Zamfara killings and Yari’s politics of survival, by Zainab Suleiman Okino

The killing of 41 people in Birane village of Zurmi Local Government of Zamfara state, last week, whether by bandits or herdsmen goes beyond our weak policing system. It is an indictment on the governor of the state, a further fillip to the hollowness of our political class, and in this case, Governor Abdulaziz Yari, who would rather hobnob with Abuja than take charge of affairs in his state. While Birane community mourns, Yari jets in and out of Abuja to Daura (not Gusau) to genuflect before the president. The social climber, who got lucky by strings of circumstances, and, of course, providence, has no scruples dining with the devil to get what he wants, yet he does not seem to have the capacity to govern his state well. A good mix of deftness, bootlicking, treachery and god fatherism propelled him to become the primus interpares of the exclusive-king-making and powerful governors’ club. How this little known and non-performing governor has remained relevant in the last 10 years or so may not be unconnected to some untoward qualities that can make people cringe in some political settings.
Between 2007 to 2011, Governor Mahmud Shinkafi, the erstwhile deputy governor to then Governor Ahmed Sani, Yeriman Bakura, fell out with his former boss and decamped to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Yari, who was then a federal lawmaker, became the poster boy and beneficiary of the Sani-Shinkafi feud. For pitching his tent with former Vice President Abubakar Atiku in the bitterly fought PDP primaries between him and President Jonathan, Shinkafi became a marked man that could be dealt with at the appropriate time. That time came during the elections of 2011… Shinkafi lost and paved way for Yari. Although a APP candidate at a time, the party had lost appeal and popularity, Yari got the tacit support of the PDP leaders; his election was financed by an Abuja-based real estate mogul from the East and an associate of the first family (the Jonathans). And so it was that the PDP government rejected their own (Shinkafi) to support Yari, coupled with the open support and overriding influence of their god-father, Yariman Bakura, who has always dined with Abuja irrespective of the party in charge in Zamfara. Leaning on Jonathan in Abuja and Yeriman Bakura back home, Yari, like the proverbial phoenix, emerged from the ashes of conflict of interests and forces outside the control of the electorate in Zamfara state. His second term in 2015 became an easy ride because of the merger of the three political that formed the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari’s ready popularity and moving train that he jumped into in spite of the fact that his election was underpinned by PDP leadership and their money.
From the foregoing, Yari was never a man of his own and for want of a better expression he has always leaned on people to get what he wants. Former minister and PDP chieftain, Senator Adesewe described this kind of people as lean-on-people politicians as against real grassroots politicians. While commenting on the amended election sequence on Channels recently, he described politicians who won election based on their alignment with the government of the day or Buhari in 2015 as ‘lean-on-people’ politicians, who cannot stand on their own without a political colossus behind them, adding that real grassroots politicians need not fear whether presidential election comes first or not.
Considering the manner of his rise to prominence, and the disasters that have occurred under his watch as governor in Zamfara, it won’t be out of place to say Yari owes no allegiance to the people of Zamfara and perhaps does care about their welfare, security or development of the state. It is also not a surprise that he suddenly woke up from his slumber last week, in the wake of the latest Zamfara killings to indirectly blame the Buhari government for the state’s woes, and feeling ‘let down’ after, adding that the killings in the state have deteriorated under President Buhari: “I feel let down facing the people of this state whenever I remember the promise I made to them that when they elect President Buhari into power, these killings will end. But unfortunately, things are now getting worse. As such, I urge you security agencies to up the ante so as not to lose this war. If you let us take issues on our hands, anarchy will reign which is not what we hope for”.
When will this man be able to stand on his own and take responsibility? Well, talk of blame game by a supposed chief security officer of his own state who can neither provide security nor development. There are even arguments over the incessant killings in the state and whether it is an extension of political wranglings between the governor and a senator from the state. Even before the latest killing spree, Senator Kabiru Marafa had described the Zamfara issue as a national emergency as armed foreign militia groups now dispense justice on behalf of the aggrieved members of the society. He accused Governor Yari of romancing with criminals, forcing people to resort to self-help. Buhari himself had launched a security operation about two years to combat banditry in the state all of which have come to zilch in the face of the continued killings.
In 2010, unsafe level of lead poison found in homes, dust in the air, contaminated foods and well water as a result of illegal mining ore killed 300 people in the state, among who are 111 children. After the Lead poisoning epidemics, came meningitis outbreak that killed over 200 children but Yari ascribed the incident to God’s wrath on the people for turning away from Him, even as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in the state blamed him for not responding adequately to early warnings about the epidemic.
Under Yari as chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum, billions of bailout funds meant for states to cushion the effects of recession and to pay salaries were mismanaged and/or diverted. Zamfara’s share was alleged to have been diverted to a mortgage bank, besides other under-hand deals that are being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). For not settling outstanding salaries and pensioners’ entitlements, misappropriation and poor budget implementation, lawmakers in the state once threatened impeachment of the governor. Again, the last NECO examinations also showed misgovernance and absence of investments in education by successive Zamfara leaders including Yari. Zamfara performed so poorly that only 24 candidates out of 186 obtained five credits and above.
So, what is Yari’s staying power? Perhaps his capacity to be in the right place at the right time, knowing when to abandon a sinking ship, or subterfuge and even loyalty to a cause, who knows. The only thing that is certain is Yari’s inability and his failure to convert his enormous goodwill and good luck to good work, proactive governance and development for the people of Zamfara state.


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