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LongRead… Clamour for self-defence rising, as bandits overrun Nigeria. What we know so far

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In late December 2021, an apparently exasperated and frustrated Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, made a call to residents of the state to procure weapons and defend themselves against bandits following a series of abductions and killings by the terrorists.

That was the second time Masari would make the call following the unabated killings, abductions, rape and invasion of communities in the state. And, with the security agencies unable to bring the situation under control, Masari had to repeat the call he had earlier made, asking the people to rise up and defend themselves.

Though his clarion call to arms had elicited opposition from many people including civil society groups, opposing politicians and analysts alike, the situation Masari found himself in the home of the President must have pushed him to the wall to resort to the call.

Those in the vanguard of the condemnation wondered why a state governor who is supposed to be the chief security officer of his state, and saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of the people, should contemplate abdicating his position and call on the people to protect themselves against the marauding bandits.

In an interaction with journalists on the state of insecurity in the state, Masari had said it was only natural for the people to rise up and defend themselves, with the belief that their security should not be left to the security operatives in the state, as Katsina had only 3000 policemen to provide the needed security for them.

“Security is everybody’s affair, irrespective of political differences. What the public should know is that in Katsina, you have only 3000 police. Therefore, we are calling on whoever wants to protect himself and his family to acquire arms.
“We will assist those who want to bring in arms because there is need for the people of Katsina to support the security agents,” he reportedly said, among others.

That was not the first time Masari had made such a request as he had also called on the people in July, 2021, to be ready to defend themselves following a spate of attacks, abductions, cattle rustling and killings perpetrated by bandits who have now been classified as terrorists.

Beyond Masari’s repeated calls for self-defence, there have been other prominent Nigerians who have called for citizens to be allowed to procure arms and defend themselves from ethnic militias, bandits, insurgents and other forms of invaders.

We bring you the words of these prominent Nigerians who include governors, top military brass, a traditional ruler and even a clergyman.

1. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Former Emir of Kano (2014)

Sanusi Lamido

Former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was probably the first to make the call on November 14, 2014, at a recitation of the Holy Quran as part of prayers for peace in Nigeria.

Speaking at the Islamic event, the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria had urged religious and community leaders to instill courage in their people to defend themselves against attacks by the rampaging Boko Haram.

“These people (Boko Haram), when they attack towns, they kill boys and enslave girls. People must stand resolute.

“People must not assume that the crisis will not reach their area. If it comes, we are asking God to give us fortitude, but if He wishes to take martyrs from amongst us, we should be ready to give our lives.

“People must not wait for soldiers to protect them. There are even instances where soldiers on ground ran away in the face of attack,” Sanusi had said.

He further urged local hunters, vigilante groups and security experts to employ their expertise in order to end the crisis which was blossoming in the northern parts of the country with the insurgents attacking different communities almost on a daily basis.

“God will grant us victory over them,” the then Emir added.

2. Theophilus Danjuma, Former Minister of Defence (2018)

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At the inaugural convocation of the Taraba State University in 2018, former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danujma had stirred the hornet’s nest by alleging that the Nigerian Armed Forces have not been neutral in the fight against terrorism and banditry, and called on attack-prone communities to rise and defend themselves since the security agencies appeared to be colluding with the murderers.

“Every one of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral. They collude, yes they collude. They collude with the armed bandits that kill people, kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement, they cover them.

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“If you are depending on the armed forces to stop the killings, you will all die one by one. The ethnic cleansing must stop in Taraba State, must stop in all the states of Nigeria. Otherwise, Somalia will be a child’s play.

“I ask everyone of you to be alert and defend your country, defend your territory, defend your state. You have nowhere else to go. You have no where else to go.”

Danjuma’s comments were not taken lightly by the Army hierarchy as the then Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, described his predecessor as a rabble rouser who was calling for anarchy in the country and should be disregarded by well-meaning Nigerians.

3. Samuel Ortom, Governor, Benue State (2018)

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Worried by the constant attacks by suspected ethnic Fulani militias and the incessant killings of innocent people in his state, especially a massacre that occurred on January 11, 2018, where over 100 villagers and farmers at Guma and Logo local government area of the state were killed by armed herdsmen, Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, made the clarion call for the people to take up arms and defend their communities and themselves.

Ortom who was apparently fed up with the failure of security forces to protect and safeguard the citizens of his state, urged the “people to do all within their legal limit to safeguard themselves.”

“It is because we are law-abiding, that is why we are being attacked daily. You need to listen and hear the opinion of the people of the state on the matter.

“I think the people should have the right to defend themselves and not make themselves easy prey to be killed in their homes.

“So, any lawful means you can adapt to defend yourself, just go ahead in Benue State. We are not going to wait for the Inspector-General of Police, IGP, to do it,” Ortom said while addressing the people of the state in a broadcast.

