Some unsavoury exchanges have been taking place over the declaration of Zamfara State as a no-fly zone by the Federal Government. No sooner was the declaration made than the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) read politics into the action. It accused the Muhammadu Buhari presidency of plotting to declare a state of emergency in Zamfara State. The PDP wonders why the Presidency did not take any drastic measures when similar kidnappings took place in All Progressives Congress-controlled states.
Bello Matawalle, the governor of Zamfara State, was equally disturbed. He has said that the declaration of his state as a no-fly zone was unnecessary. He said it would solve nothing. Rather, he wants the Federal Government to fish out those who have been fuelling banditry in his state and prosecute them. Matawalle is equally suspicious of the Federal Government’s intention over the ban on mining activities in his state.
I smell politics in the unfolding drama. The PDP has accused the Presidency of bias and partisanship. In the same vein, Matawalle, who became governor in very unusual circumstances, is smelling a rat. He is probably suspicious that the APC, which lost power by default in the state, is plotting to take over by other means.
Reactions and interjections such as these are very unhelpful. They detract from the real issues afflicting Zamfara and some other northern states. In declaring Zamfara a no-fly zone, the Federal Government made an interesting observation. It said that helicopters have been dropping arms and foodstuff for bandits in Zamfara State. This is the catch.
The discovery should and ought to provide the Presidency the tools to work with. That is what has led to the imposition of no-fly zone on Zamfara. I had thought that the matter should be seen strictly from the point of view of security. We should be interested in whether this measure will solve the problem of banditry in Zamfara. If it does, we expect the Federal Government to replicate the measure in any other state that has a similar problem. When this becomes the case, the issue will be weaned of politics. But the measure has to start somewhere. Zamfara, under our circumstance, happens to be the place.
In fact, Matawalle should be encouraged by the position of some of his fellow governors from the North-West, like Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State who believes that the no-fly zone measure in Zamfara will improve and strengthen security in the entire North-West zone. As Ganduje reasoned, let us test the measure put in place in Zamfara before condemning it. We should not throw away the baby with the bathwater. Rather than split hairs over the situation, what needs to done is for the Presidency and the Zamfara State government to collaborate. This is especially so in the light of the fact that Matawalle has said that he knows those behind the kidnappings in the state. The Presidency should be interested in what Matawalle knows on this matter. Who are these saboteurs? Let Matawalle name them. Having done that, we expect the Federal Government to take up the matter and bring the culprits to justice. That is the way to go. Blame game will solve nothing.
It must be recognised that piecemeal approaches have not been able to solve the problem. Before now, Matawalle has toed the path of appeasement by paying ransom to the bandits. But that did not work. If anything, it hardened the criminals. Just the other day, Zamfara, indeed Nigeria, woke up to a shocking discovery that bandits had kidnapped over 300 schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe. The situation was very unsettling. Tongues wagged and conspiracy theorists had a field day.
Zamfara is certainly not alone in this mess. But what makes its case special is that the latest incident in the state has finally given the blight called banditry away.
Before the Jangebe incident, Nigerians had become suspicious of the scam called banditry in parts of northern Nigeria. They have been wondering how this act takes place so seamlessly. How could bandits swoop on a community, load human beings in trucks, and move to wherever they want without being accosted or detected by security agencies? Why have their operations been so clinical? The whole story has been sounding too smooth to be true. Nigerians have also been unable to understand why their country’s security forces cannot locate the hideouts of the bandits. In fact, we thought that the kidnappers were hiding in places that were unknown to security operatives, until Sheik Abubakar Gumi, their master and spokesman, told us that the security agents knew where the bandits were. Gumi’s revelation was suggestive. It gave the impression that there was more to this banditry than met the eyes.
But if we were unsure of the scam element in the entire drama, the Jangebe incident revealed it all. It laid banditry bare as a scandal that the country can ill afford. Perhaps, it took the shame of a country called Jangebe for the Presidency to bare its fangs. Its action was informed by chilling revelations about what has been going on in Zamfara State. Matawalle blurted out out of frustration. He pointed accusing fingers at high-profile Nigerians. That was on the heels of the Federal Government’s disclosure that helicopters had been dropping arms and foodstuff for bandits. Statements such as these offend the ears and decorum. Yet, they are the hard facts that we have to face. And in facing them, the Federal Government has decided to beam security searchlight on Zamfara State.
However, for some reason, Matawalle is not comfortable with what the Presidency has done. He believes that he knows the issue better and should have been taken into confidence. As the chief security officer of his state, the governor will naturally feel concerned on matters as testy as this. In that case, we expect that he should be in the picture on issues of security in the state. But then, the move from the Presidency is expected to help the Zamfara situation. In declaring Zamfara a no-fly zone, the Federal Government obviously set out to arrest the slide. It wants to save Zamfara from the hands of those holding the state hostage. With the no-fly zone declaration, the wings of those who have been deploying helicopters for arms and food supplies would be clipped. It is a welcome relief from a government, which Nigerians feel has not done enough to tackle the monster of insecurity in the country.
To further demonstrate that the Federal Government has finally woken up to the reality of the threat posed by insecurity in the country, the President has also ordered that any herdsman found carrying a AK47 rifle should be shot. With this declaration, the President is beginning to free himself from the charge of looking the other way while herdsmen ravage the country. What it will take for the presidential order to be effective is for security agents to follow up on the directive. If they do, the reckless and senseless killings that we have been subjected to by killer herdsmen will be a thing of the past.
Now that Zamfara is in the picture, Matawalle should move in and plug the loopholes where he fells the Presidency did not get it right. The overall objective will be to ensure that the bandits and their sponsors and collaborators are exposed. It is necessary for Matawalle to make full disclosure. If he does, he would have helped the Presidency in its resolve to flush out the anti-social elements. The Federal Government, on its part, should go beyond making Zamfara a no-fly zone. Having come to know that some saboteurs have been aiding and abetting banditry, it should make a scapegoat of them to deter others who harbour such criminal tendencies. Zamfara should serve as a test case in the resolve of the Buhari presidency to stamp out insecurity in the country.