By Saadu Umar Esq
Dacoit is a term used for bandits in the Indian subcontinent; it is the anglicised form of the Hindi word dakuu, which means bandit.
The crime of banditry in the North reminds me of dacoit films. In much of mid 20th century, India had challenges of banditry. Dacoits films thrived since in Bollywood. After all, banditry is not new. It’s not without precedent. In the words of Seneca Jr. (4BC – 65AD): nullum caruit exemplo nefas; meaning, no crime has been without a precedent. And, the precedent points to a disgraceful and violent end for the bandits. We shall overcome this banditry in shaa Allah.
Now, this is my memory of dacoits as I grew up in my village, like many other kids my age, watching Indian movies. The dacoit film genre was one of my favourites. I liked seeing the villains (bosawa) being dealt with by the good guys, the actors as we called them.
Dacoits ‘re daredevil bandits engaged in murder, kidnapping, arson, extortion and various violent criminal activities targeted at vulnerable villages sometimes with the collaboration of some locals and corrupt police. They are just like the bandits in the North.
Only that many dacoits were portrayed as villains with a heart of gold: classy, comical and entertaining – now I reimagined them as white dacoits, if you will. They were unlike our dark dacoits rampaging the North.
Their daredevil exploits in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger is sinking the North into a miasma of death, despair, fear, and misery. Nothing is funny or attractive in Ɓaleri the bandit that murdered Greenfields students or Awwalun Daudawa that abducted the Ƙanƙara schoolboys.
Again, I watched quite a few Dacoit films. Classic films like Sholay and Mother India were the few I watched over and over again.
If you didn’t watch, Sholay centred around a battle between Gabbar Singh versus Veeru and Jai. Gabbar Singh (Amjad Khan) was a villainous bandit leader who terrorised, murdered, kidnapped and extorted the villagers of Ramgarh. While Veeru and Jai (Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan) were ex small-time criminals who were engaged by Thakur. Thakur was a retired police and village leader whose family suffered from the cruelty of Gabbar Singh including losing his two arms.
Veeru and Jai waged a successful war on Gabbar Singh culminating in the decimation of the dacoit’s gang and the arrest of Gabbar Singh. Sadly, Jai lost his life in the battle. Of course, Sholay wasn’t only about war. It’s a masala film with a healthy dose of music, romance, drama and comedy.
In Mother India, there is a parallel between Radha in the film and the Sheikh of the Bandits of the North. Radha (Nargis) endured injustice, exploitation, discrimination and many atrocities of Sukhilala (the villain) and village leaders. Mother nature too wasn’t kind to her either as a violent storm killed her younger son!
When Radha’s husband became incapacitated through an accident and couldn’t bear the shame of living off his wife’s earnings, he felt he’s a burden to his family so he left the village and apparently committed suicide. Radha was left widowed, alone to cater for her young kids. Sukhilala saw an opportunity to take advantage and offered to help her and the kids in exchange for her body. Of course, Radha rejected the offer.
One of Radha’s Kids Birju (Sunil Dutt) envenomed by the injustices and atrocities they suffered since childhood decided to become a dacoit. He left the village after a chase by the villagers who were fed up with his antics.
In the end, Birju and his gang of bandits returned to the village to take revenge. He killed Sukhilala and kidnapped his daughter Rupa. When Birju tried to escape with Rupa, his mother, Radha shot and killed him. Radha had become the mother of the village and had promised to protect everyone in the village including Sukhilala and his family. The lesson here is that societal injustices and exploitation, weather or climatic conditions won’t justify the crime.
Radha, embraced hard work and justice unlike one of us here in the North – the Sheikh of the bandits. She did not use the injustices she and her kids suffered to justify the banditry of her son. She meted instant justice even though the criminal was her son. Conversely and shockingly, the Sheikh of the bandits will even use (or is it abuse) the Holy Qur’an against bringing the dark dacoits to justice. Merciless and reckless murderers by whatever name called deserve capital punishment. That’s justice, that is our law and that is the Qur’an I know.
It is distressing to hear the Sheikh trying to rationalize and legitimise the heinous crimes of Ɓaleri and co who murdered five Greenfields students and abducted many more traumatizing, extorting and mocking their families in the process. If these kidnappers and murderers are the victims what about the late Dorathy, Sadiq, Precious and the other two murdered students? Nothing could be more disrespectful, distressful, insulting, and appalling to their parents, siblings and loved ones!
Although the Sheikh of the bandits’ advocacy for them is shocking it’s not entirely surprising given the unfortunate trend by minority of Muslims and ‘Islamic’ country using Qur’an and Sunnah to justify virtually everything – at a great cost to Islam.
