Sunday, 17 June 2018

The power elite who signed away June 12

The Guardian



MKO Abiola
The Federal Government, which was last week basking in the glory of its boldness in recognizing the June 12, 1993 election winner, Chief MKO Abiola spoke in tongues about the power elite who conspired against June 12 election result. Even my brother, Olusegun Adeniyi in his June 12: A Complicated Story (Thursday 14 June, 2018) referred to a tripartite committee comprising the military and representatives of the two political parties, the (defeated) National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
It should be noted that The Guardian on Sunday then had on June 11, 2000 published a list of G-34 members who signed the tripartite agreement, which nailed the coffin of June 12 presidential election result.
The exclusive (lead) story I wrote for The Guardian then as Abuja Bureau Chief was a good reference point in Professor Olatunji Dare’s (2010) book, “Diary of a Debacle: Tacking Nigeria’s Failed Democratic Transition (1989- 1994)”. The scoop with a headline: “Exposed: Men Who Signed Away June 12”, contained the names of the power elite in the Federal Republic of the Nigerian Army then who signed away Nigeria’s democracy and subverted Nigeria’s sovereignty expressed on June 12, 1993. This was after General IBB then operating a strange diarchy, addressed what was constituted as a National Assembly operating then at the International Conference Centre.
So, 18 years ago, The Guardian listed the following military officers and political leaders who signed on behalf of the Federal Government and their parties the document purporting to be setting up the Interim National Government (ING).
Admiral Augustus Aikhomu, Vice President under the military presidency of General Ibrahim Babangida;
Lt. Gen. Joshua Dogonyaro, Commandant, Command & Staff College, Jaji;
Lt. Gen. Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, then National Security Adviser;
Brigadier-General Anthony Ukpo, former Federal Commissioner for Information and later assigned to Nigeria Defence Academy, Kaduna;
Brigadier-General David Mark, then serving with the National War College (now National Defence College) Has served as Senate President;
Brigadier-General John Shagaya, then serving as General Officer Commanding 1 Division Kaduna. (He died early this year);
Also, Alhaji Abdulrahman Okene, then serving as Secretary for Internal Affairs in the Transitional Council signed on behalf of the Federal Military Government;
The SDP members who signed the document setting up the ING to dismantle Abiola’s mandate were:
General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former presidential aspirant who had won the SDP presidential ticket in the primaries that were also annulled before Abiola came in. He died in Abakaliki prison where he was being detained by General Abacha;
Chief Tony Anenih, then SDP National Chairman, called Mr. Fix-it who declared that the day the ING document was signed was his happiest day. He later became Works Minister under President Obasanjo (1999-2003).
Alhaji Sule Lamido, then Secretary of the SDP, later Foreign Affairs Minister under Obasanjo and had served as Governor Jigawa State;
Chief Jim Nwobodo, former governor of old Anambra state and later Senator in this dispensation;
Chief Dapo Sarumi, former Governorship aspirant, Lagos state, served the ING as Minister of Communications;
Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former Kano State Governor and and a regular face in Abiola’s residence in Lagos but later said, “I am not in politics because of Abiola”. He later served as Communications Minister under Sani Abacha,
Dr. Patrick Dele Cole, former “Daily Times” Managing Director, Political Strategist to Abiola, former Envoy to Brazil later served Obasanjo as Special Adviser; and
Okechukwu Odunze, then national Treasurer of the SDP
Prominent among those who signed the ING document in the then NRC were:
Dr Hamed Kusamotu, then Chairman of NRC (deceased);
Arc. Tom Ikimi, former NRC Chairman and later Abacha’s combative Minister of Foreign Affairs;
Alhaji Adamu Ciroma, earlier declared, “Abiola won fair an square” earlier secured party ticket as presidential aspirant but was annulled by IBB; later served as Agriculture Minister under Abacha and later as Finance minister under Obasanjo;
Okey Uzoho, then National Publicity Secretary, NRC (deceased);
Joe Nwodo who signed with unstated “reservations”;
Theo Nkire;
Professor Eyo Ita;
Dr. Bawa Salka;
Prince Bola Afonja;
Alhaji Y. Anka;
Mr. Alba Muritala;
Alhaji Halilu Maina;
Alhaji Muktari A. Mohammed;
Also in the G-34 list were Alhaji Ramalan, later a traditional ruler in Nassarawa State, and Joseph Toba who signed that infamous document that sealed the June 12 death sentence then before general IBB was forced out of power on August 26, 1993.
Some Unsung Heroes of June 12…
As I was saying here last week, no matter the tenor of debate over motives and all that stuff, President Muhammadu Buhari has stolen the thunder of June 12, 1993. We can tell it in Minna and publish it in the streets of Abeokuta, Katsina and Otueke that the spectre of June has been laid to rest. And so, the 25-year-old open wound (conscience) has been healed by some truth-and-reconciliation flash in the pan in Abuja.
Meanwhile. I agree with Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi in The Verdict that drawing up a list of heroes and champions of June 12 can be a delicate business. Those who are not too young to run may also not be old enough too to remember the role of so many other significant champions and contributors. Only the prominent ones can easily be remembered about the multidimensional June 12 debacle.
A simple desk research from some institutional memories on the June 12 peculiar mess could have produced a more comprehensive guide on honours’ list including NADECO, Campaign for Democracy chieftains such as Chief Adekunle Ajasin, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, General Alani Akinrinade, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Amos Akingba, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Ayo Opadokun, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, etc who were quite bruised for singing redemption songs for June 12.
A little diligence could have included foremost civil rights activists such as Olisa Agbakoba who founded Civil Liberty’s Organisation (CLO), Clement Nwankwo, Chima Ubani, Festus Iyayi, Shehu Sani (Kaduna) among other civil rights activists then.
Who remembered Col. Abubakar Umar Dangiwa who lost his commission for weeping on the grave of Abiola? What of Bagauda Kaltho, a The News/Tempo journalist who was killed in Kaduna? Who would remember Mohammed Adamu, of the then African Concord who was detained for one year by Major Al Mustapha’s deadly squad who alleged that he (Adamu) a literary stylist, wrote a cover story (without a byline) titled, “Al Mustapha, The Ruthless Man Behind Abacha?
Did anyone remember Alhaji Bukar Zarma, publisher of the premier newspaper in Abuja then, The Abuja Newsday, which the IBB military regime also closed down in the wake of the June 12 crisis? Alhaji Zarma was arrested by security agents in his farm in Kaduna after the closure of his newspaper.
I was the Editor of the newspaper in Abuja at the time. I escaped from Abuja to Lagos under very dangerous circumstances in July 1993. Our trouble began when we didn’t know the hidden agenda of those who didn’t want Abiola in power despite the result of the June 12 election everyone already had and we started reporting the results and consequences including setting up of the transition committees.
Our first sin was a scoop we ran on the romance between MKO’s Abiola’s son, Deji and IBB’s daughter, Aisha while the June 12 crisis was raging. We saw them together in many places inside Abuja while NADECO and other democratic forces were stoking wild fires for the actualisation of June 12 election result.
Then the last straw was another exclusive story we ran on a secret night meeting between MKO Abiola and General Ibrahim Babangida, inside Aso Villa. The headline was, “IBB, Abiola in Secret Meeting”. The scoop contained details of the nocturnal meeting Abiola attended with his wife, Simbiat and his first son, Kola without the knowledge of the grieving Party (SDP) officials who were meeting in Benin over the June 12 crisis at the time.
I recall as if it were yesterday that when an aggrieved June 12 election result fighter could not get a copy The Abuja Newsday (which carried the scoop) in Lagos, he called to inquire if he could get a copy should he send a person to collect it in our Wuse Zone 6, Abuja Office. Unknown to us, the angry supporter in Lagos asked his office assistant to fly the Nigeria Airways then just to collect a copy of the newspaper and read the incredible story: that Abiola and IBB actually met secretly in Abuja while June 12 supporters were being harassed in the streets all over the country? The man called to thank us for ‘opening his eyes’ to what he called Abiola’s hypocrisy at the time for meeting IBB secretly with only members of his family’.

