By Mohamed Sanusi Shehu
The announcement of Bello Matawalle, former governor of Zamfara State, as a ministerial nominee came to many as a surprise. However, his appointment as minister of state for Defense is shocking and contemptible.
The reaction to the mere mentioning of Matawale as a possible Minister was met with instant revulsion by a broad spectrum of political observers even among the members of the same party. Particularly for the leaders across political parties from the North-West, it was considered a profoundly courageous attack on the reputation and psyche of the region that Matawale will be the one out of the pantheon of dignified and qualified persons from the region to represent the North-West zone in the approximate apex of national government .
It is unconcionable that a peculiarly failed Governor who particularly made Zamfara State more vulnerable to penury and banditry will be the one to emerge as the ministerial nominee from the geo-political entity. In addition to Matawale’s abysmally disastrous economic policy and infamous raid of the public treasury, the Governor engaged in societally-risky behavior with bandits and terrorists.
Under Matawale, more than half of the territory of Zamfara State was under the capture of bandits. The inept leadership of the ex-Governor was beyond clueless. On the matter of combating banditry, he was literally in romantic cohabitation with known terrorist’s leaders. Truly, known bandit leaders and terrorists were openly attending social ceremonies in Zamfara Emirates as Matawelle engaged in direction less negotiations and supposed peace and reconciliation dialogue with dangerous criminals.
Funds approximating billions of Naira went into these talks with zero redemptive results for the besieged and traumatised people of Zamfara State. Curiously, it will indeed look as if the negotiation with the bandits had become the criminal channel for Matawelle to conduct his own banditry on the commonwealth of Zamfara people .
So there were the bandits from the remote forests and the bandits in the urbane setting of the Government House in Gusau. This is the premiere credential of the man being appointed to serve as a Minister under President Tinubu .
It cannot be so easily forgotten that Ex-Governor Matawalle once hosted in almost celebratory fashion a notorious murderous killer and serial hostage-taker, Bello Turji, in the Government House under the guise of conducting negotiation and peace settlement.
Just a few weeks after such a dubious theater, the bandit leader struck in more deadly fashion against the people of Zamfara State.
The years of 2020 to 2023 were era of free reign of terror orchestrated by bandits in Zamfara State under Matawalle as the Chief Security officer of the geo-political entity .
Bandits were openly engaged in a festival of fear, hostage-taking , cattle-rustling and blood-letting with open parade of deadly weaponry including AK-47, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft munitions. Terrorists and bandits from other restless regions of the North turned the forests of Zamfara State into bazaars for arms trade .
Matawalle displayed both gross incompetence and deficit of compunction of conscience in rising to the challenges of protecting lives and property in his Zamfara home state.
Are these the sterling credentials that Matawalle is now expected to project in his larger national assignment as a Minister of State in the Ministry of Defence?
The Ex-Governor who was an abominable failure as a state chief security officer is now expected to play a more challenging role in securing the nation. To dignify Matawalle with a toga of national defence assignment is to create a tragic-comedy with colossal consequences for our Fatherland
In a serious setting, Matawalle will not even be qualified to play a serious role in a television drama relating to security. That is how lacking in capacity for any function regarding state or national security.
More frightening is the fact that one is not sure that Matawalle can even be trusted in serious dialogue relating to Defence. Can anyone really vow that Matawale received proper clearance regarding his diabolical and surreptitious dealings with terrorists and bandits in Zamfara State concerning the nature of his true relationship with the notorious bandit leader, Turji Bello, and the likes?
How come Matawale had refused to respond to the invitation by the Alliance of Citizens for National Security asking that the Ex-Governor publicly answers media questions about his interaction with terrorists both during and after his tenure as Governor? Why is Matawalle dodging such invitations ?
President Tinubu will be committing a deadly error to so elevate Matawale in the hierarchy of a Ministry whose function has dire consequences for the welfare and lives of Nigerians .
While one cannot directly attach the nomenclature of bandit to Matawalle’s names, there is however no doubt that the Ex-Governor is attached in an inextricable umbilical chord of sympathy with bandits and terrorists, Matawalle himself has said so much in his irrevocable advocacy that the kinetic option should never be part of possible option to deal with bandits and terrorists. It is not too late for president Tinubu to reverse his decision and save Nigeria from the crass and inept leadership of Matawalle as a Defence Minister.
Mohamed Sanusi Shehu, a public policy analyst writes from Kaduna.