Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

By Emmanuel Oladesu
These times are remarkable for anxiety, pain and fear. Nigeria has been dragged to the theatre of the absurd. What is wrong with the supposedly African giant?
In a breath, wrong solutions are being proposed as remedies to protracted security problems. The correct response is being avoided. Nigeria is being turned “upside down.” It is fast becoming a rude joke. Why should this important country be a laughing stock in the international community?
In another dimension, as the country is beset with problems arising from its defective federalism and under-policing, ridiculous treatment are being prescribed for its structural ailments.
Yet, the truth must never be told about events. It is considered as ethnic profiling. It is forbidden, even if the reality stares all in the face. Killer-herdsmen and bandits are not Igbo, Kanuri, Yoruba, Ijaw, Hausa, Nupe or Junkun. Their tribe should never be mentioned. After all, the culprits are suspects. The bloodletting notwithstanding, the allegation has not been proved in any court of competent jurisdiction. But, to discerning Nigerians,  it is evident that in the 21st Century Nigeria, a particular ethnic nationality has turned insecurity into business.
The prank, this time around, is from an unexpected quarter. Jesters are advising the Federal Government on how to pacify criminals troubling the peace of the ‘nation.’
A cleric posing as a human right crusader has proposed an answer to the prevailing banditry in the Northwest. But, to observers, his panacea is devoid of logic and no basis can be found for it in history, religion, law and logic. Where in history have government and people beckoned on armed robbers for a parley? Which law will encourage an exchange of ideas and opinions with thieves? Can bad elements who enjoy obtaining ransom from their captives turn a new leaf, except by force?
It is noteworthy that the curious suggestion is not even a call for the replica of the Northeast Development Commission in the Northwest. Some elements are systematically canvassing increased federal allocation to their geo-political zone without a sound and convincing argument. In Nigeria, there is usually more emphasis on how revenue should be shared, and not how the revenue should be generated.
According to the cleric, who has the ears of the bandits, killers and unprovoked masters of violence, amnesty is the antidote to banditry. Therefore, the Federal Government should consider giving amnesty to national tormentors holding the beleaguered country to ransom. In order words, criminals, rapists and kidnappers deserve compensation for their nefarious activities; for targeting rural areas where rural people practice farming, and for blocking the highways to cause commotion and panic for travellers.
What should precede the amnesty programme,  in the opinion of the proponent, is dialogue by government with the men of the underworld. It becomes more problematic as some Northern politicians had suggested that the bandits are a mixture of Nigerians and illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries.
The priest had taken it upon himself to, according to reports, visit the bandits in the forest. It was a risky venture. But, he returned unharmed. It was also reported that the bandits, who welcomed the cleric in their hiding place with open arms, were not willing to listen to the government.
It is not certain whether the visitor to the den of banditry in the Northwest had sought to legitimise the inexplicable activities of the bandits. The details of the interaction or conference in the bush appears sketchy. But, as a person who seems to understand the language of those spoiling for war without a rational reason, he also seem to have a herculean task of convincing the government about the need to indulge kidnappers, killers and faceless criminals through financial reward, the type of gesture yet to be extended, and which will never be extended, to even identifiable legitimate agitators.
It would appear that the objective of the amnesty programme is beyond the ken and comprehension of some people. It is not a tool of cowardice and a sort of appeasement to armed robbers.
The Amnesty Programme has a background. Some Southsouth boys were said to have stormed Abuja to protest. They were at the federal capital territory for the first time. According to the story, they were captivated by the beautiful environment.  Then, someone raised their consciousness to the fact that the bulk of resources used to develop the city accrued from the oil domiciled in their rustic towns and villages in the coastal region. They were also told that Abuja had become a beautiful place at the expense of the oil-rich, but poor Niger Delta.
Although these village boys were semi-literares, according to the account, they were dejected. They lamented the deprivation, ecological disaster, flooding, loss of their fishing occupation and farm lands, oil spillage and general environmental denigration.
The Southsouth boys had gone up North and returned with information and enlightenment. Their eyes were opened to years of neglect, exploitation and marginalisation of the goose that lays the golden egg. They begun a special human and environmental rights battle.
The battle for the redress of justice and wealth redistribution grew in leaps and bounds. The military tried to suppress it with force. It failed. Soon, the protesting youths started to deal with perceived military collaborators. It backfired. Protest leaders were apprehended, jailed and hanged. Although the military, which ordinarily brooked no opposition, had to set up OMPADEC to cater for the oil-producing region, the agitations intensified.
The civilian government inherited the Southsouth crisis. Oil pipes were destroyed and the country suffered from fuel crisis. Highways were blocked. Protests became a veritable career.
The onus was on the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to dissect the problems and acceed to the demand of the oppressed zone for improved welfare. Earlier, the concession of 13 percent derivation had been granted. Also, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) was established by his predecessor. Yar’Adua created the Ministry of Niger Delta in September 2008. Despite all these, the youths continued their protests for resource control and federalism. Thus, in August 2009, Yar’Adua established the Amnesty Programme.
The objective was clear. In 11 years, the justification is evident. Under the programme, the creek boys have been disarmed, demobilised and reintegrated into the society. Government succeeded in mopping up arms and weapons of over 20, 192 ex-agitators. Oil bunkering also reduced.
There is a huge difference between unprovoked criminal activities of bandits in the Northwest and legitimate agitations of Southyouth youths. Niger Delta boys restricted their agitations to the Southsouth zone, unlike killer herdsmen going to all the zones to grap lands, kidnap, rape and kill. Whenever the Southsouth boys kidnapped oil workers, mostly white expatriates, they took responsibility. Their leaders were identifiable. Government knew that it was negotiating with militants agitating for more funding and infrastructural facilities in the Niger Delta.
Are there oil exploration or prospecting causing environmental denigration or pollution in the Northwest, as it is observed in the Southsouth? Is Northwest suffering the same terror attacks like the Northeast?
What are the bandits after? Niger Delta militants were fighting, not against Nigerians, but against the government. But, the bandits are attacking innocent people at home, on the farm and on the road.
The puzzle is: what do the bandits want? Banditry had become a viable economic activity. Bandits kidnap for ransom. Where did they get the guns? Who are the people supplying them arms?
What is the agenda of their sponsors?