The State as bandit
Ordinarily, it is inexplicable how-why the Buhari government has been reluctant, shy or has found it difficult to categorise or declare as terrorists the marauding bands of utterly despicable roughnecks terrifying the entire northern Nigeria landscape.
The government somehow curiously understands the necessary nexus between the origin, philosophy and operational methods of the state and those of its conflictive rival in the form of the emergent rascally group of roving bandits that have chanced upon Nigeria in the last six or so years. But the bandits have been long coming. The lamentable socio-economic and political condition of Nigeria has ensured their assured emergence and suzerainty.
Like the various warlords of early twentieth-century China, or the ones that have been operating in Afghanistan and Somalia since the beginning of the twenty-first century, these bandits are purely predatory as they seek to extract as many resources from the populace as possible.
At some point, a group of bandits could emerge stronger than all the others and come to dominate the entire society. These violent operators do not call themselves bandits but, on the contrary, give themselves some honorific titles. Their collaborators too find some fanciful appellation for them. Sometimes, they even lay claim to the divine right for their malfeasance. The only discernible difference between the state authority which claim a legitimate title to rule and the bandit’s seemingly conflictive operational methodology is simply that the state is a stationary bandit with a motive not different from that of the roving or non-state actor bandit.
The state, as a stationary bandit, recognises that by providing stability, order and other public desiderata to its society, it can become richer and more assertive to exact higher taxes from its subjects in the long run instead of going for short-term plunder.
From the standpoint of reasoned critique, this represents an advance on the roving bandits. But exactly the same rational self-interest that makes a roving bandit settle down and provide a government for his unwilling subjects also propels the state authority or stationary bandit to extract the maximum possible exaction from its subjects even as it foists some seemingly benevolent administration methods on its geographical space jurisdiction.
To compound Nigeria’s difficulties regarding the mischievous activities of her breed of roving bandits, President Muhammadu Buhari has proved a singularly ineffective helmsman even as he seems to endorse the roving bandits’ claim to self-actualisation or a right to a slice of the national cake. He deferred reorganisation of the security architecture for many critical months; was slow to set up division headquarters on the frontlines, etc. He insisted on carrying on business as usual by refusing to supplant effeminate or insensately corrupt commanders in spite of a raging onslaught by the bandits. No Commander-in-Chief ever had a more flabby or unimpressive contraption for combating a national menace as the scourge of the bandits. The whole nation has been in chaos regarding abductions, kidnappings, ritual murders, massacres, disruptions or sabotage of public utilities, savage attacks, etc even as the nation’s firepower has proved to be largely ineffective for reversing the monstrous trend. Public outcry and denunciation of the activities of the bandits instead of putting the government on track for achieving an amelioration or outright extermination of the menace have paradoxically stiffened official position in the direction of a feared complicity or kid glove-treatment of the bandits.