The Massacre in Zamfara: Matters Arising

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The year started on a bloody note in the Northwestern state of Zamfara. More than 200 people were killed in the first week of 2022 by armed bandits who swarmed on villages with motorbikes, killing at will. At least 10,000 people were displaced with hundreds more yet unaccounted for. The bandits operated freely for days, burning five settlements to the ground, and making away with cattle and other properties of the villagers.

In his response to this massacre, Maj. Gen Muhammandu Buhari (retd.) said: “The latest attacks on innocent people by the bandits is an act of desperation by mass murderers, now under relentless pressure from our military forces” and designated the bandits as terrorists. Mr  Antonion Gutteres, Secretary General of the United Nations also condemned the killings calling for no effort to be spared “in bringing those responsible for these heinous crimes to justice.”

But the president’s response merely begs the question. What sparked the massacre was the military’s bombarding of the bandits’ bases in the forest on 3 January. And the root cause of banditry and the general state of insecurity across the country is the failure of the regime and the degenerate capitalist system it represents.

The Federal Government has consistently claimed it can, or has even militarily defeated insurgents of different sorts, in the face of facts that show this is false. We all remember the claim, repeatedly made by the Buhari regime that it had “technically defeated” Boko Haram. But the insurgency in the Northeast has claimed thousands of lives since that announcement was first made six years ago. Military airstrikes supposedly targeting Boko Haram insurgents have also killed a significant number of civilians in that region.

The 3 January air strikes killed about 100 bandits. But it led to bandits’ reprisal attacks on communities in Ankam and Bukkuyum local government areas and the raiding of thousands of their cattle. Vigilantes in the villages attempted to fight back. But they were ill armed and could not stop the massacre. It took three days for the military to be mobilized to combat the bandits and stop the killings.

What is to be done?

Two years ago, we published an article titled “Zamfara killings must stop” in the Socialist Worker. It was pointed out there that “generalized insecurity of lives has become the new normal in Nigeria.” Matters have gone worse since then in Zamfara and across the country.  This dreadful situation cannot be solved without understanding and attacking its root cause.

We equally pointed this out in article. It is the failure of the current social and economic system, based on dog-eat-dog living to improve the lives and wellbeing of the poor masses on one hand. It has led to mass poverty, disillusionment and anomy.

The ranks of bandits have been swelled by victims, including children. Several sections of bosses, including village heads have collaborated with the bandits as well for several reasons, including to also benefiting from their blood tainted plunder.   

The cluelessness of the Buhari/APC regime has no doubt contributed to the extent of this worrisome situation. But this systemic failure is at the heart of the problem. Without changing the system, the killings are likely to continue, irrespective of which of the bosses’ parties runs government.

The need to fight for and win system change is now ever so urgent. As socialists, we must continue to raise the consciousness of workers and youths on the need for revolutionary change to stop the bleeding in the north and across the country. Only the mobilized working masses can rise, fight back to win their emancipation from the bosses who run this system and stop this malaise with working people’s power.

This also means our demanding the right to be able to defend ourselves. The military cannot defend us. In fact, the military and police’s first interest is to defend the interests of the bosses. They will kill innocent poor people as much as they kill militants. And they cannot defeat the bandits militarily as we have clearly seen, time and again.

The question thus arises; how can we defend ourselves? Vigilante groups had been set up in several of the villages that were overrun by the bandits. They stood their grounds. But they did not have arms. The military did not arrive for days, while people in these villages were being killed with impunity.

It is high time to demand that everyone with a right to vote must have the right, as well as training and access to arms, which will be administered by workers’ and communities’ committees. This is a democratic right we must fight for. Only the working people in arms can defend their lives and communities.

by ‘Todun JAGUN

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