Matawalle and the taming of the Dakhus of Zamfara, by Hassan Gimba

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Zamfara State Governor Bello Matawalle.

The Arbiter

Zamfara, intoned differently, can mean “I will begin” in Hausa. But Zamfara, from the Zamfara Kingdom, did not start on October 1, 1996, when it was detached from Sokoto State by the government of the late General Sani Abacha. It began a long time ago. It was founded in the 11th century and survived as a city-state until the 16th century.

A state widely known for its peace and brotherly coexistence, the people of Zamfara State, which arguably houses almost sixty per cent of Nigeria’s mineral deposits are generally into subsistence farming and being a state almost equally divided between the Hausas and Fulanis, cattle rearing. The state is rich in gold, copper and zinc deposits.

Endowed with great human and natural resources, it was poised to be a model of peace, development and hope. It came with a lot of promise and everyone thought its potential would be exploited for the benefit of its citizens, region, country and humanity in general. But the Zamfara dream was shattered by unrest.

Armed banditry and cattle rustling shattered the pervading peace of the young state that was full of potential. The hopes and dreams of the people vanished, but most, unfortunately, along with the lives of many. Though those alive can dare to hope and dream again, not so for those untimely sent six feet below.

Zamfara became a killing field when heartless marauders whose souls have been taken by the devil; intoxicated with the blood of humans – I cannot say fellow humans because humanness has since fled them – immersed themselves in the orgy of brutality, killing, maiming and abducting humans while pilfering and razing whatever they came across.

With Zamfara as the root, they formed enclaves in the bushes and forests dotting the landscape of the North West, and like the Dakhus we were regaled with in Indian films of old, there they barbecued rustled cattle, got high on weeds and illicit drinks and violated the chastity of abducted women.

A committee headed by former Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Abubakar, set up by the current governor, Bello Matawalle, to investigate armed banditry in the state, reported that 4,983 women were widowed, 25,050 children orphaned and more than 190,000 people displaced between June 2011 and May 2019.

Zamfara, once destroyed by the Gobir Kingdom was doomed for second time destruction at the hands of Dakhus, or so, people thought. But why should a hitherto easygoing turn into such beasts? Some people posit that they became wild because they lost their cattle. But people have lost valuable items, more valuable than a few cattle before without going haywire. Others say no, that they are Boko Haram in another garb. Yet others argue that most of them did not even own a chicken, not to talk of cattle, but that they are a frustrated lot who see themselves as losers in a country of an unpredictable economy and self-serving leadership.

There are, however, those who look back to October 27, 1999, when the then state governor, Yariman Bakura, launched what he called “Shari’ah” – declaring that he would govern by the dictates of the Qur’an and a system that Allah (SWT) sent Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to mankind with. Yarima’s Shari’ah took off on January 27 the following year.

The ulama hailed him. The gullible and unlettered danced and called Yarima Mahdi, and indulged in a vision of a life full of bliss. The president, Olusegun Obasanjo, knowing the mentality of the average northern Muslim, did not interfere. It was good he didn’t, for he might not have survived it. Apart from those who would physically want to harm him for being an obstacle to a “jihad”, the avaricious, lucre- seeking ulama would have inundated mosques and every Muslim gathering with acerbic words and special prayers against him.

Well known for his native intelligence, Obasanjo allowed pedagogues to have their way. His only reaction was: “If it is a political shari’ah, it won’t last”.

With the benefit of hindsight, what Obasanjo did not plainly say, so as not to touch on raw nerves, came to play out. Like an opiate that addicts and pulverises the brain, Islam was used, albeit wrongly, to further numb the people’s capacity for critical thinking. They were given the bone of shari’ah and the dishonest purveyors feasted on the juicy meat of corruption. A 15-year-old boy had his hand amputated for stealing a goat while those in government stole billions through contract inflation, funds diversion, direct stealing and payroll fraud (ghost worker syndrome), etc. A lady was lashed 100 times for an illicit affair while those in high places took their consorts to Dubai, Europe and even Lagos and Abuja. Some did theirs even in government lodges in the state capital. Probably the lashed lady chose to go with a wrong chap at the wrong time!