Who would remember those who suffered under the despotic General Abacha after consolidating powers in 1993-1994 through 1995? Who would remember The Guardian, which was shut down for publishing a Sunday lead story, “Inside Aso Rock: The raging battle to rule Nigeria (Sunday August 14, 1994)?
The remarkable scoop was anchored by the newspaper’s Editor then, Mr. Kingsley Osadolor.
I can also recall that The Guardian coined the June-12 crisis reporting terms then such as “MKO, Abiola, the man generally believed to have won…, “the presumed winner”, the acclaimed winner of…” for the Nigerian press.
Who would remember The Guardian members of staff who suffered 11 months closure in those days? Who would remember that The Guardian publisher Dr. Alex Ibru was also targeted and shut at as Mrs. Kudirat Abiola, Chief Alfred Rewane and other heroes who didn’t survive the gunmen of the perilous time?
Did anyone remember the significant roles of Joe Igbokwe and S.M.O. Aka who were writing letters daily to all Nigerian newspaper editors then on June 12?
Specifically, Joe Igbokwe, who introduced himself then as an engineer who was writing from Surulere, Lagos (now APC Publicity Secretary in Lagos state) was so prolific that all media houses and activists knew him in the country. Joe insulted me on Facebook the other day for writing about “three years of excuses and 19 years of anomie”. He is now in partisan politics I can understand. But despite that, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, who later compiled his historic Letters to the Editors into a book, deserves a place in “June 12 Hall of Fame”.
Did anyone remember last week, Mr. Alex Kabba, a journalist with The News/Tempo who fled (without his family) to the United States at the time through the NADECO routes? Alex, a fiery reporter then, got a tip-off that he was no longer safe. He fled. He is still in New York City where he publishes “Africans Abroad”. There are more unsung heroes.
All of the heroes of June 12 cannot be identified and honoured now. But the only honour that will touch all of us is this: there should be more attention to security and welfare of the people, which is the primary purpose of government.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Letter from Africa: Why is no-one talking about the Zamfara conflict?


