By Yusuf Idris Gusau
Within the last few days, there have been what seems to be an orchestrated campaign to incite the Zamfara public against the personality and administration of Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle by certain elements in the society.
The elements who have been apparently waiting in the wing for quite a while, where they retreated to after their unsuccessful bid to bring Matawalle’s administration down through sustained onslaught in the media, now see the recent distribution of vehicles to traditional rulers and clerics as veritable leeway with which to launch themselves back.
And they seem to have succeeded going by the armies of recruits they deployed in the frontline, most of whom donned the toga of reputable and leading news medium. To others that survive mainly through mercenaries profiteering using social media space as war zones, however, it is futile reasoning with them that the vehicle gift gesture is a noble one and deserved positive highlights.
But for the traditional media to also get caught in the anti-Matawalle spin shows the extent the administration’s enemies can go in their offensive. Even in the coverage of what is ordinarily a simple event, the opposition media display their invectiveness in screaming headlines, while the nucleus of the story was lost.
More disturbing is the fact that His Eminence, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III’s speech was not given the deserved attention. Instead, only a sentence was used to reflect the fact that he was the special guest of honour at the occasion. If they had done justice to what His Eminence said, the importance of the event and goodwill behind the gesture would not have been lost on the people. But they chose to highlight what they wanted the public to believe in their attempt to paint the gesture in bad light.
Among the bad press the gesture elicited, that of the LEADERSHIP newspapers stood out; it was as if the outfit was out for vengeance and had to go out of it’s way in achieving its objective. It went beyond the mere routine stories most media did on the event to allocate almost a full page space to unleash what seems to be a pent up anger taking on Matawalle, Zamfara State Government, the Royal Fathers that benefited from the gesture amongst others in the 733 words piece.
Apparently on a mission, the outcome of which is yet to come to light, the newspaper took the issue as a personal war worthy of an Editorial, reeling out imagery statistics on poverty level, development indices and state’s debt profile to justify why the vehicles gesture is misplaced.
It concluded that “rather than deploying huge resources to service the traditional rulers, Governor Matawalle ought to channel these scarce resources to addressing challenges of insecurity, education and health care delivery.”
Well, it is okay for the paper to embark on such a self-righteous trip; in fact, it is part of its social responsibility to hold the leaders accountable, but it can only do that within the prisms of facts because facts are sacred and they oiled a well balanced interventions.
If the paper had taken pain to study the various speeches made during the occasion and properly analyze them, its interventions, if any on the development would have been guided by reason. But it chose to ignore that most important journalism dictum and rushed to press instead.
And the speed with which the paper put its data and statistics on Zamfara together is quite unnerving to say the least. But you can’t beat the speed of a man on a mission goes a popular saying.
The important aspect of the Sultan and indeed Matawalle’s speeches during the symbiotic presentation were that the vehicles were part of measures to curbing insecurity in the state as they are also fitted with communication gadgets which would enable the traditional rulers to reach out to security agencies in case of an emergency.
It is common knowledge that the bandits terrorising parts of the state always take advantage of absence of communication facilities with which residents could reach out to appropriate authorities, to unleash terror and escape to safe abodes. So if Matawalle in his wisdom decided to bridge this disturbing gap by providing the traditional rulers whose domains are under constant attacks the leeway to call for security interventions at such dire times, should we rush to condemn him? Point be made that those vehicles were not just fancy luxury cars that our friends in the LEADERSHIP want the public to believe.
There is also the need to emphasis here that long before this intervention, the Matawalle’s administration, donated 200 brand new vehicles well equipped with communication gadgets to all the security operatives in the state, along with monthly imprest to cater for their maintenance. This is outside the stipend the governor releases to the officers monthly amongst other similar interventions. It is important to also recall here the establishment of a Ministry of Security and Home Affairs for the first time in the state to tackle the issue of insecurity as well as the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to offer immediate emergency service and build confidence in attacked communities and victims throughout the state.
