If Northerners and their means of livelihood will not be protected, accommodated, and be dignified anywhere they choose to stay in any part of the South, Southerners should not expect protection from the North and the North has more than what it takes to respond to any kind of aggression and hatred-Bello Mohammed Matawalle, Zamfara State governor
On insecurity, the Arewa Consultative Forum expressed displeasure with the state of affairs in the north and in the country in general. The Forum condemned the activities of insurgents, kidnappers and bandits in the north saying that their activities are killing the peace and progress for which the north was noted for when the founders of the region were in power…The Forum decried the utterances of some actors and leaders who have sought to inflame regional, ethnic, and religious passions out of the current situation in the country. The Forum called on Nigerian leaders to exercise restraint in their utterances in the current circumstances…The Arewa Consultative Forum believes in dialogue and consultation as a way of bringing peace and normalcy back to our troubled region and nation-Communique of Arewa Consultative Forum’s meeting of April 9, 2021.
Since the outbreak of farmer-herder crisis in the last three years, the rhetoric from all sides have been overtly bellicose. Even some governors felt compelled to act as angrily as non-state actors, suggesting to public affairs observers that the principle of enlightened self-interest and the need for elite consensus as an ingredient for peace and harmony in a country with diverse worldviews and value systems have been jettisoned by those who chose to speak for various interest groups on the crisis of insecurity. Although insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and herder terrorism are still raging in many parts of the country, the words of war seem to be receding and search for elite consensus seems to be rising, except the recent outburst by the governor of Zamfara State quoted overleaf.
Until recently, one of two emphases at the national government level has been to use unmitigated force—shoot at sight—as an effective way to bring peace and harmony back to the country. Another emphasis at the subnational level has been for governors to appease to bandits and kidnappers in the fashion of a crude form of the proverbial carrot approach that critics have characterized as rewarding bad behaviour. About this approach, a group that references itself as Stakeholders in the Northwest, led by Malam Suleiman Usman Yusuf, recently warned the governor of Zamfara at the end of a meeting on April 8 against indiscriminate romancing of bandits under the guise of amnesty: “The stakeholders raised concerns over Governor Matawalle’s peace deal with armed and criminal bandits despite the heinous crimes of murder, rape, plunder, kidnapping and robbery committed over the few years by bandits.”
The purpose of copious quotations on this page today is to recognize the importance of taking a broad-spectrum view of the various crimes against security of life and property in the country. Although each type of the many problems of insecurity could have started as local, there is no doubt now that just about every section of the country is weighed down by one form of criminality or the other, be it insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and violence against farmers by herders. Another reason is to draw attention to new revelations from the federal government and from non-state actors about the primacy of restoring normalcy to the country.
Shortly after President Buhari traveled out for medical check-up, a news broke from the presidency about likely solutions from the Intelligence community: “There are a number of people who are currently under arrest…Bureau de change are facilitating money to terrorists. We have already concluded with the UAE on Nigerians who are transferring money to Boko Haram terrorists and this also happens domestically…And I tell you that by the time we conclude this investigation, the shocking details will surprise many Nigerians.”
For this announcement from the presidency to bring the shock the ongoing investigation harbours, the intelligence about Nigerians who fund terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping should be quickly followed to its logical conclusion. The absence of peace in the country for over ten years and the new connection revealed between sponsors of insurgency and other forms of criminality is bound to make many citizens who may not be experts in security work to feel encouraged that Nigeria as a relatively peaceful multiethnic democracy is likely to be restored soon. For this to happen, members of the Intelligence Community must not rest on their oars and the federal government must not lose enthusiasm and speed in pursuing the new knowledge about the rise and spreading of banditry across the land.
Another important knowledge worth deepening is the announcement of the former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubarkar, at a recent meeting of the National Peace Committee on the crisis of insecurity: “The proliferation of all calibre of weapons not only in our sub-region in general and in Nigeria in particular is worrying. It is estimated that there are over six million of such weapons in circulation in the country. This certainly exacerbated the insecurity that led to over 80,000 deaths and close to 3 million IDPs.”
Equally significant is the former military head of state’s listing of the problems facing the country: Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, rising poverty; calls for balkanisation of the country from different quarters; threat of hunger arising from insecurity that farmers have faced and continue to face, increasing sense of collective despair and despondency among the populace.
More important than his comprehensive list is the recommendation of Gen. Abubakar on the way out of the current crisis of nationhood: “We believe Nigeria must find a way out of these problems,” he said. “Our hope is that perhaps among us by listening to your different perspectives, we can begin to build up confidence among our people so that we can hold together…So our hope is that we shall not only share our collective lamentations about the current situation but proposed some concrete suggestions that can point the way forward, suggestions that can inspire more confidence among our people and ensure that our country remains one.” This advice is the stuff of which problem-solving statecraft is made, not the throwing of insults between governors or socio-cultural organizations while criminals are degrading a country that has since 1960 acquired a high reputation in peace keeping across the globe in its capacity as a member of the United Nations.
One other revelation worth the attention of the country’s political leaders is the contribution of the Secretary-General of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Othman Ngelzarma, at a recent meeting in Kaduna of Arewa Consultative Forum’s (ACF) National Executive Council. Ngelzarma’s analysis of the farmer-herder crisis is of seminal value to policymakers in the various arms of government.
Hear Ngelzarma: “The merchants take advantage of the ignorance of the young Fulani and their poverty to engage them in crime…When you catch criminals, you always get Fulani among the group because of their lack of education, their ignorance and their poverty.” On the way out of the crisis, Ngelzarma added, “We have over 400 grazing reserves in the country but only three are in the Southwest—Oyo and Ogun. All the other grazing reserves are in the North. Put together, there are about five million hectares…If these can be utilized, it is enough to settle these landless people. The pastoralists are landless. They stay in a place and when development comes, they move and leave the place. This is a very big challenge.”
The purpose of today’s copious quotations from various categories of stakeholders in the ongoing security crisis is to suggest that what seems to be missing in our search for solutions is lack of desire to listen well enough to hear or see what needs to be done, to return Nigeria to the important task of nation building in preference to the unnecessary display of geopolitical gamesmanship.