When Bandits Are Megalomaniac Kings

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I fear banditry will one day be seen as an integral part of northern culture by our kids who might grow up to see it as a norm. Bandits in the North started their large scale activities some years ago and the government negligently looked down upon them as common criminals. As I write, they have essentially formed a government within a government.

It is sad that it has become a debatable topic nowadays if Nigerian Government could defeat bandits or not. Bandits have become this powerful. It is pathetic that Nigerians, especially in some agrarian communities, have to pay tax to two different authorities: the official government (state or/and federal) and the unofficial government (bandits).

The recent display of primitive banditry should shock any thoughtful Nigerian. For how long shall we remain in perpetual fear? We are not sure of where to expect the next shock of our life. If the official government of President Tinubu is not contemplating the next round of hardship to inflict on Nigerians, the unofficial government—Nigerian bandits—is stinging with its savage fangs elsewhere.

The brutal killing of a 27-year-old man, identified as Abba in Jere town in Kaduna State is the latest in the seemingly ceaseless display of savagery. According to Daily Trust report, Abba was shot dead after he delivered a N16 million ransom and three motorcycles to some bandits for the release of nine victims they abducted in Jere town in Kaduna State. According to the report, N30 million was initially demanded for the release of nine abductees who were abducted from their houses at Unguwar Iya in Jere two months ago.

The bandits’ leader reportedly tied Abba (the deceased) with a rope and opened fire on him after collecting the ransom and the bikes. This is heartlessness. In this time of acute hunger in the land, family members and friends would have exhausted their savings (if any), immersed themselves in debt, and perhaps sold some of their precious property to pay such huge ransom for the release of the abductees. Abductees were released only for the brave Abba who took the requested ransom to the bandit to be killed.

This brings the debate of the appropriateness of paying ransom or otherwise, once again, to the fore. While it is true that paying ransom helps bandits to further build strong arsenals which enable them to launch more gruesome attacks on innocent Nigerians, how many people can be so stonehearted to see their loved ones dying slowly in kidnappers’ dens?
Agreed, the ideal thing is not to pay. But the best thing to do is not always a practicable course of action. Abstaining from paying ransom as deterrent is one of the best measures to curb banditry but the willpower not to do the “wrong thing”—pay ransom—is difficult if not impossible to exert. While it may be argued that it is ethically wrong to pay ransom, I think it is also ethically wrong to blame those who pay ransom to free their loved ones. This is dilemma of ethics, clash of ethics, or better still, ethical dilemma.

Rather than blame those who pay ransom, the government should be blamed for its inability to protect its citizens and fulfil the most significant aspect of its social contract.
What exactly was Abba’s offence? Why was he killed after the delivery of the ransom? As reported, one of the victims who was among those released said the bandits’ leader claimed that he decided to kill Abba for being rude to him during negotiation of the ransom. Banditry is one of the calamities that strike Nigeria, especially the North. Its deleterious impacts, if analyzed critically, could be more telling than the Boko Haram’s. This is where we find ourselves.

Think for a moment, who is more powerful: our elected rulers or the “ruling” bandits? I must confess that, as it is, I cannot answer this question. But one can conclude from the reason given for killing Abba that Nigerian bandits are megalomaniac kings that must not be rude to while our elected rulers might be openly despised due to the that freedom of expression well entrenched in democracy. It has got to that level. A king was recently booed along with his entourage, no one was killed or even arrested for booing. President Tinubu recently had a mishap which caused him to do an involuntary dobale. Many scoffed at him and he reacted liberally without taking offence. Not so with these megalomaniac bandits—the kings of the jungle.

It is no secret anymore that most Nigerians despise their elected rulers and they express their contempt for them openly. No one can dare do that with Nigerian bandits without saying his or her last prayers. These bandits are demigods in their own right and must be respected due to our ailing government. You must respect them willy-nilly when negotiating the release of your loved ones—having been kidnapped—and as you try to pay through the nose. This is what Nigeria has become. And I wonder why bandits still operate after the resurrection of the old National Anthem which, in Senate President Akpabio’s logic, is the antidote to banditry.

My appeal to President Tinubu is to act decisively against these cold-hearted bandits. If these bandits are too powerful and Nigerian Government cannot confront them, I don’t think it is wrong for our president to do dobale (appeal) to them so that we can all live in peace. Those calling for negotiation with these bandits might have a point but if the government is equal to the task, I don’t see any need for negotiation. What is needed is a decisive action.

For the late Abba, may the Almighty have mercy on him. May He strengthen his family and his community to bear the loss.
Abdulkadir Salaudeen
salahuddeenabdulkadir@gmail.com

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