The Nation (Nigeria)
LAST week, Nigerians where assailed by the gruesome killing of 39 persons in Zamfara State by persons who have been given the pseudo-name of bandits and marauders. Similar killings have been taking place in the state intermittently in the past few years. Perhaps, because of the state of anarchy in many parts of the country resulting in similar mass killings, the nation has not taken notice of the peculiar nature of the Zamfara killings.
Of course, no life is worth more than another, but anytime a crime is committed, one of the ways to find out the culprits, is to investigate those who have the motive to commit such a crime. Working from such premise, investigators sometimes solve the crime. In essence, motive is usually key to solving a crime, as well as resolving the root cause of the particular criminality. While the killings in other parts of the country are excruciating the psyche of Nigerians, it is benumbing when as seems the case in the Zamfara killings, the motive is unknown.
In the theatres of conflict in other parts of the country, one can haphazard the motive of the protagonists however misconceived and petulant. Take the war in the northeast, by Boko Haram, ISWA and their affiliates. Their motive for the mass killings, mendacious propaganda, kidnappings and sundry criminality is to overawe government in that part of the country, so that they can establish their preferred type of caliphate.
Across the north-central, especially in the Benue-plateau axis, the major motive for the killings is the desire by violent herders to forcefully appropriate fertile lands, pasture and water for cattle; and the occasional retaliation by the rural farmers. Again, as cruel and as callous as the tactics of the herders may be, the motive for the killings can be guessed. In other parts of the north, there is also the escalation of mass abductions and cattle rustling, with attendant killings that sometimes accompany it.
For that too, the motive seems clear. For many of the criminals engaged in the nefarious activity of kidnapping and cattle rustling, the motive is economic, whether in the demand of ransom or the appropriation of the rustled cattle. Going further down south, the major security challenge is the killings by herders and kidnappings for ransom. Again in both instances, the motive as misbegotten as there are, is clear. While the herders want to forcefully gain control of pasture, including farm crops for their cattle, the kidnappers’ motive is to extract ransom from victims and their families.
But in Zamfara, we are told that marauders just go into a rural community and massacre people, which is strange. While some reports contend that the crisis is between Hausas whose farm crops have been eaten up by herders’ cattle and Fulani herders whose cattle have been rustled by Hausa boys, it has metamorphosed into a cycle of mass killings. Indeed, in one instance, it was contended that the mantra by one of the groups is to kill any person of the opposing ethnic group they see.
Of course, there may be other instances of mass killings in other parts of the country, without any clear motive. But the objective of this catalogue of woes is to encourage the government to study the motives for any repetitive mass killings in other to find solutions to at least some of them. So, while levying war against those who have made life miserable for other Nigerians is justified, it is also necessary to seek intellectual solutions to some of the challenges.
By that this column suggests that the federal government, while waging war on one hand, should seek help from international and local organisations which have the capacity to engage in intellectual analysis of conflicts, its management and potential solutions. This column believes that some of the conflicts could be resolved through dialogue and political concessions, instead of waging war that may rather escalate such conflicts.
Perhaps, it is in that regard that instead of war-war, as solution to all the conflicts afflicting the country, the Buhari presidency may consider the option of jaw-jaw, at least for some of them. Taking the suggestion a notch higher, the federal government should commission specialised United Nations organs to study the causes of the multiple conflicts tearing our nation apart. They can also employ the services of reputable international non-governmental organisations, which have the technical know-how on conflict management, to study and proffer suggestions to government, on possible solutions to the conflicts.
So, when President Muhammadu Buhari chastises those seeking national dialogue as the way forward for our dear country, this column believes he misses the point, when all he sees is a secessionist agenda. The same misconception about the grave challenges he faces, is the bane of the governor of Zamfara State, Bello Matawalle, who instead of seeking solutions to the problems facing his state, is rather engaged in sabre-rattling against imaginary enemies of the north.
To help the north, and by extension Nigeria get out of the political quagmire, the northern intelligentsia must put on their thinking cap. It is not enough to be contended with merely seeking power as an end in itself. They should worry why despite holding the reigns of federal power in our country, for more than three-quarters of the life of the country since independence, the northern region has retarded instead of growing. And that is despite the socioeconomic and political advantages, which the region gains from dominating central power.
So, when misguided elites like the governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, concentrate energy on the north keeping power in 2023, regardless of the acrimony that it will entail, the northern intelligentsia must adroitly redirect the mind of the northern public to a better agenda than political brinkmanship. No doubt, experience has shown that the challenges faced by the northern region cannot be resolved by the unfair appropriation of political power by all means possible. For only a few political elites gain from it.
Of course, many would argue that the Buhari presidency has not shown the predilection to intellectual stock, judging by their actions in the past six years it has been in power. But with brawn failing to achieve the desired goal of national peace, despite millions of dollars so far expended; perhaps it is time to task the brain, to proffer alternative solutions to the myriad of security problems facing the country. To do otherwise, is to keep doing the same thing over and over, and yet expecting a different result.
The peculiar security challenge facing Zamfara State is a pointer that some of the security crisis needs to be examined through a different prism, and perhaps resolved, using a different method.