By Yusuf Idris Gusau
Zamfara State Governor, Dr. Bello Mohammed Matawalle is in the news again for the wrong reason. But this does not come as a surprise to many observers who have been monitoring events in the state.
Conspiracy theorists have consistently ensured that Matawalle is in the news for daring the status quo and changing the rhythms of things in the state. And his traducers are understandably angry that Matawalle has succeeded in persuading the erstwhile die-hard bandits to lay down their arms and denounced their once thriving vocation. They won’t be happy that the governor is turning the tide against insecurity – and them – that has put the state on the discredit list.
Beyond reaching out to the bandits to renounce their activities and embrace peace, the governor had put in place different security measures aimed at tackling the menace. Among such measures were the purchase of Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) for security agencies, installation of CCTV cameras for security surveillance in the state capital and some local government areas; provision of land for the establishment of an airstrip for covert operation by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) and the facilitation of establishment of two mobile police units in the state, among other interventions.
But most importantly is the constitution of a high-powered security committee under the chairmanship of former IGP MD Abubakar to find a lasting solution to the problem. The committee has submitted its report and only last week the governor inaugurated a judicial commission of inquiry under the leadership of former Chief Judge of Katsina State, Justice Yusuf Abdullahi to implement the outcome. It’s however surprising that on one hand, anti-Matawalle stories are beginning to emerge at a time the commission of inquiry is about to commence its all important task. And on the other hand, we are not surprise because they have since shown their antics to be anti-people and diabolical.
The consolation however, is that truth always finds its way out no matter the attempt to suppress it and like the legendary Sardauna of Sokoto’s most celebrated quotes said, “conscience is an open wound and only truth can heal it”. This is why Matawalle would come out triumphant with his name written in the iron cast of history that no amount of rain and wind storm can obliterate.
Within the last few days, online media like the discredited Sahara Reporters and an obscure platform, Analyzer have been doing the hatchet job with the same story line. Their stories quoted two sources, one a military and the other a former local government chairman with both alleging that repentant bandits were using military grade Hilux vehicles to attack villages with the backing of the governor.
In analyzing the two stories, observers are likely to point at many of the flaws and apparent lack of recourse to professionalism exhibited. The Sahara Reporters quoted a military source who spoke on “condition of anonymity” . The recourse to anonymous sources put the credibility of the story in itself to question. It is important to point out that many reporters hide behind anonymous sources to peddle lies in largely unsubstantiated reports and these two stories bear such tell-tale signs.
It is important to note that the military, like any organized institution, operates based on hierarchy and they are personnel within certain ranks and training appointed as spokespersons. The unnamed Sahara Reporters sources therefore are not appointed to speak on behalf of the military and cannot therefore represent them. And come to think of it, why did the reporter fail to take the story a notch higher by asking the relevant questions that could have further enriched his story like where were the Hilux vans donated to the military by Matawalle to help tackle insecurity in the state and whether the said vehicle purportedly abandoned by the so called bandits may belong to the military.
It is still evergreen in public knowledge that Matawalle in July 2020, donated 200 operational vehicles to security agencies to help fight crime in the state. The presentation of those vehicles was done in public with heads of various security agencies present. Why did the reporter fail to mention this all important occasion in his story even as a tie-back to show that not only the state government officials use Hilux vans? What is more, why did the reporter fail to verify from his military sources whether the said vehicle bears the state government’s plate number which is an important detail that might give out the owner of the vehicle? So many loopholes in the story you may say. Even the fact that security agencies were fingered in the past to have aided banditry and even insurgency operation in the past was not enough clue for the reporter to be weary of the kind of sources whose story he would buy hook-line and sinker.
However, the apparent flaws in the story further expose the antics of those who have been benefiting from the insecurity that the state and its people have to endure over time. And such elements are many as they are powerful with armies of foot soldiers dressed in various garbs. The fight against the menace by Matawalle has consumed many traditional rulers, government officials and others who are within the state’s control including a former emir of Maru and many district heads. However, the rush for Zamfara gold which was said to have given birth to banditry has the backing of powerful personalities across all strata who are largely beyond the reach of Matawalle. These elements have been fighting back through their foot soldiers using all means, but whether they will succeed remains to be seen.