That was how they ran their government, the government of the locusts, meting out injustice to a hoodwinked, uninformed and docile people while tunnelling their commonwealth into their private estates. They murdered peace and no one, including their class, sleeps in Zamfara today. The problem with deceiving, suppressing and being unjust with total lack of accountability to a largely illiterate population is that you get a chaotically barbaric reaction on your hands as being witnessed almost all over the north. That is the only reaction they know, unlike educated people who can seek redress through established channels or coordinated change of leadership.

This was how and why Zamfara got itself in such a messy cull de sac. Those handed the baton of governance deepened the brazen disregard for justice and accountability. Imagine sinking one borehole at the cost of N327.4 million, and they sunk 84 at a blow! This is just one item.

Then, perhaps to save the people, the Owner of the people unexpectedly brought in 51-year-old Bello Matawalle to steer the ship of state. The young governor did not waste time but plunged headlong into getting respite to an embattled people. The first thing he did was to seek the understanding and cooperation of the service chiefs while he pursued a detente with the Dakhus, leading to an armistice. They were a nation unto themselves, doing what they wanted, whenever they wanted with reckless abandon and imposing all sorts of taxes and levies on the people.

For the first time in years, the number of killings and raids came down drastically and the people started to breathe a sigh of relief. The eyes of the nation turned to this “wonder” man who has done what was hitherto thought an impossibility.

Matawalle embarked on educating and empowering the grassroots through deliberate policies. Under Z-SIP from Zamfara State Social Investment Programme, a targeted type of youth – strong, employable – because any society that neglects such a class does so at its peril being the recruitment targets of malcontents, over 7,000 have benefited through artisan training and start-up capital. Another programme by the First Lady empowers 1,800 different married women monthly to pursue small scale business schemes. The governor believes if a woman is financially stable, the home will be stable and the family a happy one. With these and other schemes, it is hoped the poverty rate in the state will soon decrease.

Such a programme was vigorously pursued by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, upon his inauguration. Since he started early with state-wide spread coupled with his “Yobe First” contract awards, for the first time since its creation, Yobe has climbed up the ladder in the United Nations Index of poverty-stricken states.

Such young leaders are the new boys on the block, the new faces of the unfolding new Nigeria. They deserve cooperation from every well-meaning citizen. But those who held Zamfara by the jugular and see themselves as its landlords will never forgive Matawalle for coming from their blind side and kicking them to political oblivion. Had they been the ones in power, they would tell anyone who cares to listen that “Power is from Allah and He gives to whom He wishes”. But since it is not them that are “Allah’s anointed”, then that verse would not work. And this is why they still see Matawalle as “sole administrator”. And these are our shari’ah warriors!

Recently, this set of “shari’ah” champions championed a sponsored lie purported to have been uttered by the former IGP Abubakar that Matawalle was shielding bandits and their sponsors. I knew it was a lie because the moment I came across the audio message on social media, I forwarded it to Adamu Maina Waziri, a former minister of police affairs who immediately replied me that he knew the former IGP well and that the voice and diction were not his. To be doubly assured, he sent me another message that Senator Sanusi Daggash, one of the IGP’s best friends, has put a lie to the audio. Shocked at such misinformation, something told me to look beyond the surface in this Zamfara problem.

So, you wonder why they can go to such a length just to distract the efforts of a man trying his utmost to secure peace for long-suffering people. Do these people love their people or do they only want to continue appropriating their commonwealth while they bleed to death one after the other?

To wean off the Dakhus from their wanton desire for bloodletting, Matawalle has adopted this approach: “OK, you had cows but now you don’t”, so he asked them to renounce banditry, come to town, and he promised to provide each of them with two cows and shelter. To this end, he has set about building prototype ruga-like houses in large expanses of land with year-round green grass and earth dams for them to live in and feed their cows as well. This he is providing in all the three senatorial districts of the state.

By killing the root, the branches all over the North West and parts of the North Central will also die off. The question yearning for an answer is, will any normal persons go to such mischievous lengths against a man taming the Dakhus of Zamfara – even for politics?

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