The Sultan also commended Matawalle for his collaborative effort with other neigbouring states and even Niger Republic in stemming the tide of banditry in the state yet the paper did not see that as worthy of their space.
The paper must be told that the fact that the action and inaction of some traditional rulers aided the activities of bandits in the past shouldn’t elicit stringent measures to cut off others from performing their roles as the custodian of the people as doing so would be counterproductive and injurious to the ongoing war against insecurity.
It is important that the paper take interest in the interventions that are going on in all the sectors especially key ones like health, education, works and housing, water resources amongst others, where tremendous achievements are being made, instead of dwelling only on what it views as the negatives so as to save itself from the embarrassment of misrepresentation of facts.
It is also wrong for the paper to say the state government is not taking interest in the many mineral deposits and agricultural potentials that the state is endowed with. With the speed which the paper reeled out its data about the state of affairs in the state, it should have known that Zamfara is the leading producer of agriculture products in Nigeria’s Northwest.
Out of the total area of 3,247,366 hectares covered by the State, 2,673,492 hectares are arable land cultivated mainly by small-scale farmers. Major crops grown in the State include food crops such as sorghum, millet, maize and rice, and cash crops like groundnut, cotton, beans, tomatoes, pepper and onions.
Significantly however, it is in sorghum production that Zamfara earned its place as Nigeria’s leading producer and putting the country on the world’s map as one of the key exporters. It is also common knowledge that Zamfara is also one of the leading producers of groundnut.
As per the solid minerals that abound in the state, the paper is aware of the controversies that trailed this administration’s move to collaborate with the federal government to boost the sector. Solid minerals are federally controlled. Sometimes ago the governor had approached the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) and by extension the Federal Government for the possibility of boosting the mining sector in the state under the anchor-borrower scheme. The bank will invest the sum of N5 billion for the state to supply it with gold as proceeds of the investment over time, while under the arrangement, the state government was to purchase the gold from the miners and supply it to the bank.
The federal government had commenced the process of licensing the companies that had indicated interest in mining in the area. What this means for the state was that the gold will no longer be used to fuel the activities of the bandits with the governor stylishly cutting their hold on the supply chain. The second fundamental advantage Matawalle’s gesture threw up was that the state government would have more fund to embark on more projects for the benefit of the people as the internally generated revenue will swell.
But as usual, those who were profiteering from the seeming lucrative “banditry business” were uncomfortable with the turn of event and have resorted to campaign of calumny against the governor. The sworn anti-north elements fuelled the misconception that the state government was taking over the minerals within its domain, even as it was public knowledge that mining is exclusive right of the federal government. Their charade needlessly attracted resources control agitators and senior lawyers who worked hard to frustrate the initiative.
The state government has also not neglected the poor and orphans as it has been doing all within its power to provide for them. Recently it purchased items worth N1.8 billion and distributed to them. The state government is also catering for about 40, 000 orphans across the 17 emirate councils in the state with N896 million recently released for their welfare amongst other interventions, which the space would not be enough to enumerate.
It is no doubt important to highlight here that the paper should avoid the temptation of taking easy route in its pursuit of news as doing so would put its integrity at stake. Also, as a medium based in the North, it should know that the region values its traditional institutions, the more reason why stories around them must be factual. If the Zamfara function is so anti-people as the paper editorialized on, the Sultan would not have honoured an invitation to grace it,and if he did attend, it is to speak the truth to power, not to commend Matawalle for the gesture.
Come to think of it, vehicle gifts to traditional rulers is a common phenomenon in Nigeria with the ministries of local government and chieftaincy affairs contributing to the endeavour once in a while. Bauchi’s Bala Mohammed distributed some recently without a much fuss. It is okay to hide behind the banditry situation in Zamfara to condemn such gesture but it is also pertinent to look at the underlying current behind the gifts before questioning its morality.
Yusuf is an APC stakeholder in Zamfara State.