By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo had once said that, “The children of the poor you failed to train will never let your children have peace”. The spate of kidnappings and banditry all over the country has become the most pertinent and worrisome issue in Nigeria now and it has fast become an industry for illicit and easy money; taking along with it, thousands of innocent Nigerian lives. The most salient of the undoings of the Jonathan administration was the scourge of the Boko Haram menace that had brought its fight to Abuja, the doorstep of the presidency, carrying out attacks in Kano, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi and even Kogi and Katsina states. A small cell of religious fanatics had morphed into a globally affiliated and recognised sect, with a reputation as the most deadly terrorist group, ranking alongside ISIS, the Islamic State terrorist group. The youth that had been recruited in droves into the Boko Haram sect were primarily in it for the gains of it, and not the beliefs or teachings of the supposed Islamic leadership of the group. They shared the spoils of war amongst them, including women. Over the years, sponsorship coming from some alleged foreign terrorist groups were paying these fighters and it was more or less another industry for blood money. The children of the masses were ready and willing recruits for the vile and demonic playground of their sponsors. Some were reportedly given as little as 3 to 5 thousand to carry out attacks. The suicide bombers were promised prosperity for their families and dependents. Poverty had become a weapon for the destruction of our citizens who have lost hope in the prospects of earning a living. The present administration has done a lot in dismantling the sophistication and potency of the sect, reducing it to one that can only make attacks on soft targets. As it is, the snake has been killed, but its head has not yet been dismembered from its body; and therefore, the threat still remains and can come back to life with a vengeance.
Today, the manner and rate at which kidnappings are executed with precision is bewildering, scary, and heart-breaking. The state of insecurity in the country has been heightened by this heinous crime, and this time, it is not localised to a region or social strata. It is everywhere, especially in the heart of the north-western capital of the Kaduna-Abuja axis. Some call it the Bermuda triangle and the only safe way to cross is by train, standing all the way from Abuja to Kaduna or back. Passengers have lamented that one of the VIP coaches has been removed and that has not helped matters, although I cannot confirm the veracity of that claim. The mode of transport that is identified with the lower and middle working class is now besieged by the rich and famous. A few days ago, the Chairman of UBEC and his daughter were kidnapped and his driver was shot dead along the Kaduna – Abuja road. A day after, the Magajin garin Daura — The district head of Daura, who is the father in law to President Buhari’s ADC, was kidnapped at his residence in Daura. Along the Kaduna – Abuja highway, an alleged 40 motorists were kidnapped on their way to Kaduna. A few months back, the mother in law to the Katsina state Governor was also kidnapped at her home in Katsina. Dozens of foreigners have also been kidnapped, and some killed by this hydra headed monster. It is reported that when the kidnappers stop motorists along the Zaria – Zamfara road, they weigh the motorists and size them up based on their dressing and ‘looking good’ features. They even touch the palms of their victims to know how much they will charge for their ransom. When the encounters were being narrated, I felt my soft palms sweat and I knew that my relatives in Sokoto will not see me in quite some time to come because the likelihood is that I may be over priced by the bandits. Shikenan.
The kidnappers and bandits must be fought and exterminated, in many more ways, and with much more effort than was meted out on the Boko boys. There must be a massive recruitment drive in the security agencies, backed up by reforms that will see to the repositioning of the forces to better tackle these challenges. Laws should also be put in place to put away these criminals for life. There is a notorious kidnapper that has been in the hands of the law for far too long, and it has been one court session after the other. If the bureaucracy in the national assembly is going to take too long, states should promulgate or pass laws that give the death penalty to the perpetrators of these crimes. If the anti corruption Bills of Mr. President are facing anticipated hitches in the national assembly, I bet an anti kidnapping one should have no qualms whatsoever. Unless there are very harsh and strict laws punishing the culprits, the system might just be encouraging these very dastardly acts. We marvel at the way countries like China and Malaysia have built their economies but shy away from the punitive actions they took to address the ills in their societies. It is inhuman to separate one from his family, let alone take their lives, just because one wants to extort money from the livelihood of their victims.
The Federal Government’s efforts in providing infrastructure is fantastic, its desire and commitment almost never before seen; perhaps since the days of military government in Nigeria. However, our elections have recently proved that the stomach infrastructure drive, needs a lot more attention than it is getting. The FG has a lot of packages launched under its Social Intervention Programmes (SIPs), but it needs to be boosted and widely expanded. Citizens of a particular state voted for their governor because he distributed kerosene on election eve. That is a depiction of the penury and suffering that people are in. And that was in a state in the South east of fabled industry, not to talk of the far north, where poverty is eating up everyone like a forest fire. The trillions that are being earmarked for roads should also be funneled to the SIPs where money can be put directly in the hands of Nigerians, not just in their thousands, but in their millions this time round. People in the localities are not in tune with the fine briefs of infrastructural development and the management of our economy. The entire society is destitute and that is the actual problem. The various forms of insecurity that we are bedevilled with, are borne out of the poverty that the masses are suffering from, which makes them ready material to be used for all kinds of havoc. Perhaps all or some of the proceeds from corruption cases should be channelled to the SIPs for onward distribution to the masses, afterall it was there’s in the first place. In the final analysis of things, I am afraid that the SIPs are the only way that the poor are going to ‘witness’ and enjoy the dividends of democracy and the prospects of the next level. The airports in the states are for the rich, the fancy new ones in Abuja, Portharcourt and the like are for the rich, even the trains have been cornered by the rich. The poor man’s succour, lies mainly in the Social Intervention Programmes.