By 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, it was a weeping North that “voted” overwhelmingly to oust the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. Today 5 years down in time, the North bleeds. In the last three weeks, over 300 lives were lost to armed bandits operating in Southern Kaduna, Taraba, Benue, and of course the North East states of Borno and Adamawa State. Add to this, Kebbi, Zamfara and the President’s home state of Katsina. A rueful Governor Aminu Bello Masari lamented this way – “I am a very unhappy person because we have never had any moment of respite within the last five years that the leadership of this state can describe as comfortable.”
Five years is for how long Katsina State’s son of the soil has been in charge of Nigeria, and recall that he came as the righteous man of integrity who will rescue the country from corruption which was believed to be the bane of the insecurity that was ravaging the land under Goodluck.
The whole of this week has seen the hitherto solid groundswell of support for President Muhammadu Buhari eroding down to its lowest ebb, with past diehard associates vehemently voicing their description of Buhari as incompetent and a failure. APC Chieftain Professor of Parasitology Shehu Usman Modibbo, renown scholar Dr. Usman Bugaje and the entire cyberspace of activists, have condemned the inability of the Government to stop the wanton vicious bandit killings, kidnapping and rape being perpetrated in the North. Last Friday in mosques was a babel of prominent Imams angrily lamenting the wanton killings and vicious crimes in the “neglected” North, not even stopping calling President Buhari by name and raining curses. Much of all this is on the social media, in hope that the gut feelings of the frustrated would find its way to President Muhammadu Buhari and elicit action.
Professor Ango Abdullahi who leads the Northern Elders Forum lamented that the North in its entire life had never known this level of insecurity. Said he,“Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is alarmed at the rising insecurity of communities and their properties in the North. The recent escalation of attacks by bandits, rustlers and insurgents leave the only conclusion that the people of the North are now completely at the mercy of armed gangs who roam towns and villages at will, wreaking havoc.“It would appear that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and governors have lost control over the imperatives of protecting people of the North, a constitutional duty that they swore to uphold.” Ango attributed this to the insurgents “sensing a huge vacuum in political will and capacity” and exploiting same “with disastrous consequences on communities and individuals.” In 2015, our insecurity was mainly the raging war against the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East. Today the entire Northern Nigeria is where to live and die in senseless violence.
Nigerians more so, Northerners are exasperated because they can see clearly that the Military, hard as it has tried is at wits end to find answers to the rising territorial wave of banditry and other vicious crimes. No one seems to have the answer to the question as to why the North is bleeding. This paper’s columnist Mahmud Jega opened his Monday piece this week, asking, “when and how did Northern Nigeria become the Ground Zero of insecurity in Nigeria, playground for insurgents, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, bandits, armed robbers, epicentre of senseless killings, burning of villages and springing up of IDP camps in every available school building and open space?”
The North is bleeding because the problems of ignorance and poverty have finally come to a head. Banditry is a reaction to Buhari’s economic policies which seek to address the national predicament but sadly ruin the hopes of ordinary people, for long, left uneducated, poor and without any governance benefits in amenities. To use a Martin Luther King Jnr quote that has become popular recently, “Violence is the language of the unheard.” Buhari’s war on corruption had humiliated Northern elite hitherto held in high esteem by ordinary folks, whose eyes today, have opened to the perception that all that wealth was from proceeds of crime, and the choice of criminal activity seems to be paying the local unlawful. Far from the reach of the law, they raid vulnerable villagers freely, loot livestock, food, and valuables, kill the men and rape women indiscriminately, usually high on mind bending and sex enhancement drugs. The North is getting rewarded for its neglect of education, its failure to develop agricultural industries while yet, providing abode to the abjectly poor, and over 10 million street children. No one is to blame but the leaders. They ruined one another in their jostle for power and now their entire poorly developed region is a flowing river of the blood and tears of their disadvantaged rural dwellers. And what direction are some of Buhari’s Northern Ministers looking? Sadiya Umar Farouq Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development of Nigeria feeds school children in their homes within two weeks in the pandemic lock down with N13bn. Alhaji Muhammed Sabo Nanono Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development for Agriculture meanwhile is going to kill pests in the North with another N13bn. I argue that if you spend just N4bn, you could buy 5000 AK47s even from the black market. N3bn to raise and train and pay a defence force of 5000 men against bandits. You could still spare N6bn to commit to logistics and quieten Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi and even reserve some for Borno. As for the N13bn that fed children in two weeks and they are again hungry now, a serious government could have borrowed from Jigawa State’s Sule Lamido. With every N400m, you could have loaned 1000 peasant farmers a pair of oxen work bulls, a plough, a harrow, and a carte (wagon). Peasant farmers keep promises and pay back loans. We here, wasted a chance to have food sufficiency, with pastoralists making money to replenish their stock and live in peace and harmony with farmers.
Now the North bleeds while in contrast, the South has, having lost leadership, tidied up its act and in the midst of all the adversities in the past 5 years, stabilised its polity, grown its economy and is thriving. Military force alone did not quieten the South and will not stabilise the North either. Poverty must be addressed with opportunity to pursue economic purpose. Enterprising communities will not take up banditry. And politically, will the North offer the nation leadership in 2023? Not with the Buhari trail of tears and blood.