On Masari’s self defense narrative – By Idris Mohammed
Let me start with calling attention to my dear state Governor of Katsina, Aminu Bello Masari in his recent speech to locals to defend themselves against the deadly and heavily armed groups operating all over the state.
Masari was saying as I quoted “why should I seat in my village making calls to security forces without doing nothing, it’s ridiculous that people are not defending themselves against armed bandits” does that means Masari was saying federal and state governments threw away their primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties of its citizens and other persons residing in their domains?
How can an armless and vulnerable villager confront an armed criminal with sophisticated weapons like Anti-air craft or Ak-47? With my little knowledge of security and governance, I knew one of the responsibilities of any democratically elected government is to ensure the management of the security sector in line with democratic best practices and provision of security as public good.
To perform this function, governments need detailed and extensive plans and management structures to ensure security policies and practices are transparent and accountable.
Masari, you are trying your very best to manage one of the very fragile and devastating security situations of Katsina but it is very wrong at the same time to ask defenseless citizens to defend themselves.
This will throw them into more serious confusion and life threatening traumatic situations because the armed groups will continue to engage them since they heard you asking people to confront them. Maybe you are getting the wrong information on the current situation, the bandits terrorizing our people storm communities on bikes and each bike carries three people each with AK-47.
You can see over 200 bikes in a community of less than 300 people, remember how they mercilessly slaughtered and killed over 80 people in Kadisau community of Dandume local government area of Katsina last year.
As one of the peace loving indigenes of Katsina state, I wrote an article published widely by national dailies last year titled “Who are these Katsina armed bandits?” I raised a question on “how a state government goes into a deal with bandits who have no education, have no sympathy or faith and behave like animals”.
I felt very bad when I saw my Governor in the photo standing next to a very young bandit wielding an AK-47 rifle; it was a very sad moment. Few days after the drama, the government came out to announce that they are no longer interested in the negotiation because nothing has changed.
The group kept attacking and sacking communities exactly as I predicted in the article. Amnesty and negotiation is a good method of resolving conflict but we have to know and dig out the root causes of the issue before we jump into conclusion.
Katsina state is one of the Northwestern states in Nigeria that has largest ungovernable spaces with a significant number of armed groups controlling the rural communities and their economy.
Recently, a security report revealed that Boko Haram/ISWAP, Ansar and many more groups are busy building trust with locals to enable them recruit their members especially in Katsina and other northwestern states. This should be our main focus on how to curtail their recruitment process and come up with non kinetic approaches that will counter their narratives.
Our borders are porous and the vast forest reserves in the border regions have been turned into operational bases for the bandits, many atrocities are taking place in the communities residing in the area. People are more loyal and obedient to the different armed groups in the area than Nigerian government, how can we give them hope to build their resilience should be the issue than asking them to confront them with empty hands.
The over growing threat to our local farmers in the state is devastating, Katsina is one of the leading agricultural producers in the country, 90% of the farm product is from the local communities and majority of them relocated to cities while many became beggars on the street. Bandits have warned them several times that they should not go near their farmlands and talk less of bowing down to cultivate. Who is going to rescue us if you are asking us to defend ourselves?
The insecurity situation in the state has been very disappointing particularly in the nine frontline local government areas bordering Rugu Forest, different armed groups are conducting their businesses unchallenged and anytime they need food items or money, they will strike and kill the innocent armless villagers that you are asking to defend themselves.
The traumatized residents of Katsina state are in season of lamentation with tears flowing as a result of frequent armed group attacks that killed innocent souls, destroying their livelihood, displaying hundreds and raping women and girls on daily basis. These people deserve encouragement and a resilient approach not creating more fear and sorrow in their mines by asking them to defend themselves.
Mohammed, a Violent Conflict Researcher writes from Katsina