By Ibrahim Gwandu

To make good the order of President Muhammadu Buhari to Security Chiefs to redouble their efforts to rid the Northwest region of armed banditry and all forms of criminalities terrorizing rural communities, the Nigerian Army has launched the “Operation Sahel Sanity” (OSS). It was launched end of June 2020 in Faskari, Katsina State and, the success of the military operations in a very short while narrates itself evidently.

While launching “Operation Sahel Sanity,” (OSS), the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and punch man of the counter-insurgency operations, Lt. Gen. TY Buratai explained the gamut of the current operations to concentrate heavily in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna and Niger, with intertwined thick forests. These forests provide shield and shelter to the armed bandits, who stage out recurrently to raid markets, communities, and in the rage, massively kill, kidnap, commit acts of arson and rustle cows.

The pandemic of armed banditry and cattle rustling in the Northwest undisguisedly is a problem which preceded the administration of President Buhari. In 2015, the President in due adherence to his oath of office to protect the lives and property of Nigerians, ordered the Nigerian Army to conduct special military operations in these areas to purge the communities of armed bandits and other criminal elements.

Gen. Buratai responded instantaneously by launching the “Operation Sharan Daji,” “Operation MESA,” among others at different times. These special military operations by the Army, cleansed the communities of bandits, allied criminals, restored sanity and security besieged people. What is happening today in the Northwest region is a resurgence of the same experience, encountered by the people prior to 2015, but were liberated in the post-2015 era.

Its worthy of mention that in the last five years, the Nigerian Army has proved its mettle as equal to the task of neutralizing armed bandits and other criminals in the region. And this task has been seamlessly possible because President Buhari has fulfilled his side of the bargain by motivating the Army and providing the necessary weapons for these security combats. Gen. Buratai also properly decoded his Commander-In-Chief’s message and appropriately delivered on the assignment timely.

But it is quite sad and very disturbing that bandits and other criminal gangs have kept resurfacing in the Northwest to disrupt the peace and security of communities and villages in the region. However, a massage the resentful development has passed to active minds is that some critical stakeholders in the afflicted places are failing to play their roles to permanently end banditry and associated criminalities.

It is discernible that some persons have clearly, shirked, bolstered, overlooked or abandoned their responsibilities as leaders or opinion moulders or influencers over the menace of armed banditry. It is dreamy and absolutely thoughtless for anyone to think military reconnaissance and raids alone will impose an enduring panacea to the scourge of armed banditry and cattle rustling or associated vices in the region.

Gen. Buratai and soldiers alone cannot ensure the permanence of peace and security in the Northwest. It is beyond the sounds of guns and the matching sounds of boots. And this has to be discerned from different dimensions for obvious reasons.

First, in spite of all pretensions, but there is no Nigerian, including people of the Northwest who is unaware that ardent and unrepentant opponents of the President Buhari and enemies of Nigeria have activated their acts again. They are propelled by envy, so schemes and works veiled shadows every day to blur the laudable achievements the Buhari administration is showcasing in varied sectors of the country.

These fifth columnists and enemies of Nigeria hate to hear President Buhari has earned credit and accolades in sectors previous leaders failed to deposit a lasting impression. It inspires anger in them.

Therefore, part of their evil machinations is the sponsorship of terrorism, ethno-religious crisis, communal clashes, pastoralists and farmers conflagrations and other violent conflicts to destabilize the nation and discredit the government. The spate of resurgent armed banditry and cattle rustling troubling the Northwest now is part of the contrivances of these evil doers. Nigerians must wake-up to this incontestable reality and truth.

Unfortunately, the painful truth is that the enemies of Nigeria; the evil doers and satanic forces have found dependable allies in the communities under the affliction of terrorism or armed banditry or wherever these acts of violence are perpetrated. The internal allies assist them in the execution of this evil against their own people. This may sound forlorn to some minds, but it is the effervescent reality. In the long run, both the guilty and the innocent suffer the same plaque of terror.

