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OPINION

28years Later, Counting The Gains, The Losses Of June 12

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June 12

When the military regime led by the General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd.) once again postponed civil rule elections to June 12, 1993, it was unaware it was setting an historical date that will eventually consume it and disgrace the military out of power. He was equally unaware that the date will become of symbolic significance in the very fabric of the Nigerian nationhood.

 

It was all a part of the generals’ hidden agenda of organising party primaries and elections, turning round to annul them and shifting the transition programme goal post.

 

 

But today, Democracy Day in Nigeria is being celebrated on the 12th of June. This change from May 29 carries heavy symbolism for a country that is known more years of being ruled by military men than by democratically elected leaders. May 29 is also symbolic as it was the date rtd General Olusegun Obasanjo, as the president elect in late February 1999, was duly sworn in same year.

 

 

What makes the date truly significant? It was on this date in 1993 that presidential elections were held for the first time since the 1983 military coup. It was an event many observers have described as the most outstanding in Nigeria’s post-independence political history. It was still viewed as the freest, fairest and most peaceful election ever held in Nigeria.

 

 

On the day, an estimated 14 million Nigerians – irrespective of ethnic, religious, class, and regional affiliations, (in a period when religious acrimony and tension had reached its zenith) – defied bad weather to elect their president with the hope of ending eight years of military dictatorships.

 

 

Unfortunately, results of that election were never released. But unofficial results gathered through the various polling stations by civil society groups across the country indicated broad national support for the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola.

 

 

The then military head of state, General Babangida, in an unprecedented move, annulled the results of the election, justifying his actions on the grounds that it was necessary to save the nation. He alleged that political activities preceding the election were inimical to peace and stability in Nigeria. The June 12 election and subsequent annulment marked the beginning of a decades long struggle to see the election result restored and democracy rehabilitated.

 

 

Decades later, perhaps in righting Babangida’s wrong, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the change in date and honour of Chief Abiola.

 

 

“…After due consultations, the federal government has decided that henceforth June 12 will be celebrated as Democracy Day.

 

 

“Therefore, government has decided to award, posthumously, the highest honour of the land, GCFR, to the late Chief M.K.O Abiola, the presumed winner of the June 12, 1993 cancelled elections. His running mate as vice president, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, is also to be invested with a GCON. Furthermore, the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualisation of June 12 elections and indeed for democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi is to be awarded the GCON.

 

 

“The investiture will take place on Tuesday June 12, 2019, a date which in future years will replace May 29 as a national public holiday in celebration of Nigeria’s Democracy Day.”

 

 

However, Nigerians from all works of life have been asking whether the country has gained anything from the June 12, 1993 presidential election or if the endorsement of the day would be of any significance since its adoption last year.

 

 

They are worried that none of the critical issues it raised about the system of governance during its press conference in 2019 when Buhari recognised Abiola had been addressed even though they remain critical and fundamental towards resolving the incessant political instability, economic misery, national mutual mistrust, lack of cohesion and unacceptable level of national insecurity.

 

 

One of the closest associates of late Abiola, Chief Jide Sawyer, had described the present democracy as being even worse and deficient more than military rule. He said the country appears to have learnt nothing, neither could it boast to have gained much from June 12, 1993 presidential election, apart from the fact that former military rulers dropped their military uniforms and assembled some politicians to form a civilian administration.

 

 

According to him, “There is nothing different despite the fact that the present administration recognised June 12 as Democracy Day last year. Those in government today who pushed for the agenda only paid lip service to whole idea for their selfish political interests. I describe them as people who didn’t participate in what they are currently benefiting from. This democracy is even worse than military rule.

 

 

“For instance, we have a selective mode of election where individuals, who claim to be godfathers, decide and or select who represent the people and not through free, fair democratic process, and in effect such public officers are directly responsible to their masters and not to the electorates.”

 

 

Sawyer added: “As much as it was good that the incumbent government recognised June 12 as Democracy Day over a year ago, tell me what has been different in the system of governance and democracy that we have had since 1999? Democracy is about honesty, determination and focus to deliver good governance to the people. The reason I said we are worse than when we were under the military regime is that critics of government are viciously attacked these days by government-sponsored agents, which has almost stopped very reasonable people from talking or faulting government’s policies.”

