Nigeria: Afaka Abductees, Governor El Rufai and Anxious Parents

9 April 2021

Twenty nine days ago, some 39 students of the Federal College of Forestry and Mechanisation, Afaka, Kaduna were abducted. Last Monday, five of the abducted students were released by their abductors. It is not clear how and why just a few were released. The remaining 34 students are still being held captive.

Before the abduction, the state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai had been vocal on not having anything to do with bandits or terrorists which have severely harassed the people of the state. There is hardly a day past without an ugly news about how bandits have either killed dozens of persons, razed their homes or how persons have been kidnapped or subjected to other forms of dehumanization.

Gov El-Rufai had vowed not to go along with the Northern Governors' Forum which had tacitly approved the need to negotiate with bandits. An Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, had gone ahead to canvass amnesty programme for the so-called repentant bandits. But Gov El-Rufai would have none of it. He had sworn that he would never be part of it and would not support it. He had argued, rather logically, that no amount of amnesty will wean the bandits of their evil ventures because they get lots of huge fund from the ransom they are paid, and that they will thus not agree to give up that mega income for the paltry allowance the amnesty programme will offer them. This is even as he was the first person to engage bandits and terrorists, in his first term in office, when he confessed that he was paying terrorists not to unleash havoc in the state. But I guess he stopped because the terrorists soon saw him as their faithful ATM, as they kept coming and coming demanding and blackmailing him. He drew a line, called their bluff and dared them.

The abduction of the 39 students at the Federal College of Forestry, many people believe, is thus a way of the bandits testing the validity of El-Rufai's resolve not to ever deal with them.

Gov El-Rufai, has argued that the huge ransom the bandits collect from the families of their abductees are in turn used to support and finance the operations of the Boko Haram terrorists. That way, there is an endless circle of violence and unrest.

So, for 39 days, the bandits have held on to their captives, expecting that the length of time plus the pressure from parents and other stakeholders would bend Gov El-Rufai and compel him to negotiate with them. But 39 days after, the governor has neither blinked nor budged.

But not the same with the parents of the abductees. Understandably.

They have been anxious, they have organized mass protests, they have held meetings with the governor, they have organized prayers and vigils, they have addressed press conferences... . But their children and wards are yet held. In fact, one of the parents of the abducted children has died out of sheer anxiety .

Expectedly, many of the parents are willing to open negotiation with the bandits if that would cause their children to be released. Many of them have even offered to go look for whatever money the bandits are demanding so they can have their children back and alive. They do not want a repeat of the Chibok Girls scenario nor a repeat of the Dapchi case. They want their children released collectively and without any condition.

But again, Gov El-Rufai would not hear any of that. The governor has gone ahead to threaten to arrest and prosecute anyone who goes into any negotiation with the bandits

towards the release of the students.

So, is Gov El-Rufai being callous and insensitive to the anxiety and plight of the parents on one hand and the state of health and well being of the abducted students on the other hand? Or is it a case of being rigid in adopted principles?

Some have asked, if Gov El Rufai's son was among the 34 students still held, would he stick to his guns? Pro- El-Rufai commentators have argued that if the governor could send his six year old son to a public school, he can do anything to make his point in governance. But the two scenarios (sending your son to public school and being violently abducted by bandits from a school) are not the same thing. The variables are markedly different.

It is bad enough that he has ruled out negotiation with the bandits with the aim of releasing the students, but it is yet worse to threaten to arrest and prosecute anyone who does. Would that not amount to double jeopardy?

So should the abducted students be traded in in exchange for a government's position? God forbid, what if the abducted students get killed or given the treatment of the Chibok Girls' remnants? Would it be a tribute to principle or unwise obduracy?

Is it not rather better and wiser to secure the release of the abducted students while government fine tunes its strategies to forestall re-occurrence? Surely, banditry, kidnapping, terrorism and other forms of violence are not going to vanish from our nation overnight.

A deliberate recovery plan must be instituted by government to rescue society from wild brigands harassing the daylight out of innocent citizens. El Rufai must Ronu!

Many of the parents explained that they are resorting to self help as they cannot see or hear what the government is doing to secure the release of their children. Days go into weeks and weeks almost going into a month now, yet there is dark silence from government. "We don't get any feedback, nor any positive response from government and security agents", a distressed parent said.

The radar is rather blank, even though the government claims moves are being made and that because it is an issue of safety and security, noise should not be made.

To avoid a repeat of the Chibok girls' scenario where, till today, some abducted students remain unseen and unheard, seven full years after, the government and the parents cannot afford not to be on the same page on this matter. The strategy that was deployed to secure the release of the five students last Monday should be explored and deepened to effect the release of the other 34.

