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Not corruption but banditry By Bola Bolawole


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I considered three other titles before settling for the one above: Banditry and not corruption; brood of vipers; and a nest of bandits. A nest of killers was how the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, described the then ruling party, the PDP, after the assassination of sitting Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, a crime which remains unresolved and unpunished to this day. Can we say in good and clear conscience that no one in the ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration – or in the succeeding administrations – knew who or what killed Bola Ige? Brood of vipers was how Jesus Christ described the Pharisees and Sadducees of his time – hypocrites and perniciously evil people who, like our Nigerian leaders, placed a heavy burden on the people but never touched it with a finger!

Ordinarily, I never wanted to comment on the trending Magu/Malami circus show but for my teeming supporters who felt I should. Why carry on my head the war of hegemony between the Fulani and Kanuri wings of banditry – both political and military? Many think what we have are cases of corruption; I beg to differ! It is even worse than the “direct looting” that the ex-EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu, alluded to during his own tenure. Bandits are on rampage and they are deploying both their military and political wings to fight dirty.

In the First Republic, there was the corruption of the “ten percenters” as described by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu; those who made Nigeria look big for nothing in the eyes of the international community. Yakubu Gowon’s era was when profligacy became a virtue. Corrupt elements like the Federal Commissioner, JS Tarka, dared the anti-corruption crusader, Godwin Daboh, who himself was reported as the epitome of corruption! The story is also told of how the head of the regime that ousted Gowon had looted the Benin branch of the Central Bank during the civil war.

Corruption is as old as Nigeria – perhaps, even older! But what we have today are not just corrupt elements but bandits in full-flight. We are under the siege of full-blown banditry. The political wing of the bandits are to be found in the political parties; in political offices; in Ministries, Departments and agencies of government; and in the three arms as well as the three tiers of government. The military wing is made up of terrorists such as Boko Haram, the Fulani and other murderous herdsmen; the kidnappers, cultist groups, enforcers, etc.

The Jonathan administration was corrupt – but that was corruption. Today, we have bandits and banditry. Comparing Jonathan with Buhari is like comparing sleep with death. We had corrupt elements in Jonathan’s government. We have bandits in Buhari’s. Thieves have honour; bandits do not! From Independence up to the time of Jonathan, we witnessed the corruption perpetrated by thieves, graduating along the line from the petty thieves of the First Republic to the grandiose thieves of the Jonathan era. But under Buhari we have witnessed corruption perpetrated by bandits, the scope and magnitude of which beggars belief.

Insecurity whacked the Jonathan administration – but that was insecurity. Today, we have a total breakdown of law and order; a state of anarchy; what Thomas Hobbes described as a state of nature of the war of one against all and where life was nasty, brutish and short. Life has lost its value under Buhari and living its allure. We witnessed the disruption of State services; kidnappings and threats to the corporate existence of this country under Jonathan – but now we have a country hanging by the cliff; dangerously close to Chinua Achebe’s lamentations of “there was once a country”! Bandits have taken over the land and no part of the country is spared. Even the FCT Abuja, the seat of power, is not safe; the president himself being forced on many occasions to hide within his Aso Villa fortress to keep safe!

Remember the Egbusu Boys? Remember the Niger Delta militants? They hyped militancy, sabotaged State facilities and kidnapped for ransom. Remember the North accusing them of not having a monopoly of violence and that their resource-control agitation was a ploy to make the government ungovernable for their man, President Umaru Yar’Adua? Remember them threatening retaliation? Threats have now become reality. Yesterday we had agitations; today, we have full-blown banditry. What are we having tomorrow?

The bandits are within and without. They are two sides of the same coin. Six and half-a-dozen! They both complement. The bandits within and the bandits outside respectively open the door for each other. The bandits within, in the humongous resources they siphon, deny the State of the resources needed to crush the bandits without and, in the process, strengthens the bandits without and elongates their expiry date. The continued existence of the bandits without is, in turn, used to legitimise the continuation in office of the bandits within and their rapacious banditry. We have heard, ad nauseam, narratives of how the political wing of banditry sabotages efforts to crush the military wing of banditry. Only fools believe that the Nigerian Armed Forces cannot crush Boko Haram or decisively deal with the murderous herdsmen.

The bandits within will never see the need for the defeat of the bandits without. They work in cahoots. Their core objectives are similar. They sustain one another. They exist and live for each other. It is, rub my back and I rub your back – and they both smile to the bank, even as they believe that they are inching closer towards the realization of their objectives. We are tired of the many stories of sabotage of the war efforts against the bandits without master-minded by the bandits within.

Witness the uproar and all the conspiracy theories that have attended the killing of Combat Flight Officer Tolulope Arotile. Rather than douse tension, the so-called “findings” of the Nigeria Air Force and their hasty conclusion that there was no foul play, raised more questions. Calls for change of guards among security chiefs have serially been ignored. It is not in the interest of the bandits within to defeat the bandits without.

We have never seen anything like this banditry – in the quantum of funds being stolen by single individuals; this is more than stealing or looting; this is sheer banditry! Bandits are on rampage! The savagery of this political class of bandits equates the savagery of their military wing, i.e. Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen, etc. Birds of a feather! Such bestiality, such impunity, such audacity, such effrontery, and such comprehensive destruction all over the place!

On Mount Carmel when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, corruption would have meant a part of the sacrificial animal getting missing – but banditry is when the whole animal, the stones used for the altar, the ditch dug around it, the water poured on the ditch, the altar itself, the sacrifice and everything around it got licked by the fire that fell from heaven, leaving nothing and no trace of anything! That is the magnitude of the sheer banditry taking place under Buhari.

Prepare for the Apocalypse! The Doom’s Day is here! The bandits are clear in their heart what they want. They said it loud and clear, again and again, that Nigeria is their inheritance bestowed on them by their fore-bears! In their opinion – even if warped – Nigerians are a conquered people and the conquerors are on the field stripping the conquered of the spoils of war.

Look at the appointments made all over the place by the political wings of the Fulani and Kanuri banditry! Look at all the projects going to the North – even Katsina or Daura alone! Tell me who got the lion share of the palliatives rolled out by the FG during this pandemic. And tell me who is going to land the lion share of the jobs the FG is rolling out. They use parameters that deepen both our disadvantage and their own advantage. That way, they keep getting the upper hand, thereby widening the gulf between us and them. After eight years of being in power, should we still be scared stiff that power may remain in the same North? Tell me, were roles reversed; can the South contemplate such hara-kiri?

In both the political and military wings of the banditry, the Fulani come first while the Kanuri come a close second. They cooperate but also compete amongst themselves. Have they read Nkem Nwankwo’s “My Mercedes is bigger than yours”? When you talk of the NDDC or the other sundry financial heist linked to the long-suffering Hausa and other ethnic groups paying servile obeisance to the Fulani and the Kanuri, what they get, and which they disturb our peace with, are crumbs and fat bones. They are junior partners; nay, errand boys and girls, in the ongoing banditry ravaging the land.

As worrisome as the present situation is, my real fear, however, is about what is to come. Tell today’s bandits: It gets worse here; it doesn’t get better. It pours here; it doesn’t just rain! Like they told the Niger Delta militants, no one has a monopoly of violence! The clouds are gathering! What we are yet to see is master to what we have seen already!

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