How Tambuwal got bandits terrorising Sokoto to lay down arms —Dingyadi
Alhaji Yusuf Dingyadi, a former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Sokoto State, is a one-time secretary of the party’s caretaker committee in Kebbi State. He is currently a Senior Special Assistant to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. In this interview with OLAKUNLE MARUF, he shed more light on the recent 102 arms recovered by the state government from bandits operating in the state.
Could you share with us the method adopted by the state government to get bandits to surrender their weapons?
The style used by the Sokoto State government under the leadership of Governor Aminu Tambuwal is one of the best. Even before the meeting by North-West governors in Katsina State and the one in Maradin, Niger Republic, to discuss the issue and fine-tune way to ensure this is a workable solution in reconciling with the bandits. Governor Tambuwal has already initiated a contact with all these bandits through the Commissioner for Security and Administration, Colonel Garba Moyi, and other people from both state officials and the rural areas with the task. You will recollect that before now, we had some attacks from these bandits coming from Niger Republic, Katsina, Zamfara and Kebbi. You will also recollect that there was an attack in Gudu town, where a traditional ruler lost his life and in Kebbe where a former member of the state assembly was abducted. There was also an attack in Rabbah involving some villages within Rabbah Local Government Area, Goronyo, Sabon Birni which is also vulnerable to Niger Republic.
All these prompted the governor to sit down with the security officials of the state to discuss with them and seek professional advice on how to tackle the menace. The state has lost many innocent lives due to insurgents’ attacks from neighbouring Zamfara. So, after the security meeting, the governor sat down again with some political leaders who have knowledge about such things and they all advised him on the way forward.
He later sat with the deputy governor, Honourable Manir Dan’Iya, alongside the commissioner for security to discuss the issue and they also offerred their advice and agreed to set up a committee with the commissioner for security and administration to do everything possible to make sure that these bandits sit down and discuss with them and find a way out. We can all see the outcome. These bandits handed over their weapons to Sokoto State government in order let peace reign. All our roads are now safe, from Isa, Sabon Birni, including Tureta to Talata Mafara. We also have relative peace in Gudu, Kebbi and other local governments hitherto under insurgence.
The governor has also directed the commissioner for security and administration and other stakeholders on security to ensure that this relative peace is sustained in the state and other local governments surrounding the state in Kebbi, Zamfara and Katsina states. It also includes some local governments that share border with Niger Republic such as Gudu, Illeila, Tangaza, Goronyo and some parts of Isa Local Government Areas respectively.
You mentioned that the committee set up by the state government met with the bandits. How were they able to reach a truce?
Part of the agreement reached by the state government and the security agents with the bandits is that the state will grant them amnesty and empower them to start a new life by providing livestock and animal feeds for them. The repentant bandits will be given animals at a subsidised rate the same way the state government is doing with fertilizers to farmers. Each bag of the animal feeds will be given to them at a subsidised price in order to help them in the rearing of their animals. We must know that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop. One of the reasons they are doing what they are doing now is because they don’t have any job. Cattle rustlers have stolen their cattle.
The state is going to help them with cattle as a loan and will also give them some token to start the animal husbandry and also rehabilitate them. Some of their leaders will be trained on some skills that will help them to be self-reliant, just as a grazing reserve will be opened for them where they can rear their cattle without any hindrance.
The state will soon start this programme in Isa and Sabon Birni Local Government Areas of the state as a pilot scheme in order to help them to be useful to society. Instead of leaving them like that after collecting their arms, the government will rehabilitate them with some herds of cattle which is part of the agreement to help them in sustaining their lives and encourage them to send their wards to school.
The government will also provide essential materials in all their settlement, in other to help them to be useful to the society. These animal feed will be given to them after giving them the livestock and this programme will involve the traditional leaders, religious leaders as well as the community leaders of their place in the process of rehabilitating them.
The state will also ensure that schools are established for their children through the cooperation of the state universal education board and other relevant agencies. The state is ready use to maintain security across the twenty three local government areas in the state, especially those that were vulnerable to the bandits previously.
The rehabilitation of the victims is a continuous programme by the state government in which huge amount of money is being spent to ensure that they have been catered for and to maintain their homes so that they can return home and enjoy their lives.
The administrators of the concerned local governments have been given directive to ensure that they sit down with religious and community leaders in their areas to ensure safety in their areas and ensure the peace accord with armed bandits is something that has come to stay and not a gimmick, but something that will make the state be free from future attacks. This is because the lives of all the citizens and residents of this state are very important to Governor Tambuwal.
The government will not allow anyone to suffer and the reason the government agrees to this peace agreement is part of the experience of the governor as a former speaker where he showed a lot of commitment during former President Goodluck Jonathan era to ensure that insurgency in the North-East should have been tackled early before it escalated. He is an experienced person with rare talent and that is what he is using now. The peace of the state is very paramount and not only the provision of social amenities but also the security situation. One of the cardinal promises he made to the people of the state is to ensure peace and security. Anybody found wanting even among the government officials trying to cause any problem on security will be dealt with.
