Yari Turns Over a New Leaf  

Abdulaziz Yari

Nseobong Okon-Ekong writes that the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari has started to act in a different manner, professing peace; away from the combative disposition displayed when he was in office

Former Zamfara State Governor Abdulaziz Yari may have turned over a new leaf from being headstrong and belligerent, as he gradually moves towards becoming a pacifist. Not too long ago, the media was awash with stories of vicious attitudes exhibited by Yari. More than once, he carried on with the understanding that being aggressive was the right thing to do. In an infamous incident which was widely reported, the former governor who also doubled as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum dived into the gutter to hurl abuses at the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC). Yari was reported saying, “If the father and mother of Oshiomhole born him well, let him and his team come to Zamfara to conduct any primary. He will be killed. Myself inclusive, we will go down the grave tomorrow.” That inelegant statement, placed himself in a gauche situation.

In fairness to Yari, perhaps it was the pressure to get a hold on the affairs of the APC in Zamfara that brought out the instinctive violent aggression in him. For much of the time, he remained calm until the opposition within his party took the battle to him and it was beginning to be clear that he had to fight back. At another time, there were protests by youths in Abuja, Kaduna and London against Yari. Though he blamed it on the sheer overzealous desire of Zamfara politicians to hijack power without due process, he still conceded the right to freedom of expression to the protesters. “I am not in any way saying that the protesters have done anything wrong by making their grievances known to the public because it is their constitutional right,” he said.

Yari governed a state that metamorphosed from a sleepy setting to a theatre of the absurd with bandits who are on a dastardly orgy of killing, kidnapping and maiming in different communities in the state. Much of the resources of the state (including help from the Federal Government) was deployed to stemming the tide of these violence, albeit without much success. The Zamfara of Yari’s era, which is not so long ago, brought home the telling tales of the aftermath of viciousness. Much of the news about the North-western state was about the complete breakdown of law and order, occasioned by the reign of terror unleashed on hapless citizens in many communities by bandits.

Zamfara continues to be a theatre of war, even after the exit of Yari. As one of the fronts in which some of the fiercest violent confrontations are currently taking place in the country, Zamfara still very much needs all the peace initiatives that can be mustered.

Having taken his leave of governance, Yari has a breakout moment that fires his inspiration to pursue and support initiatives for peace. Today, the former the immediate past Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum is in the spotlight as one of the people reshaping politics with a conversation on peace. He has accepted to guide the Youth Culture and Human Dignity Initiative being championed by television personality, Mr. Cally Ikpe.

Ikpe said he was challenged to action when he observed that the challenge of violence had transformed from being a concern of mainly a section of the country and has gradually turned into a national nightmare that threatens everyone. “Until recently, the dominant themes had been militancy and the Boko Haram menace, but today, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, and the herdsmen crisis have risen to an all-time high that commands international mention. While various factors have been cited as being responsible, the common consensus has remained that the crisis would have been less volatile but for the involvement of too many youths who have continued to serve as ready arsenals in the hands of terror merchants. Efforts, therefore, to rid our nation of violence have long moved from being a sole concern of government as many more institutions and individuals have unwittingly joined in the campaign.”

In 2016, the ‘Road to a Violence-free Nigeria’ campaign was launched by the Youth Culture and Human Dignity Initiative, first at Ile Ife, then later at the peace icons event which attracted thousands of youths at the Eko Hotels in Lagos, where His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, Ooni of Ife, and former Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Emeka Anyaoku took centrestage to preach peace to the youths in attendance. The participation of these two eminent persons set the tone for the engagement of national and legendary figures in the Road to a Violence-free Nigeria. Ikpe, the Convener therefore set his mind on Abdul’Aziz Abubakar Yari who was then the Governor of Zamfara State. The many efforts to get his attention finally yielded as he first featured as guest on the programme, ‘Talking Violence’, hosted by Ikpe and thereafter accepted to become a patron of the initiative.

In his acceptance remarks as patron, Yari noted, “What is the gain in engaging in something you are certain will come back to hurt you? This is the reality of violence and it makes no sense to apply it as a means to anything. I am bothered that many young people are lending themselves to this ugly phenomenon. I am pleased therefore that the youths are being targeted with a programme that promotes the culture of non-violence. I am indeed proud to be identified with the campaign for a violence-free Nigeria.”

Surely, it’s a brand new day
The significance of Yari as patron stems from his direct experience with violence while he served as governor of Zamfara State and as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. It is common knowledge that Zamfara State has suffered severely in the hands of bandits who have slaughtered more than 1000 people over a period of six years just as they burn down houses and halt economic activities intermittently. Yari is stunned at the sophistication of the weaponry deployed by these bandits who are mostly youths with unimaginable guts. He believes much more ingenious measures are required to tackle the menace as military solution alone has not worked. On his part, he laid a pragmatic foundation based on a carrot and stick approach with caution as the watch word, being that too many civilian lives are on the line.

While he has not ruled out the culpability of desperate politicians exploiting any and every situation to their advantage, he believes reorientation of mind-sets will work incredibly to check the spate of killings across the country. It is fundamental to him that youths find no attraction to violence as an alternative to earning a living, a trend he believes is best anchored on empowering women. This is perhaps why he was bent on initiating a special empowerment programme for women at the twilight of his administration. According to him he sees more transparency in women than in men and would therefore readily trust them more with resources than their male counterparts. The possibility therefore that youth empowerment will spread is better anchored on women.

Concerning his role at helping to check the spate of violence, Yari believes it is incumbent on every responsible citizen, regardless of whether he or she is in position of authority or not. “I have therefore continued to engage with various stakeholders in my private capacity as part of efforts towards ridding our society of this scourge. I am particularly supportive of this cause (the Violence-free Nigeria Initiative) as part of my commitment to the peace process. Seriously, this initiative (Road to a Violence-free Nigeria) is deserving of all the encouragement. I enjoin everyone to speak out against violence. We must never get tired of condemning violence in its entirety.”

Interestingly, the Abuja home of Abdul Aziz Yari continues to be busy despite leaving office. His residence has consistently played host to many serving and past governors, traditional rulers, leadership of the national assembly (Senate and the House of Representatives); something Yari ascribes to his disposition as a fence mender, bridge builder and enabler of visions. It is a tendency he believes is in tandem with national cohesion, prosperity and unity of Nigeria. While the Abdul Aziz Yari persona and phenomenon looms, it remains to be seen what major placement the political atmosphere holds for this giant in Nigerian politics.ri