BBC
Girl in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara has been suffering from bad governance for decades
In our series of letters from African journalists, Kadaria Ahmed looks at the brewing crisis in Nigeria's Zamfara State, which analysts say has the potential to become as deadly as the Boko Haram conflict.
Growing up nearly 50 years ago in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara State, I could never have imagined its future of grinding poverty and escalating violence.
The capital of Zamfara State, Gusau, used to be a prosperous town. British company John Holt ran a tannery, which bought and treated hides before shipping them off to Europe. Sugar giant Tate and Lyle had a presence. There was also a textile company, an oil mill, and a ginnery that prepared cotton for export.
As children, our favourite place in Gusau was the sweet factory, run by a Lebanese family who were, for all intents and purposes, locals. There, we could satisfy our cravings at very little cost.
A functioning rail line moved goods out and across Nigeria, and brought people in, many of whom were drawn to the region's thriving industries.
Men on motorbikesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara used to be a thriving trade hub
In Gusau, there was a sizeable population of ethnic Yorubas from south-western Nigeria, Igbos from the south-east, and thriving Indian and Lebanese communities. This cosmopolitism partly fuelled the region's aspiration for statehood, which it attained in 1996.
Parents also had the pick of decent government schools, or those run by missionaries, for their children's education. The knowledge of untold wealth, in the form of huge gold deposits that lay buried under the soil, guaranteed a prosperous and affluent future for the state.
Or so we thought.
We never factored in bad governance. The impact has been acute in Nigeria's northern states, which have experienced economic collapse, further pauperising its people, whose future was largely dependent on having decent, visionary leadership.
This is evident through the failure to build on the huge amounts of agricultural land, pluralistic populations, and unexplored mineral resources. There has been little attempt to mitigate the impact of climate change. Instead of utilising resources to educate and help its people, the northern political class has simply enriched itself.
According to a recently released Oxford University Human Development Index, the state's poverty rate is 92%.
While the economy declined, ultra-conservatism and lack of tolerance grew, and in 2000 Sharia was introduced in Zamfara State by former governor Ahmad Yerima, which seriously undermined the multicultural nature of the state.

More about Zamfara:

A map of Zamfara State
  • 67.5% of people in poverty (National rate: 62%)
  • Literacy rate: 54.7%
  • Slogan: Farming is our Pride
  • Residents mostly farmers from Hausa and Fulani communities
  • Population: 4.5 million (2016 estimate)
  • Mostly Muslim
  • First state to reintroduce Sharia - in 2000
Source: Nigeria Data Portal, and others

