Insecurity: Zamfara Gov’s quest for safe haven

Nikola Tesla, a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current electricity supply system, said, “My belief is firm in a law of compensation; the true rewards are ever in proportion to the labour and sacrifices made”.

This fits into the prevailing situation in Zamfara state where a state government compensated bandits and allowed the victims to lick their wounds. With rising insecurity in Zamfara state, opinion leaders opted for punitive measures but the state Governor Bello Matawalle decided to negotiate and subsequently grant them amnesty. Justifying his actions, the governor said, “Not all of them are criminals. If you investigate what is happening, and what made them to take the law into their hands, some of them, sometimes were cheated by so-called the vigilante group. They normally go to their settlements and destroy property and take their animals. They did not have anyone to speak with, so sometimes, they go for revenge. When the vigilante group attacks them, they go for reprisals. That is exactly what happened.”

This was condemned by good spirited Nigerians, particularly Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, civil society organisations and some traditional rulers in the North. El-Rufai said no deserves to live, adding that they should be served justice so that they would have a date with their makers. His stance was re-echoed by Arewa Thinktank and rights activist, Sahabi Sani Sami. They frowned at the manner in which events were unfolding in Zamfara state and other parts of North-west. The group called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch a federal investigative team to Zamfara state to ascertain the situation, particularly the amnesty. They reminded Governor Matawalle that banditry and terrorism are federal offences, noting he has no constitutional right to interfere in them let alone granting amnesty.

The group requested that the president should forthwith; prevail on Zamfara state governor to stop the show of shame of granting amnesty to bandits, saying that within a reasonable period, if their requests were not met, they would proceed to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prompt action on the mass murder, arson and gross abuse of fundamental right of the people of Zamfara state and the inaction of the government to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. They threatened to write to embassies to bar Matawalle from traveling abroad.

Remarkably, it was alleged that most of the bandits granted amnesty by Governor Matawalle were the masterminds of Kankara school kidnap in Katsina state, Kagara boys kidnapping in Niger state and other banditry and kidnapping incidents in Jangebe, and Tegina. This exhibition of gross incompetence as regards governance has made the governor of Zamfara state to start looking for safe haven. This voyage has led to his latest adventure of possible defection to All Progressives Congress (APC). Analysts have described this as another wrong political calculation which will not only cost him his power bloc but also disintegrate APC in the state. Recall that in the 2019 Zamfara state gubernatorial election, APC’s Mukhtar Shehu Idris polled 67.41% of the total popular votes, defeating PDP’s Bello Matawalle who got 23.89% of the total votes and trailed behind by a margin of 345,089 votes, and several minor party candidates.

The total number of registered voters in the state was 1,717,128 while 823,294 voters were accredited. Total number of votes cast was 810,782, while valid votes were 792,938. Rejected votes were 17,844. 42 candidates registered with the Independent National Electoral Commission to contest in the election. APC candidate, Idris Shehu, won the election with 534,541 votes, defeating APC’s Matawalle who came second with 189,452 votes. The party also won all the House of Assembly seats, House of Representatives seats and three senatorial positions in the state. However, internal party crisis threatened APC’s chance to continue governing the state and this led to Supreme Court invalidating not just APC votes but also handing victories to PDP candidates which led to the emergence of Matawalle.

Again, Matawalle who benefited immensely from rule of law is currently on the verge of going against the laws of Nigeria. Appeal Court had in one of its landmark judgments ruled that one of the reasons an elected office holder would leave his party was if there is internal crisis in the party. Also, if the party ceases to exist, it could be a good reason to look for an alternative platform. In effect, if an elected office holder defects to another party without leveraging on the two stated conditions, the appellate court stated that the person resigns the mandate he/she got from the original party. It is on record that there’s no internal wrangling in Zamfara state PDP and the party subsists.

Political pundits are of the opinion that Zamfara State House of Assembly, INEC and other relevant government agencies should be on standby to carry out their constitutional functions if Matawalle makes good of his intention of cross-carpeting to APC before the expiration of his current tenure.

Significantly, there is an inglorious part of APC constitution which makes a sitting governor the leader of the party in the state thereby allowing him to hijack the structures of the state chapter of the party. This is a time bomb waiting to explode in Zamfara state. This is because Zamfara is an APC state and all the candidates that won elections in 2019 that was nullified by the Supreme Court have not been compensated including their various power blocs.

Also, bringing the incumbent governor from almost non-existing PDP in the state to hijack the APC structures may spell doom for the party. This may lead to series of litigations, and possibly results to APC not fielding candidates in the 2023 general elections. With this, PDP may be waiting in the wings once more to benefit from the crisis that will brew in APC, like they benefited in 2019 in Zamfara and Rivers states. It is on record that PDP has never won governorship election in Zamfara state. The closest they came was in 2011, when the then incumbent Governor Shinkafi who came on board in 2007 on the platform of ANPP (now APC after merger with ACN, CPC and a faction of APGA) cross-carpeted to PDP. But he lost to APC’s Alhaji Abdulazeez Yari. President Buhari has not lost presidential election in Zamfara state since 2003 he started contesting.

These are some of probable calculations the governor hopes to benefit from in 2023; but it is important to remind President Buhari and APC interim chairman Mai Mala Buni that time has come for the amendment of APC constitution in order to protect the power blocs of the party, members and structures that gave the party successive victories in past elections. Stakeholders in APC in the state are already kicking against the planned (and possibly concluded) defection of Matawalle to the party. They alleged that he was looking for safe haven after a not-too-brilliant performance in PDP.

They feared that most of his failed policies especially the botched amnesty programme which compensated bandits and left the victims to their fates, may affect APC adversely if Matawalle is allowed to join the ruling party. He should not be allowed to join APC but remain in PDP and fix the problem he has plunged the state into by not heeding the advice of elders of the state. He should take the responsibility of a good leader he has always prided to be and walk through the murky waters in order to solve the banditry and poverty ravaging the people of Zamfara state.

Abubakar writes from Gusau, Zamfara state.