Basil Okoh – MaTaZ ArIsInG
The big quarrel between the executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government is on the disagreement over giving an officially damning name to the killers, extortionists, rapists and kidnappers prowling the forests and scorching the schools, communities and towns of Northwestern Nigeria.
Why is a cryptic name necessary to combat homicidal criminals, you ask?
A damning name is necessary as an official label to gain the approval of the US government and the world and to allow the Nigerian armed forces to mobilize the required guns and aircraft necessary to combat the criminals of Northwest Nigeria.
The weapons and the overwhelming force required to dislodge and defeat the bandits cannot be deployed until they are officially declared by the Nigerian Government as terrorists. The legislature wants them officially so declared but the executive branch (the presidency) do not.
If you call them bandits, you’re not permitted by international conventions to deploy heavy hitters to eliminate them. It will be called disproportionate force.
You are not even permitted to send to battle, the US$500 million 12 Brazilian Tucano jets recently bought from the US. You have to first give them the official name of terrorists or insurgents to qualify for a beating by the Alpha and Tucano Jets. In order to use bigger guns and more lethal weapons, you have to give them another name like terrorists or insurgents.
The Federal Government gladly signed on to the condition set by the US Government that the fighter jets can only be used against terrorists because the so called bandits of the Northwest are kinsmen of the power base of Nigeria. The Hausa/ Fulani are bandits, not terrorists. The Igbo of IPOB are not bandits but terrorists. The Igbo separatist movement can be bombed as terrorists but you cannot bomb Fulani killers, rapists and kidnappers of the Northwest. They are mere bandits.
There’s also the ignored fact that the bandits offer protection to the illegal gold miners of Zamfara in which everybody who is anybody in the Northwest has his hands in the till. The gold mines are ‘big bandit’ rackets owned by the major players and which must not be allowed to be disrupted by the destructive armed forces. You send the army there now and the officers start having their own ideas about how to run the mines, displacing everybody else.
The Federal Government is therefore not willing to do a rebranding of the smaller bandits to call them terrorists. That will disrupt too many established interests, political and economic, in the Northwest. Branding them terrorists will give the armed forces authority to go in there with blazing guns and fighter aircraft and then towns, communities and cities will have to be demolished.
It will also mean that the Nigerian armed forces will be fighting three wars at the same time in the Northeast, Northwest and the self-created “IPOB terrorists” in the Southeast. The Nigerian armed forces does not have the capacity to sustain that kind of operation in multiple theatres across the country, even though the forces have perfected the practice of killing their own citizens for bragging purposes.
Perhaps the bigger consideration why the bandits of the Northwest cannot be designated terrorists is because they are kinsmen to the President and operate out of the region of the centre of power in Nigerian politics. Most others who hold the levers of power in Nigeria come from that territory. Nobody wants their own cities to be theatres of war. It’s alright to send bomber jets to Orlu and Oguta or even to Zango Kataf but definitely not to Katsina, Daura or Zaria.
Already in areas around Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Southern Kaduna, there’s a low grade war going on between the Fulani migrants and Hausa natives and the natives of the minority tribes in the Northwest.
There’s an onslaught of sustained Government disinformation to label these running battles as fight between herders and cattle rustlers but the fights are not about cattle but land. It is about old ethnic rivalries and resistance against Fulani attempts to seize native land.
These smouldering skirmishes are assuming a growing potential for conflagration to a full scale conflict that can potentially consume the entire Northwest. An unending war in the communities of the Northwest will pose worse danger to communities and Nigeria than Boko Haram and the bandits of the Northwest combined.
So when will Buhari give the proper name to the bandits as terrorists of the Northwest so they can be quickly pacified?
This year or next? Or do we wait forever?
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