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Banditry, Politics And Changing Narratives In Zamfara



UMAR MOHAMMED in this report writes on the political and insecurity challenges currently facing Zamfara State, stressing the need for stakeholders to think about the future of the state.

In recent times, Zamfara State has been in the news for the wrong reason.

Politically, the state is unstable. In fact, weeks after the conclusion of the governorship elections across the states where it held, Zamfara was about the only state where the indigenes and residents do not know who will succeed the outgoing Governor Yari.

The pre-election crises in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which ran into the period of election remain issues of litigation before the courts.

Besides this, the state has also lost scores of its residents to activities of bandits. The activities of the bandits which have been ongoing for several months are however, currently being checkmated by operatives of the Nigerian Army.

The Nigerian Army earlier in the month moved its troops deep into the forest in the state, killed 35 bandits and rescued 40 abducted people, including children and women in the state.

According to a statement by the Acting Force Information Officer of Operation Sharan Daji (OPSD), Major Clement Abiade, the military had engaged in operations designed to tackle banditry in Zamfara and other contiguous states.

He stated that no fewer than 18 suspected bandits’ informants, rustlers, kidnappers and logistics suppliers were also arrested.

The troops, he noted, have continued to dominate the Area of Operation with aggressive fighting patrols and conducting day and night patrols deep into the forest areas to deny the bandits freedom of action while building the confidence of the local population.

He noted that the intensity and redoubled efforts in the conduct of military activities were complemented by Exercise Harbin Kunama III, which commenced on April 1.

The OPSD spokesman said the operations have achieved tremendous successes, leading to the recovery of weapons, ammunition and rustled animals in various parts of their area of operation.

He disclosed that during the period, the air component of the operation carried out several air strikes around Kagara, Gando, Fankama, Fete and Dumburum Forests.

According to Abiade, the forests provide sanctuaries and hideouts where kidnapped victims are often hidden but the air strikes are precision activities designed to avoid collateral damage.

In furtherance of its operations, the Nigerian Army attached to Operation Harbin Kunama 3 also arrested the traditional heads of Doka and Mutu villages in Gusau Local Government Area of the state, accusing them of serving as informants to bandits.

The Army confirmed the arrest in a recent statement: “Troops on Operation Harbin Kunama 3, based on credible intelligence about bandits’ movements in Kirsa and Sunke in the Anka LGA, continued with a clearance operation into the hinterland to clear the brigands.

“Consequently, the troops engaged the bandits in a shoot-out at the bushes of Kirsa and Sunke villages which resulted in the extermination of six criminals, the recovery of two AK-47 rifles and two motorcycles.

“In Doka and Mutu villages in the Gusau LGA, troops also had a serious encounter on Saturday with a group of bandits which lasted for about two hours.

“The bandits were armed with sophisticated automatic weapons, but they were overpowered by the troops, forcing them to flee from their hideouts. Eighteen suspected informants to the bandits were arrested, including the village heads of Doka and Mutu villages.

“The Force Commander, Major General Hakeem Otiki, said the troops would continue to go after bandits in Zamfara and the contiguous states of Kebbi, Katsina and Sokoto.”

The people of Zamfata could easily describe the current political dispensation as unusual considering the way the politics of the state is going. Unlike what happened in the preceeding year to the 2015 general elections when members and supporters of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and then federal government-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were busy promoting their potential governorship aspirants.

LEADERSHIP recalled that in 2015, the situation was tensed, particularly as contenders for governorship from both parties were fully charged with campaign activities.

In the then ruling ANPP in the state, a member of the House of Representatives, Representing Gusau/Tsafe federal constituency Hon. Ibrahim Shehu Bakauye challenged a sitting Governor, Abdul-Aziz Yari, who was then seeking for second term.

The situation raised serious dust in the party and almost divided its members into factions.

The situation was also similar in the opposition PDP as the two powerful contenders, a former governor, Alhaji Muhmuda Aliyu Shinkafi and Hon. Bello Mohammed Mattawalle of the House of Representatives.

