Saturday comment2

Ahmad Yerima, former governor of Zamfara, is still in charge of the state’s politics, writes Kayode Oyelade

Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima is the Father of Zamfara Politics. Ever since the beginning of the Fourth Republic he has bestrode the political field of the Northwest and indeed the entirety of the North like a colossus.

More than any politician of his generation, Yerima has continued to play an inalienable fatherly role in Zamfara politics, transmogrifying from a relatively quiet individual in 1999 to the father figure that he is today.

He was the first elected governor of Zamfara State —two others who have governed the state after him were his scions—they ascended the throne under his tutelage. It is incontrovertible—no narration of Zamfara politics without the mention of Sani Yerima is complete. Virtually all the governorship candidates from all the different political parties cut their political teeth under Yerima.

Apart from the fact that he is a major factor in the creation of Zamfara State, he has remained a rallying point in Zamfara politics and Nigeria as a whole. Suffice to state unequivocally that he has over the years nurtured to maturity an army of politicians in the state, who have taken up political offices in the state and at the national level.

All the recent governorship candidates in the state are his political sons and he has refused to take side. Yerima cannot afford to take side in the field of Zamfara politics for many reasons. All the current power players are virtually members of the Sani Yerima political family. And it would seem preposterous for a patriarch to take side among his political offspring.

This explains why after the Court of Appeal ruled that Zamfara APC could field candidates in the 2019 election that he made a statewide broadcast. The broadcast was what many of his admirers have since been commending him for as a true political father of the state which at a point was looking doomed politically.

“As you all know, since when these issues were going on, I remained silent but at the same time, going up and down to ensure that the issue is resolved and in our favour. But now that it is over, I deemed it imperative to voice my mind thereby calling on all the teeming contenders to these races to accept this verdict in good faith as destined by Allah SWT,” Yerima said as he appealed to his people.

In rounding off his broadcast, he solicited votes for his party’s candidates in all the elections—a true party man—his admirers have always praised him for always identifying with his party. “I want to once again congratulate all members of APC in the state and also want to urge them to come out enmasse to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari, our three senators and House of Representatives members in the coming election and thereafter, vote for governor and state assembly members,” he said.

Irrespective of political party, Yerima has always been adopted by political gladiators in the state as a political life force upon which their fortune could attain traction or trajectory. It would not be out of place to assert that the very foundation of the political career of the incumbent was built on the Yerima political soil.

And throughout the two term governorship of Abdulazeez Yari, Yerima has been acknowledged as the virtual bedrock of that successful dispensation. Even recently, it was Senator Yerima who facilitated or initiated a reconciliation and peace meeting between his political godson Governor Abdulaziz Yari and APC National Cha irman Adams Oshiomole bringing the National leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to resolve political differences between the two warring personalities as a result of the rancour emanating from the state primary elections.

Despite not belonging to the same political party with the former Governor Yerima, most of the political party candidates of that state printed posters and added his (Yerima’s) picture to their own in an apparent attempt to convince the electorate in Zamfara that they have the blessing and or endorsement of this political juggernaut. He is such a rallying point and force no one ignores in the state.

In addition, no agenda setting or political calculation regarding the Northwest is complete without Yerima being factored in. Such is the extent of his stature and influence.

Cerebral and forward looking, Yerima has also been successful because he has never been afraid of any battle. His ability to weather the storm generated sometimes ago by the Sharia controversy is a good case in point.

In an interview a while ago in Abuja, Yerima allayed the controversy surrounding his introduction of sharia law. Yerima said: “I will say sincerely that I introduced sharia with the best of intentions as a Muslim because the legal system is acceptable to Islam. The intention was not to Islamize those that are not Muslims in Nigeria. I did it because I knew my people needed it to check the wrongs of the society.

“Frankly, I never anticipated that the sharia introduction would attract such huge attention in Nigeria and internationally because it was just meant for the people of my state who are Muslims and wanted it.

“But I was so surprised at the international outrage and attack of the system. It got so bad that in one week, I received not less than 5000 protest petitions against the introduction of sharia from the Amnesty International. And that was just part of the larger attention that came with it. However, I did not stop the implementation because I was sure the move was right and we needed the sharia legal system to correct errors in our state.”

What would amount to Yerima’s vindication even after the anger and disagreements that greeted the introduction of the law came when about 12 states of the country went ahead to adopt sharia.

At every given opportunity Yerima has never hesitated to stress his commitment to Nigeria as a multi-faith society. According to Yerima, “All non-Muslims in Zamfara are able to choose civil law rather than Sharia law when faced with legal proceedings. Rights of non-Muslims to pray, preach and build places of worship were secured and reinforced.” In short, the ideal of freedom of worship was guaranteed in Zamfara despite the Sharia dispensation. At the end of the day, it was discovered that the furore that greeted the Sharia issue was like making a mountain of a molehill.”

At the national level, Yerima has over the years been very relevant in lending his voice and muscle to topical national issues. If he’s not speaking on the issue of fuel scarcity, rehabilitation of Nigerian refineries and turning things around based on the All Progressives Congress change mantra, Senator Yerima is voicing opinion on issues of national security and people’s welfare.

And his belief in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has never been in doubt. Recently he said: “Anybody that expects or wants Buhari to be there in four years and leave is not thinking properly. The problems with Nigeria won’t take four years to solve. If we really want change from him, we should make up our mind that he being there for eight years would make that difference. I mean it. He needs eight years.”

And contrary to what might have been assumed by the ignorant, Yerima’s influence goes beyond the religious divide. He has his own numerous handshakes across Nigeria and many are of the opinion that a future of greater national service still beckons much as he has the requisite experience and intellectual capacity to handle greater responsibilities than that of a state.

Ahmad Rufai Sani Yarima has tested the waters before. For instance in 2007, he put his name forward to be the ANPP candidate for the presidential election that year. What was surprising was that this so-called proponent of Sharia even won backing from the Christian Alliance. But he had to withdraw from the contest at the party’s 2007 national convention to back former Head of State Muhammadu Buhari as the ANPP candidate.

Yerima was eventually elected senator representing Zamfara West constituency for the All Nigeria People’s Party in April 2007. He has since served on committees such as that of Selection, Federal Character & Inter-Government Affairs, Drugs and Narcotics, Anti-corruption and Agriculture.

In whatever capacity, Yerima has always exuded the image of a man of honour and a reliable power broker. The future definitely is bright for this son of Zamfara State and veritable citizen of Nigeria. And one thing is even clearer: his influence and position as the primus inter pares in Zamfara is secure. Here is one man Zamfara should be proud of having as a son.