GUEST COLUMNIST

The Bandit Economy (2) By Alex Agbo


Obadiah MaiLafiya, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, dropped a bomb a few hours ago on Channels Television. In that video he accused ‘some powerful’ Nigerians of importing bandits into the country to wrest power from former president, Dr Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. In that interview , Dr MaiLafiya maintained that the same bandits were armed in preparations for a civil war ahead of an anticipated refusal of the then incumbent president to hand over power. But Jonathan handed over. But the people that invited the horde of killers turned their backs on them.Even though the ex banker turned activist did not substantiate his claims with any proof, events unfolding before our very eyes are substantial enough for us to take Dr Mailafiya serious. Pause and reflect on this for a moment. We still remember that the president said that the wars in Mali and Libya caused the inflow of arms into the country. In the wake of the slaughter in Benue State in which over 77 people were killed, the president started making another round of excuses. He blamed the people of the affected communities for not being tolerant of other people. Our president and his cabinet have always been in the defence of the armed bandits terrorising all of us. Wait a minute. The same president who told us that the killers are foreigners is the same person who tried to introduce land grabbing policies to appease the aggressors.On a daily basis, these people are waxing stronger, more vicious, more daring, more emboldened, more outspoken, more menacing and more recognizable. Yet, nothing seems to be the concern of the authorities. This has also encouraged their spread to other parts of the country like the south east, the south south and the south west. Of course the middle belt has been vanquished a long time ago.Nigerian roads are now terror corridors. People travel with their hearts in their mouths. Nigerian s are now being kidnapped, killed and maimed daily. Kidnapping and demanding for ransom has become a hobby and an occupation for the bandits.The emboldened hoodlums have started assaulting schools. In my last piece, I discussed what the effects of banditry are, to the region, to every sector of the economy and to national cohesion. How is it that the police and army that descended on the #EndSARS protesters are not able to bring the menace of the bandits to an end?We just discussed the Kagara kidnap saga in which some school boys were carted away from school. Sheikh Ahmad Gumi promptly jumped into his car and accompanied by journalists, went to see them. Since Gumi’s visit to the bandits, a lot of revelations have been made that have the potential of causing damaging backlash in the country if not quickly addressed. Beyond paying bandits and patting them on the back, there is a large industry being created for the jobless youths in the north and Nigeria at large.A society that rewards crime instead of meting the commensurate punishment is creating an abyss into which the entire society would fall sooner or later. Let us outline the effects of this criminality step by step.First, Gumi’s attempt to further escalate the already dangerous situation is worrisome. He was seen openly on television telling the bandits that only the non Muslim soldiers were killing the bandits. Then he came out and started making excuses for them, citing ethnic differences as the reason they went into crimes.The Zamfara State governor whose state has been under constant attacks still came out and said not all bandits are criminals. The governor of Bauchi state also justified the free use of AK47 assault rifles by the bandits. In his own excuse, he mentioned self defence.MaiLafiya may not have any concrete evidence but let us put side by side his allegation with the echoes of justifications for crime resonating from the north of the country. With time every youth in the north, seeing that nothing has ever happened to criminals, would get arms and go into criminality. It is obviously being endorsed by local authorities. This is a return to the Hobbes society. Why waste years studying in the traumatic universities in Nigeria when all you can do is buy a gun and get tow or three guys to form a kidnapping gang? It is even easier in a society where morality is at its lowest ebb,  a society where every street urchin belongs to one gang of miscreants or the other, a society where drug abuse is at its highest.The political class doesn’t seem to care to fix this because they obviously think that the rise of urban gangs avails them the arrange their individual ring of gun runners and killer squads. This is because the Nigerian electoral system, if we may call the sham we have an election, is a festival of violence and chaos. The person whose squad can outgun the other’s is declared the winner. The shame is that religious leaders like Gumi are busy creating a blend of religion and politics of violence by endorsing violence and making excuses for it. I find his utterance thoroughly embarrassing for a so called peace maker. As long as our religious leaders and traditional leaders are folding their hands or ramming the embers of discord, there would be an escalation of what we presently have. It is not a prophecy, it is a statement of fact. Alex Agbo, a public affairs analyst and researcher in socioeconomic issues, writes from Lagos.

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