Zamfara state has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. While sister states like Kebbi and Sokoto states give us good news, especially Kebbi in the area of agricultural production, Zamfara sinks deeper into the morass of unending blood letting. Asides the savagery, it appears all remedies meant to steady the peace of that state have failed. Here is a state that is said to have less than 30 medical doctors for a population of more than two million. Even to treat the injured in this wave and wave of killings will present a major problem.
Zamfara also has issues with education. Kids that are out of school in this state is probably the highest. Same way the state present the fewest number of candidates for both the West African School Certificate Examination and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board examination. With a state this behind, it is therefore not surprising the kind of vibe we get today. We have a populace that needs help, a populace that is exploited by the bandits on a killing spree and the elite who have not invested enough in the people. For us, that is the crux of the matter.
Since this year alone, over 200 people have died from mindless attacks on villages and communities in Zamfara. Just before Easter, another 32 in Bawan Daji village of Anka Local Government Area were hacked to death and over 80 persons with various degrees of injury. The communities which are supposed to be in the middle of farming at this point are rather hiding to avoid the blood sucking gangs of Zamfara. Traditional rulers, religious leaders and ordinary folks are not spared. Even security personnel have fallen victim at one point or the other. It is perhaps the political class that have been spared the mindless massacres. And this to us can no longer be tolerated.
In fact, the massacre at Anka tells the motive of the killer. They had warned the community to desist from all farming activities. This means these so called bandits are determined to cripple the economy of the place. If this is repeated all over the state, the people are effectively made poorer and the country suffers. What is even ominous is the response since the killings began. It’s been one security failure after another. Surely the state is a vast land, but it is a collective shame that we have not been able to put a finger on what this banditry is about.
Initially they were called cattle rustlers. Now they are called bandits. They kidnap, maim, slaughter Nigerians without much resistance. They also steal cattle and prevent farmers from carrying on with their craft. In short, they are mean and godless agents of destabilisation. Simply put, these are loosely tied terrorists. As a country, we must call them a name. We must identify their leadership and tag them to what they really are. This will aid the push against them. Because it appears we have different versions of terrorists operating in Nigeria. They may have started as thieves or small time anarchists, but have evidently stepped up to assume the terror persona.
If we have to deploy our military, especially the Air Force for any internal operation, then we should realise that we are no longer dealing with mere banditry. We are dealing with organised terrorism with links to evil people around the world. Our security echelon must therefore sit down to study the dynamics of this crisis so that they can proffer veritable antidotes rather than cosmetic response to a deadly gang. Because our efforts have not worked over the years, it is only fitting we find the courage to designate these people as terrorists on one hand, and plan a proper campaign, on another.
Having said that, the leadership (political, religious and traditional) in Zamfara have not shown sufficient understanding of what they are dealing with. From available records, they are still blinded by old alliances which is located in religion and monarchy. The crises they face require a change in behaviour of the people and communities. We cannot fight 2018 terrorism with 1818 communal efforts. The society needs to be alive and well to behave the way the elite expects of it. Therefore, Zamfara needs to radically open up. Zamfara should not be afraid to welcome help and to change its traditions even if temporary. Desperate times require desperate solutions.
There must be concerted efforts to radically expand education opportunities going forward. Of course, politicians must now begin to understand that it cannot be business as usual. Monies meant to provide for education, health and physical infrastructure must be so deployed. The state needs to be freed from the hands of a few. Let the people become the determinants of their destiny. The commander-in-chief should show more zeal and empathy. The same way we expect to see the Minister of Internal Affairs become more assertive and take ownership of internal security of the country. That is his job, not just to announce public holidays. We commiserate with the people of Zamfara and hope that the killings come to an end.