How Nigeria turbans its terrorists, the Ada Aleru
By Festus Adedayo
At a time when Nigeria thought it had witnessed the zenith of pain and agony from its unhealed wounds, with the unimaginable pus that oozes daily from them over the years, last week, a frightening symptom emerged from the wounds. Bleeding blisters emitting dirty-looking, foul-smelling discharges indicated that the Nigerian wounds may have gone gangrenous.
The sign of gangrene came right from the theatre of war in Zamfara State, where bandits have literally taken over government. If we thought the daily harvests of dead bodies of countrymen killed by bandits and the Ansaru terrorist group were the height of our pains, last Saturday, it occurred to the discerning that the Nigerian security challenge had gone almost beyond redemption, like a foot infected by gangrene. This came into limelight when the Emir of Yandoton Daji, Aliyu Marafa, turbaned a wanted and ruthless terrorist, Adamu Yankuzo, known also as Adamu Aliero, as the Sarkin Fulani of the emirate. And the turbanning had huge Zamfara government presence and a benumbing crowd in attendance. From the state’s commissioner for Security and Home Affairs, Mamman Tsafe; security adviser to the governor, Abubakar Dauran; Tsafe Local Government chairman, Aminu Mudi; to representatives of the commissioner for Information; district heads; government officials and traditional title holders, Ada Aleru finally won the battle.
Aleru, the 45-year-old bandit commander, who hails from Yankuzo village in Tsafe Local Government Area of Zamfara State, oversaw a raft of kidnapping, murders and rustling of cattle in Tsafe, as well as Zamfara and Katsina States. His notoriety and bloodthirstiness necessitated the declaration of a manhunt for him. He was suspected to have coordinated the attacks and killings in Kadisau village of Faskari, and others at Musawa, Matazu, Karaduwa and Yantumaki villages, where over 20 people were killed by the bandits. In June 2020, Sanusi Buba, the Katsina State police commissioner, placed a bounty of N5 million on Aleru, declaring that he was wanted “dead or alive.”
From a wound that began as an innocuous contest for gold mining sites, Zamfara, a microcosm of the larger massive spillage of blood in Nigeria’s North-West region, is today embroiled in a full-scale war of banditry, and convulsing under the mindless attacks of gunmen. The bandits are mostly Fulani, under the bloody suzerainty of commanders like Ada Aleru. They attack, most of the time, rural communities and travelers and have succeeded in killing thousands of Nigerians and abducting thousands others in a kidnap-for-ransom roulette that has no example in Nigeria’s history. In the face of this, government, both at the state and federal levels, have unraveled as being too effeminate to protect the people. This lack of state capacity is interpreted in some quarters as tacit support for deadly non-state actors.
In the only known interview he earlier granted the BBC via a documentary entitled The Bandit Warlords of Zamfara, which Premium Times ran, Aleru had said he was angry with Hausas and the Nigerian government and that, while his men kidnapped people, he was only interested in killing them. “My men do that; I just go and kill them (people),” he was quoted to have told the BBC.
The installation of Ada Aleru immediately incited global umbrage, with Nigerians wondering how the Emir of Yandoton Daji, Aliyu Marafa, had the temerity and effrontery to embark on such a national shame. The Federal Government was also called out for mutating from giving freedom to hundreds of captured bandits and Boko Haram terrorists, in the name of amnesty, into allowing the bestowing of traditional titles to terrorists in broad daylight. Apparently needled by the national uproar, Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State immediately suspended Emir Marafa and directed traditional rulers in the state to seek approval before awarding chieftaincy titles thenceforth. In June last year, Hussaini Umar, the Emir of Dansadau in Maru Local Government Area of Zamfara State, also got suspended for his alleged involvement in banditry.
