We Are All Mallam Sa’du Faskari: Nigeria’s Sad Reality

Abubakar Alkali

Abubakar Alkali

Mallam Saidu Faskari, a farmer who looks to be in his mid 80’s from Faskari, Katsina state, hit the headlines last week when a video showing him removing his house’ roofing sheets to pay ransom to bandits went viral.

Mallam Saidu Faskari needed to remove his fairly-used roofing sheets for resale or auction to enable him pay-off the N100,000 ransom money demanded by bandits for his son’s release. Nigerian news today

Watching the video will easily get you in tears as the helpless old man stood rather dejectedly, narrating his ordeal as a Nigerian. The frail-looking old man  confirmed that he doesn’t have enough food to eat let alone raise N100,000 for his son’s rescue from bandits so his only option is to auction his roofing sheets. Ironically, Mallam Saidu himself has tasted the bitter pill of banditry when he was kidnapped two weeks before by the same gang of bandits. His son had taken the risky mission of going into the forest to deliver N50,000 to bandits for his father’s release when the bandits decided that they are not done with Mallam Saidu. Although they released him (Mallam Saidu) after collecting N50,000 brought by the son, they held on to the son and doubled the price tag to N100,000. ‘Go get more money to rescue your son’ they told the feeble Mallam Saidu.

Without an option, Mallam Saidu turned his head sideways, took one last look at the bandit and kept a straight face as he took a walk to freedom. It was at that point he realised that he needs to think hard and fast: his mind raced to his only realistic and available option to raise cash for ransom: Auction his roofing sheets and damn the consequences.

In that short 2 mins 29 secs video, Mallam Saidu stood right in front of his mud house watching helplessly as workmen decoupled one roofing sheet after another, sending them flying overhead and onto the floor right in front of him, leaving him without a roof on his head- all because the government has failed him.

The people in government -at all levels- who during the political campaigns came asking Mallam Saidu Faskari for his vote, got the votes, won the election, even swore and took oath with the holy Quran that they will PROTECT Mallam Saidu, had failed to do that.

Constitutionally and without doubt, security is the irreducible minimum for any government as enshrined in section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 constitution (as altered) which is explicit, clear and unambiguous that ‘the security of life and property shall be the primary purpose of government’

Any government that cannot protect life and property is not worth its name. Such an assembly is not a government but an aberration. In reality, such a government is just a cabal or at best a conflagration which comprises of people who pursue their personal interest at the expense of the public interest and the masses. Provision of security is  not their concern. Their major concern is how they can hold on to power forever: in 2023 and beyond while leaving Mallam Saidu and all of us to our fate.

Any government that cannot protect life and property especially for vulnerable people like Mallam Saidu, should resign and leave the stage for good.

Mallam Saidu has been left at the mercy of rag-tag bandits as if there is no government in Nigeria. Certainly, this is not what Mallam Saidu voted for. The innocent-looking old man voted for peace but ended up with war. After voting in the last election in 2019 where he thought he has elected those who will protect him, Mallam Saidu has now been left on his own and has been told by his state governor Aminu Masari to ‘pick a gun and defend yourself’ and ‘You are on your own. Instead of resigning, Governor Aminu Masari is telling Mallam Saidu to defend himself. The innocent Mallam is heartbroken and has been disappointed by all the politicians he voted for in the last election. It is doubtful if Mallam Saidu will ever vote again or ever have confidence in politicians and government.

But Mallam Saidu Faskari is not alone in this: WE ARE ALL MALLAM  SAIDU FASKARI.

-We have all been heart-broken and disappointed by our leaders. We may think we live in cities, in ‘gated’ houses, drive cars of our choice, some of us even with police escorts but we are MALLAM SAIDU FASKARI regardless because we literally live in a constant state of fear of the unknown.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because we cannot sleep with our two eyes closed In Nigeria today, you cannot move from point A to B (Kaduna to Abuja, Zamfara to Katsina, Sokoto to Minna v.v) without placing your hands on your chest.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because bandits terrorise us at will with no one to come to our aid.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because we seem helpless in the hands of rag-tag bandits who go round villages and towns imposing taxes on innocent farmers while we watch.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because bandits install village heads and community leaders in our dear country to forcefully replace the ancestral village heads and we cannot do anything about it.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because our leaders have failed to keep to our agreement and covenant during election when they were soliciting for our votes, that they will protect us and ensure the security of life and property.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because here we are in Nigeria where a bandit will abduct an innocent person and use a MOBILE PHONE to negotiate ransom payment for days or even months on end, yet the ministry of communications cannot use technology to track and digitally demobilise these criminals. One wonders what the federal ministry of communications does with its budget that it cannot track common criminals like bandits and work with the security agencies to apprehend these criminals using  information and communications technology.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU because bandits easily block our highways and road networks and there is literally nothing anybody can do about it – as it currently seems.

