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Lai Mohammed’s theory of unity by banditry

If you are not in awe of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Honourable Minister of Information and Culture, it is not too late to fall in line. He is not only a key member of the imitable Muhammad Buhari administration but a mirror of thoughts that fire its policies.

Lai Mohammed has many theories on Nigeria’s security challenges. His latest is that banditry is not to be weighed with the same scales as agitations for self-determination. According to him, bandits were not against the unity of Nigeria.

“The issue of security must not be politicised. Security is security. Bandits kill soldiers; they kill policemen and innocent people. So, why will the military be softer on one set of criminals than the other?” he told the News Agency of Nigeria on 10 October 2021.

Yet, on 18 October 2021, on TVC’s This Morning, he said: “The difference between IPOB, Boko Haram on one side and bandits is that, while IPOB and Boko Haram are driven by ideology, a belief that they don’t want to be part of Nigeria, bandits have no flags.

“Bandits are simple criminals. There’s no difference between bandits and other criminals other than their ferocity. Bandits have never said they don’t believe in Nigeria, they are just pure criminals.”

Read Also: Nowhere safe globally if terrorism thrives – Lai Mohammed

Nothing is new in this equivocation. Alhaji Mohammed had spoken similarly in February 2021 when he supported amnesty for bandits, saying they believed in Nigeria unlike IPOB and other groups. It is for the same reasons that he commended Sheik Ahmad Abubakar Gumi’s romance with bandits.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed is a lawyer. He knows about crimes, criminals, and the law. With the times and seasons, his words may also be law.

Not too long ago he said global environmental concerns accounted for the military not attacking the ungoverned northern forests bandits inhabited. We now know they are safe because they are nationalists.

Such laws do not operate in southern forests where the military operate, and Fulani herdsmen devastate with their animals.

Lai Mohammed’s ways are too well known for anyone to be surprised about anything he says on anything. He gets better by the day.

Is it the position of the law that there are simple and complex criminals? Bandits appear to be the euphemism for criminals from the North whether they are armed robbers, arsonists, kidnappers, murders, illegal miners, rapists, unknown gunmen or Fulani herdsmen.

If the criminals are from the South, their offences are unbundled and spread across all crimes plus self-determination, and rejection of Nigeria’s unity through utterances that interrogate the bases of the unity.

Were bandits who gunned down a military aircraft also fans of Nigeria’s unity? Was their sumptuous spicing of the ties that bind us reflected in their action? They were not terrorists, just simple bandits.

Those who attacked the Nigeria Defence Academy were also pure bandits. Their magnificent idea of Nigeria’s non-negotiable unity was on display when they took an NDA officer hostage, killed one, and wounded others.

If they were bandits when they attack official agencies of the military could they transmute to terrorists during the attack? Geography, politics, and the ideological clinging, Mohammed recognises, are central to the classification of criminals. He remains the leading authority in this area.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed echoes the position of President Muhammadu Buhari that the unity of Nigeria is a settled matter. It cannot be discussed; it cannot be negotiated.

Our unity is of uttermost importance but we are unwilling to hear a word about how it can be improved. Our unity is already at its best.

Anyone who disagrees with the unknown terms of our unity is worse than bandits. At least, bandits believe in Nigeria’s unity.

There are proofs of bandits supporting Nigeria’s unity. They are invading forests, making farming impossible, kidnapping school children, storming markets, gatherings and killing at will. They have chosen their own methods of supporting Nigeria’s unity. No matter how their criminal activities disrupt lives, endanger Nigerians, terrorise our people, they are worthy promoters of our unity.

Has Alhaji Lai Mohammed categorised those who bombed Abuja-Kaduna bound trains twice in two days? Were they simple bandits or terrorists? Did they have flags? Were they agitating for disunity of Nigeria? Was the bombing their input to our unity?

When simple bandits surface on other parts of Nigeria they also enjoy the same privileges that being proponents of unity bestow on them.

Herdsmen are permitted to break laws. They get all manners of official support and excuses. Government is more interested in grazing routes than the roots of Nigeria’s insecurity.

We are now stuck with debates about what to do with bandits, among them herdsmen, who the President advised Benue people to accommodate as their brothers in January 2018. This summarised the official position on the killings that claimed many lives at the beginning of that year.

Government appears more interested in moderating narratives than in dealing with the insurgencies which the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III said were under-reported in Sokoto. Killings in Sokoto State in the past week have shifted the centre of the mayhem in the North West momentarily.

If you are arrested for any crime, plead that you are a simple bandit; you bear no flag, and breathe, eat, and support a united Nigeria with every fibre in you. If they still harass you, report them to Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

Government should battle insecurity without smoky interpretations Alhaji Lai Mohammed uses in masking issues. Whether individuals are operating as bandits or terrorists, it is for the courts to say so following relevant laws. Those matters are clearly beyond Lai Mohammed’s enterprising enshrinement of befuddlement.


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.Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues

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