ZAMFARA GOVERNOR’S MISPLACED PRIORITY

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The government should prioritise projects that will impact the mass of the people

That Zamfara is one of the most traumatised and backward states in Nigeria today is not in doubt. Governor Bello Matawalle seemed to have a grasp of the enormity of the task ahead, as outlined in his acceptance speech last month. He had promised to tackle insecurity, resuscitate the state’s comatose educational sector, provide free healthcare to women and children, among other people-oriented agenda. After his assumption of office on May 29, he should have set in motion the machinery to translate those declared objectives into fruition, as they are some of the most critical necessities of the state at present.

Instead, Matawalle has prioritised airport development and given it 100 days to take off because, according to him, that is crucial to the social and economic advancement of Zamfara. Ordinarily, the directive could be seen as an indication of a new chief executive eager to perform, considering the fact that the project was first proposed more than a decade ago during the administration of former Governor Mahmud Shinkafi and had featured in many of the budget proposals of his predecessor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Abubakar Yari.

However, the sad realities of Zamfara at the moment would surely not lend credence to elitist, funds-guzzling ventures like airport. The state has been consistently brutalised by bandits, kidnappers, armed robbers and rustlers. At the height of their reign of terror in November last year, former Governor Yari announced to a bewildered nation that 53 people were killed in Shinkafi Local Government Area; 50 in Maru Local Government; 37 in Maradun Local Government and 15 in Zurmi Local Government alone – all in less than one month. At the same time, over 50 people were kidnapped. Only last weekend, 34 persons were murdered in vicious attacks on Tungar Kafau and Gidan Waya in Shinkafi Local Government.

In the midst of these afflictions and bloodshed, a state government can contribute meaningfully to achieving tranquility, even though internal security is largely a federal government responsibility. Since a peaceful environment is a key prerequisite for the wellbeing and progress of the people, the government of Zamfara State must pursue it vigorously.

Matawalle and his team should also be preoccupied with enhancing schooling. A Federal Ministry of Education official revealed that only 28 candidates from the state sat for the National Common Entrance Examination into the nation’s 104 unity schools last year. The bankrupt system which produces that kind of mediocre and shameful record needs both intensive and extensive attention urgently. No effort should be spared in mentally equipping the youths to enable them to face the mounting difficulties of the present and future. They have remained parasitic for too long. Further abandoning them would unwittingly feed the monstrous criminalities the country is now saddled with.

The health sector in Zamfara is equally miserable. Last year, the former Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, announced that the state had only 23 medical doctors working in its 24 hospitals. Not even the 100 doctors and 322 nurses the immediate past government reportedly employed or the renovation of Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across the state can adequately address years of official neglect, hence the challenge to reinvigorate the processes and initiate fresh ones. Besides education and health, great efforts should be directed at keeping the populace positively engaged in order to make crimes less attractive to them and place Zamfara on the path of sustainable growth.

With the state’s poor finances and persistent volatility, establishing an airport is clearly ill-advised. Existing ones in Sokoto, Birnin Kebbi and others within the zone can be utilised by Zamfara. Governor Matawalle must realise that saving his state from complete collapse requires a demonstrable responsible leadership that takes into account prudent spending.