ZAMFARA, one of the last six states created in Nigeria, October 1, 1996 by the late General Sani Abacha, stands out, but not always for happy reasons.
It is designated as the poorest state in the country. It is also one of the most educationally-disadvantaged. Former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, once disclosed that there were only 24 hospitals and 23 doctors in the state.
It was from there that full Sharia Islamic law was launched with fanfare in October 1999 and later spread to eleven other Northern states. Zamfara is one of the most insecure states in the Federation burdened with the activities of armed foreign “bandits”.
The state was controlled by the Senator Ahmad Sani Yerima political machine from 1999 to 2019 until a court verdict shifted power from the All Progressives Congress, APC, to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with Governor Bello Matawalle in charge.
Apart from taking proactive steps to resolve the rage of the bandits that was turning into another Islamic insurgency, Matawalle has pulled a stunt that could reverse a reign of impunity that has consumed many states all over the country.
Shortly after his immediate predecessor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, wrote a widely-circulated letter calling on the governor to pay him arrears of his salary (undisclosed amount) and “monthly upkeep” of N10 million, the Zamfara State House of Assembly immediately commenced the process of annulling the law that granted former governors, their deputies and speakers of the House of Assembly humongous retirement benefits for life.
This measure, which has been roundly applauded by many well-meaning Nigerians and groups, could eventually lead to the end of a system that takes billions of naira from Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Rivers, Gombe, Katsina, Zamfara, Kano, Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Kogi and Kaduna states to keep former rulers in comfort.
Some may see an element of witch hunting in the patriotic step taken in Zamfara to free up more funds for governance, but it should be obvious that even Matawalle will be affected by this largesse removal when he leaves office.
It is only in a corrupt system like Nigeria’s that governors who had almost unrestrained access to state coffers when they were in power would continue to freeload from bounties of their former offices, while workers and pensioners are owed years in salary backlogs.
We call on the Houses of Assembly of the states still paying these extortionate benefits to take a cue from the good example set in Zamfara and repeal these anti-people legislations which legitimise corruption and treasury haemorrhage.
Public office is for service. Once a tenure of office ends, the occupant should go back to private life and leave the stage for a new set of people to offer their service.