In fact, two months to the party primary to elect candidates to stand for the governorship and other key elective positions last year, political activities were relatively low.

Although, there are numerous contenders and pretenders in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), the politiking was nothing to write home about and it was worrisome to the political class and electorates.

The speculated names in the APC included, former Governor Muhmuda Aliyu Shinkafi, incumbent Deputy Governor, Malan Ibrahim Wakala, Senator Kabir Garba Marafa, Dr. Dauda Lawan Dare, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris, Hon. Muttaka Mohammed Rini, Hon. Aminu Sani Jaji, Amb. Abubakar Shehu Bunu and Hon. Lawal Hassan Anka.

This write up is intended to dwell on the activities of the ruling APC, more especially with dramatic nature of its activities therein.

The drama started within the party started when it resolved to conduct direct primary in nominating candidates for the general elections.

It is on record that APC congresses were polarised or manurvered, a situation that brought about the formation of two factions in the state.

The two factions, each with executives from ward to state, had submitted names of the state officers to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for recognition as each claimed authenticity.

LEADERSHIP findings revealed that the decision of the APC to adopt Option A4 in the conduct of its primary brought relief to the supporters of Marafa’s faction who were not comfortable with the party’s executive and government’s faction in the selection of the party’s candidate for governorship.

The two factions of the APC also had some other dividing factors, including the sharp disagreement beween Senator Marafa and Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari over the security challenge that enveloped the state.

It will be recalled that Marafa once accused Governor Yari of directly or indirectly supporting the banditry activities across the state.

The National Chairman of APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole  announced that henceforth, primary elections for the election of party’s flagbearers at various offices shall be conducted through direct elections in the states controlled by APC where every card carrying member would partake.

This, according to him, would bring about an end to the manupulation of few party delegates, as such card-carrying person must comply with the provisions of Article 9.1 of APC  Constitution of (October 2014 as amended).

This new approach is contained under section 20 (v) of the APC Constitution of (October 2014 as amended). Above all, section 87 (3 ) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended ) further strengthens  the decisions of the NWC as declared by the National Chairman of  APC on this direct primary election.

Therefore, every member of APC can vote for any aspirant during primaries, to all positions from councillorship, member of State House of Assemblies, Federal House of Representatives, Senate, Governorship and Presidency.

But, the move of the national chairman of the party was yet to address the problem of factionalisation of the party, like what obtained in Zamfara state where two factions emerged during the congresses.

Although, the general belief, no doubt is that the APC is likely to produce the next Governor, a lot of politiking has come to play as aggrieved stakeholders may act otherwise in the final election.

This is mainly based on the fact that ANPP (which among the political parties and groups that formed APC) has been forming government in the state since 1999 through the political weight of Senator Ahmad Snai Yarima.

But things appear to have taken a dramatic change even though APC is believed to be at the advantage of producing the next Governor in 2019, but the main issue of interest is who would make the day amongst the three political blocs of Governor Abdul-Aziz Yari, Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima and President Muhammadu Buhari.

Governor Yari who is serving his second term is beleived to have been creating his own political group within the APC in the state. There is no doubt that he has hijacked the APC structures at all levels. There is no other way to interpret the story other than to conclude that he has thrown Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima’s political influence into a waste paper basket. Therefore, the senator has gone behind scene politically as he now wields no influence at the state and national politics of the APC, unlike before.

The aspirants to various political offices are now clamouring around Governor Abdulaziz Yari putting on their political armour and wielding their political weapons for the grand duel.

Consultations upon consultations have been going on within and outside the state up to the extent of chasing the Governor to Saudi Arabia, where he once traveled to.

This writer therefore beams his searchlights on Zamfara political arena and discusses some of the frontline issues that have been neglected by most analysts in the state’s political field. There are more than a dozen contenders to the state Government House from APC alone not to mention of other political parties even though some political analysts are pointing out that the tide may shift following negative factors from the ruling party. These factors include insecurity that has enveloped the state.