Insecurity: Now that a Baba Has Come on Board

Eddy Odivwri

I think, for the first time, Mr President has taken a critical decision to tackle a critical national challenge.

Really? What exactly did he do?

Did you not hear that he has appointed a Baba as the chief security officer of the country?

What do you mean by a Baba? Are you implying that the former IGP was a Mama? And that is why he could not tame the monster called insecurity?

You said so.

That is very uncharitable. Do you know the challenge the police as an institution faces? You think it is easy to police over 200 million people with less than 40,000 policemen across the country?

Look, it just happened to be that the new man's name is Usman Baba, and that does not confer any superior capacity on him. After all, the days and weeks ahead shall tell, bet me (stretching out his fore finger).

Are you saying that this new IGP will also not be able to perform be he a Baba or not?

I have not said so. I wish him well. But remember that people always see the grass on the other side as being greener.

I don't care what your proverb is suggesting. But what I know is that Mr Mohammed Adamu, the immediate past Inspector General of Police, was practically sleeping on duty. Under his watch, situations were going from bad to worse. With him, nothing was sure in terms of security. People were being kidnapped and killed at will with no indication or capacity of the Police Force to contain the menace of criminals. And I think the last straw that broke the camel's back was the attack on the Police Headquarters in Imo State capital, Owerri, plus the burning down of the Owerri Prison. It was an audacity taken too far. No C-in-C would sit down and watch the nation drop so helplessly. And did you also not hear that even after the former IGP gave an order of tighter policing in the state, 24 hours after, another set of gunmen attacked another Police station and burnt it down after setting all the detained persons free? This is not to talk of the daily harvest of violence and blood shedding in Kaduna State.

I think you are not seeing the whole and bigger picture. Don't forget that this same Mohammed Adamu had his tenure extended for three months last February when he ought to have retired. So if he was that dismal, he wouldn't have been rewarded with extra three months of service and privileges.

Did you say reward? He was not rewarded for anything. Why should ineptitude be rewarded? Ok, point at one significant achievement of Mohammed Adamu as an IGP. Tell me... don't mope at me.

Look, it was the clear case of ineptitude and negligence on the part of Mr President that Mohammed Adamu had his tenure extended. It came as if his time of retirement suddenly hit the President who had not thought of who to appoint as a successor at the time. So, the so-called three months period was to enable Mr President find a replacement, and thankfully, he found one before the three months window shut. So that was what happened and by no means a reward.

Do you realise that under the former IGP several cases of attempted kidnap were foiled? Do you realise how many kidnapped victims were rescued by the Police? You think it is watching Ben Ten? Do you realise how many policemen paid the supreme prize trying to rescue others?

Do you realise that even the police became so vulnerable that many policemen were themselves kidnapped and their families had to pay ransom before they were released? What kind of humiliation of a nation's Police Force can be worse?

It is not peculiar to the Police. Even Army Generals were kidnapped, some were even killed, others had to pay ransom to get released. So, don't make it look like it is peculiar to the Police Force. Everybody is a victim, so to say.

Let me tell you, if it is on account of kidnapping and killings, then Mr President should be ready to appoint six or more IGPs before he leaves office in 2023, because the battle to secure and redeem Nigeria is not, and will not be magical.

What Nigerians want is performance. Not excuses! Usman Baba has been appointed now. He has been in the police force for over 33 years. He had risen through the ranks and understands how the system runs. He should come with his own ideas of how to better secure Nigeria and Nigerians. The glory and glamour of office will make more sense to him, if he performs. We have had more than enough excuses over the years. Whether he is Baba or Mama, let him go after the criminals: smoke them out and work towards making Nigerians sleep with their two eyes closed. Anything short of that would be unacceptable.

Let us wish him well. But if fire could consume the tortoise with the iron coat, you can imagine what it will do to a hen with a feathery gown. Usman Alkali Baba is not quite an operations man. He's been more of an Admin personnel. He was promoted DIG six months ago. And today, he is the Acting Inspector General of Police. May his bright luck cause him to excel where others had stumbled. But if the truth be told, succeeding as an effective IGP would require more than luck. There is work to be done and for Heaven's sake, let it get done!

If Usman Baba must succeed, let him show activism and determination to rein in all the killer herdsmen ravaging the country without deferring to ethno-religious considerations. He is from Yobe State. Nigerians would watch out to see how he handles matters that concern other parts of the country. He should not be agile and cock-ready only when he hears of IPOB or Oduduwa Nation or Egbesu Boys. The killer herdsmen are a greater danger than self-determination groups.

Somebody must tell Usman Baba that he has just two years to leave the force. Let him make meaningful and significant impact. It is more crucial to be credited with great good than just being listed in the row of former IGPs. He must hit the ground running. His time starts now!

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