By Dirisu Yakubu
The worsening security situation in some parts of the country, particularly in Zamfara state, North-West Nigeria, has in the past few weeks fetched the nation local and international opprobrium. Almost on a daily basis, gunmen whose identity remained a subject of conjecture, continue to maim and kill.
Unlike members of the Boko Haram that premised their violent campaign against the values of western education, secular justice and democracy; perpetrators of the current killings have been fingered in many things including cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and other forms of banditry like forcefully collecting illegal taxes.
And in spite of the effort to tame the ugly development, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the opinion of many, has failed to demonstrate sufficient political will to justify the enormous resources it has committed to tackling insurgency and other related vices since it assumed office about four years ago.
However, government believes some prominent Nigerians including unnamed “highly-placed traditional rulers” are behind the current spate of killings and kidnapping going on in many parts of the country.
In a statement issued earlier in the week, Defence Minister, Mansur Dan Ali blamed traditional rulers for the frequent bloodletting in Zamfara, vowing however to bring the culprits to book, regardless of their status in the society.
“Recently, the government acted on the advice of the Ministry of Defence to suspend all mining activities in Zamfara state and environs following intelligence report that suggested close collaboration between the activities of the bandits and illegal miners. In spite of the concerted efforts of the armed forces and other security agencies, some unpatriotic persons, including highly placed traditional rulers in the areas, were identified as helping the bandits with intelligence to perpetuate their nefarious actions or to compromise military operations. The Ministry of Defence, therefore, wishes to warn any person or groups of persons who choose to connive or sympathize with the bandits to perpetuate crime against the law abiding citizens to henceforth retrace their steps or face the full wrath of the law,” the statement quoted Dan Ali as saying.
This position of government is however not enjoying the support of some eminent Nigerians who believe that by blaming traditional rulers, government is evading responsibility and looking for those to scapegoat in a matter that is statutorily theirs to address. One of the personalities that spoke with Saturday Vanguard on the issue is Second Republic governor of Kaduna state, Alhaji Balarabe Musa.
In a chat with our correspondent, the elder statement expressed dismay at the statement attributed to Dan Ali, saying regardless of the forces government is battling with to restore peace in troubled areas; President has no excuse to give for the wanton killings going on in some parts of the country.
He said: “The responsibility for securing the people is squarely that of the federal government. So, to turn around to blame traditional rulers is a sign of failure on the part of those at the helm of affairs. The President has no excuse not to perform in the task of protecting Nigerians and their properties because he is empowered by the 1999 constitution (as amended) to guarantee the security of Nigeria and her citizens.
“Why blame traditional rulers for killings going on while at the same time, they also look up to the same government to protect them? What is happening today is very worrisome and I must say that it has never been this bad in the history of our dear country.”
Like Musa, Tanko Yakassai wants the Defence Minister to reveal the identity of the traditional rulers to be taken serious, adding that the lack of specificity in the allegation, makes government’s position unacceptable.
Yakassai who was an aide to Nigeria’s first Executive President, Shehu Shagari told this medium that in the North, various cadres of traditional rulers exist and until government comes out clear to identity which categories of these rulers it identified as culpable; Nigerians would continue to charge government to rise to the challenge of insecurity in the country.
“It is unfortunate the Minister did not mention any of the traditional rulers by name. Now, if you fail to do this, how do we hold them accountable? The whole thing is unclear. Was he referring to the traditional rulers in Zamfara alone or the North as a whole? In the North and elsewhere, there are different categories of traditional rulers. In the North, we have the Emirs, District Heads and what have you! The Minister should have been more specific, if you ask me,” he stated.
On her part, rights activist and co-convener of the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group, Aisha Yesufu came short of describing Nigeria as a country on auto-pilot even as she bemoaned what she called the “lack of leadership” in Nigeria.
Famed for her courage in speaking truth to power, Yesufu said blaming traditional leaders for insecurity in some parts of the country is a new low for the government of President Buhari, which she accused of blaming everyone else but itself for the multiple challenges facing the nation.
In a reaction laced with satire, the activist urged Nigerians to prepare for terrible times ahead, having just rewarded the President with yet another fresh four-year mandate.
Her words: “We have a government that has failed us in many ways. Nigeria, whether we like it or not, is in a state of coma, it is on life support. Government has failed the test of governance but unfortunately, Nigerians have rewarded them with another fresh mandate; so we are in for it.
“I don’t understand why anyone would blame traditional leaders who have no role to play in the protection of life and property. The administration has blamed virtually everyone and I think the only one they have spared of their blame game is God. The lives of Nigerians matter and it took the protest of last week for them to even come up with a statement. It is a shame!”
Like Zamfara, Kaduna state, also in North-West Nigeria has been under the grip of mindless killings and kidnapping in the past few months. This is not to add Borno, Benue and Adamawa states to the ignoble list, where the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists continue to make life hellish for innocent Nigerians despite the effort of the military to run them out of their evil businesses.