 

 

On the agitation to restructure the country, Sawyer said, “One unique thing about Abiola’s aborted presidency and the 1993 democratic process was the ‘hope and confidence’ it gave to Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic differences. ‘Hope 93’ made SDP very popular and acceptable before the military struck by annulling the result. Today, can we even discuss restructuring without giving the people hope first? There is the need to allay the fears of Nigerians. To get this done, good governance is key. This is when we can start talking about restructuring.”

 

 

Also, the seeming total disregard of this administration to fulfill the major electoral promises and manifesto to restore the country to federal constitutional governance constitutes a betrayal of public trust upon which it secured its mandate in 2015. It is painfully clear now that the president and the APC made false promises that they did not intend to keep.

 

 

President Buhari’s so-called three pillars – to secure Nigeria, to revamp the economy and to fight corruption – have clearly recorded very low achievements because the current centralist and unitarist governance structure remains unsuitable, unsustainable and counterproductive in a heterogeneous geographical and political space where the different ethnic nationalities or groups must be free to govern themselves as they deem fit, given the divergent languages, religions, traditions, cultures, artifacts and folklores of the people.

 

 

Reacting on what the country had gained and lost on the June 12 struggle in the last 28 years, a former governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba, said the greatest gain of Abiola’s sacrifice for democracy is the stability it brought into the transition programme. He said before the late business mogul paid the supreme price, which brought about the present democracy, “Nigeria had always found it difficult, if not impossible, to transit from a civilian administration to another without the military intervening. For instance, during the First Republic, the military seized government giving excuse of the uncertain and chaotic atmosphere that enveloped the political terrain then. This led to the January 1966 coup.

 

 

“When Nigeria eventually returned to democratic rule in 1979, another military coup took place four years after the 1983 elections. But since MKO Abiola paid the supreme price in 1998 and Nigeria wriggled to return to civil rule in 1999, the military had remained in the barracks while we have had about five uninterrupted civilian-to-civilian transitions from 1999 to 2020. Indeed, Abiola was a political and historical factor.”

 

 

On the losses, Osoba said many people have been doing a symbolic celebration of Abiola and June 12 yearly without necessarily showing enough love and commitment to the late philanthropist and his family.”

 

 

Steve Adesemoye, a senior lecturer at the Lagos State Polytechnic, LASPOTECH, concurred with Osoba when he said, “Celebrating a symbolic day is not bad. Especially if it is in remembrance of somebody or a phenomenon. But we need to work on why we set this day aside. It goes beyond setting aside a date, there must be a political will to enthrone the reason for the day.”

 

 

Lamenting that the political elites in this country are just in their own world, he explained that these elites are practically disconnected from the people and without respect for the rule of law, democracy and/or free and fair electoral system.

 

 

“June 12 will remain a mere date until the political elites actualise what the day stands for – fairness, equity, good governance, economic prosperity, selflessness, etc.,” he intoned.28years later, counting the gains, the losses of June 12

 

Latching onto the recent ban of microblogging site, Twitter and Buhari’s recent interview on Arise TV, Otunba Olumide Abegunde, a social commentator was of the opinion that Nigeria is in need of prayers as the country’s democracy is in a nascent state.

 

 

“Nigerian government has just shown us ‘crazy!’ How can people who claim to be ruling and not leading or governing get so emotional at the prick of an ‘inconsequential’ entity? I always thought rulers had zero emotions.”

 

 

 

He queried, “What is democracy? How do we describe democracy? I hope it still has a meaning in this terrain of ours. For a country whose largest demography is youthful, suspending a more or less e-commerce platform where young people who the state could not provide jobs for, have come together on and found a means to survive, is so much.”

 

 

Disgusted that it took Nigeria 21 years from the re-inception of democracy to establish the fact that June 12 is the marker for the struggle to free Nigeria from the wicked stranglehold of military dictatorship, executive secretary, Nigeria National Summit Group (NNSG), Tony Uranta, however, said Buhari deserves to be commended for recognising that the Fourth Republic is built on the sacrifices of MKO Abiola, his wife, Kudirat and other political martyrs who lost their lives in the nationwide struggle to right the wrongs that the military foisted on Nigeria from 1984 especially.

