By ABBA MAHMOOD /March 1, 2018–
What is today Zamfara State was the economic back bone of the old Sokoto State. That was why the railway constructed by the colonial powers extended up to Gusau, now the capital of Zamfara. Apart from agriculture and solid minerals as well as animal husbandry, there were many industries including textile and cotton ginnery there. Zamfara also produced some of the best public servants Nigeria has ever boasted of. Recall that Mallam Yahaya Gusau not only taught so many who later became leaders in this country but he was one of the incorruptible leaders we are proud of. General Aliyu Gusau is not only one of the most respected military officers Nigeria ever produced but is undoubtedly one of the most world-recognized and best intelligence officers this country has ever produced.
The people of Zamfara are very hardworking, very friendly and accommodating too. That is why it is one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Nigeria with people from all over Nigeria and even beyond residing peacefully and doing their legitimate businesses in the state. Unfortunately, however, Zamfara has not been lucky with its recent leaders. Since 1999 Zamfara has been getting some of the worst governors who have retarded the orderly progress of the state.
Three years after its creation, Zamfara got its first civilian governor. He was elected to attend to the temporal needs of his people but he decided to go straight to the spiritual aspect. Without any sufficient knowledge, he launched what he called Sharia law and even amputated the hand of a cow thief. The subsequent crisis nearly destroyed Nigeria. It certainly helped to strain the unity of the old Northern Region. The 21st century-bearded Mullah has since metamorphosed into a ranking senator who couldn’t attract investment but was able to attract a 13-year-old girl to be his wife. We are indeed a joke.
But the greatest tragedy that has afflicted Zamfara was the election of AbdulAziz Yari as governor. Yari is not even pretending to know what governance is. Zamfara has been reduced to a sorry state under Yari. He only visits his state when it pleases him. Kidnapping, rape, armed banditry, cattle rustling and daily loss of lives and property are the stories from Zamfara under Yari. When some gunmen recently killed over 50 people in a community in Zurmi local government area of the state, Yari visited the palace of the Emir of Zurmi briefly; he did not find it necessary to visit the community affected, zoomed off immediately to neighbouring Katsina, flew from Katsina to Abuja, and took the next flight out of Nigeria, only to come back days later. Even those who visited the state to commiserate with the people on the latest tragedy could not see the governor as he was absent. I know no other definition of irresponsibility and insensitivity.
The primary responsibility of any government is the protection of life and property of the people within its domain. Any government that cannot guarantee this is not a government. During the colonial era, Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Tambari’s reign was characterized by lawlessness, armed banditry, and near-anarchy. He was deposed and banished to Wukari in the early 1930s, the first Sultan to be deposed in history. During the reign of General Abacha, in every local government area someone is responsible for security – either a police outpost, a military formation or an SSS unit, so that if there is any breach of security, there is someone to be held responsible. Now agencies fight each other and no one seems to be in charge.
Under President Obasanjo, if there was any breakdown of law and order in any state, like it’s happening in Zamfara, a state of emergency is declared and the elected government that had failed to discharge its primary responsibility was set aside and an administrator was appointed for a specified period to restore order. Even during the First Republic something similar happened. That is why there is need to impose a state of emergency on Zamfara to arrest the descent into anarchy there. The governor has shown total incapacity to deal with the situation and thus has to give way. And the funniest joke is that this barely coherent individual is the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, which is advocating a state police. Nigeria is indeed a huge joke.
One disturbing dimension to the plight of Zamfara is the fact that Yari himself mentioned in public that on the latest attack on the Zurmi community he had intelligence report 24 hours before the attack! So what did he do to stop the attack since he had clear one full day advantage to do something to stop it? Yari has really failed in the discharge of his duty as governor, has shown that he cannot be entrusted with people’s lives and has proven totally incompetent to remain in office. He has to go and the National Assembly has to be alive to its responsibility in this regard so that others like him will sit up and do the right thing.
A coalition of civil society recently said in a press conference, “Since late 2011, the year Yari assumed power, Zamfara has continuously been gripped by recurring violence that has claimed several thousand lives and displaced many more, leaving in its wake battalions of orphans, widows and incapacitated people… Since his assumption of power Zamfara has steadily been retrogressing with no project for the people, while the man who is supposed to be in charge junkets round the globe in pursuit of private businesses.”
The quality and standard of leadership has really degenerated in Nigeria. Otherwise, one cannot imagine how someone like Yari could be governor of an important state like Zamfara. That is why the civil society group came to the conclusion — and I totally agree — that “this man is not ready to govern and the only remaining option for the protection of lives in the state is replacing him and all existing structures” with an emergency administrator.
History is on the side of the oppressed.