4. Nyesom Wike, Governor, Rivers State (2018)

Another prominent Nigerian who made the call for citizens to take up arms and defend themselves was Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who, while visiting Benue State to commiserate with Ortom on the January 2018 massacre of more than 100 farmers in the Guma and Logo local government area, said the time had come for Nigerians to consider self-defence instead of always running from the invaders.

Wike, after witnessing the mass burial of the Benue citizens, proposed that communities should organize themselves into groups, procure arms and defend themselves.

“People who were either sleeping or doing one thing or the other to help themselves were killed like cows and ordinary animals,” Wike said.
“We just visited the graveside and it is quite touchy; you should take heart, God will fight for you. But let me say that God fighting for you does not mean that you will not defend yourself.
“The problem we Christians have is that we like to misinterpret the Bible, which says that when you are slapped, you will turn the other cheek. Assuming you don’t have the other cheek to turn to? God will only fight for you when you are ready to fight for yourself.
“We must not take the laws into our hands, but that does not mean that if you see an armed robber coming to your house you should run. You must defend yourself when you see an armed robber coming. That is not taking laws into your hand,” Wike said while interacting with Ortom and the Benue people.

5. Pastor Paul Enenche, Founder, Dunamis Church (2018)

A prominent Christian cleric, Paul Enenche, the Senior Pastor of Dunamis Church, was another prominent Nigerian who called for self-defence in 2018.

Enenche, an indigene of Benue State, also reacting to the killings of over 100 villagers in the state in January of that year, also lent his voice to the call for citizens to defend themselves from attackers.

Citing Section 60 of the penal code, Pastor Enenche pointed out that “it is not an offence for someone to defend himself or another from being killed.”

“So what is the useless nonsense about those who think they have the claim to take life at will and go unarrested and unharassed? The end of it has come. Enough is enough.

“Gen 9:6 says, whoever sheds man’s blood, by man, his blood shall be shed; meaning that the killer is qualified for killing.

“That action is not an offence because he came to finish people and the people gathered and finished him. Those people did nothing wrong.

“Exodus 22:2 summed it up thus: If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

“Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. Proverbs 26:27.

“Also in Rev 13:1 “He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.”

He ended by saying: “Let me make this clear, there shall be no war in Nigeria but no demonic vagabond shall take anybody for granted in this nation anymore. Enough is enough. I don’t want to be misunderstood; no Nigerian is as patriotic as me. We have been praying for this nation and we won’t stop doing that.”

6. Darius Ishaku, Governor, Taraba State (2021)

In February 2021, Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, joined the call by prominent Nigerians for citizens to be allowed to carry arms and defend themselves in the face of attacks by bandits and terrorists.

While addressing 15 local government chairmen of the state who paid him a condolence visit after the burial of the Chairman of Ardo-Kola LGA, Salihu Dovo, who was kidnapped and subsequently killed by gunmen, Ishaku asked the Federal Government to “allow Nigerians carry licenced guns to defend themselves amid the myriads of security challenges facing the country.”

Ishaku who lamented the worsening state of insecurity in the country, added that the situation had gone to its lowest ebb and demanded a reawakening.

“The security in this country has gone to the lowest ebb and we have to all wake up. We, as leaders, have given our advice severally as to the change to the security architecture; you cannot keep doing one thing over and over and expect a different result.

“If we cannot be able to provide security for our citizens, then allow all the citizens to buy AK-47, because if everybody is licensed with AK-47, I swear nobody will come to your house, or peradventure he does, then it depends on who is faster.

“In a situation where we are all gagged with one security system that has been unable to work, and we are told to sit down and be counting the day our turn will come, I do not agree with it,” the angry Ishaku said.

7. Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi, Minister of Defence (2021)

Nigeria’s Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi was another prominent Nigerian who joined the call for arms crusade when, in February 2021, he called on Nigerians to stand and defend themselves against bandits.

Magashi, who said he was worried by the spate of banditry in the country, had admonished Nigerians not to run away from the bandits but to stand their grounds and fight them to a standstill.

According to Magashi, it was the “responsibility of every citizen to be alert and defend themselves against criminals terrorizing their communities.”

“It is the responsibility of everybody to keep alert and to find safety when necessary. But we shouldn’t be cowards. At times, the bandits will only come with about three rounds of ammunition; when they fire shots, everybody runs. In our younger days, we stand to fight any aggression coming for us.
“I don’t know why people are running from minor things like that. They should stand and let these people know that even the villagers have the competency and capabilities to defend themselves. Our own duty is to ensure that no Nigerian is hurt and we are capable of protecting the integrity of this nation and we’ll continue to do it even though we are so stretched.”

With the Muhammadu Buhari administration appearing helpless in the face of rising insecurity, there genuine concerns that the country could be grinding towards anarchy. Already, the failure of governance has earned the country a disturbing badge of the third most terrorized country in the world.

It is most unlikely that President Buhari will take heed and grant the call to arms, even if the National Assembly pursues that path. However, what is certain that the country is gradually caving in under the weight of insecurity.

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