 

 

Uranta added, “Having said that, one must state that the end of military rule only ushered in civilian governance, and not democratic rule. Nigeria is still governed by non-democratic systems and personalities, who have entrenched a corrupt electoral process that has only produced a political elite still owing their existence to military and not at all dependent on the electorate.”

 

 

 

He said until there is internal democracy in the political parties, “we cannot say Nigeria is a republic, whose leadership respects democracy. Until we have elections not premised on fake population census and the threats of a violent few, Nigeria cannot claim to have embraced democracy. Until only the eligible vote for candidates who emerge through transparent elections at all levels of the democratic system counts, we cannot truthfully be said to be a democracy.

 

 

 

“Until the country is so reconfigured to clearly aspire to the highest standards economically and politically; that is, until Nigeria is restructured along the lines that our founding fathers agreed to, Nigeria cannot be seen as the united, stable democracy we like to fool ourselves that it is already.”

 

 

In his own line of thought, Prince Adeyemi Aseperi – Shonibare said June 12 is the godfather of the democracy everyone is enjoying now.

 

 

“June 12 also gave birth to many political Stars today. June 12 also removed the military permanently. June 12 gave birth to the longest democracy in the history of Nigeria.”

 

 

According Niran Adedokun, a senior journalist and social commentator, “I take June 12 to be the turning point in the Nigerian politics. For the fact that you had two Muslims on the ticket and Nigerians massively voted for them was an indication to me that Nigerians can actually be united. June 12 was a sacrifice for democracy and late MKO Abiola was the sacrificial lamb. Now, are the people, who are beneficiaries of the struggle living the reality of it? Can we truly say that many years after the struggle, Nigeria is progressing? I don’t think so because even those who claimed to have those progressive democratic credentials during the June 12 struggle are not living the truth of that declaration at the moment. We now have states where the judiciary and legislative are just appendages of the executive.

 

 

“All said and done, there is nothing as good as having a democracy. I’m hopeful that it can only get better and the people should also be alert to their responsibilities in demanding accountability from their leaders.

 

 

“It is not the responsibility of the Nigerian citizens to be supporting blindly even when they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do. If we continue to do that, democracy will not develop the way it should.”

 

 

With all these said, it is obvious that the goodwill of June 12 has not really reflected on the fate of the nation and with 28years down the line, what does the future hold for the average Nigerians, who fear that the struggles of the June 12 heroes are appearing to be in vain?

 

 

As we move forward as a nation, despite our many challenges, insecurity being major one, let us continue to take account of the need to truly make the dream of a truly democratic Nigeria by the late Chief MKO Abiola and several other actors, dead and alive, a reality.

 

 

Happy Democracy Day, Nigerians!

