David Umaru: Between Timbuktu and Agadez

by on August 12, 2016

Gabriel Onoja

In the run up for the 2015 General Elections, some patriotic people of Niger state raised the alarm about the background of the then All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, David Umaru. Persons who claimed to know him placed his nationality as Mali, somewhere between Timbuktu and Agadez. A Tuareg ancestry was part of the story.

At that time, flushed with desperation to dislodge a party that holds the records for horrendous performance, several people including influential bloggers and columnists argued that it doesn’t matter whether he is from Timbuktu or Marrakesh so long as he has contributed to the growth of Niger state.

For the avoidance of doubt, this singular cross was what made Umaru a serial and professional governorship candidate until he was elected a senator, which covers just a district out of three so those acutely aware of his background from the other two districts had no say in the vote. So Senator Umaru emerged.

The whole of these amounts to unnecessary drama in the contemporary world where nations even conduct immigration lotteries to inject fresh human capital into their populations. It can be argued that nations like Canada, US and the UK are countries that grew because they are melting pots of diverse nationalities. They were built and grown by persons who migrated from other lands but have since become citizens. One must also not lose sight of foreign nationals that made other countries into burning pyres – think Jihadists that are wrecking  the havoc in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. These too have the mental delusion that they are helping to liberate their host countries.

It is to this second category that Senator David Umaru belongs – a marauding Tuareg from Agadez, who strayed into Nigeria and settled in Bosso. It beats my imagination that he successfully hid in plain sight for this long and could have become the governor of one of the larger states in Nigeria.

If Senator Umaru hiding in plain sight was worrisome, his real objectives are even more frightening since we do not fully know them. The slightest inkling we have yet is the support he expressed for troops’ killers whom he defended as his ‘peaceful constituents’. His definition of peaceful must be relative to the measure of peace that prevails in his home country, Mali, where Azawad fighters and terrorists constantly blow people up and persistently wage an insurrection against a government that is barely fighting back.

It takes someone with that social background to describe communities that served as hubs for illegal arms fabrication and gun-running as ‘peaceful’. It takes the kind of streak dominant among Malian rebels to pitch one’s tent with criminal gun-runners against government troops that were murdered with the active participation of the ‘harmless villagers’. Furthermore, the addiction to terror must be compulsive on such scale that is only possible with someone that is genetically hardwired for terrorism.

The other explanation is that Senator Umaru, who is Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, has nothing to worry about from the proliferation of arms that can destabilize Nigeria. All he has to do when his weapon running goons bring Nigeria into meltdown is to simply flee across the borders to Mali. He doesn’t need a visa anyway and he would not arrive Agadez as a refugee.

A third, equally plausible, explanation is that Umaru rushed to the defence of the personal army he is building ahead of 2019. After tasting how violence can secure a win for him in 2015 he must be angling to finally unleash a larger scale of violence across the entire three senatorial districts.

The foregoing call for deeper investigation of what happened in Bosso local government area, where these gun-runners killed 11 troops: Nigerians need to know if they are dealing with homegrown criminality or imported terrorism from Mali. Our security services must also help verify how far Senator Umaru’s backed gun-runners have spread their evil wares so that the affected states and communities can immediately start taking measures to manage the safety of their citizens.

The Senate, National Assembly, as an institution must review this senator’s assignment both in the light of emerging revelations and in the light of the comments he made in the aftermath of the military operation in Bosso local government. The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Human Rights deals with sensitive documents and one can never tell what its current chairman, given his conflicting interests, could have passed either to the government of another country or even to business partners in the gun-running business. He must therefore be kept out of that assignment and assigned to a less sensitive post.

In the meantime, Senator Umaru should please cultivate the self control to remain quiet when matters of Nigeria’s internal security are being discussed. This is not Mali.

Onoja, National Coordinator, Coalition Against Terrorism and Extremism (CATE) contributed this piece from Suleja, Niger State.

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