Governor Aminu Masari is lamenting the banditry that is ravaging Katsina and other states in the northwest. He is at his wits end as he has run out of options to tackle the menace of lawlessness that has made the lives of the people an absolute misery. They can’t go to their farms freely; they are not safe in their homes and communities; and there is no one to save them from their tormentors.
Masari’s lamentation is at best dubious. When Major general Leo Irabor, chief of defense planning and operations, defense headquarters, visited him in his office last Tuesday, the governor complained that the bandits were still having a free reign and spreading mayhem all over the state. He said they had killed over 50 people in two weeks, rustled countless number of cattle, and kidnapped many victims for large ransoms. For the umpteenth time, he appealed to the security agencies to come to the aid of the overwhelmed states in the northwest.
Masari and his colleagues had ignored warnings that their initiative of glad-handing the Fulani bandits would backfire big time. Last year the northwest governors launched what they called Niger Delta-style amnesty program to essentially appease the bandits. The criminals would lay down their weapons, renounce banditry and get generously rewarded with cash and other goodies.
In a series of public show that the initiative was real and working, many of the bandits handed over their arms and pledged to become law-abiding. And the governors declared victory and insisted that their reaching out to the bandits was justified.
But their optimism about the efficacy of their appeasement scheme was entirely misplaced. You can’t coddle criminals and expect their criminality to vanish just like that. All the governors succeeded in doing is legitimize hardened criminals and heartless killers, and embolden more of them to live by the gun. It is a catastrophic failure of leadership at all levels.
So is Masari’s lamentation an admission that he and his colleagues were wrong? They owe the people an apology for giving them false hope with the bandits-appeasement program that has cost hundreds of millions of naira without ending their mindless, unprovoked killings.
But to be fair to the governors, they are helpless. They are chief security officers of their respective states without the power to deploy security personnel to address the menace. Masari’s case is even more pathetic. He governs Katsina, which is President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state. Yet he gets no serious support from Abuja to save the people from the terrorism of the bandits.
So if Buhari can leave his own state in the lurch, then the others can’t dare to expect any help from the federal government. And that means the bandits will continue to expand the ungoverned space they have carved out for themselves. The people are on their own.