Imagine to understand that two years back, security agents apprehended a traditional ruler in one of the Northwestern states, who shamefully served as informants to bandits and cattle rustlers terrorizing the community he presides over as their king. There is nothing more astounding than this reality. And there are many of such people in communities and villages under siege of armed bandits in the Northwest or terrorists in the Northeast. It is one of the many mysteries or wonders in Nigeria. Who can beat this?

Sometime this year, Gen. Buratai drummed a point, which sounded simple, but very weighty and instructive concerning the insecurities assailing Nigeria. While speaking in Lagos at the 2020 Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Security Meets Business Dialogue, the Army Chief declared and asked rhetorically that “We are fighting the mind. So, can the Military fight the mind of the people? This is not the job of the Military.”

This is a hard truth, which can only be reversed by the people through concerted actions to fight a common evil against them. There is the nagging and subsisting problem of demonic indoctrination and psychological brainwash of youths into imbibing proclivities or acts of violence, armed banditry and terrorism to levels of masochism. Their minds are colonized and galvanized towards evil and a pull back is only possible when leaders step up the game of their counselling, which is now completely abandoned to the dictates of force of the Military.

Military actions alone are not enough to end this menace. It goes beyond it. This is where inevitably, Nigerians particularly leaders of thought, traditional rulers, political leaders, religious leaders and the local communities must also scale-up the game of collaboration with the Nigerian Army to end the reign of armed banditry in the Northwest or terror elsewhere in the country.

Each of the special operations launched by the Army in the past to contain the fury of armed banditry and other criminalities in the Northwest or elsewhere has been resoundingly successful. But how long does the respite lasts before the same insecurity threats buds again and explodes in greater dimensions? The Army cannot be in these communities permanently and once they pullout, the same criminals resurface after a while. So, who is failing to fulfil his part of the bargain? The leaders of different shades in these communities have a moral obligation to do the needful.

And because these community leaders have abdicated on their basic responsibilities to their people; it has placed numerous hurdles on the path of the Nigerian Army in securing total and sustained victory against bandits, as in the case of the Northwest. Why do some leaders horde information about the presence of bandits, shield, shelter and protect them in these localities, from the eagle eyes of security agents?

Generally, Northern leaders regardless of political or religious affinities must wake-up to the reality now. In a federation under democracy like Nigeria, numerical strength is an important and potent tool of political bargain. It is senseless for these leaders to keep allowing the sustained depopulation of their communities and villages through acts of banditry and terrorism.

The time to team up with the Army to extricate them from these insecurities is now. In the current operations, the Army requires the support of the communities for sharing of vital information on activities of bandits; exposure of those who shield, protect, shelter and support the atrocities of bandits and cattle rulers. If Nigeria must win the war against banditry, it implies that these artificial obstacles community members have infused into the military operations should be cleared.

Gen. Buratai and soldiers have done a lot. And now in Northwest again, with “Operation Sahel Sanity,” troops as usual will coercively berth the peace, with the adoption of Super Camp Concept IV. It is good news that within a week of the Army’s “Operation Sahel Sanity,” in the Northwest, the success it has recorded is attested in neutralization of over 100 armed bandits, rescue of several kidnap victims, recovery of arms and ammunitions, in addition to recovery of l700 herds of rustled cattle and similar number of sheep. Also, the Army has arrested scores of bandits’ informants and logistics suppliers.

The performance tracking of the Army on this assignment has excited the Arewa Youth Security Network (AYSN) which has publicly eulogized Gen. Buratai and the soldiers, as they branded it an outstanding success. The leader of the counter-insurgency operations does not disappoint. This is highly commendable.

And soon, the Army will deliver the Northwest, cleansed of armed bandits and sanitized to normalcy, back to its owners. They have a choice either to preserve this security sanity or abuse it. But let it be known that President Buhari has played his part by ordering the Army for special operations and the, troops have done the needful by neutralizing these armed bandits. The community leaders now have the inescapable burden of sustaining it. #

Gwandu is a peace-building facilitator based in Gusau.


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