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Our new normal!

Published by The Nation on Tue, 23 Feb 2021

By Sanya OniWith every passing day comes new prognostications on what to do with the rabid band of criminals that have taken arms against the Nigerian state, the lot that have reduced our humanity to the level described by Thomas Hobbes as brutish and short. Trust our opportunistic political elite in moments like this, not only have rigoursthe good old endeavour of scrupulous interrogation of ordinary day events for context to aid understandingtaken flight, we are suddenly finding that good and bad have not only become relative. In place of truth now lies the seduction to a brand new world of alternative reality which once promoted by one Donald Trump has now been fully domesticated by the Nigerian politician. In Nigerias convoluted moral space, not even the so-called armour-bearers of truth and everything in between, seems to have been spared. Now, no one is sure of anythinganymore. Its Nigerias season of new normal!Talk of a country where thingsparticularly of the negative kindare known to move at the speed of light, we have gone beyond mere debates on the moral underpinnings of the open embrace of criminals. Once the talk of exploring back-door channels to engage the murderous bandits was deemed as academicmore like the testing of the waters at the time in the context of the creeping anarchy in that part of the country. Now hierarchs of state not only pander to them, the ill-clad, bazooka-bearing fellows have since become regular faces in the places of power, laying out demands and giving instructions on what the government needs to do for the rest of us to have peace.Guess that those Nigerians who, a short while ago expressed outrage when the federal government granted amnesty to 600 so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists saw what the rest of us could not have seen. Their grousewhich is that many of these people were not only known to have committed mass murder but should ordinarily be objects of interest for their crimes against humanity, couldnt sway a federal government that was only too eager to advertise tokenism as progress!Today, that train, of the thoughtless absurdity called amnesty has since berthed in the northwest states of Zamfara and Katsina. In July 2019, Governor Aminu Masari had on behalf of his Northwest counterparts after their one-day security and reconciliation meeting with security agents, vigilante, and volunteer groups, herdsmen and farmers in Katsina issued what came close to a decree at the time: As from today, no vigilante group member or volunteers should attack or kill any herdsman, as sacrifice must be made by both sides to ensure peace reign.Apparently bent on ensuring that the armistice worked, he would a month after, play host to the representatives of the bandits terrorising the eight frontline local government areas in his state. There again, he re-emphasised the need for them to respect the amnesty granted to them by his government.As things turned out, not only did the governor overstate the bandits understanding of the text of the amnesty but also their sense of honour as the entire thing fell apart few months after. He would later tell the BBC Hausa Service that his administration would no longer engage in any negotiation or peace talk with bandits as they did not honour the agreement they signed!A lot has happened since. First, was the frontal display of criminal impunity in which some 300-plus schoolboys of Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina were abducted in December last year. Now, the latest tale is that Awwalun Daudawa, the leader of the criminal gang alongside six other co-masterminds of the abduction have handed over their weapons, swearing on the Holy Quran not to return to their former practicesall in exchange for amnesty. Talk of a sweet deal in which different figures all them dizzyinghave been bandied as settlement for one of the biggest crimes of all time; surely, some variants of criminality not only offer rich rewards, they actually guarantee access to the good life!As for the latestthe Kagara abduction, we may never really know all that has happened. Suffice to say that a group of outlawsso powerful as to get the entire machinery of Niger State government scampering like some rain-bitten chicks couldnt have gone that far for a few pieces of silver! And now we are talking of the amnesty franchise being merchandised like some piece of silverware and as if it is some sort of incentives for uncommon display of ethical behaviour.But then, absurdity also comes in different shades or variants. Talk of a country of moral relativists: last week, I referred to a certain Governor Bala Muhammed who verily believes and so insists that his kinsmenthe herdsmenwho have since established themselves as the clear aggressors in the unequal conflict with their farmer-counterparts have nonetheless still earned the rights to bear sophisticated arms since, they are apparently more endangered than their victims!Now, compare this with a governor, who says that herdsmen should vacate the states forest reserves, which in any case, they illegally occupied and which they have since turned into a vast theatre of crime, the latter being accusedby the promoters of crude inverted logic and specious moralityof executive overreach and of ethnic profilingand all in the bid to ensure the safety and security of the vast majority of the citizens in his domain.I have earlier on the matter written of the barely acknowledged tragedythat a governor in this day and age could not draw a distinction between the rights to free movement as guaranteed by the law and the curbs equally set by the same law on the violation on other citizens spaces! But what do you make of the number three citizen, the number one lawmaker and the head of the legislative branch not only stoking the fire but carelessly and needlessly inserting himself into the fray at a time all eyes are on the leaders to calm the situation.At the Hausa Service of the BBC at the weekend, the Senate President Ahmad Lawan, claimed that ethnic clash at Shasha market in Ibadan was sparked by the utterances of some governors from the Southwest. To the extent that he fell short of naming the governor, one can only hazard a guess; and that is if one finds such necessary or even useful.Yes, what happened in Shasha market in Ibadan was unfortunate. I will even go as far as to say that the tragedy was not only avoidable, it is inexcusable in this day and age. However, as against the superficial explanation by the likes Lawan, what the facts point to are certainly far deeper and more complex. Which is why his inferences, draped as it were, with the same blinkers of ethnocentrism as those of Bala Mohammed, are just as hollow, unhelpful as they are opportunistic. Yes, I understand why Lawans fixation with an unnamed governor might provide some therapeutic effects in a season of abdication. But only if he truly desires to find the chief culprit in the national malady would he fdare to look inside Abujas sprawling Three Arms Zone!
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