have been rendered homeless and are now quartered in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps across the states.
It is unfortunate that from the outset, government underrated Boko Haram the same way it is underrating the herdsmen. By treating the insurgents with kid gloves, rather than declaring a full scale war, they had the leeway to transform from being a bunch of rag tag rebels to a formidable and well-organised force.
Around 2015, government declared that Boko Haram had been technically defeated. But all that have proved to be false as the insurgents became more ferocious in the attacks on hapless villagers in the war zone.
Now that Boko Haram has morphed into herdsmen and bandits, the buck is on the table of President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up to the daunting challenge and save Nigeria from imminent disintegration if this onslaught is not contained quickly.
As the president has reportedly promised that the Zamfara students abduction will be the last to happen, Nigerians are holding him by his word.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan’s recent statement attributing the inability of the Nigerian military and other security agencies to contain the escalating nation’s insecurity to international politics is defeatist and laughable. The statement is hollow, empty and void. Government has responsibility to contain this crisis for peace to reign.