By Ibrahim Madugu

The Nigerian Tribune of 17th January 2022 reported Governor Bello Matawalle announcing that “Banditry will not end soon”. The annoying part of this pronouncement is that it was made immediately after a session with President Muhammadu Buhari when people expect to hear a message of hope at a time when the state morale is low with the escalating insecurity. On another sad note, the press briefing shows how Governor Matawalle trivializes the life of the people of Zamfara state by considering that killing “36 people” was inconsequential. He was quoted saying that “we confirmed that only 36 people have been killed and communities were razed by the bandits” in an aborted effort to make the point that the figure of victims was being exaggerated by the press and politicians. It is unfortunate that Governor Matawalle took to national and global stage the propaganda of associating all problems of insecurity to opposition politicians without realizing that he had overused and abused that cover.

On January 13, an article attributed to the famous columnist, Mal. Mahmud Jega, with the caption “In Zamfara, everyone is a bandit sponsor” was in wide circulation. In that article, Mahmud Jega asked in utter surprise how the state APC Secretary of Governor Matawalle’s camp pointed an accusing finger of “shared interest” with bandits to General Aliyu Gusau who was three times National Security Adviser on the implausible premise of having a large share of mining site which Governor Matawalle was also reported to have. The season columnist called a related attempt against Senator Marafa “a startling allegation” because Senator Marafa “was the first and most vocal voice against banditry in the northwest” in the last Senate. Governor Matawalle should have deployed another tactic if only he read Jega’s fair conclusion that reads “It is amazing how, in Zamfara State, which is the Ground Zero of Northwestern banditry, allegation of sponsoring bandits is now the weapon of choice in politics. Ordinarily that is a serious allegation which should be backed up by evidence and corroborated by security agencies”.

Like coincidence, Senator Kabiru Marafa’s faction of APC made a clarion call in a press release signed by its spokesperson titled “Using Religion as a tool for Political Blackmail is Ungodly, Unethical, Malicious, Cowardly and a Recipe for Perpetuation of the Anarchy in Zamfara State” around the same day with Mahmud Jega’s piece. The Punch newspaper of 13th January 2022 quoted the press release in which Senator Marafa’s faction lamented after chronicling many instances of those ‘baseless’ accusations “We see in these false associations the potential to perpetuate the state of anarchy in the state through blackmail by creating trust question and sparking suspicion between the masses and the political class”. Although from a political faction, the press release was spot on with arguments and passionate appeal for the state government, religious leaders and politicians to join hands and deal with the security as well as help the displaced individuals.

Looking at the trajectory of the problem of insecurity in Zamfara State since Matawalle assumed power in 2019, one can argue convincingly that his careless accusation of opposition politicians is a projection of his tendencies of using the bandits and banditry for political gains. He was quoted in the briefing in view to have said that his infamous peace accord with the bandits yielded result for nine months until opposition politicians convinced the bandits to back out. The truth is that Governor Matawalle’s negotiation with the bandits worked well until when he abandoned it by not paying the huge amount of money, vehicles and food supplies he promised the bandits coupled with his new priority of decamping to the APC which consumed a lot of money from the states meager resources. It is on record that the bandits returned to their nefarious activities in Zamfara State from February 2021 through the rest of the year when they realized Mr Matawalles insincerity which coincided with hurdles of party decamping with all its challenges till today. They used the same money received from the government to buy more arms and kill more people!

Governor Bello Matawalle also lamented that opposition politicians facilitated taking him to court to challenge the suspension of telecommunication which was helping the insecurity. Every observer of events in Zamfara state will tell that the claim that the suspension of telecommunication services was far from being factual as bandits took advantage of it to attack communities who did not have the means of reaching out to the state security system or neighboring vigilantes for help. It is also in record that Governor Matawalle abandoned the state in those difficult times to travel on trivialities such as accompanying his wife for child delivery in the United States and a long trip to places only he knew best in the pretext of attracting investment for a state on fire and out of communication services! He was away in that difficult time when bandits killed the biological father to the Speaker of the State Assembly who was also the acting Governor. It is also instructive to note that one of those trips towards the end of 2021 was for watching traditional wrestling in neighboring Niger Republic at a time when bandits were having a field day in Zurmi and Shinkafi Local Governments areas of the state.

Beyond his complicity through negligence and misjudgment, recent revelations show that Governor Matawalle is indeed aiding the bandits. A suspect by name Musa Muhammad Kamarawa who confirmed to be a friend and supplier of arms to the notorious bandit, Bello Turji, was arrested by the police last week. One of the shocking revelations was that the suspect was confirmed to be a political appointee of Governor Matawalle having appointed him as a Special Assistant through a letter signed by the former Secretary to the State Government dated 26th September, 2022. The same Musa Kamarawa was also shown in a picture very close to Governor Matawalle in an official field activity with the military. These and many reasons indicate that Bello Matawalle is one person who lives in glass house but keeps throwing stones.

Back to the beginning of this piece, it is embarrassing, though not surprising, that Governor Matawalle was pessimistic that insecurity would not end soon in the state. In his words “because this is something I inherited that has been going on for eight years and you don’t expect it to end within two years of my administration”. My response is that insecurity would not end within two years because it suffers from the negligence, incompetence and abuse as the major tool for challenging opposition political groups in the absence of any capital or socially driven legacy to show by Governor Bello Matawalle’s administration coupled with the sinister desire of Gov Matawalle to use the insecurity to win election in 2023.
As an optimist and one who knows that anarchy like that of Zamfara can hardly end without a willing government, I will conclude by asserting that insecurity will end in Zamfara immediately Governor Matawalle is shown the way out of Zamfara State Government House just like he (Matawalle) abandoned the party that gave him legitimacy to occupy the exalted position he is abusing today and a willing Governor assumes office in the state. The positive progress being recorded in Borno State through Governor Zulum is a good motivation to this aspiration.

Ibrahim Madugu Writes from Gusau Zamfara State.