There is also another factor pointing to the fact that internal crisis may tear the party apart in the state since there is a very strong indication that the governor may not hand over power to his deputy, Mallam Ibrahim Wakkala due to reasons best known to the him even though they have been piloting the affairs of the state together since 2011.

However, one cannot ignore what is happening within the government led by Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari. As far as APC is concerned in the state, all eyes are on the Governor to produce who would replace him. Though, Zamfara people have so much respect and admiration for Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima the unexpected may happen.

For Senator Kabiru Marafa, he is banking on the presidential influence as he was beleived to be part of the Buhari’s chicken cabinet. Though, it is unclear whether or not the national chairman of the party would intervene in favour of Marafa.

But even if the presidency and national leadership of the party have interest in the lawmaker, such ougth to be with caution, as he is neither with Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima nor the Governor but he is a lone ranger even though some political analysts are of the view that he may defect to another party to realise his ambition as he did in 2011 when he defected from PDP to ANPP and won the Zamfara Senatorial election defeating the PDP’s candidate, Senator Hassan Mohammad Nasiha.

Other governorship hopefuls are former Governor Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi who is bidding to complete his second tenure, the state Commissioner for Education, Hon. Muttaka Muhammad Rini, Hon. Hassan Anka representing Anka/Talata Mafara in the House of Representatives, a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, Engr. Abu Magaji and the Former First Bank Executive Director, Dr. Dauda Lawal Dare.

However, a reliable and competent source said that both the Governor and Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima, the two political gladiators in the ruling party have agreed that the next Governor would come from Zamfara Central zone that has never produced any governor since 1999, saying that, the Deputy Governor was the candidate of Senator Yarima whom the reliable source said Governor Abdulaziz Yari rejected outrightly.

The same source hinted that any person that served with the governor might not be considered since Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima rejected the candidate of the governor who he said was the State Commissioner of Finance, Hon. Idris Shehu. Since then, the people of the state have been put in the dark over who would be APC governorship candidate as things have fallen apart between the governor and senator over who becomes the party’s flag bearer for 2019 governorship election which the source said that a candidate must definitely emerge no matter what happens.

However, it was gathered that, since both the senator and the governor have not agreed on a common candidate, it is being suggested that Former First bank Boss, Dr. Dauda Lawal Dare may be anointed to fly the APC flag in 2019 but no statement from both the governor and the senator has been made public regarding who would be the party’s candidate.

Although, all the contenders for the plum job have not relaxed their efforts even though it is very much clear that there are contenders and pretenders yet many of them have no business in politics but they are in politics because it is the easiest means to make money in Nigeria’s politics, that is why they are being described as pretenders.

But the politics of Zamfara remains that whosoever, the powers that be have anointed would definitely run away with victory no matter how incompetent they may be. That is the contemporary and timid politics we are seeing in the state.

Most observers of Zamfara politics and analysts have pointed out that lack of ingenuity remains the negative factor that have denied the state the chances of standing alone without the federal allocation making the economic factor and the feeling of dissatisfaction with life, the nucleus of crimes in various senses and fashions in the Sharia state.

Poverty will continue to be a source of dissent that can be expressed in lawlessness in every society. In Zamfara state, most of the youth are unemployed and where employed, the gains are very minimal. Many youth are now venting their frustrations through crimes and violence, putting in mind basically their future.

But democracy and politics are twin sisters that must be viewed with good vision. Yet, people in the corridors of power do not understand themselves very well and do not speak with one voice to produce a credible and competent leader. They have forgotten that without this issue, insecurity and poverty would continue to reign until harmony prevails.

Whatever be the case, Zamfara people have to mend the fence especially the electorate who are always at the receiving end. The progress of any society depends largely on the ability of the people to organize themselves, evaluate and monitor who they voted for and the events that would facilitate the desired positive objectives and goals of democracy.