Something terrible is happening in General Muhammadu Buhari’s Northern Nigeria. The slave trade, abolished some 215 years ago is back there. This is no exaggeration. It is real. And like in most real unfortunate situations that have been our lot since the inception of the Buhari presidency in 2015, the Daura-born retired General is absent. He has no solution to the slave trade happening at his backyard; as the trade has returned to his Katsina home state. Beyond the return of slave trade to Katsina State, another despicable act is daily perpetrated there. Bandits now go to towns and villages to take wives and daughters at will for their sexual urges! The husbands and fathers alike have no options. The wives and daughters too cannot stop their daily serial sexual abuses in the hands of their predators. And guess what: the women, wives and daughters are returned to their husbands and fathers after the felons are filled and satiated. Yes! You don’t believe it? No problem. I almost did not believe it either. But it is real. Sad! General Buhari knows. Governor Aminu Masari knows. The elders of Katsina State equally know.
One newspaper. One edition. One page. Three headlines. All depicting the hopelessness of the Nigerian state. I am talking of the Saturday Tribune of August 27, 2022 which has three gory, ghastly stories on its page five. The lead says: “Insecurity: 5, 000 Nigerian children may die of starvation by October – UN”. The riders to the headline say: “…Shops for N700 billion to feed 5.5 million women, children in Borno. Adamawa, Yobe”. “…Donors shift funding to Ukraine, Ethiopia, Afghanistan”. The second headline on the same page reads: “Bandits stole my chickens, cut off my arms – Zamfara man”. And yet on that same page is another headline: “Terrorists now use our men as slaves on their farm, rape our wives, daughters – Katsina elders cry”. The first story gives a vivid account of the devastating effects of insurgency in the North-East states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. According to the report, the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs, noted that: “up to 5,000 children in Nigeria’s North-East are at the risk of dying in the next two months if funding does not come through”. The UN raised the alarm stressing that the projected 5,000 children would die of starvation because farming, which sustains livelihoods in the affected states had since been abandoned due to insecurity, majorly, and some other factors such as high cost of fertilizer, flooding and drought. I am more concerned about the security issue. And I will tell you why. If the government had risen to the occasion, by stemming the spate of banditry, terrorism, kidnapping and herders/farmers clashes in the region, the other issues would have been a piece of cake for the authorities to handle. After all, farmers in the region, had over the years, coped with flooding and drought, just as fertilizer racketeering has been a recurrent decimal in the history of Nigeria and is as old as the nation itself. Now, because the government has failed to do what it was elected to do; because those in authority, who promised to make Nigeria safe for all of us have failed to do exactly that, 5,000 children, possibly future leaders too, are at the risk of dying as a result of hunger. What really brought the sorry state of the situation in the North-East states to a graphic detail, according to the report, is the account of baby Aisha Usman, who was described as a 14-month old baby girl with “her eyes sunk in her sockets and rib cage visible”. Her mother, Fatima Usman, volunteered: “Sometimes we get food to eat, and at times, we don’t”, to explain while the little baby is in that pitiable condition. The UN report stated that 1.74 million children are in Baby Usman’s condition as a result of malnutrition occasioned by lack of food! Japhet Udokwu, the doctor treating Baby Usman and her mates said: “Most of the problem we notice in these local government areas is due to poor access to food due to insecurity, and there is food insufficiency in each of the households”. By October, unless the UN is able to raise the needed N700 billion to support feeding in the aforementioned states, Nigeria will be dispatching 5,000 future leaders to their early graves.
The second report: “Bandits stole my chickens, cut off my arms – Zamfara man”, is about the 30-something-year-old Ismail Mohammed who had his two arms cut off by bandits, who invaded his town located in the Kaura Namoda Local Government Area of Zamfara State. The warped minds who performed the “un-surgical” operations on Mohammed are not trained in the act of amputation. They never bothered to use any anesthesia on him. His “offense” was his audacity to challenge the thieves, who came to rustle goats in the villages and steal some chickens. For that “effrontery”, Mohammed had his two arms cut off using a sharp object, possibly, a knife! Hear him: “As I approached the entrance of the house, I came face to face with a bandit who thought I was talking to him. I didn’t know that the bandits were still around and they had rustled some goats….another bandit surfaced with an AK47 rifle. He asked the other bandit what I had said and that one just lied that I was trying to challenge them. The one carrying a gun then asked his colleague ‘what are you waiting for?’ The man suddenly brought out a long knife and cut off my right arm… the other bandit brought out another sharp object and chopped off my other arm. They left me in a pool of my own blood”. If Mohammed was lucky to have lost only two arms to the bandits who attacked him, Rukkaya Bello, a female victim of terror attack in Borno State, was not that fortunate. When the terrorists stormed her Doron Baga village , they killed seven of her children and her husband. “I don’t have any children anymore. Boko Haram killed all my seven children and my husband”, Rukkaya said as reported by Sunday Tribune of August 28, 2022 on page 10. That same paper, on page 8, reported that in the same Zamfara State, where bandits cut off the arms of Mohammed, the government had shut down 75 secondary schools over insecurity since September 2021. That is a year ago. The same North that has the sympathy of the entire world because of its educational backwardness is where you have a state shutting down schools in their scores because of insecurity. How does something that is not sufficient get wasted? Yet, someone promised to make insecurity his top priority if elected president. In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, the government ordered some schools to be shut down because terrorists issued threats to attack the schools. The last Call to Bar exercise could not hold at the normal place because of insecurity. Again, someone answers the appellation: Commander-In-Chief!
