It is not good news that the Katsina State government has decided that surrender is a preferred option to confrontation. With bandits, that is. That essentially is the path the state government sees open to it as the depredations of the warlords and their hirelings have prostrated the cities and villages in the past few years.
The level of surrender would have been comical if it was not a portent of bad things. The government says it will exchange arms and penitence of the bandits for markets stalls, homes and farms. So if anyone who calls himself a bandit says he has surrendered and given up arms, they will be given stalls in the market, homes in town and villages and farms for them to grow crops and vegetables and whatever other delights their agricultural fancies. Some of them can be herders. All at taxpayer’s expense.
For example, they have cited the case of one fellow named Sada who has reportedly given up his freedom in the wilds and turned himself in to troops at the Forward Operations Base at Dansadau. The reports also had it that he gave up three AK-47 rifles, one sub-machine gun and two magazines. This seems teasing.
The secretary to the government, Mustapha Inuwa, disclosed this policy as though it was irreversible and gave the impression that it was well-thought-out.
He said, ’’We have completed plans for those who accept to leave to an approved settlement near Rugu Forest. This is part of a design by government to clear the forests from being inhabited by bandits. The committee is set to work on the needed infrastructure any time from now.
“Some the settlement areas being considered include, Yantumaki-Maidabino forest area and Sabwa/Faskari forests.”
This is the Katsina State where bandits have run wild and riot and made away with goods that belonged to people who worked hard. This is the Katsina State where women and children are spirited away with proprietary hubris and impunity, and no one has been recovered and the families have suffered in helpless horror the loss of their loved ones. One of the stories that jar the memory is that of Khadijia Kurfi, an eleven-year-old girl, who was picked up and carted away. No one has gone after Miss Kurfi, no government assurance has come as to any form of determination to redeem its people lost in the arms of the militants.
It in this context that the state government has decided that it is going to pay its impotence with surrender. It will now belong to the inhabitants to wake up when the cock crows with neighbours who once sometimes preceded the morning choir of the domestic birds with the screech of gunfire and razed the homes where they had their sleep.
The same people who came to steal their cassava, corns and yams will now sell the crops and other valuables they stole away. The same men who raped girls in farms and took away their produce will till the soil beside and stalk their farms with cattle.
That is the cruel fantasy that is coming as solution in a state where the government still sheds tears over lack of adequate policemen. The state government is taking shelter in the presidential call for a new strategy in tackling banditry in the country.
Hear Inuwa again: “The recent presidential directive on change of strategy, renewed vigor and increased personnel in the military campaign against security challenges in the North-West and Katsina State in particular had led to a reduction in the atrocities of bandits.
“The incidence of armed banditry and kidnapping and other forms of criminalities for ransom have significantly subsided compared to few months back when these incidences were a daily occurrence.”
Apart from the palpable contradiction of hailing the incidence of criminality and yielding to them by appeasement, the call for a new strategy does not justify accommodation. The federal government actually gave the green light to this policy of genuflection to terror. The federal government has begun its own version by starting a programme of retraining the hoodlums on the mores of civilized societies.
This is a failure of imagination and an open sesame for Hobbesian anarchy. It is really sad that in a period where we have seen so much violence and so much impunity, we have shown that the billions of Naira spent in the past few years on security have amounted to a squandering of not only personal brain power but hard-earned foreign exchange.
The fundamental failure here has been in the area of intelligence. Whether it is Zamfara where gold hunt has turned into a wild adventure, or in Borno where the governor has had to weep and even chide the military brass, what we are witnessing is the inability of our intelligence establishment to come to terms with their challenges.
Whereas Inuwa can talk about the efforts of the government to provide relief, it only emphasises a wrong scale of preference. For instance, he said that the state had so far propped up security agencies with N4.274b for the purpose of resettlement centres near Rugu, Yantumaki, Maidabino and Sabwa/Faskari forests for the penitent bandits.
According to him, the plan is afoot for major infrastructure help in the resettlement and it would cover schools, healthcare centres, markets and farmlands for cattle rearing as well as farming.
He explained that the N4.274b financial support to security outfits was used for the provision of infrastructure, logistics and payment of allowances of security personnel. If such amount of money fails, it shows our problem is not about voting money but managing the situation with vision and strategy.
It can only get worse in Katsina and other parts of the country until we rejig our approach. Surrender and appeasement will only make us fear.