In Nigeria today, when you hear some states, certain things come to mind, automatically: when you hear Borno, you think Boko Haram; you hear Benue, you mind races to herdsmen; and of course, when you think Zamfara, you think of bandits, killing thousands across the state.
If bandits were the only problem in Zamfara State, we may need not worry much about the state, but leave the security apparatus at the state and federal level to deal vehemently with the bandits and restore normalcy in the state. Sadly, bandits are not the only problems in Zamfara. There may be bandits in power, running the affairs of the seventh largest state of the Nigerian federation.
“We believe responsible governments everywhere have a prime responsibility to make appreciable impacts on the lives of the governed through conceiving, crafting and implementing programmes and policies that will turn around the lives of the people for the better, and leave behind lasting legacies in the sands of time,” Abdulaziz Yari, the governor of Zamfara State, said on the 2018 Democracy Day.
Less than a month after Yari agreed that responsible governments must turn lives of the citizens around for the better, the same governor went ahead to reduce his powers as the chief security officer of the state to “mere appellation”. Yari said he could not do anything to keep the citizens he governs, safe – and as a refrain, he asked the people to turn to God for help, outsourcing his responsibility to God.
In 2017, when Type C Cerebro-Spinal Meningitis hit the state, the governor, who swore to keep the people safe and flourishing, outsourced the blame to fornication and God’s wrath, and the responsibility of curbing the disease to the Most Beneficent God.
Yari said: “What we used to know as far as meningitis is concerned is the ‘type A virus’ which had been tackled through vaccinations by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, because people refused to stop their nefarious activities, God now decided to send Type C virus, which has no vaccine. People have turned away from God and He has promised that ‘if you do anyhow, you see anyhow,’ that is just the cause of this outbreak as far as I am concerned. There is no way fornication will be so rampant and God will not send a disease that cannot be cured. The most important thing is for our people to know that their relationship with God is not smooth. All they need to do is repent and everything will be alright.”
Before, during and after the meningitis scourge, the state recorded hundreds and hundreds of death to cholera, a totally preventable water borne disease. Cholera is alien to any community with good water systems and clean drainage. In a single year, Yari and his cabinet claimed to have spent N9,422,851,355.40 on 30 water projects across the state, in a bid to get potable water to numerous parts of the state, yet cholera persists.
Clearly, this claims do not add up to the reality in the state. According to the Nigerian Medical Association, one of the major causes of cholera in the state is open defecation within its communities. Besides its inability to provide potable water, the same government lacks the capacity to ensure sanitary conditions in the state – making it the top spot for cholera outbreaks in Nigeria.
Education in the state is also a huge challenge for the outsourcing governor. According to Yari, who also doubles as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, his government spent N4,754,717,343.75 on renovation of classrooms in the state, and another N3,766,668,144,000 was committed to the Universal Basic Education within the state in 2016/2017 alone. Despite claiming to have invested nearly N10 billion on education in the state within this period, only 28 pupils – two dozens and four pupils – registered for common entrance exams in the state.
In the 2017 November/December senior school certificate examination organised by the National Examination Council, Zamfara had the worst result, again! Only 186 students sat for the exams in the state, and just 24 of them passed! The story is not different for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, where the state, under Governor Yari, has continued at the bottom of the table, only ahead of Yobe State. Nothing else underscores lack of focus on education in the state, than all of these very clear results and educational apathy.
When Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano and former Governor the Central Bank of Nigeria, said poverty in Zamfara State is the highest in Nigeria, Yari was quick to hit back at the tradition ruler, without dealing with the real issues of poverty stabbing the state at heart. Sanusi’s stance was further confirmed by Oxford University, one of the leading universities in the world. Oxford said in its human development report on multi-dimensional poverty that, 92 percent of people living in Zamfara live in poverty, ranking the state as the poorest in the nation and a top contender anywhere else in the world.
Yari in his reply to Sanusi, said “elected officials, we are obliged to serve people just as we serve God,” and “within this precinct,” he “has done his best”. Going by this statement, Yari’s best is to lead a state into becoming the poorest in Nigeria, where nine out of 10 people live in poverty!
Governor Yari, who oversaw the decline of the state’s human development indices, is currently seeking to perpetuate himself in the state, and he has found no one else to carry on with his legacy, than his Finance Commissioner, Alhaji Mukhtar Idris – the same man who supervised the economy of the state into doldrums, where 92 per cent of the state now live in poverty! If Idris succeeds Yari, the facts and figures show that the state will continue on the Yari-like pattern of outsourcing blames to sin and contracting responsibilities to Allah.
Zamfara state as the seventh largest state in Nigeria, boasting of over 10 times the landmass of Lagos, used to be an agricultural haven, where major cereal crop were successfully cultivated. Its slogan, “farming is our pride” is a testament to this, but that testament has become a shadow of itself. As if that were not enough, the state is rich in gold extract, and if properly managed can lead Nigeria into exporting even more gold to the rest of the world, while Zamfara makes billions in cash and investments.
The people of Zamfara are however its greatest assets; they define the future of the state at the poll and its manpower on the farms and in the industry. They can decide to continue with Yari’s style of inept leadership or try on more progressive fresh minds, capable of bring the state from the bottom of every development index to the top or near top of them all.
The old African adage says: “If a man promises to give you a cloth, look at what he is wearing.” If Yari promises that his finance commissioner, who is party to the current rot in the state, will make the state better, just ask them both, what they did with eight years of the people’s mandate! Nobody, who was part of the rot deserves to lead the state. Never again. If Abdulaziz Yari promises to give you a new cloth of good governance, look at the one he wore for eight years. Run!
. Alhaji Ahmed is the Publicity Secretary of Zamfara Redemption Movement.