We have heard how a de facto ruler of an Islamic state ordered the brutal murder of a journalist in a consulate. Similarly, we have seen many Muslims justifying terrorism, suicide, murder of non-combatants, destruction of places of worship (mosques, churches and synagogues) all using the Qur’an and Sunnah!
I wish the Sheikh would learn from Radha and be on the side of justice and the victims of the bandits. Let his seeming hatred against the popular Buhari regime not prevent him from doing justice. Let him not dispense justice on the basis of faith, ethnicity, blood or region. I do get a Marxist interpretation of the causes of banditry yet legitimising it and disrespecting the victims or undermining our Radha or Veeru and Jai – security agents- is utterly ungodly.
Besides the Sheikh, I am personally appalled by the way some media outlets are covering the banditry in the North. Glamourizing bandits. It is stunning what one of the foreign radios did when they aired the interview with Ɓaleri the bandit of Greenfields! How dare they give an unrepentant remorseless dacoit a platform rationalising his heinous crimes and mocking the victims and their families?
Can you imagine what will happen if, hypothetically, NTA News airs interview with abductors of Yale students for whatever reason. I believe if Abu Ivanka Al-Trump were still the president he would have rightly called them out – fake news and the enemy of the people of the North.
Regardless, just like the dacoits Gabbar Singh, Birju and their gang of bandits were defeated I strongly believe the dark dacoits of the North will be defeated. I know we are capable of getting our acts together to defeat our enemies. But we need to act now. The bandits have us over the barrel already. If we fail to act quickly we run the risk of seeing copycats springing everywhere.
They have started to spring in my quiet village. They recently came and killed my brother, Uba and a police inspector. Or we may see these bandits morph into formidable rebel groups capable of destroying the nation or seeing them join hands with the Boko Haram, ISWAP, IPOB or Igboho to balkanize the country.
Now, I must call on all of us to step up like Thakur, Veeru, Jai and Radha. The governments especially need to do more because they are in charge. To quote HG Wells, “Crime and bad lives are a measure of State’s failure, all crimes, in the end, is the crime of the community.” We are all in this together.
On my own part, I will offer a few suggestions. They may not be more than what many have suggested, but I think it will help even though I am not a security expert.
Firstly, the government needs to defeat the mother of all banditry: the banditry in the government houses, ministries, departments and institutions; the banditry that allows few fat cats in uniform to steal monies meant for buying arms or monies allocated for the welfare of the brave men and women fighting the bandits; the banditry that allows state governors to pilfer the security votes meant to secure their States; the banditry that enables politicians and public office holders to rob us of the monies meant for building schools, hospitals, social amenities and infrastructure; and the banditry that sustains systemic corruption which increasingly erodes citizens’ patriotism and loyalty to the country.
Secondly, given that it’s a notorious fact that the country is under-policed and the military is overstretched, we need the villagers to form a defence group. The President should proclaim a state of emergency to enable the government and responsible citizens to acquire the weapons they need to defend themselves and their communities.
Better still, the government should buy the necessary weapons and special training for the villagers and others. Pay them some stipend, support the families of those that pay the supreme price and immortalise them. And this will not be new. Again going back to India – not fictional India though – a women defence group in Madya Pradesh were given firearm permits to defend their villages against the bandits.
Thirdly, we need to introduce mandatory/voluntary military service for able-bodied men and women between the ages of 17 and 28 for a period of three years. Those that serve should have the chance to continue in the military or take priority in appointments into the civil services of the Federation, State or Local Government. They should also have monetary compensation during the service years and for life in case of permanent disability sustained in the course of the service. Again, this won’t be novel because it’s the practice in many democratic countries including Switzerland and South Korea.
Fourthly, the government needs to have a Marshall Plan to transform the nomadic Fulani. At least, let us invest 6 trillion Naira in the next 15 years targeting their education, health care – including reproductive health, family life, social services and necessary infrastructure.
We need to bail out the innocent herders who lost their herds of cattle, goats and sheep through rustling and targeted and willful killings. After all, we used trillions bailing out a few elites who recklessly destroyed their private banking businesses and we are still sending billion naira cheques to private electricity companies. Therefore, I don’t see why bailing out the vulnerable Fulanis will be controversial.
Lastly, we need to encourage the bandits to surrender and take responsibility for their actions. We need to criminalize and arrest anyone given moral, spiritual or intellectual support for banditry such as the Sheikh of bandits. Fulani community leaders and socio-cultural organisations need to openly come out to condemn banditry.
In the end, I can see our Veeru and Jai taking on Dogo Giɗe’s gang and our own Radha trying hard to bring Ɓaleri and his gang to swift justice. They are our brave men and women in uniform fighting and dying to protect us all and keep us safely away from harm. May Allah protect them all.
Mal Saadu Umar Esq is a Former Director-General Bauchi State Environmental Protection Agency.