In the fold of the gangs of bandits ravaging communities in the North West of Nigeria, there has been a symbolic mix of the comic and the tragic.
In what appears to be a comic refrain, some of the banditry gang leaders have taken it upon themselves to adopt the images of past military leaders in Nigeria.
One of them, regarded as the most influential and ruthless, modelled his public image after Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader and current President of Nigeria.
He was known as General Buhari or Buharin Daji. His ruthlessness was legendary. Other gang leaders feared to cross his path.
His influence and command made it commonplace for his troops to revere, fear and submit compulsorily to his authority. His powers reverberated across Zamfara, Katsina and parts of Sokoto state as well as Niger Republic, beyond Nigeria’s borders.
Buharin Daji ended tragically. He was killed by Dogo Gide, his close commander, over a personal and family issue, HumAngle learnt.
Buharin Daji was killed by Dogo Gide with the aide of Auwal Lamido.
With Buharin Daji eliminated, the field of banditry suddenly became overcast as several splinters and other gangs emerged.
There was always the possibility that the gangs would test each other’s worth in brute power show. Such ambitious desire often resulted in explosive bloodletting.
Terrorist groups like the Vanguards for the Protection of Muslims in Black Africa, known as Ansaru, are busy converting locals and some of the bandits to their fold.
The region occasionally plays host to members of the Jamaat Nasr al-Islam Wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the Islamic State West Africa (ISWAP), that find the region suitable for incubation, hiding hostages and a place for refuge because of vast ungoverned territories.
Last week, Abdulhadi Dan Nashe, one of the notorious gang commanders, was killed. Nashe was married to a sister of his sworn enemy, and a notorious gang leader, Dangote.
The tension between both warlords rather than abate with the espousing of Dangote’s sister to Nashe rather exacerbated it. Ego, evidently, does not mix well with men who have access to lethal weapons.
Nashe was a ruthless and ambitious gang leader who also had his hand deep in other criminalities. He controlled the weapon smuggling routes and personnel.
So, other gang leaders and members deferred to him even if they hated his guts. His weapon smuggling channels armed several of the gangs in the territory.
His gang frequently raided communities, seized individuals on kidnap-for-ransom deals across several states.
HumAngle learnt that in spite of being members of the Fulani ethnic group, the rivalry and bad blood among the gang leaders have contributed to the unending carnage in the Northwest.
For example, officials of the Katsina State government tried to exploit the common ethnic affinity to commit the bandits to a negotiated peace but it did not work.
Three of the most powerful gangs at the time turned down the government’s entreaties because none of the three leaders wanted to sit at the table with the other.
Sources familiar with the ethnic configuration of the banditry in Northwest told HumAngle that one of the causes of three of the gang leaders snubbing the government’s offer of the olive branch was the prominent position another gang leader, Maikome, was perceived to be occupying in the initiative.
Maikome is not Fulani. He is Babarbare, who historically are believed to come from Niger Republic and are found in Zamfara and Sokoto states.
Our source pointed to the likely feeling by Dangote, an ethnic Fulani, that it would be beneath him to sit with Maikome.
The Fulanis, HumAngle was informed, believe that the Babarbare came into Nigeria and submitted to the authority of the Fulani.
Sources knowledgeable about Dangote’s opinions with regard to these said he believed it was absurd for a Babarbare to act as a commander of a banditry gang in the region.
The Fulani leaders of the major banditry groups were perhaps pained that the state government scheduled the venue of the proposed meeting for Batsari.
Batsari is seen as Maikome’s stronghold. Dankarami, another gang commander is aligned with Maikome and likely to stand behind Maikome in a situation of confrontation with Dangote.
Gang commanders like Illiya, Bala Na Dama, Baleru, Garso, Kare Moba and Farun Bod’ore participated in the negotiations with state governments in Katsina and Zamfara.
But the likes of Dangote and Dogo Gide hardly see eye to eye. Gide who never personally participated in the negotiations is believed to have strong links with ANSARU.
An insider hinted that the gang leaders often blew hot and cold or in fact hunting with the hounds and running with the hare pointing to the presence of Gide’s allies, Saleh and Kawajo Kuyanbana, at the government negotiation where they were believed to have surrendered some weapons to government.
Currently, the war of attrition and vengeance among the groups has taken the lives of no fewer than 500 bandits in the last six months, HumAngle gathered from multiple sources.
For instance, faced with scarce livestock to rustle, and fewer people travelling on the highways to abduct, the gangs have directed their weapons of terror at other groups that have a stock of rustled animal stock.
Often, a gang with information takes steps to intercept negotiations for ransom and rob the other gang of the ransom.
The Dankarami gang, for instance, is reputed among the bandits for going to other gangs’ territories to rustle livestock or seize ransom destined for other gangs.
Last year the gang invaded Gora, a territory under the control of another gang, and attempted to rustle livestock in Dan Ba Fashi in Katsina State.
Gide, after putting Buharin to the sword, went quiet and recently resurfaced around Rugu and Tsafe in Zamfara State.
His operational base is in Rugu and Kumuku forests. Our sources said there might have been a strain recently in his relationship with jihadi allies.
He is a prime target of other bandits for elimination and a wanted man by the state.
Other gang leaders are Dogo Idi, considered to be fearless and Fulani with his base in Katsina State and Gajere, who is Hausa.
The Hausa rarely feature in this type of crime but Gajere has been deeply involved.
His father was a commander with the slain Buhari General and was killed in Dumburum. Gajere is believed to be ruthless and never considers anyone outside his rank.
He is believed to have led attacks in Kawaye community in Anka Local Government Area of Zamfara State where witnesses attested to his ruthlessness.
“He makes sure he destroys whatever he sees. Even when other bandits avoid military formations Gajere confronts them through ambush,” witnesses said.
Sources confided in HumAngle that Gajere was responsible for killing nine soldiers in Sunke in 2019.
Another gang leader, Dankarami, is said to have about 1,000 fighters. He is young, not yet up to 30 years. His father is from Zamfara while his mother is from Katsina State, sources said.
Dankarami believes that every bandit should have a specified area to operate and command and resists every intrusion into communities he controls by other bandits, HumanAngle learnt.
Dangote, also known as Bazamfare, is from Dumburum of Zurmi. He has great sophistication and controls a large area. He is believed to have a formidable bunker due to frequent air raids by Nigeria Airforce.
Additional reporting by Ahmad Salkida