A succession of administrations have resorted to lazy, knee-jerk reactions to problems that require long-term holistic solutions. When cattle rustling became a problem in Zamfara, Governor Abdulaziz Yari created local vigilante groups to fight the thieves in 2013.
It did not take long for residents to start complaining about the vigilantes, who were now extorting and stealing from the very people they were meant to protect.
Villages caught between vigilantes and rustlers started trying to organise and defend themselves, with dire consequences. The cycle of violence escalated with attacks and reprisals. An attempt to implement an amnesty programme has also failed.
Now we have a spiralling, murky conflict in which all lines are blurred. The only thing that is certain is that innocent people continue to die in substantial numbers.
Dozens have died over the past few months during attacks on villages in Zamfara State. Due to a lack of reporting, it is impossible to tell what the total death toll has been in this ongoing six-year-conflict.
On 28 March, at least 28 people were slaughtered by unknown gunmen on motorbikes in the village of Bawar Daji, some 90km (55 miles) from Gusau. The slain were attending a funeral for victims murdered during a previous and painfully similar attack.
Image of a destroyed village in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe cycle of violence caused by vigilante groups and cattle rustlers has led to an untold number of deaths in Zamfara
For many years, the killings, kidnappings and rapes were only occurring in rural areas of Zamfara. It was underreported as the victims live on the fringes of national consciousness: they are poor, rural folk, who eke out a living as farmers and herdsmen in an area geographically removed from the centre of governance.
The conflict doesn't lend itself to the binary reporting that the Nigerian media finds very seductive. Christians are not pitted against Muslim, or North versus the South, or Hausa-Fulani against other groups. It can't be reported as evidence of Nigeria's further fracturing along ethnic and religious lines. The cultural and religious identities of both the victims and perpetrators are mostly the same.
This all speaks to a wider, national problem of our failing Federal State that cannot fulfil its most fundamental role of protecting its people. And so the people of Zamfara are left mostly to their fate.
Across Nigeria, there are huge swathes of ungoverned space that lend themselves to lawlessness in the absence of a functional state security apparatus. Rugu forest in the north-west cuts across multiple regions including Zamfara the border with Niger. The forest has been described as the equivalent of Sambisa forest in Borno State, which has become a hideout for Boko Haram in recent years.
Chris Ngwodo, who is an expert on the region, says the situation in Zamfara is exactly where Borno State was in 2009-2010, when Boko Haram launched its bloody uprising. The conditions in Zamfara are "perfect," he says. Perfect for another intractable conflict.
More Letters from Africa:

The past as Buhari’s utopia


The Guardian

Opinion

By Paul Onomuakpokpo


Whenever President Muhammadu Buhari lifts the fa├žade and allows us a glimpse into the convictions that propel him, he leaves no room for doubt that he is out of depth with the demands of his high office. At that moment of supposed candour, Buhari rather recommends himself to us as a relic of an antediluvian era that is far removed from the nuances of democracy and the challenges and possibilities of contemporary life.

Buhari is fixated on the valourisation of the past as an irreplaceable era that was full of glories that neither the present nor the future can yield. Thus, Buhari yearns for that past. He wants us to exhume that past because it held the secrets of an Eldorado that are elusive to the present.Yet it is a past that the majority of the citizens would like to consign to eternal oblivion because it only afflicts them with searing memories. Indeed, the past that in the imagination of Buhari provided a utopian state is in the reckoning of the citizens a dystopia that he is recreating in the present.
The past that Buhari is enamoured of was an era when the citizens chafed under the jackboots of military coupists and their minions. Buhari disdains the present and yearns for the past because he is overwhelmed by the challenges of the present. Unlike the past, he cannot with military fiat wish away contemporary realities. He cannot just reel out commands whose iniquitous object is the incarceration of some politicians because as a self-declared arbiter of justice he has found them guilty in his own court.

As Buhari himself put it, it was easy for him to fight corruption in the past because all he needed to do was to imprison the accused who had the duty of proving his innocence. Of course, this negated the jurisprudential principle that is upheld in sane societies that the rule of law imposes the necessity of the accuser proving the guilt of the accused. It is therefore not surprising that Buhari is enthralled by Sani Abacha who was a cesspool of the impunities of the era that he rhapsodises about. In the Abacha era, he was the law and he dispensed justice capriciously. Anyone who opposed his abuse of state power to silence other citizens or for the perpetration of heists for himself and cronies was guilty. And the grim sentence of death must be executed swiftly. Faced with this prospect, the only route of escape for the accused was in fleeing abroad. This was why Ken Saro-Wiwa, Alfred Rewane and many others Abacha considered as enemies were liquidated.
Since Abacha died, billons have been traced to his illicit accounts in different parts of the world. Even the Buhari government received $322.51 million Abacha loot from Switzerland recently. Yet to Buhari, Abacha is not corrupt. He is emphatic in holding up the Abacha era as a golden epoch that no government, except his own, has rivalled since. Buhari reminiscences about how on account of the honesty of purpose and commitment to the wellbeing of the citizens, Abacha built roads from Port Harcourt to Onitsha and Benin and improved education, medical care under the auspices of the Petroleum Fund Trust.
Buhari considers Abacha as perhaps the only reference point in terms of good governance. And this is why years after declaring that Abacha was not corrupt, he is still puzzled that there are some Nigerians who are repelled by the prospect of canonising him.
Since Buhari was and is still convinced that the past is a utopia that cannot be reclaimed in the present, why has he chosen to afflict us with his leadership? The tragedy is that as a nation, we expect a person who belongs to the past not only to solve our present problems but to provide a template with which to negotiate the future. Worse still, we expect a person who does not understand the price that has been paid for democracy that his so much-cherished past anathematised to appreciate its demands and the overarching need of sustaining it.

