Nseobong Okon-Ekong presents the views of Dr. Anas Sani Anka, the Chairman of Zamfara State Budget Working Group and Coordinator of the Zamfara State Civil Society Network, who thinks the state is manifesting all forms of political frustration that is driving its towards extinction
What is your assessment of the political situation in Zamfara State?
Our story in Zamfara is sad politically. It is sad because while people in the other parts of the country are undergoing new forms of political liberation with freedom to choose those who steer the affairs of their leadership institutions, in Zamfara it has been an extension of political slavery by those privileged political stooges who believed in the idea of political maginalisation and resource manipulation.
What exactly do you mean by political slavery and marginalization?
I am sure with the political scenario in the state which I know you are very familiar with, you will agree with me that Zamfara state especially under the watch of Governor AbdulAzeez Yari is heading toward what many political and social affairs commentators term “political extinction”.
The Governor, for instance, has succeeded in putting fear in the mind of the people, the few political elites who realized the negative direction Zamfara is heading and expressed readiness to support the desirable social and political changes are also subjected to all forms of political frustration at the level of judiciary and even the political party level.
The negative political scenario in Zamfara for the past five months especially as regards to the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) is highly worrisome and unanticipated. The Governor has demonstrated his high level of political immaturity of using force and power of money to actualize his political aspirations and this is impacting badly on the political atmosphere in the state.
If we are to talk about the crises in the ruling APC, how does that concern members of the civil society organizations who are seen as neutral and non-partisan?
Civil Society movement is all about people. Likewise, politics is about people. You can see the connection. Our role is to monitor politicians and the decision they take as well as measure the impact on the lives of the people. We must be concerned about the crises in the APC because it has almost brought things to a standstill in Zamfara state. The Governor has abandoned the state for the political fight with people of integrity simply because they have asked him to follow due process and do things legitimately for the overall interest of the development of the state.
Now because of the Governor’s political interest of fighting everyone around him simply because he wants to maintain his political status as someone who calls the shot in Zamfara politics, Zamfara has become like an arid land where people choose to flee due to economic doom and lack of social security. The most unfortunate thing about Zamfara again is the fact that the Federal Government of Nigeria has abandoned us to our fate.
Let us talk about the APC crises in Zamfara State. Do you think the decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept the candidates of Governor Yari would finally solve the problem?
You see, as members of Civil Society Organisations who watch with keen interest the way the whole crises of the APC primaries took place in Zamfara state, we are of the humble view that the judgment of Justice Bello Shinkafi led State High Court has further aggravated the political tension in Zamfara state. Though I am a student of power and politics not law, but I cannot see any logical reasoning in the judgment of Bello Shinkafi where he aligned himself with the unpopular argument that the primary election conducted by the state governor and state APC executives in Zamfara is legitimate. I cannot establish the legitimacy because the laws are very clear that the powers to conduct primary elections lies squarely with the National Working Committee of the party and not the state.
All of us are also witnesses to the testimonies by the Professor Fari and AVM Gana led electoral panels on Zamfara APC Primaries that the elections were not conducted within the timeframe stipulated by the electoral laws. How does Justice Bello establish the legitimacy; Yari conducted the primaries on the simple argument that he had to do that to avoid APC Zamfara losing its status in the 2019 elections?
The question is, do the laws empower him to conduct the primaries? Whether APC will run out of time or not that should be left for the APC National Working Committee to decide. We are all learned to some extent and we don’t have to read Law in school in order to understand simple logic and reasoning. The law says the Governor or any of his agents under the state structure do not have the powers to conduct the party primaries, except the NWC. That issue shall remain that way except it is amended.
But the National Working Committee has succumbed to the Governor by accepting Yari’s list on the ground that the Court of Appeal in Abuja has issued an order instructing INEC to accept the list of the candidates submitted by the Governor. What is your stake on that?
For me, the Adams Oshiomhole led National Working Committee has added to the political fire burning the state already by fielding candidates that emerged from the primary elections conducted by Governor Yari. First, it was the same Oshiomhole that issued a letter of instruction that all governors of APC and their agents should stay away from conducting party primaries and also he emphasized at different media briefings that primaries are to be conducted by the electoral panels sent by the APC NWC. We have those video clips with us. Suddenly he has conceded to what I may call “political threat of the Zamfara Governor” by accepting his candidates.
For me the Oshiomhole-led NWC is not fair to the group of eight (G8) candidates because the action resulted in the political embarrassment of the other contestants in the party and indeed their thousands of supporters. Again, the decision is also an indicator that there are very special people that can do and undo within the ruling APC and go scot-free.
Back to the issue of the court order, there are separate appeals by Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa and Aminu Jaji challenging the judgment of Zamfara High Court 3 and all parties including Oshiomhole- led NWC, INEC and Governor Yari faction of the APC have been placed on notice. By law, this means the matter is inconclusive hence the appellate court is awaited to decide on the judgment of the lower court of Zamfara state. Because of some legal permutations, Aminu Jaji decided to withdraw his appeal and allow that of Senator Marafa to remain on course. If INEC, Oshiomhole-led NWC and indeed Governor Yari have recognized the status of the Court of Appeal Sokoto I don’t see any reason why APC Zamfara shall be allowed to participate in the elections when there is an undetermined appeal?
So in my opinion, the APC NWC has helped strongly in crippling the hope of Zamfara people by reversing its earlier decision of restraining state Working Committee of the party and indeed Governors from conducting party primaries.