But the above reports are nothing compared to what is happening at the backyard of General Buhari, the number one chief security officer of Nigeria. In the same edition of Saturday Tribune earlier referenced is a story that will make William Wilberforce to turn in his grave. Wilberforce, the British politician, philanthropist, we will all recall, was the leader of the movement that abolished slave trade in 1807. Over two centuries after Wilberforce joined forces with Thomas Clarkson, Granville Harp, Hannah More and Charles Middleton, to end the inhuman trade, bandits in Buhari’s Katsina State resumed the illegal trade. “Terrorists now use our men as slaves on their farm, rape our wives, daughters – Katsina elders cry”, is the third headline. The man who raised the alarm is not a mean man. Elders in rural communities of Buhar’s Katsina State, led by Dr Bashir Kurfi, told the BBC Hausa Service that bandits now invade their communities and take the men as slaves. After capturing, did I say: “capturing”? The right words: after walking off leisurely with the men, the bandits force them to work on their (bandits) farms without pay. But that is not all. The same bandits go to the villages, knock on people’s doors and ask the men to bring out their wives and daughters. Like chickens in poultry cages, the bandits select any of the women (wives) and girls (daughters)who catch their fancies and take them to their camps, where they are serially raped. When satisfied, the women and girls are returned to their husbands and fathers pending when the felons will have another sexual urge! And if you feel this is my exaggeration, hear Dr Kurfi speak for himself: “It is not hearsay; quite often, we come across victims of rape, women who were raped and even mutilated by these bandits. Even more worrisome, these bandits will knock at the doors of villagers and ask the men to bring out their wives and daughters. The wife or daughter would go with the bandits for one or two weeks and return to their homes after being sexually abused or raped… I recall one day when we took nine women to the hospital after being gang-raped by 40 bandits. The hospital we took them to advised us to take some of the women to VVF centres for proper care”. Like many Nigerians know, Kurfi said the villagers all know that the bandits move around with motorcycles, AK-47 rifles” now, he asked the one million questions:. Where are they getting the bikes? They move around with AK-47 rifles. How did they get them? Where are they getting the drugs they are taking? What is really happening? Why is the government aloof? These are pertinent questions that are waiting for answers”.
Our own dear native land, Nigeria, is in a deep mess. We should no longer be euphemistic about the hopelessness of our situation. We have pretended enough, and for too long. It is time for us to wake up and smell the coffee. We are in a bad shape as a country. That we are still standing is one of the gracious deeds of the Divinity. And that should not deceive us. Loggers will attest to the fact that many robust-looking trees turn out rotten logs and planks when felled and sawed. Such is our situation at the moment. At the rate we are going, Nigeria is worse than a failed nation. No thanks to the docile leadership we all imported to the seat of power from his perennial failure as a serial presidential candidate. The late revolutionary singer, Sunny Okosun, named his band: Ozzidi after an Izon river god. His interpretation of the name is that “there is a message”. And in his numerous tracks while using the instrumentality of music to fight apartheid in the then South Africa, Okosuns sent messages across. He sang in 1979, one of his most popular lines” “Papa’s Land”. He asked a rhetorical question in the track: “Who owns papa’s land?” the question was directed at the White minority calling the shots in the apartheid South Africa. The self-styled freedom fighter asked repeatedly: “We want to know, we want to know…Who owns papa’s land”? Artistes are avant garde in nature. Sunny Okosuns was one of such. When he asked “who owns the land”, we never knew the question would be relevant to us as a country, 43 years later. In contemporary Nigeria, we are asking: who owns the land between bandits and the Nigerian government? The answer is very obvious. The bandits are having the upper hand and our government is as helpless as the next door neighbour.
When you add all the above scenarios together and many more unreported, you begin to wonder if there is anybody in charge of this country. If there is someone in charge, then, one can ask: what, in the name of the devil, is the individual doing? The truth is that, unlike what Dr Kurfi said that “the government is aloof”, the government does exist in the face of the daunting insecurity confronting all of us. If, for the purpose of argument, we agree that the government exists, then, it exists in emptiness. The ones in charge of the country now are the very outlaws, the bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, killer herdsmen, and as recently added, the militants of the Niger Delta, who last week, openly threatened fire and brimstone over the surveillance contract for oil pipelines in the region. I saw them on the TV and the calibre of arms and ammunition they carried and I squirmed. Nigeria has gone to the winds under the watch of the one Bola Ahmed Tinubu told us in 2014, would be like General Dwight D. Eisenhower of America and Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain rolled into one! Nigerians now know better as we daily ask: who owns our papa’s land? The government or the bandits?