By Wole Olaoye
There is no place like Nigeria. I say that with a mixture of pride and trepidation. Where else on Planet Earth would a notorious felon be decorated with the equivalent of traditional knighthood? And which other country can transmute laymen to clergy through the sole instrumentality of liturgical attires? Every day dawns with its own wonder.
Forty-seven-year old Ado Aleru came to national attention in June 2021 when he was declared wanted by the Katsina State police command for killing over 100 people in Kadisau village in Faskari local government area of the state. Many more thousands are alleged to have been killed by his gang between Katsina and Zamfara states The charges levelled against him included culpable homicide, terrorism, armed robbery, and kidnapping. A bounty of N5 million was placed on his head.
For a while, It was thought that the bandit kingpin had gone underground. But, no, he had only moved his operational headquarters to neighbouring Zamfara State where his notoriety preceded him and earned him concessions. Alhaji Aliyu Marafa, Emir of Yandoto Daji (one of the newly created emirates in Zamfara) reportedly contacted Aleru and offered him the traditional title of Sarkin Fulani in exchange for protection of the emirate from bandit raids.
When traditional rulers go out of their way to cultivate known terrorists in order to seek protection for their people, we don’t need to look any further for the definition of a broken society. The fact that law-abiding people are seeking out criminals to protect them from insecurity is a clear testament that the government has been reduced to a lame duck.
Deadly attacks have long raged across Zamfara State where agrarian communities have been regularly terrorised by bandits who raid villages, steal cattle and kidnap residents for ransom.
The state government signed a peace agreement with them in 2019. The following year, new Toyota Hilux vehicles and cash gifts were given to leaders of different ‘repentant’ gangs of bandits by the governor.
Appeasement has not achieved the desired result in the past and it is unlikely to do so now.
When Premium Times broke the story of the impending turbaning ceremony, the state government which had cooperated with the arrangements all along, suddenly tried to back out. The event had to be shelved for a few hours while both the government and the emirate contemplated the implication of an outright cancellation.
Apparently, the authorities were petrified that Aleru would erupt in an untold orgy of violence if the turbaning did not hold as scheduled. The ceremony was attended by the Zamfara State Commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, Mamman Tsafe; the Chairman of Tsafe Local Government, Aminu Mudi; security adviser to the governor, Abubakar Dauran; district heads and traditional title holders.
Some known terrorists were also in attendance, although the confusion over whether the event would be postponed or not, had made some of the bandit lords who had planned to attend, return to their bases. Locals in Tsafe town said over 100 bandits were in attendance. An indication of the largeness of the crowd catered for is the fact that Aleru slaughtered 17 cows to mark the occasion.
I felt sorry for Governor Aminu Masari of Katsina State when he issued his lachrymose statement denouncing the turbaning ceremony and urging the police to intensify efforts to arrest the bandit.
“We’ve not forgiven him and just as the police in Katsina said, they’re still looking for him”, said Masari. “We’ll arrest him when we see him. The only issue is that the police in Katsina can’t go to Zamfara and arrest him. So, if he dares enter Katsina again, we’ll arrest him so that he can answer for his crimes….”
The interpretation of all these is that Nigeria has degenerated to such an ignoble point that known criminals not only call the shots but are getting ingrained into the traditional governance system. God save the land whose king is a bandit. As our democracy glides into banditocracy, the common people are flung between a rock and a hard place and all arguments about immorality become sterile.
Nigerians have been venting their spleen on social media. One commentator, @el_bonga, wrote: “When we are already to end banditry, our leaders know what to do. We have gone from giving bandits millions in the name of amnesty to giving them traditional titles in broad daylight.”
After his inauguration as a traditional title holder, Aleru told the crowd that he would do whatever was necessary to prevent attacks on communities in the emirate. He said he and his gangsters were not criminals but freedom fighters!
Politicians keep pushing up the needle of incredulity. We have recently been entertained by a curious sleight of hand in Abuja which backfired spectacularly. We have gone beyond the era of unknown soldiers, unknown police, unknown civilians. We are now in the age of Unknown Godmen.
Left to the traditional media, the story of the hirelings who posed as bishops at the unveiling of Senator Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of APC, could have been easily spiked. With social media, however, it’s a different ball game. Nigerians posted videos of some of the so-called bishops from the car park where they were briefed and handed clerics’ garments, to the Yar’Adua Centre where they queued to enter the venue. Depending on which side of the political divide you are, it was either hilariously infuriating or a masterstroke.
The sight of bishops endorsing APC’s Muslim/Muslim ticket was meant to be the ultimate joker — and it could have been, but for the social media which have made citizen-journalists of anyone with a smart phone. Even while the event was going on, videos of how the ‘bishops’ were recruited and unleashed on the venue started making the rounds.
I don’t think Senator Bola Tinubu needs such tricks to buoy up his ticket. I think he has demonstrated uncommon courage in his choice of a running mate and he is man enough to stand by his choice. Perhaps, the horde of strategists in the dirty tricks department were only over-reaching themselves without the knowledge of their principals. Whatever be the case, the ‘Jankara’ attempt at fooling the public had the opposite effect of drawing attention away from the unveiling of Shettima to the identities of the ‘bishops’.
One of the ‘bishops’ gave the game away because he was short-changed by his hirer. The man, Joseph Odaudu, told a story of a conspiracy gone sour due to greed: “They came to meet us at the car park behind Eagle Square and they promised to give me N100,000. They bought food for us and took us to another place where they gave us clothes to dress like Christian leaders and reverend fathers,”
It was all going well at the onset until the contact person decided to edit the original fees mutually agreed. There ought to be honour among conspirators, or shouldn’t there? Odaudu continued, “After we finished they only gave me N40,000 and another person said he got only N30,000. I don’t know why they changed our agreement because they said they had N100,000 for us. I am a Christian and I am supporting Tinubu but I hate when people lie and fail to deliver on their promises”.
On a personal note, I knew right away that something was wrong when I saw one of the Godmen wearing a chasuble which is an ornate sleeveless outer vestment (like the Yoruba Danshiki) worn by a Catholic priest when celebrating Mass. That vestment is never worn for secular occasions, and certainly not for a political event. It is an easy giveaway.
It is not possible for a referee to call every foul. He can only sanction what he sees. But when he does see a clear foul, there is no point arguing with him. But that is in sports. In the art of politics, one of the important tricks of the trade is to deny empirically verifiable reality. It is understandable that the Tinubu campaign has mounted a massive pushback. That is what is expected of them and no one can begrudge their tenacity. But the referee has seen this particular foul. Full stop.
The other parties who have been making a meal of the exposé are probably asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of something like that before?” The truth is that all of them have fallen short of the glory of truth-telling. The electorate must be vigilant. We did warn on these pages that politicians were borrowing the identities and voices of accomplished personages to sell their viewpoints. Now, they are borrowing robes and manufacturing Unknown Godmen and Godwomen.
Give it to Nigeria — One day, one wonder!
(Wole Olaoye is a Public Relations consultant and veteran journalist. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @wole_olaoye; Instagram: woleola2021)
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