Sometimes, there is a disturbing moment in the history of a state, when it teeters between what everyone suspects and dreads, and what almost every one knows might happen, but wish it never did.
My nephew, who is doing his NYSC in Zamfara State, in the Northwest, called me last week. There was a sense of urgency in his voice. It was a pain cry of some sort. I was afraid, but happy to hear he is hale and hearty.
But he told me, “uncle, Zamfara urgently requires serious rescue efforts”. To be sure, the state is not under civil or pronounced warfare as such. But it is under huge security challenges, far more daring and desperate than anyone had imagined, almost three years ago, when bandits apparently wrestled the state to the ground. In many ways, yes.
Created 23 years ago, and endowed with mineral resources like gold and zinc, the state has not really moved at a pace that many had expected, considering its human capital and material resource endowments. It is still on its knees.
Not even the thoughtful punch line of its forebears that, “Farming is our pride”, has been adequately harnessed and managed. If anything, Zamfara, since the outset of the current civilian dispensation, has been going down the rung in major indices of human capital development.
The result is that the state, with its abundant resources, is rather being mentioned among its peers, in derision.
Just a few samplers: The latest report from that state says at least 50 people, including members of the civilian Joint Task Force were killed recently in Kaura Namoda by rampaging bandits. This is coming weeks after the Acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu launched a security action plan “Operation Puff Adder”. We will come back to this shortly. A stunning disclosure by the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, two years ago, indicated that Zamfara had only 24 hospitals and 23 medical doctors. For a state with a population of more than 3.8 million and 14 local government areas, the hospital-doctor ratio, is quite depressing. It simply means that not every hospital in the state has a doctor.
It was thus, hardly surprising that when meningitis struck in Zamfara as in other parts of the North few years ago, the state was the hardest hit in scourge and death toll. In 2017, the federal ministry of Education lamented that only 28 students from the state registered for last year’s National Common entrance examination into unity colleges in the country. The state’s profile in insecurity, is perhaps the most disturbing. It may have surpassed the insurgencies in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba – states that Western countries have regularly advised their nationals to avoid visiting.
At present, the federal government has dispatched troops to secure lives and property in Zamfara but the state is yet to know peace. It’s hard to put a figure to the number of people so far killed in the last two years that Zamfara burst into the nation’s consciousness as a killing field of some sort. But, hundreds of people have been buried in mass graves. The bandits have also rustled livestock across villages and communities. They have also razed markets and houses and killed villagers at will. Operation “PUFF-ADDER” which is a full-scale offensive against the bandits, is currently going on, with some measure of success. The operation, according to the police high command, is aimed at reclaiming every public space under the control of the bandits, arrest and bring to book, all perpetrators of violence and their collaborators. The operation is also designed to destroy all criminal camps, hideouts and mop up all illicit weapons fueling the violence and, finally, to achieve full restoration of law and order in all the affected communities.
Only recently, the federal government reportedly ordered all foreigners operating in the mining fields to close and leave within two days.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has announced that its Air Task Force for Operation DIRAN MIKIYA, has successfully destroyed the bandits’ logistics base at Ajia in Birnin Mogaji. Also, troops of “Operation Saharan Daji, last week claimed they killed 35 bandits, arrested many informants, including a notorious kidnapper, Mohammed Iso, who was reportedly arrested in Niger Republic through the collaboration of security forces in that country.
There had also been instances of attacks in other councils. In recent months, things have degenerated following a spate of gunmen attacks in Anka council area resulting in the killings of scores of people causing 20 communities to flee their villages. The emir of the council, Alhaji Muhammad Inuwa has threatened to seek the intervention of the United Nations (UN) to end the attacks. Until last year when he was reported killed, dreaded bandit, Tsoho Buhari, also known as ‘Buharin Daji’ terrorised many council areas of the state.
Recall that early last year, Sen. Kabiru Marafa, who represents Zamfara Central Senatorial District, captured the mood of the people in his report to his colleagues, when he disclosed that the state had been taken over by armed gangs.
He claimed that Zamfara state is now under the control of the militia and the state government know those who are terrorising the state, an allegation the government strongly denied, accusing the Senator of embarking on cheap publicity and positioning himself for governorship position. The feud between Gov. Yari and Sen. Marafa seems to have beclouded the enormous nature of the insecurity in the state. The elections are over, but not yet over in Zamfara.
But, try as he did, the allegation by governor Yari’s critics that he is hardly on his duty post, and therefore not being abreast with the real situation in the state, still sticks. The governor, perhaps overwhelmed by the challenges of insecurity in the state, last year called for emergency solution, just short of state of emergency in his state.
The fact today is that the situation in Zamfara is desperate enough, and beyond the present blame game that has not helped matters at all. Zamfara calls for urgent help, not a resort to self-help or fatalism.
This was the type of attitude one of the leaders from the state put up, when at the height of meningitis scourge in the state and the attendant death toll, he casually dismissed it as punishment from God on the people for their high incidence of immorality. What the people of Zamfara need is practical solution to end the present insecurity and killings in the state.
The task to get it right this time around, is becoming more demanding, and perhaps slipping away. The present situation must be reversed. But bad as it is now, it is the burden the state has to live with unless the current efforts to bring back normalcy in the state succeed. On the governance scale, the fate of the citizens hangs in the balance few weeks to the inauguration of new administrations across the country.
The uncertainty is as a result of a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal, sitting in Sokoto, which voided all elected officials on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. This is the result of crisis that attended the party’s primaries last year. If the Supreme Court affirms the decision of the appellate court, Zamfara might be in a constitutional crisis with far reaching implications than we can imagine.