Simply because Buhari feels confronted with a utopia of the past that is eternally elusive, he does not fully appreciate the present and its challenges and possibilities. A major functionary of the Buhari government has given us an insight into the thinking of this administration. The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, declared when he led the Buhari Support Organisation to the president that it is only the lazy or rabid mischief-makers who complain of hunger that has been banished from the country by the Buhari government. We must be thankful to Ali for opening for us this vista to the thinking of Aso Rock. In other words, Buhari and his co-travellers just snigger at reports that some citizens have jumped into a river or committed suicide on an electric pole because of their impecunious state triggered by the lack of the leadership genius of this administration. As far as they are concerned, such citizens choose to take their own lives because of their laziness; in spite of the economic plenitude engenderd by the Buhari government.
And this is in sync with Buhari’s position that his spokesmen have attempted to rework to avoid fraying sensibilities – that the youths are lazy and are only waiting for the government to feed them with revenue from oil resources. Buhari is so much marooned in the past that he does not appreciate the fact that even Nigerians who want to overcome the economic failure of the Buhari government are imperilled by a lack of electricity to operate their little businesses.
Such businesses are choking under the weight of the complicity of the government that would not check the impunity of electricity distribution companies. Again, the citizens who want to eke out a miserable living from their farms cannot do that because Fulani herdsmen have vowed to feed their cows with their crops. And since the fear of the Fulani herdsmen is the beginning of wisdom, they may not even go to their farms to avoid being raped or killed. Because he is befuddled by the past, Buhari does not know that the nation has been riven by ethnocentrism and religious bigotry.
Since the past is the best epoch of the nation, why must Buhari be bothered about thinking of how to make the nation better? Why must he bother himself about restructuring or any other proposal that would rescue the nation from the brink of disintegration? Buhari does not see the inequity in the distribution of the nation’s resources that has necessitated the calls for restructuring. As far as Buhari is concerned, all the best efforts for the nation’s development were made in the past –in his military government and that of Abacha- thus no more effort can be made as regards progress. For Buhari, that nations that are eager to grow plan for decades and even centuries ahead is not necessary in the case of Nigeria.
Thus, Buhari cannot successfully fight corruption because the methods he used in the past are no longer workable in our democratic context. He can only make allegations and name and shame those he perceives as his political enemies. But if Buhari is sincere about fighting corruption, he still has about a year left to make it holistic by not limiting it to the opposition. More importantly, he should demonstrate his sincerity by setting up strong institutions that would sustain the anti-corruption fight. The citizens are not swayed by the propagandist stunt that if Buhari is not re-elected next year, looters would stage a comeback and recover their stolen funds. So if Buhari is indispensable to the fight against corruption, would he remain the nation’s president after 2024, assuming he secures re-election? Would he be made to live forever so that the anti-corruption fight would not be stymied by the enemies of Nigeria who are identified by his government as looters?
Nothing recommends Buhari as a leader of modern Nigerian with its complex challenges. Contemporary Nigerians owe it as a duty to themselves and the subsequent generations to, through the 2019 presidential election, consign Buhari to the past that he duly belongs.





Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Letter from Africa: Why is no-one talking about the Zamfara conflict?