Victor Ojelabi 

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OPINION

In Search For Justice For Keren-Happuch Akpagher

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Keren

Not long ago, we were jolted by the news of the unfortunate death of Miss Keren-Happuch Akpagher, a 14-year-old boarding student of the Premiere Academy, Abuja. From her mother’s narrative, Keren was said to have been molested in the school, and as a result, died a few days later. It will be easier for you to understand how jolted I was when you know that I am a mother of two children – daughters – in the same school.
The mother narrated that Keren called her that she was sick and requested to be picked up. She did take her home on Saturday, 19 June 2021.
According to a media report, her mother, Mrs Vihimga Akpagher, said, “By the morning of Monday, June 21, 2021, I noticed that her condition had deteriorated and took her to hospital, and while examining her, the doctor saw a discharge, ran a test and discovered that it was a condom that was left in her. They tested her urine and it contained sperm; and like that, infection and sepsis led to her death.”
After reading the news report, I quickly called the school for clarification. The head of the school told me the school’s side of the story. According to the principal, Mr Chris Akinsowon, “Keren Akpagher, reported to the clinic on 17 June, 2021 with a complaint of redness of the eye. Her mother requested that she be taken to see an ophthalmologist on Saturday, 19 June, 2021.
She was taken for the appointment in the morning of the same day. On her return to the school, her mother further requested to take her home because Keren was insisting on going home for that weekend. An exeat was granted and she was released to her mother on Saturday afternoon in a stable condition.”
He further said that the school only got to know about her hospitalization in the morning of Monday, 21 June, 2021. “We mobilized immediately and paid her a visit at the hospital on that day. It was with deep sympathy that we later heard of her demise early the next day, Tuesday, 22 June, 2021,” he told me.
When I inquired into the allegation of sexual molestation, the principal noted that there was no report of sexual molestation by the deceased girl or any person whatsoever throughout the events that eventually led to the death of the poor girl. He said he was surprised to hear the deceased mother allege that. He informed that the matter has been reported to the police and that the school has honoured the police invitation and is currently cooperating with them in their investigation.
Since the breaking of the news, our PTA platform has never been this engaging as all parents are keenly following the investigation. To demonstrate our interest in getting to the root of the matter, some of us are even mulling retaining a legal team to represent the PTA in the proceedings, should the case get to court.
I understand that the police, expectedly, have conducted an autopsy and the report is expected to be out in four to six weeks. The autopsy is supposed to shed more light as to the cause of Keren’s death and give a clue as to the circumstances surrounding her death.
It is heart-rending to read that some group of people, going by the name Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Responders, take to the street to assert that the report that is yet to be released affirms that Keren was raped and sodomized. They went further to allege that the school and the police – two stakeholders with very high stakes in the search for justice in the matter – are trying to cover up the case.
I wonder where they got their information. It is barely a fortnight the autopsy was conducted by Dr Desmond Ike Okonkwo, the principal pathologist at the Maitama General Hospital, who was appointed by the police for the exercise and witnessed by the school and family representatives. In ideal situations it takes up to six weeks for such reports to be released.
On this note, I call on the NGOs and in fact, all stakeholders to refrain from rumour mongering as this may jeopardise the investigation. I make bold to say that all the stakeholders in this issue, except for the alleged perpetrator(s) and/or his/their collaborator(s), are keen on getting to the root of the case.
In this case, there is a coincidence of interest in justice. Every right-thinking stakeholder – the family, the school, the police/government, the PTA, the GBV Responders and the general public – is in search of justice, may be for different reasons which may include to ensure that the perpetrator(s) and/or his/their collaborator(s) is/are brought to book, to help get closure, to maintain law and order, to manage reputation/clout, to get reassurance and so on. As a result of this interest in justice, it will be a disservice to one another, to ourselves and to even the spirit of the late Keren for any stakeholder to assume that it is the only one interested in justice in this matter.
We should be patient and allow the police, who are in charge of this investigation to do their job with due process and without interference. In no time, the report of the autopsy will be released and we would have a clearer picture as to the cause of Keren’s death and a possible pointer as to if she was sexually molested or not.
Like most other stakeholders, the PTA are anxiously waiting for the outcome of the police investigation and their next line of actions.
We are closely monitoring the processes and will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that we get to the root of the matter but, no matter how agitated we are, we are willing to allow the due process take its course. I enjoin all other stakeholders to also align with this decision so we forge a united front in our concerted efforts towards unravelling the circumstances that surrounded Keren’s death.
By Georgia Agada

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OPINION

The Making Of A Dictator

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Dictator

To understand the implications of the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) regime’s plot to muzzle the media, it is necessary to trace the journey of the media and of the concept of freedom of expression in the service of democratic governance.

 

 

The Age of Enlightenment or Age of Reason of the 17th and 18th Century introduced the idea of Individualism which meant that the individual citizen of Old World Europe could justifiably hold an opinion different from those of others, including his monarch.

 

 

It advanced the pursuit of reason and empiricism and prompted the ideals of liberty –or ability to do as one pleases– and tolerance of ideas that one probably disagrees with– fraternity and constitutional government, which limited the powers of the monarch who was no longer regarded as divine.