The grisly drama in Zamfara, in many ways, speaks to the rot which exists across different layers of Nigeria’s national life. Poor Aliyu Marafa, Emir of Yandoton Daji, had for many years, been under the intense strafing of bullets in his domain by outlaws like Aleru. One can only imagine how many times that weeping, wailing and the gnashing of teeth of his subjects who lost their sons and daughters to Aleru, had woken him up in the dead of the night. One can imagine how many burials of untimely killed youngsters he had attended and how bandits had made the emirate ungovernable for him. So Marafa chose the pragmatic, most convenient way out, in spite of the colossal credibility crisis that turbaning the terrorist kingpin, Adamu Yankuzo, would wreck on the image of his emirate. In Zamfara and even among government officials, it is general knowledge that Aleru was turbaned as part of general, pragmatic efforts to appease this blood-sucking demon and ultimately achieve peace in the state.
Taking easy, impassioned and uncritical decisions in matters that have to do with the future of the people has contributed immensely to the consuming precipice that Nigeria faces today. For instance, towards the tail end of last week, the news of the country’s all-time financial low situation hit the airwave. Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed had revealed that Nigeria’s debt service cost in first quarter (Q1) 2022, grossed N1.94 trillion, an amount that was N310 billion higher than the actual revenue received during the period. This dip is yet unexampled in the history of Nigeria. What this translates into is that the Buhari Federal Government is spending more money to service the humongous national debt.
One would wonder why Mrs Ahmed had to sound this alarm? It was to exculpate government from its numerous irrelevant borrowings over the years that got Nigeria to this sorry economic pass. The other motive of the alarm was to demonise the incubus of the petrol subsidy payment that has become an Ada Aleru on the shoulders of the Nigerian government. Side-by-side the Nigerian debt service cost, as revealed by Ahmed, was a news report that had initially gained currency a few weeks earlier. The report claimed that Nigeria lost a colossal sum of $1 billion in revenue in the first quarter of 2022 to crude oil theft and vandalism. Nigeria got into a crude oil quota mess due to its inability to meet the daily production benchmark given by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). With a projected 1.8 million barrels daily crude oil production in the 2022 budget, the country had only been able to record the highest production figure of 1.4 million barrels per day, thus putting the Nigerian economy in straits.
The dilemma being faced by Nigeria with her oil quota reminds me of Chinua Achebe’s 1966-published children’s book of literature entitled, Chike and The River. Constantly seeing ferry boats on the River Niger as he walked daily to the river bank, eleven-year old Chike got passionate about wanting to make a trip from Onitsha to Asaba. But getting the six pence to pay for the ferry journey was a herculean task for him. However, with the assistance of his friend, S.M.O.G, Chike soon finds out that he had been like the proverbial foolish man who lived by the bank of the river, yet washed his hands with spittle.
Like Chike, who did not creatively engage with his dilemma initially, the economy of Nigeria, Africa’s largest concentration of black people, is under perilous attacks by the twin evil of lax thinking and its complicit leadership, in the siphoning of its crude oil wealth. The theft is said to be coordinated by a gang of thieves which allegedly includes top security chiefs, government functionaries at both state and national levels and business barons, who are the bagmen of Nigeria’s elite leeches. Thus, getting to the roots of this highly lucrative oil theft business becomes like a Bermuda Triangle for the Federal Government. The laxity of security of the pipelines is then easily explained as due principally to the alleged connivance between barons of this organised crime of crude oil theft and elites in the Nigerian government.
The Nigerian Tribune had recalled in its editorial of last Friday that about 20,000 barrels a day are lost to this illicit oil theft daily. These losses to vandals and thieves “translate to over nine million barrels of oil which equates a loss of government revenue approximately $1 billion during the first quarter,” the paper said. This same theft of crude oil, said the report, grew from 103,000 barrels per day in 2021, to 108,000 barrels per day on average in the first quarter of 2022, translating to “a reduction of about 43% in Nigeria’s national oil production since March 2020 to May 2022.”
While this same government is simulating shock and sadness at Marafa’s turbaning of wanted terrorist, Adamu Yankuzo, a.k.a Ada Aleru, as the Sarkin Fulani of the emirate, the Buhari government has been acting like Marafa on several fronts but because it has the power of a suzerain who cannot be reprimanded, it gets away with these acts of uncritical and impassioned policy thinking. If only it can block the leakages resulting from the big hole dug into the Nigerian pipeline by top chiefs in government, from where these vermin make their illicit booties, Nigeria would not be in this economic fix. Also, if government can think creatively out of the box of the subsidy regime which allows the bed-bugs of the downstream sector to suck the blood of the country non-stop, Nigeria would not be in its current dire straits.
