ZAMFARA, Nigeria – Following accusations and counter-accusations between former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari and the state governor, Matawalle over insecurity, a former lawmaker, Senator Tijjani Kaura has waded into the matter and absolved Yari of all alleged security breach.
In this interview, Kaura who represented Zamfara North senatorial zone in the 8th Senate and was also the Chairman, Senate Committee on Federal Character Commission spoke on the previous Supreme Court judgement against the APC and the spate of arrests of APC members in Zamfara State.
Kaura noted that the former governor did well to curtail the situation when he governed the State for eight years.
How did you receive the judgment of the Supreme Court? Let’s be precise.
Well, it is clear and it is known by every Nigerian and even beyond that the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a party that is fully entrenched in Zamfara State. Since 1999, with the advent of the 4th Republic, the Party is the most dominant in the State. No other party has ever won an election.
Except by default?
Yes, except by default, like when former Governor Mahmuda decamped from ANPP to PDP and the second time when Bello Matawalle took the opportunity, because of the judgment at the Supreme court. Abdulazeez Yari Abubakar who took over the mantle of leadership in 2011has been at the forefront of the formation of the APC in this country. The final coming together of the different Parties to make the APC was decided in Gusau, Zamfara State. So, I’m happy today to share experiences with you on what has happened in Zamfara State, especially, the Supreme Court judgment. They took all of us by surprise but we have left things to God. What is happening in Zamfara State today, especially by the current leadership of the State, is very unfortunate. That this is not what is expected of the current Governor of the State, particularly when it comes to the issue of arresting people here and there.
I want to go back to the Supreme Court judgment.
Members of APC in Zamfara State are law-abiding, when that judgment was passed, there was no reaction whatsoever in terms of demonstration of lawlessness from any member of the party. Members of APC in the State thought we won our election one hundred per cent; the Governor; the three Senators, the same with House of Reps, the twenty four members of the House of Assembly; we won our election hands down, even though we were only allowed to participate in the election just a day before the election because we were held by court.
We were not participating in the elections, but to demonstrate that Abdulazeez Yari’s leadership has paid off, we won the election one hundred per cent when the court allowed us to participate just at the eve of the election, but, the Supreme Court quashed all the elections.
Including some of you that contested unopposed?
Yes, including myself that was unopposed, but that is a non-issue, the issue I want to open up here is to tell the world how the APC and its supporters in the State have been very law-abiding. I was talking to somebody from the South West and he told me that, when he heard the Supreme Court judgement, he had expected that thousands of APC supporters in Zamfara will come out and demonstrate on the streets to reject the decisions of the Supreme Court. I told him that the people of Zamfara State are law-abiding. And that was how we took it and we are looking forward to another opportunity to prove and test our capacity to win elections.
What exactly did the leaders do to ensure that there was no crisis?
Immediately the verdict was passed, the former Governor, Abdulazeez Yari invited all of us, the same day to his house and he told us to rush back to Zamfara and hold a very important stakeholders meeting to appeal to members across the state to take the judgment as the will of God. So that was how people took it and that was why there was no reaction from anyone whatsoever.
Let us look at the Yari’s government in eight years.
Governor Yari has served eight years and there is no doubt about it that he has done excellently well in terms of serving his people. Nobody, nobody, not even the current governor will denounce what Abdulazeez did in Zamfara State in terms of putting structures in place. I thought what Matawalle would have done is to look at those things, those good things that Yari did in the last eight years and build on those good things to enhance continuity which is critical in leadership.
Can you give a summary of the good things Yari did; because there are reports that he never stayed in Zamfara, that he was always in Abuja or outside Nigeria.
Yeah, the issue of not staying in Zamfara State is something different. That is the view of those people who say he didn’t stay as the Governor of Zamfara State. But I want to say that, the leadership of the State calls for moving from one place to the other depending on what that leader is pursuing. I know a Governor in this Country who left his State, and stayed outside this Country for over four (4) months, not because he went on medical treatment but he went out for other things, but the issue is, at the end of Yari’s administration, did he perform?
So what are the indices?
To me as an honest observers of Zamfara contemporary politics, you know that Abdulazeez did excellently well. Let me start, when I was talking on the floor of the Senate about some of the performances of Governor Abdulazeez Yari, somebody asked me, they say that he has constructed so many roads, why is he constructing only roads? I asked him what is wrong in constructing roads? I added that if Abdulazeez chose to construct roads and he did it for the entire state and left no part of the state untarred when another governor comes, let him pick education. Let another governor concentrate on health. By the time we have ten (10) governors, the state would have been fully developed. But there is something I have to mention.
I commend Yari for his prudence during his tenure as Governor and I say it publicly that he was able to demonstrate fiscal discipline. He was able to manage effectively the little resources available to the state and to attest to that is, you cannot come out to say that, I have so so record, Abdulazeez Yari has stolen so, so, so money from the coffers of the State.
Can you explain?
The little resources that were available to him, he was able to manage it and came up with what we have today as his own legacies in terms of physical structures.
The former governor was allegedly said to be stacking guns. What can you say about this allegation?
