The Politics of Zamfara Bandits


By George Onmonya Daniel

Who are these bandits in Zamfara State? What do they want? What are they fighting for? I have asked myself these questions a thousand times in the couple of days after I heard that they attacked and killed over twenty policemen.

The Nigerian government is telling us they are bandits engaged in cattle rustling and kidnapping. The problem is that most of the communities they have been attacking in Zamfara States are not herders but farming communities.

One of the first things President Buhari did when he became president to deal with the mayhem was to send the army and other security operatives to Zamfara State to comb these areas where the bandits, we were told, were rustling cows. After the military operation some of these bandits flooded into Kaduna-Abuja highway and started engaging in armed robbery and kidnapping. When the government unleashed the security operatives on Kaduna-Abuja highway, Kaduna and environ, they went back to Zamfara and became a bigger menace to society.

We have not been able to clarify why these bandits are fighting the government but all the reasons being given by this administration doesn’t seem to be genuine. The Niger Delta militants have reasons for their militancy, IPOB have reasons for their peaceful protests, the Fulani herdsmen have reasons why they are on rampage and mass killings in the Middle Belt, and even Boko Haram have given their reasons why they are fighting, but what about the Zamfara bandits? Why are they killings and fighting government? You mean it is over cattle? It is hard to believe.

WHY has the President Muhammadu Buhari government not done the right thing by simply naming the group killing people in Zamfara State as terrorist group? These gangs have killed thousands of people indiscriminately just because they can. I don’t understand. These gangs are not normal criminals. Normal criminals don’t just organize themselves and start fighting government in the name of cow rustling. You mean all the mayhem in Zamfara State is about stealing cows? This is ridiculous.

There is of course more to the Zamfara mayhem than just stealing cows. These criminals have enough fire power to rob any bank and cart away with millions but I have never heard them do so. Why are they not killing people all over other states and stealing cows? Like I have mentioned earlier, the people they go about killing are villagers who have no cows, these are farmers.

Why are the people up north not calling the Buhari government out to do the right thing and simply tagging them as terrorist group and dealing with them like Boko Haram decisively?

We play too much politics in this country. These gangs just massacred dozens of policemen recently and nobody really even cares. Some of the things that happen in this country just defies common sense.

Honestly I try not to bring tribe into this but there is no way you can talk about these things without bringing it up if you want to be honest about it. Because these gangs operating in Zamfara are Fulanis, yes, Fulanis, they cannot be tagged as terrorists. Look at the haste at which this administration quickly labeled IPOB a terrorist group. I just don’t get it.

The headline today again is dozens killed in Zamfara by suspected bandits. For how long will this continue?

George Onmonya Daniel writes from Abuja.