Same last week, the All Progressives Party, (APC) suffering from lacerating whiplashes from the public due to its unconscionable Muslim-Muslim peering of its presidential ticket, uncritically thought that the way out of this optics dilemma was to suffuse the venue of the public unveiling of its Vice Presidential candidate with the clergy and laity. This act is not different from what Aliyu Marafa did in addressing the problem of banditry in his domain. It is not only tentative, it is peremptory and un-enduring. It cannot stop public disdain at the turbaning of Islam by APC in a multi-religious society like Nigeria.
By the way, why exactly do Nigerians feel enraged by Marafa’s turbaning of a wanted terrorist as Sarkin Fulani and are not equally enraged that in 2023, they will be willy-nilly lending themselves to the coronation of either a known drug lord or perennial looter of their treasury as the Nigerian president? It is such sickening Janus-faced anger that has kept evil growing lusciously in the country.
Lastly, last week, INEC announced that, in the gubernatorial contest of last Saturday for the Osun State governorship seat, Senator Nurudeen Jackson Adeleke would be making it to Abere House in November. For many of us who have been rendered armchair theorists of the correct situation in Osun State, we lule-ed very disappointingly. We had assumed that the Osun electorate was riled by the unenthusiastic public presentation of Adeleke as we were. We equally assumed that, as Yoruba people, Osun would see such presentations as anathema to the kind of leadership Obafemi Awolowo sired in Yorubaland. How wrong we were.
Media reports said that the turbaning of the notorious and ruthless terrorist, Adamu Yankuzo was like a carnival. The kingpin was said to have slaughtered about 17 cows and many rams to celebrate the event. In his speech, Marafa said Aleru’s turbaning was a panacea to lasting peace in the emirate. Speaking in the same vein, Aleru told the crowd of people who witnessed the occasion that, with him as Sarkin Fulani, banditry would cease in Yandoton Daji.
Osun people have chosen who to turban as their own Sarkin Government. We pray that they have lasting peace, infrastructure, regular payment of salaries and the kind of leader they envisaged in the choice of Adeleke, over and above Gboyega Oyetola, a gentleman par excellence. The fanfare that Aleru – who the people knew for his ruthlessness – received at his turbaning from the people of Yandoton Daji, is similar to the impassioned choice of Adeleke. Both choices were borne out of the anger against the system; in Zamfara, for the system’s inability to provide security for the people and in Osun, for the despoliation of the land by a Lagos-imposed system of District Officers called ajele.
Whatever you saw in Zamfara and Abuja’s inability to protect the people, informed the anger that swept APC out of power in Osun. It was not a vote against Oyetola who is adjudged a frugal manager of men and resources who kept his promises to the people. However, the people were too angry at the misrule of APC, such that any effigy that stood as counterpoise to the APC misrule would suffice. But when you make choice out of anger and passion, a wool of mis-reasoning covers your eyes and you wake up lost.
When the mastermind of the rot, which Yoruba will call the eku eda, whose unexampled misrule led to Oyetola’s ouster, reportedly hosted a closet celebration over the defeat, many see it as a reflection of his damaged thought process. The votes against APC were largely votes against Rauf Aregbesola’s eight-year barren and lacerating regime of pain and suffering, as well as the mannequin-run government in Abuja. During Aregbesola’s time in Osun, he turned state workers to beggars and alienated the people from their own government and replacing them with Lagos ajeles. Unfortunately, Oyetola, the gentleman that he is, never came out forcefully to de-link himself from the barren years of the locusts of Aregbesola era. And so, the people clapped as Adeleke was turbaned. I wish him well and pray that he will disappoint his enemies and will not give the people of Osun State any reason to regret the sacking of Oyetola.
Dr. Festus Adedayo is a columnist with the Nigerian Tribune