Well, people say that Abdulazeez Yari was stacking guns, I just laugh and I always say that people should fear God in whatever allegations they level against each other. I will not imagine. I’m sure if today you give Abdulazeez Yari a gun and ask him to shoot, he will never know how to shoot a gun because he has been a man of peace. How will somebody who knows God and someone who reads the Holy Quran and knows what the Holy Quran says take a gun and shoot somebody? When people stand up either in the media or somewhere to say that former governor Abdulazeez Yari is responsible for the banditry in Zamfara, I weep, because there’s no leader that will want to foment trouble in his domain. If people accuse Abdulazeez Yari of been unable to bring a total stop to banditry in Zamfara State, where has banditry been brought to a complete stop in the whole country? Is it not happening in other States? It is happening in other States time and time without number. The governor has spoken, he has shown what the state did under his leadership, what the state government did under his leadership and, for anybody to come and say that Abdulazeez Yari is responsible for insecurity, I just weep, but I know that God is there and God will give the final judgment either in this world or hereafter and we know that time will come, definitely it will come very soon.
Secondly, it is unfair to say that anytime Governor Yari come to Zamfara, there will be banditry. Governor Matawalle even went ahead to say that he (Yari) had a meeting with bandits. I think if Abdulazeez Yari had meetings with bandits anywhere to influence them or to provoke them to come back again, there should be a very clear mission of those bandits and where he met with them.
What is your position on the recent revelation of the Ten Million Naira payment to former governors as pension and of course the repeal of it by the Zamfara State House of Assembly?
The letter the former governor wrote to the current Governor about his pension, let me just first of all say that, within the premises of law, the letter was not wrong because there are several former Governors, there are not less than five hundred former governors in Nigeria, and there is no single former Governor in any state of the federation that is not receiving that upkeep allowances, not even that, even former Heads of States, will refresh their cars, when we assume that they are old. It is there in the guidelines, the federal government does so to former Heads of State. Now, for it to be blown out of proportion between a serving governor and a former Governor is unfortunate. Every serving Governor will be a former Governor one day. And whatever form of politics anybody takes to amplify his stewardship by whatever means, if it is not within the conviction of his religion, he knows it very well. A time will come when the entire population will see it glaringly. I will admit that the letter written by the former governor, was written at a very wrong time. At a very, very wrong time, in fact, he wouldn’t have even written the letter in the first instance, he won’t have even written the letter, even if Governor Matawalle refuses to pay Yari his upkeep money, that would have been ok. I’m sure Yari will have been able to survive even without that pension because of what he did for his people. He (Yari) enjoy the support of APC people in the State even till tomorrow. If you ask Yari to go and contest another election tomorrow, Yari and his people will still win election by the grace of God. So, I think let us not politicize issues in this magnitude. What is critical, is the intent of the people who struggled for the creation of the state. The intent is for the State to grow rapidly and there will never be rapid growth until and unless there is cohesion, there is an understanding between the outgoing and incoming governors. Like I said earlier, every incoming is also outgoing sooner or later
The recent arrests of the members of the APC, I know PDP was in the opposition in Zamfara State since 1999, what is your take?
I got worried when I heard the Governor saying he invited Abdulazeez Yari to attend a committee, a reconciliation committee but he didn’t go and his boys didn’t also attend, I think that is all. I can remember vividly that a very popular supporter of Abdulazeez Yari in the person of former commissioner of local government, Muttaka Rini went and gave him blessings, former chairman of a local government, went and gave him blessings, and a number of people went and gave him blessings too. I was invited to come and give advice to the committee on how to go forward, but believe me, the letter came to me by 8:00 o’clock in the morning and they wanted me to come by 12:00 midday, the same day, and that was a Friday. The letter is there. And that was a day my Nephew was wedding, I was preparing to go for wedding Fatiha of my own Nephew on Sunday. So I had to call Senator Dansadau to tell him that, this invitation to me is so prompt, is so narrow, and tht I will not be able to attend but I wished him well. Nobody sought for my contribution thereafter since that day, but I know that a number of people gave evidence. The former Deputy Governor, Ibrahim Wakala who is now a strong supporter of Governor Matawalle has chaired so many committees of the reconciliation under Yari’s administration,
I think he is one of those key people that could have given a lot of information on what happened during the administration of Abdulazeez Yari.
Has it raised tension
It doesn’t help the State at all, it is just creating unnecessary and undue tension in the state and I want to strongly advise the Governor to suspend the arrests. Now, for instance, I didn’t watch, I didn’t even watch the former Commissioner for information Dan Mali because he was accused of defamation of character. I didn’t watch the clip and so I don’t know what he said and wouldn’t want to comment on that but I know he was arrested.
In a nutshell, what do you think can be done to douse this tension
I want to call on the state governor, who took the mantle of leadership of the state by divine providence of the Almighty God to remember Allah and the need to calm down, to listen to advice. There are lots of people that are very knowledgeable, let them speak to him and let him take their advice. Nobody will bring trouble to his own people, nobody will bring case to his own people, nobody will do that. So, let him find out what is exactly the problem, there is a report of a committee, he should look at the report of the committee.