BBC

  • 19 May 2018
Girl in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara has been suffering from bad governance for decades
In our series of letters from African journalists, Kadaria Ahmed looks at the brewing crisis in Nigeria's Zamfara State, which analysts say has the potential to become as deadly as the Boko Haram conflict.
Growing up nearly 50 years ago in Nigeria's north-western Zamfara State, I could never have imagined its future of grinding poverty and escalating violence.
The capital of Zamfara State, Gusau, used to be a prosperous town. British company John Holt ran a tannery, which bought and treated hides before shipping them off to Europe. Sugar giant Tate and Lyle had a presence. There was also a textile company, an oil mill, and a ginnery that prepared cotton for export.
As children, our favourite place in Gusau was the sweet factory, run by a Lebanese family who were, for all intents and purposes, locals. There, we could satisfy our cravings at very little cost.
A functioning rail line moved goods out and across Nigeria, and brought people in, many of whom were drawn to the region's thriving industries.
Men on motorbikesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionZamfara used to be a thriving trade hub
In Gusau, there was a sizeable population of ethnic Yorubas from south-western Nigeria, Igbos from the south-east, and thriving Indian and Lebanese communities. This cosmopolitism partly fuelled the region's aspiration for statehood, which it attained in 1996.
Parents also had the pick of decent government schools, or those run by missionaries, for their children's education. The knowledge of untold wealth, in the form of huge gold deposits that lay buried under the soil, guaranteed a prosperous and affluent future for the state.
Or so we thought.
We never factored in bad governance. The impact has been acute in Nigeria's northern states, which have experienced economic collapse, further pauperising its people, whose future was largely dependent on having decent, visionary leadership.
This is evident through the failure to build on the huge amounts of agricultural land, pluralistic populations, and unexplored mineral resources. There has been little attempt to mitigate the impact of climate change. Instead of utilising resources to educate and help its people, the northern political class has simply enriched itself.
According to a recently released Oxford University Human Development Index, the state's poverty rate is 92%.
While the economy declined, ultra-conservatism and lack of tolerance grew, and in 2000 Sharia was introduced in Zamfara State by former governor Ahmad Yerima, which seriously undermined the multicultural nature of the state.

More about Zamfara:

A map of Zamfara State
  • 67.5% of people in poverty (National rate: 62%)
  • Literacy rate: 54.7%
  • Slogan: Farming is our Pride
  • Residents mostly farmers from Hausa and Fulani communities
  • Population: 4.5 million (2016 estimate)
  • Mostly Muslim
  • First state to reintroduce Sharia - in 2000
Source: Nigeria Data Portal, and others

A succession of administrations have resorted to lazy, knee-jerk reactions to problems that require long-term holistic solutions. When cattle rustling became a problem in Zamfara, Governor Abdulaziz Yari created local vigilante groups to fight the thieves in 2013.
It did not take long for residents to start complaining about the vigilantes, who were now extorting and stealing from the very people they were meant to protect.
Villages caught between vigilantes and rustlers started trying to organise and defend themselves, with dire consequences. The cycle of violence escalated with attacks and reprisals. An attempt to implement an amnesty programme has also failed.
Now we have a spiralling, murky conflict in which all lines are blurred. The only thing that is certain is that innocent people continue to die in substantial numbers.
Dozens have died over the past few months during attacks on villages in Zamfara State. Due to a lack of reporting, it is impossible to tell what the total death toll has been in this ongoing six-year-conflict.
On 28 March, at least 28 people were slaughtered by unknown gunmen on motorbikes in the village of Bawar Daji, some 90km (55 miles) from Gusau. The slain were attending a funeral for victims murdered during a previous and painfully similar attack.
Image of a destroyed village in Zamfara StateImage copyrightAFP
Image captionThe cycle of violence caused by vigilante groups and cattle rustlers has led to an untold number of deaths in Zamfara
For many years, the killings, kidnappings and rapes were only occurring in rural areas of Zamfara. It was underreported as the victims live on the fringes of national consciousness: they are poor, rural folk, who eke out a living as farmers and herdsmen in an area geographically removed from the centre of governance.
The conflict doesn't lend itself to the binary reporting that the Nigerian media finds very seductive. Christians are not pitted against Muslim, or North versus the South, or Hausa-Fulani against other groups. It can't be reported as evidence of Nigeria's further fracturing along ethnic and religious lines. The cultural and religious identities of both the victims and perpetrators are mostly the same.
This all speaks to a wider, national problem of our failing Federal State that cannot fulfil its most fundamental role of protecting its people. And so the people of Zamfara are left mostly to their fate.
Across Nigeria, there are huge swathes of ungoverned space that lend themselves to lawlessness in the absence of a functional state security apparatus. Rugu forest in the north-west cuts across multiple regions including Zamfara the border with Niger. The forest has been described as the equivalent of Sambisa forest in Borno State, which has become a hideout for Boko Haram in recent years.
Chris Ngwodo, who is an expert on the region, says the situation in Zamfara is exactly where Borno State was in 2009-2010, when Boko Haram launched its bloody uprising. The conditions in Zamfara are "perfect," he says. Perfect for another intractable conflict.
More Letters from Africa:

Related Topics