A return to Zamfara

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WITH UCHE NNADOZIE

The state is the last by alphabetical order. Yet its governor is the first in Nigeria because he is the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. There has never been any good news about that state; at least not in the last three years. If there is, I will like to know, but so far nothing points to any good deed or plan. Zamfara is a typical wretched of the earth. In my book, the worst state in Nigeria in terms of human development index. The state scores few in virtually all indicators. A state with less than ten doctors in a landmass that is more than ten times that of Lagos. The population isn’t few either.
Unofficially there should be up to four million residents in that state.
Zamfara’s problem started early in this republic. In our country, religion is often a subject that is usually not subjected to thorough analysis. We jump and pass, as the parlance go. Or we pretend that it isn’t a problem. Christians claim that the religion is a way of life; so do Muslims. And in a state with majority Muslim population, the introduction of Sharia in the early years of this fourth republic put the people in a particular bracket. Not that there is anything wrong with Sharia in the first place, but you know the way with politicians, most things they touch they bastardize. Well of course they would have achieved their agenda- which is usually political before people will see through the façade. Yet, the damage would have been done.
Political sharia is what it was later called. But more attention was not paid to the real “way of life” of the people. As times went by, the reality of everyday struggles came to the fore. The challenges of eking out a living beyond the fancy of religion began to take its toll. More importantly, governance issues like good neighborliness, conflict resolution, security, job creation, etc became important milestones of how to measure progress in a society that is constantly evolving. I do not think that Zamfara had shed its old ways. I doubt if there are indices to show a new way of thinking this past years.
And that is why bandits or by whatsoever other name could unleash terror on Zamfara communities with very little push back. I will be lying if I pretend that government has not put in a shift or two in trying to curb the security challenges of the area. But where a governor decides to be comical in the face of high criminality and body count of his citizens continue to mount, then such an individual needs serious help.
Since the crisis in Zamfara state took a drastic proportion, I have not seen (I may be wrong) any concerted effort, work plan or agenda to resolve the crisis at the community level. There has been no engagement of note, no actions in relation to peace building and conflict resolution. What we have had is a push for deployment of war assets and the deserved anger towards the commander-in-chief. I have no doubt in my mind that the federal authorities have failed in stemming the Zamfara mayhem. Strategy may be one of the issues, yet they have failed in spite of various interventions so far. As we are aware, nobody is a citizen of a state, you can only be citizen of a country- that is why President Buhari can never be absolved from the mess on ground. Yet today, I am more concerned about what Governor Yari has done, or what has not been done.
Yari has not shown leadership, just like his Benue counterpart. The Zamfara governor is aloof and hardly spends time in Gusau. He is always in Abuja doing one national politicking or the other. He has never sat down even in Abuja to showcase his articulation of the issues behind the crisis, what he has done in concert with other leaders at the state level and what he needs from the federal government. We know that most of the terrorists in Zamfara are cattle rustlers who have chosen to attack villagers rather than steal cattle.
So these people are no longer just thieves but confirmed terrorists who have chosen to create fear in the minds of Nigerians by the maximum impact of their killings and arson. They kill Nigerians in their tens, sack entire villages and burn down these villages almost on a daily basis. This has led to another round of internally displaced people. This has now compounded the humanitarian problems we have been battling.
In all these, it equally looks like the carnage in Zamfara has been underreported. I don’t know why, but Zamfara has become a charred state in need of leadership. The people need to unshackle themselves from the weight of what they were used to, handed down to them by proponents of political sharia. The people must reclaim their land by engaging with others to free the state from the stranglehold of terrorists masquerading as cattle rustlers. They do no longer need to be laid back. Zamfara needs to be like an activist enclave. I expect the leaders at various levels: religious, community, CSOs, politics, education, bureaucracy, etc to o come together to hold a cultural, economic, political security and security summit. This summit must be attended or even facilitated among others by Abuja and all the strata of Zamfara society. I expect ECOWAS and other such international organizations to be involved. As we are aware, the Zamfara terrorism has an ECOWAS link which may also include the growing terror cells of the Sahel region connecting western, central and northern Africa.
The Zamfara carnage must become a national and regional talking point just like I expect herdsmen crisis to become. Outcome of such a summit must be implemented without any delay.

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