Unsettled by forces seeking to destroy his basic mandate of good governance and security of Zamfara State, Governor Bello Matawalle, threatened to unmask the sponsors. But this has since followed an uneasy calm, writes Louis Achi
A hugely relieved Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State had twitted penultimate Sunday: “Alhamdulillah! It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity. This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe.”
On February 26 2021, 279 female students aged between 10 and 17 were kidnapped in Zamfara State, Nigeria, in a raid by armed bandits at the Government Girls Science Secondary School, a boarding facility in Jangebe, Zamfara State. They were eventually released after different layers of interventions. Matawalle had correctly noted that security issues should always be seen and treated as everybody’s business.
Having ascended the throne as the legitimate governor of Zamfara State, he met a very dreadful security situation. Without any waste of time or blame game, he set about confronting the menace with great valour deploying his versatile, four-year experience as former Chairman House Committee on Security and Intelligence to good effect.
He kicked off with enervating meetings with critical stakeholders, different security outfits, from the National Police Headquarters, Abuja, meetings with the IG of police, President Muhammad Buhari and the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the Ex Minister of Defence, traditional leaders, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) leaders and CJTF and other key stakeholders.
With every consultation, a fact stood out that the crisis had taken ethnic dimensions most especially, after the creation of predominantly Hausa ‘Yan Sa-Kai vigilante groups by the former governor. Zamfara is one of the North West states affected by banditry.
A mix of the intensity of wanton criminal activity – kidnap for ransom, banditry and others in Zamfara State, culminating in the Jangebe kidnap pushed an angry Governor Mattawale to threaten to expose the shadowy sponsors. Many persons have been killed in the state and countless people abducted in attacks by different armed gangs. This was simply intolerable.
Governor Matawalle then threatened to shock Nigerians if he spoke out on those sponsoring bandits. “If I mention those behind Zamfara school kidnap, Nigerians will be shocked,” he said.
Matawalle, who spoke penultimate Sunday while playing host to 17 Emirs, who paid him a sympathy visit at the Government House in Gusau, the state capital, said he had many revelations about those behind the abduction as well as those who were not happy that he was negotiating with terrorists and bandits to bring peace to the state. His words: “They are not comfortable with the progress I am getting as a result of my peace initiative and they want to do all they can to sabotage my efforts. I will, Insha Allah, succeed at the end of the day and they will bury their faces in shame.”
More, he even offered to resign as governor, if taking such a step would bring a lasting solution to the high level insecurity in his state.
In a live television interview with Channels Television, the governor said, “If I know that my resigning as a governor will make the people sleep with their two eyes closed, I can resign. I am ready to do what will bring security. I am not power-hungry. I have been having a sleepless night to protect the people of Zamfara State.”
Since the Zamfara governor threatened to unmask the shadowy crises entrepreneurs, various stakeholders have been egging him on to go the whole hog and name names while some have saluted his courage.
The Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere; the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF); Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) and the Kaduna State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) took on Matawalle and challenged him to reveal their identity.
In a recent statement, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) spokesman, Emmanuel Yawe, stated: “About a week ago, ACF issued a press release calling on Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle to name the people collaborating with kidnappers and bandits in his state, saying he knew the collaborators and that Nigerians will be shocked to know them.”
Significantly, in a key break, a soldier and his girlfriend have been arrested in Zamfara for supplying arms and military uniforms to bandits. The deputy chief of staff to the Zamfara State governor said the arrest followed community-based intelligence.
The governor has also approved the removal of the Emir of Maru, Abubakar Chika and the district head of Kanoma, Lawal Ahmed, for allegedly giving support to bandits behind hundreds of deaths.
But a fact often glossed over by some stakeholders calling on Mattawale to spill the beans is that security is not prosecuted or procured using that strategy. It could even endanger the governor and worsen the situation in the state.
By working in close synergy with the security agencies, much can be achieved as demonstrated in the community-based intelligence revelations.
A former Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Security and Intelligence is certainly no push over when it comes to security matters, notwithstanding the constitutional hurdles in his way as the state’s chief security officer.