By Suleman Ahmad Tudu
One of the immediate decisions of Gov Bello Matawalle’s administration was disbanding the vigilante group popularly known as Yan Sa Kai as one of the conditions for dialogue with bandits in his efforts to bring a solution to the decade of bloodshed in Zamfara state. The dialogue has recorded some early successes in almost a year of its initiation.
Unfortunately, despite being given this ample opportunity for the bandits to completely lay down their arms and embrace a lasting peace, some of them refused to subscribe to the dialogue. They continue launching and intensifying their deadly attacks on communities—killing, kidnapping and rapping women unabated, taking advantage of the vacuum created by disbanding their sworn enemies, the Yan Sa Kai.
Some negative implications of disbanding the Yan Sa Kai are that many communities that gallantly resisted bandits before the disbandment have now submitted to them. Palaces that were no-go-areas to bandits before have now become accessible to them. As a result, the morale of many vigilante members has been killed. The bandits have also taken advantage of the dialogue to deceive the government and get many resources. They kidnap many people, including school children, for ransom to procure more arms.
But we can honestly understand the justifications behind the disbandment of Yan Sa Kai in the first place as a sine qua non for dialogue to thrive. The activities of this group have fuelled the crisis for their jungle justices—extrajudicial killings and ethnic profiling of criminals. All Fulanis are bandits to the Yan Sa Kai, which is wrong!
Now that Gov Matawalle has reversed his decision to reactivate the Yan Sa Kai in the fight against terrorism (banditry), which is very good, there is a need for a caution in the recruitment, administration, and operations of the about to be born-again group. We need Yan Sa Kai guided by rules of engagements, monitored by security forces and coordinated by established authority. We need Yan Sa Kai with some basic military training and improved weaponry, not the locally fabricated, non-cartridge guns, bow and arrows that cannot match the arsenal of the terrorists.
Achieving this requires efficiency right from the recruitment process. Government should not simply dust off the list of the previous members without scrutiny to fish out those whose morale has been killed or no longer believe in the course of the group. Liaising with traditional institutions will be an effective way only if those who have cases to answer are side-lined in the process. Government should also not mistake recruiting members of the born-again vigilante group from the communities that were adjudged to have wholly submitted to bandits before or during the dialogue initiative. These measures could help avoid enlisting bad eggs who would compromise or sabotage the group’s activities.
Training of the carefully selected and thoroughly profiled members of the group will go a long way in shaping their mindsets and inculcating in them the rules of engagements, discipline, command, control and coordination. It will also mend their relationship with the security forces with which they should work together as a team. This can be possible within at least a month of rigorous training.
Granted that Yan Sa Kai knows the bandits, their collaborators and hideouts better than the security forces, yet storming weekly markets in the name of hunting bandits or their collaborators is a flawed strategy that has to be changed. They used to carry extrajudicial killings during such operations that sometimes affect innocent people. This time around, the group’s approach should be offensive by jointly reaching out to the bandits’ enclaves together with security forces now and then. And if the group has to defend and hunt, the defence should be restricted to every member’s immediate community while the hunt should be on the checkpoints to be placed in strategic places.
While NO suspect deserves to be (extrajudicially) killed but arrested and prosecuted accordingly, I can command that any civilian seen wielding an AK-47 rifle should be “shot at sight” as ordered by President Muhammadu Buhari!
May Allah grant us everlasting peace in Zamfara and Nigeria at large. Amin.
Suleman Ahmad Tudu wrote from Nasarawa Mailayi of Birnin Magaji local government, Zamfara state. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.