Now that APC has won the February 22nd Presidential and National Assembly elections in Zamfara, do you predict an end to the political crises in Zamfara APC?
The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari won election in Zamfara does not really interpret the verdict of the March 9th Gubernatorial and State Assembly Elections in Zamfara state. My facts are; one, President Muhammadu Buhari is a stand-alone pillar in the political journey of any state in Nigeria. He does not need the support of any corrupt-minded politician to win elections in any part of Nigeria. This theory has been tested in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and now in 2019. Rather, people like Abdulazeez Yari need Buhari and his political reputation to win elections at all levels.
Secondly, we are all witnesses to the types of political robbery that took place in the name of elections in Zamfara on Saturday 22nd February 2019. What happened was a clear demonstration of the political rejection the Governor and his political allies have suffered in the hands of the common people of the state. We have cases where ballot papers were denied to the people who have been accredited and ready to vote. We have experienced cases of ballot boxes being snatched and all forms of political thuggery just because the Governor wanted to win election by all means.
But I am telling you for the Governorship elections coming on the 9th of March 2019, people would legitimately resist all forms intimidation harassment and inducement in the name of elections. And very strongly if these group of eight (G8) unite themselves to support an alternative party for the Governorship race, take my word, APC may lose the governorship election in Zamfara.
Which party do you think they may likely support?
I don’t know because I am not part of them and I do not speak for them but I am sure they would gang up against the injustice of Governor Yari and surely the masses would rally behind them because people of Zamfara are agitating for realistic social and political change in Zamfara state.
But why are you people so much concerned about APC? Are there no other alternative political parties that are on the ground in Zamfara?
Of course there is Senator Saidu Muhammad Dansadau of NRM. He is on ground and he is campaigning vigorously, Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi of APGA is also on the ground campaigning, likewise Bello Muhammad Matawalle of the PDP is also on the ground campaigning but you know defeating a political kingship that lasted for more than a decade in states like Zamfara require strong and vibrant political alliance which may likely emerge before the gubernatorial elections.
Remember even the current Governor succeeded in defeating Mahmuda Shinkafi of PDP in 2011 because of the strong political alliance his political godfather Senator Yarima established in his favour, so time has come for the political power brokers in the state to rise up to the challenge and resist the types of political injustice manifested against them by the Governor and his political allies.
Are you saying the anointed candidate of Governor Yari is not popular in the state?
In my own opinion as a student of power and politics, the political predicament of the serving Governor especially his attitude toward his people may impact negatively on the chances of Mukhtar Koguna wining the Governorship elections in Zamfara more or less, there is high tendency the courts may nullify the verdict of the lower court in respect of the APC primaries in the state.
So you mean after the election, the status of the APC candidates may be reversed?
Surely, because it is a political suicide to participate in an election that a court of competent jurisdiction ordered you to stay action. Secondly, if the appeal by Senator Marafa succeeds it would be a good lesson for an erring political gladiator like Governor Yari.
There have been allegations of partisanship by INEC Zamfara especially the Resident Electoral Commissioner. How true is this?
We are working in synergy with other stakeholders to establish the substance of the allegations and as I speak to you there are significant facts we are gathering through some patriotic INEC staff in Zamfara which would be very useful for our engagement. It is so unfortunate the way Zamfara political show in 2019 has ended especially with the difficulty in establishing the neutrality of the major actors especially INEC. But this is a good ground to getting things work perfectly in Zamfara state in the future elections.
There are still cases of banditry and attacks on many parts of Zamfara while the political atmosphere in the state remains tensed. Do you think Governorship election would hold peacefully in Zamfara?
The question of whether governorship election would hold in Zamfara peacefully or not should be left for the security agencies to answer. Nevertheless, the resurgence of killings and abductions in the state is really a source of concern. And this is why Zamfara needs political stability to enable it re-strategize its security architecture. And I think this is why the Governor should understand that political instability is directly connected to issue social safety net of the people. You cannot achieve peace and stability under a political structure that is rejected by the majority of the people. The Governor should understand that, in politics, rejection by the people is an attribute of failure and when you run a government for close to eight years and your people reject you, then it is a positive conclusion that you have run a failed government.
You don’t impose yourself on people but what is legitimate is to allow people choose you. The case of President Muhammadu Buhari has vindicated this theory because Buhari has not imposed himself on the people but people looked for him and voted for him voluntarily.
If you are opportune to see the President what would you request from him on behalf of Zamfara people?
I will demand for one thing from President Muhammadu Buhari: supporting Zamfara people to institute good governance that would help the government at the center to address the lingering security crises in the state as well as strengthen the economy through agriculture, enhancing of small and micro businesses, reviving education, overhauling of the health sector and in general terms enhance the state revenue base through creation of investment opportunities. These are basically what we are lacking and every serious state government needs to have reliable blue print that defines its policy objectives toward these critical areas I mentioned.
What about the military aspects of the fight against the bandits in Zamfara?
I always argue that why Zamfara conflict could not be successfully ended is because the Governor and indeed all other actors in the security management of the state have this wrong perception of using military and police as the only option. In conflict management, it is always assumed that when people take arms against the state then certain social, economic and political policies are not functioning effectively.
Since the early stage of this conflict in Zamfara we have been advising the state government to decisively review its socio-economic policies, especially those on poverty reduction, employment generation, as well economic development. The government failed to listen and this is where we are today lamenting all the time.