UPON its creation by the Gen. Sani Abacha-led military administration, not a few people thought that Zamfara would become at best one of the obscure states remembered only by school pupils for examination purposes. But since it was carved out of the old Sokoto State on October 1, 1996, Zamfara has stoically maintained a place in national spotlight, complacently flaunting itself in our faces for the right or the wrong reasons.
First was the state’s introduction of the Sharia as a main body of civil and criminal law under the administration of the first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Ahmad Sani Yarima, in 1999. As it would be expected in a supposed secular state, the move sparked an outrage, particularly in the predominantly Christian southern states. But within a few months, many states in the north had caught the fever of Sharia as the novel legal system spread like wild fire. Numbered among them were Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi, Yobe, Niger, Kaduna and Gombe states. This was in spite of the outrage that greeted the plight of the first victim of the new system of legal administration, Mallam Bello Jangedi, whose arm was amputated after a Sharia court in Gusau found him guilty of cow rustling.
Zamfara again came under the spotlight in May 2010 with Yarima also the protagonist, as the news broke that the then 50-year-old former governor had taken a 13-year-old Egyptian girl as wife. Then in the general elections held between February and March this year, the state entrenched itself in the annals of jurisprudence history with a landmark Supreme Court judgment that nullified the electoral victory of all the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state and awarded same to their Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidates. So, all the seats won by the APC from the Zamfara State House of Assembly to the governorship and National Assembly were handed over to the PDP candidates, with the implication that the PDP, which was previously the opposition party in the state, is now firmly in control of the state’s political machinery.
The state is once again in the news over a protest letter allegedly written by the immediate past governor, Abdulaziz Yari, to the new governor, Bello Matawalle, protesting non-payment of his N10 million monthly allowance by the new administration. In the letter dated October 17, 2019 and addressed to Matawalle, Yari allegedly claimed that he was entitled to N10 million monthly as “upkeep allowance,” but had only been paid twice since he left office. According to the former governor, the law, which provides for the entitlement of former governors, deputies, speakers and deputy speakers, was amended in March and should not be truncated.
The said letter, according to media reports, reads in part: “I wish to humbly draw your attention to the provision of the law on the above subject matter, which was amended and assented to on March 23, 2019. The law provides, among other entitlements of the former governor, a monthly upkeep allowance of N10 million only and a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office. Accordingly, you may wish to be informed that since the expiration of my tenure on May 29, 2019, I was only paid the upkeep allowance twice — i.e. for the month of June and July, while my pension for the month of June has not been paid.”
Apparently in a bid to drive home the seriousness Yari attached to the matter, he was said to have written it on his official letter-headed paper which bears the bold inscription, ‘Office of the Former Governor of Zamfara State.’ It is the closest proof of the veracity of an incredible story a friend once told me about a professional hanger on whose complimentary card bore the inscription, ‘Friend of the Governor,’ just to flaunt his closeness to the governor of a state and give favour seekers the impression that he had unhindered access to the state’s chief executive. If anyone would be moved by such antics, it certainly will not be Governor Matawalle, given that he was neither impressed nor cajoled by Yari’s letter-head or its content.
If there was any response to Yari’s letter, it came from the state’s House of Assembly whose lawmakers on Tuesday passed a law abolishing the payment of pension and other allowances to the state’s former governors and their deputies. Addressing journalists in Gusau, the spokesperson of the state’s assembly, Mustapha Jafaru, said the ‘abolished’ law also affects ex-speakers of the house of assembly and their deputies.
The assembly thus settled a matter that had been of grave concern to progressive minds not only in Zamfara State but other parts of the country where political leaders have perfected a strategy for constituting themselves into life time parasites on states after plotting or forcing their ways into positions. The odious practice abolished by Zamfara lawmakers extends to most if not all the states of the federation, whereby former chief state executives, their deputies and other political office holders aforementioned draw billions of naira from their respective states as allowances while workers and pensioners in the same state are not paid their entitlements for as many as 18 months.
One can only hope that the Zamfara example will catch on, so that in a few months from now, most states would have done away with the obnoxious practice. It is also hoped that the new state of affairs in Zamfara will survive the Matawalle administration so that it will not be the case that the current public office holders will find a way to bring back the practice when they find themselves at the receiving end.