By Deyemi Saka
His first attempt at swimming against the tide and he came out successful was his emergence as the Governor of Zamfara State.
After the March 9, 2019 governorship election which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) permitted the All Progressives Congress (APC) to field a candidate barely 24 hours to the day of the election declared him loser, he became the Governor of the state when the Supreme Court ruled against the victory of the APC in the state. In its ruling, the court said the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the buildup to the 2019 general elections in Zamfara.
This announced Matawalle as a man who wins against all odds staked up against him.
Before May 29, 2019, Zamfara was a killing field and was in the news regularly with reports of killings and brazen attacks from then “bandits”, but now terrorists. As the governor, Bello Muhammed Matawalle demonstrated his unalloyed commitment to providing the much-needed leadership and governance to the good people of Zamfara and also keep them safe. In matter of months, Matawalle became the toast of all Nigerians as we all witnessed a stem in tide of the brazenness and effrontery of the terrorists and attacks.
As a governor and to the extent of the limitations of his powers, he enthroned a new era of peace which is now being threatened, not because he has relent in his efforts or a reduced commitment to his duties and responsibilities, it is threatened because those who need to compliment his efforts especially state actors refused to do so and more interested in egocentrism.
With resumption of criminality and terrorism in the north west region of the country early 2021, against all informed decision and knowledge, the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mungono insisted on enforcing a “no-fly” zone in Zamfara with deployment of all military assets to see through that order.
To many observers and independent intelligence analysts and analysis, there was nothing on ground to warrant such.
Governor Matawalle was not distracted with the showboating, rather he complimented on his collaboration with security agencies and results were achieved. One of such was the apprehension of a nephew to former governor of Sokoto State and his accomplice and both confessed to their crimes during an in-house interrogation before the governor at Government House, Gusua. The suspects were major suppliers of drugs and footwears to terrorists. This was possible after a painstaking surveillance for over a year.
At the peak of the activities of these terrorists during the last quarter of 2021, Governor Matawalle set the ball rolling with the announcement of some stringent measures aimed at curtailing the growing activities of bandits in the state.
While innocent Zamfarans will also bore the brunt of what may seem as extreme measures, it was a monumental sacrifice which the people of Zamfarans paid in a bid to rid their state of banditry/terrorism and also a demonstration of support for the governor and faith in him.
The Executive Order included a directive that all filling stations in the state are banned from selling fuel except in Gusau and the 14 local Government headquarters, while no eligible filling station is allowed to sell fuel of more than N10,000 to a single customer.
Also, the sale of fuel in jerry cans was prohibited in all filling stations while roadside purchase (popularly known as black market) is outlawed.
This move was aimed at dealing a huge blow to the activities of bandits as it will create a huge logistics problem for their operations.
Soon after the pronouncement, other governors of the north west region adopted the same stringent measure and while this lasted, it was widely reported across major media outlets that our security forces recorded huge successes in its many onslaught against these terrorists.
This was cut short as the Federal Government through the national security adviser did not come up with the adequate counter insurgency strategy(COINS) which would have involved Niger Republic as strategic partner as it shares border with Nigeria across states in the north west region.
While he hosted a delegation of Federal Government in Gusau few days ago, Matawalle told them that insecurity in north west has “become an existential threat” and urged the federal government to put more effort into fighting it, this has not deterred him from his quest for the strategic collaboration with Niger Republic.
As a follow up to a visit to the neighboring country in December 2021 where he donated four Hilux vans to the Security operatives of Niger Republic to assist them in the patrol along our borders to fight the incursion of criminal elements into the Country, he led a delegation which included the governors of Jigawa and the representative of Kebbi. On arrival at the country, they immediately held a preliminary closed door meeting with the officials of that Country.
The Matawalle-led delegation also met with President Bazoum the following day where they held another four-hour closed-door meeting in which all the issues surrounding cross-border crimes as it affects the two Countries were thoroughly discussed.
He made a presentation to the Nigerien President the document for action on where his Country is required to further assist in the common fight and further assured the President of the total commitment of the Governors bordering Niger Republic of the resolve to join hand with his Country to fight and bring to an end the problem facing our people.
During the visit, President Mohamed Bozoum assured the Governors that his Country is concerned about what is happening in Nigeria and is aware of the role his Country can and will play in the fight against the transit of illegal weapons Into Nigeria.
He said that his Country will continue to support Nigeria in its effort to find a lasting peace especially from the menace of banditry and insurgency.
A special meeting was organised for the visiting Governors with all the Chancellors and Security Chiefs of that Country where the nitty-gritty challenges that need to be addressed were divulged. The meeting which lasted for several hours is expected to enrich the blue-print for the comprehensive fight against the syndicate of arms trafficking.
The Nigerien President then, treated his visitors to some comforting cultural and sporting events which are commonly shared by Nigerian and Nigerien people which has been mischievously sponsored as the reason for the visit.
It is noteworthy that in an affirmation of his(Matawalle’s) foresightedness, his visits have yielded some great results as a notorious trans-border terrorist named Katare, who has been terrorizing the people of Bakura and other adjoining villages was arrested with five(5) members of his gang in Birin Konni(Niger Republic). His extradition to Nigeria is underway. Also, man known as “Na Lugga” who is a gun runner and who supplies arms and ammunitions to those terrorists has been arrested by security forces in Niger Republic and handed over to Nigerian authorities in honour of the pledge and commitment Governor Matawale got from President Bazoum of Niger.
There have been recent news of arrests of criminal elements in the state, a testament of the unshaken resolve to combat insecurity to a halt, one thing is evident, the tide against him at succeeding on his quest to keep his people safe is strong as sponsors and beneficiary of the huge criminal enterprise will stop at nothing to see Zamfara becomes a failed state and a fiefdom under their firm control.
With his unwavering determination, mental strength and strong resolve, he will swim successfully against this tide. If for nothing but for the preservation of humanity and victory over depravity, He will deliver on his promise.
*Deyemi Saka, a social commentator, writes from Gusau