By ABBA MAHMOOD —
Zamfara is one of the most unfortunate states in Nigeria. It has one of the greatest potentialities but it has not been lucky to have good leadership. It consists of very good, hardworking people who have been saddled with some of the worst governors in recent times.
The gold deposit in Zamfara is estimated to be worth over $300bn. It has rich agricultural land; it is endowed with good grazing areas which attract excellent animal husbandry. And it was one of the commercial/industrial zones of the old northern Nigeria.
The state has since graduated into one of the most ungoverned ones. Since the current governor, AbdulAziz Yari, came to power almost eight years ago, Zamfara has been reduced to a killing field. All sorts of bandits — kidnappers, armed robbers, cattle rustlers and terrorists — have successfully killed thousands of people and made farming, cattle rearing and any other means of livelihood for the people of the state impossible. Zamfara under Yari is a case study in negligence, insecurity and indifference by the leadership against the led.
The lawlessness reached its peak when, in an otherwise safe state for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the party could not even present candidates due to sheer recklessness of the governor as the state party leader. The APC constitution provides that only the National Working Committee (NWC) can organize party primaries for candidates to emerge and contest under the party’s platform in the general election. Yari organized his own primaries supervised by his party’s state EXCO contrary to the extant laws.
The other party leaders rightly rejected the kangaroo primaries organized by Yari, which were set to impose illegitimate candidates of the party for this year’s election. Yari went to his state high court and one of these two-for-one-kobo judges of Zamfara gave a ruling that the Yari candidates should be accepted. Meanwhile, the APC National Working Committee said it did not conduct the Zamfara primaries and it is the lawful authority to do so. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it did not observe the Yari primaries in Zamfara as required by law because the state EXCO is not constitutionally empowered to conduct such primaries.
The Federal High Court in Abuja also entertained the same matter and ruled that, legally, the APC has no candidates for the legislative and governorship elections in Zamfara. Based on this ruling, INEC said the APC has no candidates for those positions in Zamfara for this year’s elections. For both rulings, the aggrieved parties went on appeal. But despite the decision of INEC and the fact that the case is in the Court of Appeal, Governor Yari flagged off APC campaigns in Kaura Namoda this Sunday with full complement of armed thugs. Clearly, Zamfara is descending to more anarchy if Yari is not called to order.
Governor Yari thinks because he is in power and is in possession of state resources he can do anything. He thinks he can defy the law; he thinks he can buy his way and get any ruling. In fact, a group called a press conference to allege that Yari had boasted that he had already bribed the Court of Appeal and that was why he could go ahead to start campaigning for his candidates even when the case has not been decided by the appeal court.
It is true that there are some bad eggs among the judges, but Nigerian judiciary is not for sale to the highest bidder. There are still very good judges in the Nigerian judiciary who can stand by the truth and be fair and just. One of such good judges is Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who gave the order against the ruling party by upholding the decision of INEC not to accept candidates of the APC in Zamfara State for the 2019 general election. This is the lawful, principled, fair and just position as the relevant laws stipulated. It is also a worthy act of courage for Justice Ojukwu to give that ruling at a time the judiciary is on trial with the eyes of the world on it.
The Zamfara case is trying to drag the name of Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, the president of the Court of Appeal, to the muddy waters of politics. Her hard-earned reputation and years of public service is being dragged to the mud. Her family and name are being put under stress. It seems Governor Yari does not want to go down alone: he is set to pull everybody down with him. His greatest fear is that, in the next few weeks, he will lose his immunity and he knows that he will be held accountable for all his deeds in office and may become Dan Yari zai je gidan Yari!
What Yari does not know is that the principled stand of INEC in not succumbing to pressure to accept the candidates of the ruling APC in Zamfara because they did not conduct proper primary elections has clearly shown that INEC is truly independent. It has raised the democratic profile of the country, as we know that it is difficult in Africa or even under previous governments for the electoral commission to defy the president’s party. It has shown that the electoral commission can stand on the side of the law and refuse to dance to the tune of politicians or be intimidated by the government of the day. This is a very good thing for Nigeria and Africa’s image. It is our hope that the judiciary settles this case fairly and justly to put to rest the coming chaos in Zamfara under Yari.
History is on the side of the oppressed.