If there were doubts regarding how Nigeria’s territorial integrity had been breached under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, and now Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, such were erased on Sunday as ‘bandits’ shot down an Alpha Jet belonging to the Nigeria Air Force.
Before now, insurgency, driven largely by the activities of Boko Haram, predominantly played out in the North-East with the sect holding sway in states like Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and some parts of Bauchi and Gombe States.
However, since 2015, a new dimension to the escalating insecurity situation in Nigeria has gained ground with the emergence of criminal gangs which the Presidency, in its wisdom, promptly christened ‘bandits.’
A mapping of bandits’ attacks shows that they have made the North-West home, concentrating their activities in Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, and Sokoto States.
The downing of the military jet, a fast attack and advanced aircraft, has given Nigerians something else to worry about, with many raising national questions for President Buhari to answer. Here are five of such:
1. Does the downing of the Nigerian Air Force jet not suggest that insurgency has crept into the North-West?
Before the incident of Sunday, bandits were known to be involved in abductions of school children, sacking communities and rustling cows in the North-West, but the shooting down of an Air Force jet has thrown up the question of whether what the country is battling is not insurgency, rather than banditry as government wants Nigerians to believe.
2. Has it not become clearer that the so-called ‘bandits’ have credible firepower to threaten the Nigerian state and are, indeed, more sophisticated and deadlier than thought?
If anything, the incident rubbishes all attempts at cover up, especially claims made by Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, who once opined that bandits are less evils and small time criminals who are only interested in kidnapping a few students here and there to make “small small” money.
3. What is the source of funding of the ‘bandits’?
It should be a matter of national concern that enemies of the Nigerian state have not only become sophisticated but are able to access and procure arms capable of shooting down war planes within the country’s airspace.
Is it not trite to interrogate who their foreign and local collaborators could be, given the huge financial outlay needed to confront a sovereign nation? Indeed, is it not time to admit that ISWAP/Boko Haram have effectively cornered northern Nigeria?
It is also time to examine if there are other means by which these so-called bandits get their funding, given that many have opined that kidnapping in that region has become a huge criminal industry churning out hundreds of millions of naira, being used to acquire other sophisticated and advanced weapons, as well as fund other criminal acts.
4. Why pretend Nigeria does not need external help?
In the past few months, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State has been advocating for foreign assistance to fight the menace of insurgency in the country.
Before Zulum’s call, many other prominent Nigerians had called on President Buhari to swallow his pride and seek external help.
Is it not vain pride to wallow in self-pity and continue to allow insurgents run riot and take territories belonging to the country in the name of establishing a caliphate?
5. Where is ‘ambassador plenipotentiary’, Sheikh Gumi?
Is it not, perhaps, time for the Nigerian government to call out renowned Islamic cleric, Sheikh Gumi, given his extensive contacts with the ‘bandits’ who have now proved the religious leader wrong by showing that they are not just interested in abducting schoolchildren and demanding ransom, but are seeking to take large patches of Nigerian territory?
And, why did President Buhari and his team not deconstruct Gumi’s claims that the bandits were only fighting an ‘ethnic war and trying to survive’?
Mr President must be courageous to volunteer honest answers now!
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