Between a Peace Worker and Peace Wreckers in Zamfara

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By Sani Mafara

Prior to May 2019 when Bello Matawalle assumed office as governor of Zamfara State, the northwestern state was under a seemingly endless siege. The state was a typical killing field, a boiling cauldron of bloodthirsty bandits and notorious kidnappers. Cattle rustlers and dare-devil miscreants were ruling over swathes of land with security forces battling tooth and nail to stop them. But since Matawalle took the seat of power in the state capital Gusau, the state has steadily experienced a new lease of life. A territory that was once awash with insecurity, where life was almost perpetually “nasty, brutish and short,” is now delightfully turning into a haven of peace and tranquility with everybody going about their normal duties. A lot of dislodged villagers are back in their homes and farmers chased out of their farms are about harvesting this year’s yield in peace.

The amiable governor, fortified by his bravery, also leveraged on his four-year experience as chairman of the House Committee on Security and Intelligence to ensure that the security challenge in his state is considerably addressed to the point of total success. His many strategies, which does not preclude the carrot and stick approach, are yielding expected results. Gradually, voluntarily, bandits  repent, giving themselves up, releasing hundreds of captives and turning in sophisticated weapons in exchange for pardon and most likely rehabilitation.

In addition to this rare occurrence, hundreds of locally made weapons are being retrieved from the Yan-sa-kai, a local militia group whose destructive activities were fully endorsed, promoted and encouraged in the previous administration. On the count of securing the state and protecting lives, Zamfara state, under Governor Matawalle, is winning. This is something that Zamfara failed to witness in the years when suffered what seemed an unstoppable carnage.

Yet, some pockets of disgruntled elements who are bent on ensuring that mayhem continues to reign across the state just for their own private selfish aims.

For instance, just last week Usman Nagogo, the state commissioner of police, addressed a press conference at the Command Headquarters in Gusau, stating that the police acting on intelligence reports and credible information learnt that certain individuals were holding a meeting with leaders of repentant bandits with a view to enticing them with money and other gifts so that they can go back to the forest and return the state to the dark days of mayhem, carnage and bloodshed that had enveloped the state for a long time. Alhaji  Habu Dantabawa and 17 others were arrested at the venue of the meeting.

Explaining that the arrest of Alhaji Dantabawa and others were an intelligent-driven proactive action taken to curtail any act of banditry and related crimes in the state, the police commissioner said no responsible government would turn a blind eye by refusing to act appropriately when there is imminent to the lives and property of the citizens of the state.

But these suspected instigators of bloody chaos and instability also have their loyalists and foot-soldiers. The police boss noted that on September 13, 2020, a day after the police arrested and his collaborators, “miscreants and those who don’t mean well for the good people of the state” displayed rascality by acting in a way that breached the peace and calmness of Zamfara state with their invasion of the police headquarters. Describing their behavior as “barbaric,” Nagogo said their intention, apart from being to test the patience and resolve of the state, was also presumably to destroy any evidence that is likely to influence the outcome of the investigation.

The police commissioner acknowledged the productive partnership between the state government and the security agents, saying, “It is a well-known fact that the steps taken by state government have yielded positive impact in curtailing acts of kidnapping, cattle rustling and banditry in the state for the past one year.” To demonstrate its firm resolve to tackle insecurity, the state government purchased 200 operational vehicles for security agents to enhance security in the state.

Nagogo said as part of the effort of raising the bar of security, there is currently in place a combined force of 877 well-armed personnel stationed at strategic locations across the state, as well as 100 special forces ready to counter any threat to peace. Hundreds other personnel, he stated, have been kept in line to be deployed to other vulnerable areas in the state. Acknowledging the state government’s responsiveness to the welfare of the security agents, the police commissioner said: “It is worthy of note that all these personnel posted to these places are being paid their allowances, feeding and any other entitlements that may crop up from time to time by the Zamfara State Government.”

There is no doubt that some politicians, out of sheer envy, are desperate to put a spanner in the smooth running of the Matawalle-led PDP government in Zamfara state. Earlier before the arrest of Alhaji Dantabawa and others, the police had arrested Abdulmalik Bungudu, also known as Zannan Bungudu, in Kaduna and brought him to face charges in Zamfara state. Bungudu, an associate of Abdulaziz Yari, the immediate past governor of the state, was brought back to the state to face charges of mobilizing thugs and armed bandits to harass and unleash mayhem on residents of his local governments.  But before not before any trial commenced, the suspect was freed and bailed by no less a person than Sani Gwamna, a man very well known for his foul connections.

It is by now obvious that despite Governor Matawalle’s determination to restore lasting peace in Zamfara, bitter politicians are at work to cause destabilization of his government, and the accusing finger is pointing in the direction of no less a person than former Governor Abdulaziz Yari. He is said to be the fly in the ointment, the disruptor of the much-desired peace and harmony in the state. It will be recalled that, based on intelligence report, Governor Matawalle once had cause to warn Yari against inciting the people whenever he visited the state. Yet, through the despicable activities of his known allies in the state, it’s obvious that the former governor is not ready to give his successor a breathing space.

Now is the time for the presidency to step in and call Yari, his allies and his backers to order. He should be told in strong terms to refrain from all acts of subversion whether directly or indirectly in the state. He should be told to let Matawalle be, if not ready to collaborate with the governor to return lasting peace to the state. That is the only way Zamfara state can develop and prosper. It is time to call it quit and allow Zamfara to enjoy its new leaf.

Mafara is a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

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