By Owei Lakemfa
THE story of 14-year-old Habiba, a student of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, Zamfara State, is heart-wrenching. Bandits raided her home three months ago, killing her uncle and abducting her father and elder sister.
Then on February 26, 2021 bandits invaded her school, abducted her and 316 other girls aged between 12 and 17 years. When they got to the kidnappers camp, she met her father and sister who had been unable to raise the ransom demanded by the kidnappers.
Habiba, from Ankah Local Government Area, said her father warned her not to let the bandits know their relationship as they might kill him. She told the Daily Trust Newspapers: “They inflicted injury on him by cutting him with machete and beatings. Whenever I saw them beating him, I would cry. It was really disturbing. They said they would kill them if ransom is not paid.” She was released with her colleagues after four days. Imagine the trauma of a mere 14-year-old.
What is more annoying is that the Nigerian state which could not protect the children against bandits, further endangered the lives of the children, their parents and guardians by pointedly shooting at them after their release. Parents were said to have been worried that the handover ceremony of the girls was getting too prolonged and they needed to get back to their homes before it got dark as the roads are unsafe. At a point they began to throw stones at government officials and the armed forces responded by shooting live ammunition at them resulting in casualties.
Meanwhile, the same Zamfara State continued to witness more kidnapping with a fresh batch of 60 women and children kidnapped in a single bandit operation. At the weekend, the bandits extended their theatre of operation by attacking the Kaduna International Airport and abducting nine.
Despite the grave security situation in the country which calls for unity of purpose and action, the political elite are busy at diversions and bickering. For example, as a security measure, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, declared a no-fly zone across Zamfara State and banned all mining activities. However, the State Governor, Bello Matawalle, made jest of the order saying: “People don’t even know that Zamfara does not have an airport.”
He said the order was an attempt to impose a state of emergency and said claims that the bandits are getting arms supply by aircraft is a lie: “It is just misinformation and if anybody has that proof, he should prove it beyond reasonable doubt.” He said that by such decision it seems the Federal Government “doesn’t understand the nature of the security problems in Zamfara State, but if they decided to take such action let them go ahead.” Although Matawalle later made a half-hearted acceptance of the order, it was clear he does not believe it will address the security challenges in the state.
In another part of the country, Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State who had said regardless of the country’s laws, Fulani herders should carry guns, accused his Benue State counterpart, Governor Samuel Ortom of criminalising the entire Fulani across the country.
Ortom, a member of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, like Mohammed, replied: “Since he (Bala Mohammed) has chosen to vilify and intimidate me, I am compelled to think that he is one of the Fulani terrorists terrorising this country. Why did I say so?
“This is the same governor who took oath of office to protect the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The Constitution does not give room or allow foreign armed Fulani herdsmen, Tiv people or Yoruba or any ethnic group to come in and to carry arms.” Both governors are still trying to patch their differences.
South West Governors have tried to stem the tide of kidnapping and banditry in the region by banning open grazing, grazing at night, grazing by underage children and cattle movement within the cities and on highways. They also banned herders from living or operating from the government forest reserves.
But Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, shot verbal missiles at the governors, saying their decision was responsible for the flare up of ethnic violence in the region. Lawan claimed that: “Leadership failures in the region caused what happened in Oyo State and other things that kept happening in the South Western states.
“Some utterances by some governors also went a long way in inciting the citizens to take up arms against other ethnic groups settling in their states. The governors’ utterances emboldened the criminals to unleash violence against the Northerners.” The governors chose largely to ignore Lawan perhaps they thought it better not to dignify him with a serious response.
Yet, another missile from the Senate. Senator Smart Adeyemi while contributing to a motion on Safe School Initiative in the country veered off to attack Abia State leaders. He claimed that: “In some states where we have highly intelligent people, highly educated people, very enterprising people, like Abia, they are governed by drunkards. The governor of Abia is a champagne drinking man. Abia people are impoverished more than ever before. Abia people are unfortunate.”
Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu responded: “What you say, the things you say, and where you say them speaks a lot about who you are. According to Chinua Achebe: If a mad man takes your clothes while bathing and you take off after him naked, no one will know who is mad between the two of you.”
Meanwhile in Imo State, Governor Hope Uzodimma squared up in an armed conflict with his predecessor, Rochas Okorocha, a serving senator. This involved security men and hoodlums reportedly armed with grenades, guns, cudgels and bottles. It centred around property owned by Okorocha but which Uzodimma said had been confiscated by the state government.
Okorocha who seemed to have lost this round of the battle told the country: “They shot my aides and destroyed all my cars… More than 200 gunshots were fired at my aides. Hope Uzodimma wants to rule Imo State by intimidation.” Uzodimma responded that his predecessor is a hoodlum: “He went there with thugs himself physically, wounded the policemen there, and wounded the civil defence people…” The second part of the battle is awaited.
In the South West, immediate past Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, was busy in battle against incumbent Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, in a power struggle within the PDP. In the midst of these leadership crises, we have a governor like Yahaya Bello who, despite the death of over 2.5 million persons, including 1,954 Nigerians from COVID-19, is incapable of comprehending the scientific truth that the pandemic is real, saying he wants to be President. Why are we so blessed?