In June 2009, the late wise, humane, urbane and peace-loving President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua granted unconditional amnesty to militants in the then troubled Niger Delta region. He had acted without delay on the recommendations of the Presidential Panel on Amnesty and Disarmament for Militants of the Niger Delta for peace to return to the oil-rich but poor region. The late leader followed suit with aggressive infrastructural development.
Unlike his military and civilian predecessors, who used brute force, killed hundreds of civilians in Odi and other places, Yar’Adua opted for dialogue, dealt directly with the militants instead of the leaders of the region who were fuelling the crisis.
He got instant results as the militants who became convinced of Yar’Adua’s sincerity and commitment to the peace deal, trooped to various designated centres to surrender their weapons and embrace the federal government’s peace offer. This was how the decades of war, killing and kidnapping in the region was brought to an end.
Ten years after that successful adventure, another wise man, a peace-lover and sincere leader has come on board in Zamfara State, replicating the Yar’Adua feat in less than three months in office.
Until the intra-party crisis that led to the then ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) abruptly losing the state through a Supreme Court judgement, not much was known of Governor Muhammed Bello Matawalle.
Soon after he was inaugurated on May 29, 2019, Matawalle settled down quickly for the serious business of governing the state that had become a war zone as kidnappers, cattle rustlers, and bandits made the Zamfara ungovernable. This was a time his colleagues in other states were still chasing shadows and blaming their predecessors for everything wrong.
If any governor should cry and bemoan the situation in his state, it should be Matawalle. He inherited virtually a dead state. Several villages and towns were seized and burnt by the bandits. They killed, maimed and displaced the people. All the security agents deployed in the state were overtasked and overstretched. Millions of naira were spent by the federal government to acquire war equipment for the military to curb criminality in the state. Tried as the military and the police could, the situation was not better.
Top state officials evacuated their families from Zamfara and took refuge in Abuja, the nation’s capital, where they administered the state.
Out of the blues came Matawalle with a strange peace talks and treaty with the bandits. The gesture was unexpected and his critics concluded that it was a step taken too far.
The governor found a willing and supporting ally, the state commissioner of police, Mr. Usman Nagogo. In no time, the duo worked out a peace arrangement between the bandits’ commanders, the local vigilantes and the Fulani community. All the parties to the crisis, including the notable Fulani body, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, were brought into a roundtable.
In response to the governor’s sincerity, there were spontaneous exchange of captives among the warring parties under the supervision of Governor Matawalle and CP Nagogo.
For the first time in many years, the bandits like the Niger Delta militants came out of the bush and surrendered no fewer than 216 rifles to the state government.
Now the guns are no longer booming in Zamfara, the military aircraft are no longer striking and mistakenly hitting civilian targets, fleeing residents are returning home and the state is rising from the ruins of kidnapping, banditry, and cattle rustling because a man of vision and peace has taken charge.
The governor and the police commissioner have clearly shown to the rest of Nigerians that they can make things happen through collaboration. Matawalle and Nagogo are indeed lessons in leadership. At a time, most governors lament and blame their inability to check security challenges in their states because the police do not report to them, Matawalle and Nagogo have changed the narrative.
In a recent report, Nagogo declared that banditry had gone down by over 90 per cent in Zamfara and attributed it to the ongoing peace and reconciliation initiative of the governor.
It has always been my conviction and other Nigerians alike that there is no state that cannot navigate its way out of trouble if its leaders can think out of the box, look inward, and be sincere and accountable in office.
Great leaders like Matawalle in my judgement don’t do good things, they do the right thing. History has shown that good things are not often right while the right things are not always good. But the right thing always lasts.
In the case of Zamfara State, the good thing to be done by any governor is to rush to the presidency for help, call for more security agents, weapons and money to crush the bandits. Others would have accused and blamed President Muhammadu Buhari and the security agencies for not doing enough for the state. For Matawalle, that is not the part to honour and peace. The right way and path is homegrown solution with the people as the key drivers. This is what Matawalle has done.
With this feat, other governors faced with the similar security challenges, can also make a difference if they think well and work with the people. Matawalle has proved that peace through dialogue is possible in Nigeria; and national and state leaders must learn from him.
To the governor, it is not time to sing Uhuru. There is still work to be done: the resettling of returnee villagers must be given priority; efforts must be made to create jobs for bandits and cattle rustlers, who have come out of the bush to lay down arms and embrace peace; the policing of the highways to check the activities of unrepentant bandits must be intensified.
Torchline advises the governor to suspend the completion of the Gusau Airport project until peace is fully restored in the state. The fund for the airport project should be used to rehabilitate the victims of the carnage, destroyed schools and other public facilities should be rebuilt. The people of Zamfara need a new lease of life.
Well done Governor Matawalle, well done CP Nagogo, two leaders born in due season.
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