It is not uncommon for overzealous agents of the state to take law into their own hands in reaction to uncomplimentary social media posts, like in this case from Zamfara State.
When Abdulrasheed Buhari Yandi went to his Facebook wall on May 12 to pour out his thoughts, as he usually does, he had no idea this particular post would attract ire from most highly placed persons in his state of Zamfara.
The Facebook’s innocuous question; “what is on your mind?” which confronts the social media platform’s users was a prompt for young Yandi to state it exactly the way he felt. “It was a short, heartfelt and innocent post,” he later recalled in a chat with Daily Trust after escaping the storm caused by social media commentary.
Yandi, who confessed to being a member of the state’s ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had used the social media platform to express reservation over the state’s administration led by Governor Bello Mohammed Matawalle, as the post was inundated with disappointment over what he called lack of significant infrastructural projects in Gusau, the state capital.
“PDP is ours and our desire is its progress, but I am disappointed with Matawalle,” he wrote in a mix of Hausa and English.
“Honestly I am so disappointed when I came to Zamfara; there is nothing developmental that I saw in Gusau and the entire Zamfara,” Yandi wrote.
He proceeded to outline four specific issues: “1. Matawalle promised to build Gusau Hotel in three months but there is nothing yet; 2. He said he will build Ruga in one year, it is yet to materialize; 3. Cargo airport is yet to take off; 4.There is nothing significant in terms of security”.
After accusing the governor of paying much attention to maintaining a glamorous appearance, rather than governance, he concluded by positing that if the governor does not change the lot of the state, it would cost the party the gubernatorial seat come 2023.
Yandi’s travails began with a phone call
Contended with what he felt was a benign advice, Yandi traveled out of the state on a family trip to Sokoto. It was while he was away that a call came through from the Managing Director of Zamfara State Transport Authority (ZAROTA) Aliyu Alhazzai Shinkafi. It was the beginning of his travails.
Shinkafi, a staunch follower of Governor Bello Matawalle went to work in search of Abdulrasheed Yandi. He was unable to reach the young man but got through a family member through an acquaintance in the Yandi’s neighborhood. On the phone, Alhazai Shinkafi told Nafiu Yandi, Abdulrasheed’s uncle that he was acting at the instance of Governor Matawalle, who sent a screenshot of Abdulrasheed’s post to him (Shinkafi).
A recording of the call which was obtained by Daily Trust revealed how Shinkafi gave assurances to Nafiu Yandi that young Yandi would be invited to meet the governor and talk “as a family”. He suggested that the interest of the governor was only for Abdulrasheed to retract the post and claim that his Facebook account was hacked.
Nafiu was at first reluctant to give in his cousin to the governor’s man, unsure of the fate that may befall him. He instead stressed to him that Yandi was actually a member of the state’s ruling PDP.
But the tricks and ploy of Shinkafi knew no bound as he informed him that the parley was just to assure the governor that he was not a bad apple in the party.
“He is not the first person to criticize the governor. I have a friend that was always criticising the government and when I took him to the government house, the governor gave him a Toyota CRV and N1 million. If I should take him to the governor I promise that at the end of the day, if I ask the governor to give him any of the fleets of cars, he would.”
That was the ploy he used to lure and convince Nafiu to produce his cousin.
However, Shinkafi did not only rely on the carrot approach but also boast that he would fish Yandi out no matter where he ran to.
He hinted that the search for Yandi was spurred by the governor as he was the one who sent the screenshot of the post to him around 3 am which he took the step to look for whoever was behind the post.
Yandi beaten for Facebook post critical of Governor Matawalle
Blowing hot and cold, Shinkafi allayed the fears of Nafiu, he said he had plans to create a social media committee and Yandi will be the one to lead it.
With every assurance that his cousin would not be harmed, Nafiu gave in and promised to bring Yandi to him in the night.
Speaking to Daily Trust, Nafiu and Malami, another family member who was present during the altercations, recounted how Shinkafi beat up Yandi on the streets, rather than take him to the governor, as promised.
“He first drove with Abdulrasheed to the governor’s house, with me trailing them but he was turned back. Abdulrasheed called me from where I was waiting for them to say that they were not let in and I should come. By the time I reached there they were back in the car and leaving at high speed. I trailed them. He drove towards the back of Government House, around the abattoir then he packed and brought Abdulrasheed out. I refused to intervene but recorded the beating from a distance,” Nafiu said.
After the beating Alhazai put back Yandi in the car and drove to his house where he kept him overnight. In the morning family members went to Alhazai’s house demanding the whereabouts of Yandi.
Two video clips seen by our reporter show Alhazai raining punches on Yandi at night and, in the other one, holding him by the collars in the morning with Malami, a relative of Yandi kneeling down to plead with Alhazai.
“I was lucky some close family members who were senior police officers intervened. The story would have been different,” Yandi told Daily Trust.
Feeding back the governor
A phone call record allegedly between Shinkafi and Governor Matawalle revealed how the ZAROTA managing director was feeding back the governor on how he ‘dealt’ with Yandi, including how he came to the governor’s house but he was denied access.
Matawalle could be heard expressing reservation about bringing the man to his house saying he was not granted access to the governor’s house because the governor does not want his name to be soiled with the controversy.
“If you want to do this kind of operation don’t ever do the mistake of bringing it close to the governor. So it was you who did it, you would have looked for somewhere to detain him.”
He advised him to look for somewhere to look for a place to build a cell.
While explaining to the governor that Yandi has been apologising for the post he made, the governor interjected that he should ask him to reveal who sent him to write the post.
The governor directed Shinkafi to free Yandi but threaten him that wherever he runs to he would be found and picked up. He emphasized that ‘ask him who told him to write the post,’ alleging that the post would have been instigated by a certain Dauda.
When contacted on the involvement of the state government, the Commissioner for Information, Ibrahim Dosara, asked Daily Trust to contact Shinkafi since he was the one who perpetrated the act. Before our reporter could enquire further on the call between Shinkafi and the governor, Dosara cut off the call.
No regrets – Alhazai Shinkafi
When contacted, Shinkafi told our reporter on the phone that his action was prompted due to the lies peddled by Yandi. He said he would act the way he did if anyone was to insult the governor.
Shinkafi justified his assault with a prophetic saying that urged correction of bad act through tongue, heart, or hand.
He said with Zamfara populated by Muslims, his actions were justified as he wanted to know those who instigated Yandi to post the contents on his Facebook page.
On whether the governor has a hand on the saga, Alhazai absolved Matawalle.
He said the alleged audio clip containing phone conversation between him and the governor was fake.
“The conversation between me and the governor was fake. Why would I record anyone when making a call? Matawalle is my boss and I will protect his integrity wherever I find myself. Even the National Assembly is considering prosecuting those who post fake news on social media, so what I did was to