– We are all MALLAM SAIDU as Nigeria’s National Assembly and the justice system have not initiated or implemented any reforms and/or ascribed any harsh penalties for banditry and related offences in Nigeria. Clearly and quite rightly, the death sentence has been proposed as the appropriate penalty for any bandit or informant convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction. Prosecution of cases of kidnapping is still domiciled with the courts at state levels while such cases ought to be tried by federal courts because a bandit could abduct their victims from Ondo and take them to Zamfara. In that case, which state’s laws will apply? This underscores the fact that federal laws should replace state laws in the prosecution of cases of banditry and kidnapping in Nigeria.

LESSONS FROM THE TRAVAILS OF MALLAM SAIDU FASKARI

A key lesson we can learn from the travails of this innocent man is that bandits have actually crashed the ransom tag per head to its lowest rate since records began. The criminal bandits have demanded for N100,000 from Mallam Saidu in exchange for his son’s freedom. Mallam Saidu himself was kidnapped two weeks before and the bandits’ price tag on him was N50,000. This is a complete departure from the usual norm where bandits place millions of Naira on their victims head as ransom tag. The implication of this is that banditry and kidnapping activities could be more widespread in the coming years because the ransom tag is now more affordable.

Sadly Mallam Saidu is not able to obey the governor Aminu Masari’s directive to ‘defend yourself’ either for lack of N500,000 to buy an AK-47 rifle or absence of proper military training on how to handle a gun or both. The scenario underscores the fact that the directive by the katsina state governor Masari that people should defend themselves cannot stand. Here is Mallam Saidu who cannot afford N50,000 to buy his freedom from bandits being told by his state governor to buy an AK-47 assault rifle worth N500,000 to face the bandits – who use same weapon (AK-47). Here is Mallam Saidu who may never have seen an assault rifle in his entire life -obviously with no prior military training- being told by his state governor to use a gun to defend himself. The closest that Mallam Saidu may have come to handling a gun could be trying his hands on a catapult at his young age. How will such a man face an AK-47 wielding Fulani bandit?

After the burning alive of 42 innocent travellers by bandits in Sokoto state last month,  Mallam Saidu’s travails comes second on the list of stark reminders of the reality that had befallen our dear nation in terms of the almost complete failure of security in Nigeria today. Government at all levels must step up its efforts to stop the march of the bandits. Northern Nigeria is now effectively at war and under siege while we all go about our normal business as if all is well.

We must remember that this storm will not devour Mallam Saidu alone but potentially  overwhelm all of us- Yes, ALL OF US.

In conclusion, we must not think that we are safe so we don’t have to worry about bandits. We must not continue to live in denial and pretend that the current high level insecurity in our country is normal because it is N.O.T normal.

It is a slap on our collective intelligence that bandits could literally hold Nigeria to ransom despite all the resources that Nigeria has. Nigeria that has fought and established peace in other countries cannot guarantee peace and security on its own soil.

Indeed, we cannot shy away from the grim reality that the bandits have made life difficult for us all because of the failure of government just as we cannot dispute the fact that WE ARE ALL MALLAM SAIDU FASKARI.

NOTES:

FAILURE OF NIGERIA’S VERY WEAK JUSTICE SYSTEM AND UNDERPERFORMING COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR.

  1. Bandits and Informants are not being prosecuted In Northern Nigeria By the Nation’s Weak Justice System.
  2. Boko Haram members not being prosecuted By Nigeria’s Weak Justice System.
  3. To the Contrary, Bandits and Boko Haram Terrorists are Given Unsolicited Amnesty by the Same Government that Should Prosecute Them.
  4. Amnesty for Any Terrorist is a Waste of Time and Resources.
  5. Nigeria is the only country on earth where a kidnapper abducts someone, uses a mobile phone to negotiate ransom payment and he is not tracked and digitally demobilised using information and communications technology (ICT).

 

DR ABUBAKAR ALKALI

kuliya2020@yahoo.com

Convener, Movement for a New Nigeria (MNN).

 

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