War Against Banditry: Gov. Mohammed’s Pragmatic Approach Defeats Doomsayers
By SAMUEL OGECHUKWU
Purposeful leadership is that which provides security to life and property of the governed, as well as provides freedom of speech and association, especially under a democratic setting.
Lewis Carroll, in Wonderland says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This quote aptly illustrates the importance of knowing your desired destination in life and work, as the concept is especially true for those in leadership positions.
Purposeful leadership may sound indistinct, but when a leader understands and apply his God given wisdom in his leadership style, the impact is always positive.
This is the story of His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Zamfara state, Bello Mohammed, Matawallen Mardaun, the Barden Hausa and the Shetima of Sokoto Caliphate.
Since the year 2011, Zamfara state has been in the news for one reason or the other, mostly for negative reasons; banditry and kidnapping. In the Northwest region of Nigeria, Zamfara state, between the period before the advent of Dr. Bello Mohammed as Governor, has become more or less like Borno state in the Northeast, where the activities of the dreaded Boko Haram; and of recent ISWAP, has been causing collosal damages in both humans and wealth.
In Zamfara, bandits kill citizens for no just cause, and also kidnap for ransom.
The state, once known for its peaceful nature hospitality and friendliness to all that visited, became dreaded because of the activities of bandits and kidnappers alike.
The simple thought of traveling through Zamfara state would usually sent jitters to the would-be traveller or travellers.
Schools and Markets were shut; Business activities has crumbled; Rural dwellers has migrated, sometimes to unknown destinations because of the fear of the unknown; people, even in Urban cities were sleeping with their two eyes wide open: It was really a hell of some sort as there was palpable fear and confusion throughput the state.
The resultant effect is the manifestation of poverty, hunger, deprivation and general insecurity.
Zamfara state was considered “a no go area” and that led to the horrific situation that destablised the socio- political and economic fortunes of the state, hitherto described as the most peaceful state in Northern Nigeria.
It was estimated that from 2011 to 2019, before the inception of Matawalle’s government, over 40 thousand bandits, including informants and suppliers of their basic needs were recruited into rural terrorism, while economic value worth over 45 billion naira was lost to rural banditry, with thousands of innocent people, including men and women, young and old; children inclusive being either killed or kidnapped on daily basis.
Researches conducted has indicated that over 6 thousand people were kidnapped and another 4 thousand displaced from their ancestral homes due to rural banditry in Zamfara alone between 2011 and 2019.
Then came Governor Bello Mohammed, Matawallen Maradun in 2019, and the story began to change for Zamfara and its people.
The Matawalle came with new leadership style that immediately started blowing the wind of positive change in Zamfara.
As soon as he took over the rein of affairs of the state, Dr Bello Mohammed did not waste time in initiating policies and programs that would automatically begin to tackle the issue of the security challenge facing the state; programs that would ensure youths and women are being empowered; programs that would see to the development of the health and educational sectors; as well as programs that would ensure that within the shortest possible time, Zamfara state once again, occupies its lost glory and assume its former position of pride, of being the most peaceful state in Nigeria.
That is why within the first 100 days of his government, Governor Bello Mohammed was able to design an architectural masterplan that led to the tackling of the decade catastrophe being faced by the people. That action plan, which was implemented through a comprehensive and well-packaged peace process, saw Zamfara became peaceful, as no single incident of killing or kidnapping was recorded afterwards, with hundreds of bandits embracing the peace process. This led to the bandits surrendering large catche of arms and ammunitions; and thousands of kidnapped victims being released by their captors.
This singular act of the Matawallen Maradun brought hope to the people of Zamfara, who had lost all hope of going back to living their normal lives.
After a long time, schools were reopened, roads and markets that were hitherto closed were also reopened; visitors who had relocated started streaming back in large numbers, coming for one business venture or another, so much so that the governor began attracting the attention of foreign investors to the state.
It did not end there, as even foreign investors once again started retuning to the state to establish businesses.
Of course, it is a well known fact that for a every conflict, there are beneficiaries who for one reason or the other, would not want their business to end; and so, Governor Bello Mohammed’s efforts aimed at bringing banditry and kidnapping to a total end met with a brickwall, as these entrepreneurs, including die-hard political opponents, sabotaged the successes by hiring and recruiting recalcitrant bandits, who truncated these huge successes made within a short time.
However, this has never discouraged, nor diverted the attention of the Governor, as he remained focused and determined to see through his policies of changing the narratives for the better in Zamfara, to their logical conclusion.
The governor re-strategised, by giving the bandits an ultimatum to embrace the government peace process or face the full wrath of the law, after which he imposed what is known as the Zamfara model of “State of Emergency “; where every body was made to contribute to the tackling of the serious security challenge, by sacrificing his or her energy, time, resources and happiness in order to end the menace. This has greatly yielded positive results, as it has made the security agencies to carry out their operations successfully, without fear of being ambushed, as well took the fight to the enclaves if the bandits. Many of the bandits were neutralized; some ran out of the state and many gave up to the fight and embraced the Zamfara peace process; in the process, surrendering their weapons to the government.
As an indication that yes, peace has returned to Zamfara state, and it is there to stay for good, God Willing; on Saturday, March 5th, 2022, Governor Bello Matawalle and his government hosted the 36th edition of the Tijjaniyya Maulud of Sheik Nyass, with over 3 million people in attendance. The participants came from within and outside Africa to attend the international spiritual event.
The maulud, which took the participants 5 days in Zamfara, was successfully conducted and hitch-free without any security incident. This is a clear indication that Zamfara is now peaceful in spite of the widespread negative media campaign being propagated by political bandits and conflict entrepreneurs, who are hell- bent in tarnishing the good image of governor Matawalle’s government.
The successful hosting of the Sheik Nyass Maulud celebration in Gusau has also vindicated the governor that Zamfara state is no longer what conflict entrepreneurs and political bandits are propagating about banditry, making it look as if the state was what it once was before the ascention of The Matawallen Maradun as Governor.
Wound does not heal in a day. There are some challenges here and there though, but it should be known that the main fight against armed banditry and kidnapping has been won by the pragmatic approach and sincere policies of Dr Bello Mohammed, Matawallen Maradun and his government.
Samuel Ogechukwu is a security expert and analyst at Maryland University, United States of America.