Bandits or Barawos, in the local language and Boko Haram are running riot all over Nigeria and the Buhari Government seems to have lost control. Many or even most people in Southern Nigeria think Buhari and his government have a hand in it all. There is a widespread belief that this is part of a grand plan for a Jihad to Islamise and Fulanise Nigeria, led by Buhari himself.
The government appointments, the heads of security forces as Northern Muslims and the various policies such as Ruga, cattle colonies, border closure and the open visa for Africans, reinforce these beliefs.
But I have news for you. It is not only the Southerners that are terrified, northern muslims are terrified too. The people I meet everyday in the North are as terrified as myself, or any Southerner. From the hallowed halls of the Sultan of Sokoto, the so-called Caliphate, to the palace of the Shehu of Borno, no one seems to be aware of any Jihad, and are as terrified of the bandits and boko haram as I am. If there is any Jihad it is Buhari, Boko Haram and the ISIS remnants. Most Muslims of Northern Nigeria, in my estimation, are not part of it and just want to get on with their lives in a peaceful environment.
The killings are everywhere. It is not only the North, although the North is more terrifying. The Yoruba Amotekun was designed to stop the terrifying ordeal of these killers emerging from their forests to spray bullets on innocent travellers then abduct and kill some. They are also appearing in Edo, Delta, the South South and the South East states.
I travelled on the Abuja to Kaduna road. I dont know how I plucked the courage after a long time. A short while ago about 100 people were abducted at the Jos interchange on that road and about 30 killed in a single raid. The Emir of Potiskum was wounded. He was lucky that they did not get him. Three people with him were killed.
I travelled from Maiduguri to Damaturu on 21st December 2019. On 23rd, Boko Haram blocked that same road, which the Government had persuaded everybody was now safe, and launched a massive attack on Damaturu. It started with 2 massive explosions that cracked the ceiling of the Govt lodge where I was staying. I could hear machine gun fire. The military was shelling. In the morning I just got into the car and left for Abuja. That was even dangerous because they later appeared on the Damaturu to Potiskum Road. If I had delayed or if they came out earlier I might have been caught.
I travelled to Lokoja, a short 2 hours from Abuja. On my way back I delayed by 2 hours before departure at 12 noon. I met the remnants of a blocked road, and an overturned bus with wild looking policemen commanding the traffic. Later I saw the videos of some of the kidnappers who were killed by the police. If I had left at 10am like I planned I would have run into the kidnappers.
I am done with travelling on Nigerian roads. It is too hazardous. Flying is no easier. It feels safer until the next plane crash, but we have not had any of those lately, so it feels safer, though not with the total confidence of flying in European flights.
If you look at my Display Photo you will see the main reason for the banditry – the Sahel. It is the dried up region between the Sahara desert and Nigeria. It contains many warlike nomads such as the Fulani and Berbers, as well as sedentary farmers. Their former lands and cattle routes have dried up. They come to disorganised and incompetent Nigeria to raid, make money and take money, food and provisions to their families. They cant do it in better organised and better defended countries like Benin Republic, Togo and Ghana. They will be roasted.
Either our government is incompetent or it is complicit for warped religious reasons such as a religious conquest of the South. But these bandits are also massacring and stealing from Muslims, who are just as afraid as anyone else. There are also growing Nigerian bandits from the same northern ethnic group. And of course there are the Radical Islamists like Boko Haram.
The govt is making frantic efforts to resettle the people of the Sahel in Nigeria as a way to stop the influx of the bandits. The efforts include Ruga, Cattle Colonies, free visa entry and other experiments that Southerners are not buying. They see them as part of the Jihad grand plan.
Whether Jihad or not, most Southerners and many Muslims have lost faith in the competence of the Buhari government, the police and Buratai army to protect them, hence the emergence of the Amotekun Security Network in Yoruba land. Other defence systems for other regions are emerging or will emerge.
It is time for the United Nations, Africa Union and Ecowas to be called in to take over the management of this bandit and refugee problem from the Sahel, so that people can be assured of some competence in the handling of the issues. That will also remove the fear of Jihad that has gripped the South. If the Federal Government does not take this commonsense route and call in the UN, AU and ECOWAS, it will certainly reinforce the wide spread belief that like Al Bashir’s Sudan and Janjaweed, the Buhari government are the masters of the jihadists themselves.