Hands Up in the Air

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Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that Governor Abdul’Aziz Yari of Zamfara State has been carrying on like one throwing darts in the dark; totally confused and admitting that he cannot do anything to make the worsening situation in his state better

Could it be that Nigerian governors were fascinated with Abdul’aziz Yari’s unusual feat of going into a contest with his father in-law twice and defeating him for that number of times that they made him first among equals? For a group that is not known to zone its leadership, the choice of Yari, the Zamfara State Governor to lead it remains a mystery. Coming from a state that has neither influence nor affluence, it can’t also be said that Yari possesses personal charm or charisma that can conjure the kind of respect bestowed on him. Whether in the academic, professional, politics or business arena, the Zamfara State Governor is not known to command a distinct presence that can turn opinion in his favour.

Despite all these short comings, however, it must be said that Yari retains a huge reserve of native intelligence that appeals to his people and completely disarms his political foes. While his profile in politics may not be outstanding, there is no gainsaying that he steadily garnered the necessary experience and useful contacts to stand him in good stead at critical times. Quick to latch on to opportunity where he sees one, the defection of the former Zamfara State Governor Mahmud Shinkafi to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in January 2009, provided such a chance. Shinkafi’s exit left a large void, as he went away with the entire ANPP state executive committee. To fill the vacuum, the ANPP National Headquarters in Abuja was forced to create a Caretaker Committee headed by Yari.

Having consolidated his hold on the state with that position, Yari was ready to show the stern stuff he was made of when it was time for elections. For the first time, the Zamfara populace saw in him a man who did not pander to family sentiments and was ready to call a spade by its name. No one thought Yari would stand his ground to challenge his father in-law and the then incumbent Governor Shinkafi, but he turned down every appeal and decided to lock horns with the father of his wife. The election ended in his favour. Yari scored 514,962 votes to Shinkafi’s 460,656 votes. That was when many started to take note that Yari can be calculating and meticulous in scheming for an advantage.

Yari may be advertised as one of the revelations of the Fourth Republic. His political career began in 1999 with the dawn of the current political dispensation. He served as the Secretary of the then All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) between 1999 and 2003. He was elected Chairman of ANPP Zamfara State in 2003 and later rose to the position of ANPP National Financial Secretary and served in this position till 2007 when he was elected as member representing Anka/Talata Mafara Federal Constituency from 2007 to 2011 in the House of Representatives.

On April 26, 2011, Abdul’aziz Abubakar Yari was elected Governor of Zamfara State on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). He was returned to office in the 2015 gubernatorial elections on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). On May 18, 2015, Yari’s colleagues in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum elected him as their Chairman. He succeeded Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who previously governed Rivers State and now serves as Minister of Transportation.

In 2018, Zamfara tied with Ogun State as second from the bottom of the federal revenue allocation ladder, apportioned a paltry N2.9 billion. Internally Generated Revenue data computed by the National Bureau of Statistics and the Joint Tax Board shows that Zamfara had N1.79billion disaggregated IGR collection in the third quarter of 2018. However, the state proposed a 2019 budget bill of N135.326 billion to the state House of Assembly. This is the gloomy picture of the Zamfara economy which has not been reversed by succeeding governors since 1999. The state largely lives on borrowed money. The depressing state of affairs has further been compounded by the increasing incidents of violence, which steadily crept in and has become widespread and even uncontrollable in the last four years.

Unfortunately, Zamfara has earned for itself an incomparable notoriety. It’s former Governor (now Senator) Ahmed Sani Yerima, in November 2000 unilaterally introduced full sharia to the consternation of the rest of the country, as it became a sour point and divisive instrument till today. Yerima’s action awakened the rest of the largely, Muslim Northern states to the possibility of an exclusive Islamic state, leading to unpleasant episodes of bloodletting which has continued unabated. Yerima also made news by marrying a 13 year-old Egyptian girl. Many Nigerians were taken aback to learn from the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, that Zamfara State, with 14 local government areas and an estimated population of 3.8million had only 24 hospitals and 23 doctors. The consequence of this can be exemplified when Zamfara became the worst hit from the scourge of meningitis that attends the dry season in many parts of Northern Nigeria. In the history of Nigeria, Zamfara has the unenviable record of a Chief Executive who publicly abdicated his constitutional role as the Chief Security Officer of the state. Though, Yari has since given different interpretations to this statement, he continues to carry the stigma associated with it.

