It is no news that Zamfara state, the erstwhile tranquil and peaceful state in the far North-West of Nigeria was wantonly debased into tattered rag of its hard earned and enviable peace and promise as a young and determined state gearing into greatness; an acclaimed focused and visionary entity. This sorry state was created by poor leadership and arrogance in governance which led the state into a crisis situation of unmatched magnificence in the zone.
For nearly a decade now, the peaceful state of Zamfara snowballed into chaos, disharmony, crisis and death. What began like a simple cattle rustling in some pockets of villages was unwittingly left to grow into a serious situation of breakdown of law and order. In what many observers saw as deliberate abdication of responsibility, the leadership in Zamfara state then could have as well fuelled the situation by poor management of the situation. Cattle rustling turned into kidnappings and, worst, into total banditry in all the 14 local government areas of the state. Every single action taken by the then government seemed to aggravate the situation and indeed, the public faulted every of such actions.
This scenario translated into a total lack of security in the state and the people were left to be their own keepers and at the mercy of what came their way. Innocent souls were killed with careless abandon; many were abducted and housed in the bush for Ransom by new lords of the land, some of who were either killed in the event ransom was not redeemed or they simply died out of sheer hardship they underwent in the hands of their captors. This led to a new twist to the whole scenario. The vulnerable and potential victims decided to form their own vigilante groups in the name of “Yan sa Kai” who went after the kings of the known kingpins of the banditry world in the state.
This new twist further compounded the security situation where deaths increased, kidnappings increased and many major markets were closed and roads leading to major towns and villages were no longer safe and had to be abandoned. The situation in Zamfara was such worst that half of what was happening in the interior was better seen than imagined. That was how the administration of Governor Mohammed Bello (Matawallen Maradun) inherited the mantle of Leadership of the state last May.
The first attempt at addressing this problem was conceived by Governor Matawalle before he took over the mantle of leadership. He began the implementation of his conceived policies immediately by announcing his intention to call for a truce between the bandits and the “Yan sa Kai,” which he did. The two sides agreed to come to the table and discuss peace. Indeed, their representatives came to the table and discussed. They all agreed to sheath their swords and listen to the government. The governor requested them to stop abductions and also release their victims. They all agreed. Since the first meeting of the truce about a month ago, no abductions were officially reported. The two sides also began to release their victims in batches. In about ten different batches, today, more than 170 victims have so far been released by their captors unconditionally, and without a single ransom paid!
With these developments, it is very sad some indigenes of Zamfara state boldly and unabashedly try to rubbish the initiative in the media as if they are not happy peace is returning to our dear state. It is sorry, to say the least, that following the display of a corpse in front of the Government House recently by villagers from Jimmari Village, of Kaura Namoda local government area, some media featured many negative responses to the entire process and wanted Nigerians to believe it is not working. Here is a state that once lost over 300 souls in a swoop, but has not lost a single life in a month now due to the peace process in place, with over 170 gaining their freedom without a ransom paid and yet, to some, the process is not working!
Now, the state government and all well meaning citizens of Zamfara state are not perturbed. The peace process will continue according to plan. After all the captives are released, the process of disarmament will then, begin. Most of the bandits have shown their eagerness to come back into the towns and villages and live a normal life. They assured to cooperate because they said they believed in the sincerity of the Matawalle’s administration to honor its own part of the bargain. The bargain is that when they eventually lay down their arms, they will never be harassed but will be resettled in the society. Already, the state government has set aside funds and 100 hecters of land each for the establishment of three Rugga settlements in each of the three Senatorial districts in the State. These settlements will have all the necessary facilities required for meaningful living including water, schools, clinics, veterinary clinics and grazing lands.
Bappa, Senior Special Assistant Media and Public Enlightenment to Zamfara state governor, writes from Gusau