The recent recovery of these arms from bandits coincided with when borders were closed. Is there any correlation?
There is no coincidence at all as the issue of negotiations with bandits had been on for over two years now. The governor had been doing it even when there was an attack from Zamfara, he had been taking measures as everything that affects Zamfara will also affect Sokoto. That is why he provided vehicles for security patrols under the ministry of local government and holds regular meetings with all the heads of security agencies in the state to ensure that challenges of security in the state are being handled perfectly. He gave the security officials the required assistance in order to ensure they do their job without any hitch.
Also, the governor created a ministry of security and administration which is the first in this area and was assigned to a qualified person in retired Colonel Garba Moyi, a strategist who knows his job and very good officer who has experience with a sound background in military warfare. Immediately he was given this assignment, he started meeting with these bandits leaders one after the other.
The reason Sokoto State government made it a secret affair was because majority of these bandits do not want to be exposed. You know due to the killings and mainming, it is not right to expose them to the family of the victims to avoid reprisal attacks. The Governor asked the commissioner and other committee officials, security agents and some leaders of the bandits to hold the meetings. Some of the meetings were held in Niger Republic, Isa, Sabon Birni local government areas and other places you cannot even imagined. This is because the governor has experience on that and does not want to create a situation of panic, even the handing over of the 102 weapons before it was handed over to the police was done with caution and care before it was handed over to the police so that at the end, same weapons will not go back into the hands of these people again. Whatever the state government is doing is with caution, with security advice and those police officers, army and others were all carried along in other to have success in the talk.
With the success recorded by government in the dialogue with the bandits, what are the lessons to learn by other neighbouring states?
Well, every state has its way of dealing with issues or negotiating with these bandits. Our own is different entirely because we have a leader who understands the problems. So, if other states see it as a model, they can copy from him. In Katsina, you will recall that the governor had to travel by road to meet the bandits. In Zamfara, the governor sat with them to talk to them, like in Kaduna. We don’t know what they are doing and we cannot say they are not doing anything. In Kebbi, we don’t know what they are doing and cannot say they are not doing anything. In Sokoto, our governor has experience on this issue and also sat with security agencies to get advice. Do not forget also that we have a GOC 8 Division in Sokoto who also offered advice on the method that can be used to make sure that we recorded success at the end.
The reason we are reconciling is that nowhere in the world that use of gun or force is used to settle such problem or to bring about peace. Sitting to reconcile and negotiation is one of the best things, even in the developed countries. Look at Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others, you can’t use force. It is not done anywhere in the world. The best thing is to go for reconciliation and negotiations. What is their need? What we can afford we give them so as for all to have peace? The most important is to have peace and peace is very important. Without it, one cannot sleep; no development. No country can grow without peace and that is what is paramount for Governor Tambuwal. He cannot negotiate anything that will bring disunity or crisis to his people.
You will recall recently when the Air force officials killed two people in the state, the governor immediately cut short his official assignment in Abuja to come and meet with the security agencies. He attended two security meetings with the security officials of the state and all the security stakeholders in the state in other to fine-tune and bring a lasting solution. As a result, the Chief of Air force has to send emissary to the state.
The governor himself also visited the victims’ families to condole them and also announced scholarship from the primary up to the university level to all the children of the deceased. He also ordered that her young brother should be given automatic employment after his NYSC in order to get salary that can cater for himself and not care about whatever the government gave to the children of her sister (the deceased). He also ordered that the state government should foot the bill of all the injured people while he also gave all of them a token.
He also set up a committee under the leadership of one of the highly recognised government officials of the state to sit down and investigate the issue and also personally discussed the issue with all the security agencies in the state. This is the kind of thing that we are doing.
The opposition still described all what you mentioned as achievements in the area of security as a charade. What can you say to that?
You say opposition. You can’t deny them saying such. Their case is just like somebody that is dying, you can’t put a rag on his neck and say he cannot breathe, that is not the case. They are dying now; they are going like somebody who is playing his last card. As opposition, they cannot see what is good. My advice for them is to stop playing politics on the issue of security. It is paramount. This is because when these bandits attack, they don’t want to care if you are a member of APC or PDP. When they come to your house, they don’t bother which party you belong to. When when they attack you on the road, they don’t want to know if you are with Tambuwal or against Tambuwal, they don’t mind who you are.
What the governor is saying is that he is the governor of Sokoto State and not governor of APC or the PDP, but Sokoto, for people of the state and what matters to him is the protection of lives and the security of the people. There is no reason we cannot continue to protect our people because opposition is accusing us. Some of them even went as far as saying we purchased the guns. I am challenging the security to arrest these people so that they will show them where government negotiated with the people to buy those guns from them.