It is regrettable that a state like Zamfara that urgently needs a caring governor has been consistently managed by persons who callously squander its meagre resources on personal fancies, plunge the state into more debts and prefer to live outside the state. Every governor following Yerima has continued with this style of profligacy. Shinkafi kept that track record, but Yari has taken it to a whole new level of infamy, which is compounded by extraneous circumstances, arguably beyond his control.

That is not to say that the situation is totally hopeless. If he had stayed more at home, attending to the duties he was elected for, Yari could have recorded some appreciable impact to stem the tide of wanton kidnappings, robberies, terrorism, killings or armed attacks in the state. The Zamfara situation is fast becoming cataclysmic with the reported loss over 11000 lives and 5000 sacked communities! No governor can govern a state successfully if he resides outside. While his predecessors were inadvertently lucky to rule without irrepressible opposition, the ineptitude of Yari has emboldened a growing number of defiant voices, ably personified by Senator Kabiru Marafa, who represents Zamfara Central. Backed the human rights community in Zamfara who have been crying to the world on the deteriorating state of affairs, Yari is not so lucky, but he has responded by deploying bullying tactics or juicy enticements. He has successfully brought the state house of assembly under his feet; freely dictating to the members what he wants them to do. However, his cruel character was fully exposed in the period leading to and after the primary of the APC in Zamfara, when there were conflicting information on the suitability of the party’s candidates to contest in the national elections. In one of the no-holds barred public comments, Yari made filthy statements about the National Chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

OFF THE CUFF:

· “No. I don’t know whether that (his reported plan to quit) is a joke or otherwise. But for me, if you check my history since 1998, APP, and 2002 when Buhari joined ANPP, and 2015 APC, no time that I defected from one party to another. That is not in my culture. The issue of leaving the party is not true. But some people are sending rumour through social media. I have seen my picture with the PDP and other parties. I cannot deny that there is pressure from the people that we should leave the APC but what I told them is that what we are looking for is just justice.”

Yari denying insinuations that he was planning to defect from the APC

* “We would not accept any election to hold in the state without APC candidates. The recent court judgment has made it clear that there were primary elections in Zamfara State and that candidates were presented to the INEC, but yet the lists were not released for reasons best known to it. Zamfara State is a stronghold of APC and besides all our actions were based on court order; we are advising INEC to obey the order and come out with the list of APC candidates in the state.”

Yari reacting to his party’s purported exclusion from the 2019 national elections

*”I was not being political, we are talking about human lives here. If that is what will stop this thing, I am ready to step down.”

Yari declaring his support for a state of emergency in Zamfara

“We heard that the committee of the chairman is not in consultation with any working committee. He (Oshiomhole) is trying to be a kind of mini-god…The committee he sent to Zamfara state, I want to say it categorically, they should never step into Zamfara for one minute. I, Abdulaziz Yari, governor of Zamfara state, head of government and security, I am saying that the committee sent by Oshiomhole to come and do a dirty job should not dare come into Zamfara state. We are ready, including myself, to be taken to the graveyard tomorrow. If he knows that his father and mother gave birth to him, he should send those people and see and it is fight to finish.”

Yari warning the National Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress set up to conduct a fresh governorship primary not to visit the state

“The economy of the state has seriously suffered because thousands of shops were destroyed by the rampaging bandits who had displaced thousands of our people from their places of abode, many of whom cannot sleep with their two eyes closed because of fear.”

Yari recounting the consequences of banditry on state

“I have said it times without number, I am the first Chairman, who oversaw the pioneer direct primaries in Osun State with 18 candidates contesting for the governorship position of the state. They were all high profiled candidates including the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, many former Permanent Secretaries, the Speaker of the State Assembly and the Secretary to the Government of the state. I have said it repeatedly that if my colleagues can accept direct primaries, it is the simplest system that will involve every member of the party.”

Yari announcing one his achievements as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum

“It is imperative to note that the governors’ forum under my chairmanship and the National Economic Council under the chairmanship of the Vice President have agreed that borrowing is never a reliable alternative to solving our economic problems.” The Zamfara State governor, said that in order for states to meet their obligations, tax laws must be strengthened to bring in more revenue. Another issue raised by Governor Yari in his speech was the challenge faced by states over the payment of the N30, 000 new minimum wage. Yari said the federal government should ensure that key revenue earning agencies like the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Federal Inland Revenue Service, Custom Service and other sister agencies are made to function efficiently and optimally to increase revenue returns.”

Yari explaining why the states and federal government have resolved to discourage borrowing

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