Imagine that we have a Minister for Police Affairs from APC government. We have a senator who is the chairman, Senate Committee of Defence from APC who has not shown interest in the issue of security in Sokoto, forgetting they have their families, friends, associates, political followers all in the state. I was even surprised seeing a serving senator holding a gun in a place far away from the state, but cannot come to his state for a few minutes and sit with the governor and advise him. All they do is play politics with security. Look at those people killed in Sokoto South and this is a constituency of the senator, but he cannot come and condole people of the area. As a chairman of Defence, Air force is under his watch, but he didn’t say anything and not even table it on the floor, same goes to the House of Representatives member representing Sokoto South/North in Federal House of Representatives. Two of his constituents were killed and no comment from him. In America or any developed country, if you lose one life, it is a dangerous thing and we should not allow anyone to play politics with the lives of our people.
Same goes to the Federal Government which cannot even send a condolence letter to the governor, but when someone was killed in Lagos, Presidency issued a statement. The same live of Sokoto man is the same live of someone from Lagos. If the Federal Government can give more attention to the life of a Lagosian than that of a Sokoto man, it is not right. We are all Nigerians. The life of every Nigerian matters just same way Governor Tambuwal did.
The Federal Government must know that we are Nigerians and not from Niger Republic or Cameroon or Ghana. In Sokoto, the president has a duty to call the governor to condole him and also send a delegation of condolence to him and also make a statement, just like what the Nigerian Air force did. I commend the Chief of Air force, Air Vice Marshall Sadiq for what he did and we urge him to use his power to ensure those personnel were punished to serve as deterrent to others.
On the issue of negotiations with bandits, why can’t the opposition encourage or support him? Why can’t they leave politics aside and do it for the sake of the state. Today, it is Tambuwal. Who knows who is going to be the governor tomorrow? Only God knows. The government, house is just like soldier go, soldier come but barracks remain. Let us try and have unity in the state, unity of purpose. When it is time for politics, we play politics well and it is time for unity and peace after politics. Let us put political differences aside. The Senators, House of representative members should remember they are people of the state, after finishing their tenure, they will come back to look for the votes of the people of the state. If the people of the state are being attacked and killed, they will not meet anyone to vote for them. They will not have time to visit their families.
As leaders, we want them to join hands with the governor to ensure the security of lives and properties of the people of Sokoto. Let us put politics aside. But we should stop playing politics with the security of the state. It is not good for the people of the state. The people of this state are one. No one can come from another place or land to do it for us. Let me also use this medium to challenge them. If they have anything against Governor Tambuwal, let them say it out for the general public to know.
You have commended the governor on the issue of security, what other sectors can you say the governor has done well?
You know the issue of security is not something that you will come out and start saying you do this or that. If you realise what has been happening in the area of provision of water resources you will know that there is improvement in the supply of water as you cannot hear the issue of water scarcity again. A lot of projects are being commissioned, but the governor is not the type of person that makes noise while doing his job. He is doing that underground without making it a fanfare. People are saying 100 days of Zamfara should be reflected in Sokoto, while they forget that Zamfara governor is a new governor. Do you see President Buhari celebrate 100 days or Kebbi State governor doing 100 days celebration?
There is achievement in the Universal Basic Education in the provision of social amenities, most especially you need to know that the state government is giving out some stipend to mothers who allow their female children to go to school as against allowing them to sell or hawk on the streets. Stipend is being given to them to encourage them. Some collect their allowances from community banks in Gwadabawa, Gonroyo, Sokoto South, Sokoto North and Yabo local governments respectively. All these community banks are being used to pay women for sending their girl children to school in conjunction with UNICEF.
There is, the e-wash water project going on in the state to stop or minimise infection within the state and we have less of that now. There is also a commendation letter from UNICEF that our state is among the top in mother-child mortality rate. There is also the issue of providing a soft loan to traders which has reached the final stage now. The government has provided its counterpart fund of about N1bilion to be given to artisans and traders as soft loans without collateral.
Also another N2billion naira has been earmarked under the ministry of commerce to be given as loans to small scale business entrepreneurs. On the issue of fertilizer, government is giving subsidy in fertilizer to assist farmers in the state. The rehabilitation of 265 secondary schools has been going on for the past six months in the state. The state government has renovated 331 primary schools across all the local government areas. Go to Gudu, Silame, Rabbah, Gonroyo, Yabo, Kebbe, in fact, check across the 23 local government area of the state.
Another programme is the enlightenment of people on the dangers inherent in drug abuse being done in conjunction with other relevant agencies in the state. There is also the issue of road rehabilitation going on across the state. Go to Rijim Sambo, Mabera and some other places in the rural areas, the rehabilitation of not less than 331 inner roads is being done in the entire 23 local governments, all within short term. This is a continuous thing. The governor inherited a lot of unfinished projects from the past administration, but he doesn’t want to use that as something that will stop him or affect his programme. This is because the state belongs to all of us. If past government had done wrong, it is not necessary to lament, but what is important is to correct those mistakes.
So, Governor Tambuwal is correcting many mistakes done by the immediate past government in the state and as a result, the state is paying a lot of money on that. There is shortfall in federal allocations and consequently, the state has to manage many things in other to see that all things end well.