 

 

The Age of Enlightenment was propelled by the growth of the press, the first of which were circulated in England in the 1620s. The penny newspaper, cheap tabloid, debuted in America in the 1830s to contribute robustly to conversations on democracy.

 

 

In England, the press took over the vocation of confronting the English monarch from the House of Commons that was established in 1341, when landholders took their petitions and grievances to the King through the Parliament.

 

 

The Nigerian press, that started with “Iwe Irohin Awon Yoruba,” first published in 1859 by Reverend Henry Townsend in Abeokuta, contributed significantly to the efforts of the nationalists to deliver Nigeria from the vice grip of colonial Great Britain.

 

 

It is regrettable that the press that stood in the vanguard to take out the colonialists, before confronting the jackboot military in Nigerian politics, is now the victim of politicians, who are beneficiaries of its daring.

 

The press in New World America became an indispensable institution of American politics to the extent that Thomas Jefferson, an American President, remarked that if he were asked to choose between “a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”

 

 

The job of surveillance and report of events that the media performs in the public space, for the mass, atomised, associational and complex society spread across the wide geographical spread of modern nations, is what terrifies regimes run by the likes of Major General Buhari.

 

 

The press has become a veritable institution of the democratic traditions even before the 21st Century, and there is hardly a country in the world that does not have its media, no matter how rudimentary it may be.

 

 

Even the Constitution of Nigeria gives every Nigerian the right to establish a media in order to express their freedom of speech, uphold the fundamental objectives of the constitution and hold the government accountable to the people.

 

 

The Federal Government of Nigeria, run by the All Progressives Congress, the political party that rode to power on the back of the media, while waving what has now turned out to be a banner of fake progressivism, is about to destroy the ladder it climbed to get to power.

 

 

After disembarking from the back of the proverbial tiger, the APC is determined to castrate it and pull off its fangs. The denizens of the APC must have gone through the grace notes of Nicolo Machiavelli, the Italian nobleman who recommended that anyone who assumes power must neutralise those who helped them acquire the power. It adds up, really.

 

 

The Minister for Information and Culture of this regime, Lai Mohammed, that is currently suffering from a bout of recidivism, relapsing into bad habits, is turning out as a cross between Josef Goebbels, Fuhrer Adolf Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda, and “The Thought Police,” of Oceania, the dystopic society of George Orwell’s novel, “NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR.”

 

And if you dug into the past of Buhari, you would discover a military Head of State, who promised some journalists that he would tamper with the freedom of the press, and did with the obnoxious Decree 4 that he employed to send Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, journalists from The Guardian newspaper, to gaol for reporting the truth.

 

The President and the Minister of Information are probably using Olusegun Odebunmi, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Information, National Orientation, Ethics and Values, who has vehemently argued to the contrary, as the conduit to promote the annoying bill.

 

The bill, according to Odebunmi, will protect and guide the Nigeria Press Council and reduce quackery, fake news and hate speech, as if there are no laws that already check libel, slander, defamation of character, fraud, cybercrime, sedition and insurrection.

 

Some of the more offending provisions of the dreadfully obnoxious bill empower the Minister of Information  to “establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards for media houses and journalists;” approve the establishment of media houses; grant them licences; and monitor them and their journalists as they comply with the code.

 

Indeed, anyone or body corporate that owns, publishes or prints a newspaper, magazine, journal or any other periodical without documentation by the Council, shall be liable for an offence and shall be prosecuted.

 

 

Violators of the proposed law shall be fined N5 million or spend three years in prison; pay additional fine of N20,000 for each day the offence continues to be committed; face the possibility of a suspension for six months or more; in addition to striking out the name of the offending journalist from a register to be compiled an infallible NPC.

 

 

Another absurd aspect of the bill is that newspaper vendors who sell or distribute the newspaper, magazine or journal shall be liable for an offence and shall be jailed for one year or pay a fine of N250000.

The mother of all the offences is fake news, a piece of news published and established to be fake thereafter, attracts N5 million fine or two years in jail to the journalist, in addition to N2 million compensation to the “victim,” which may be an individual, body corporate or government.

 

But if the guilty party was a media house, it shall pay a fine of N10 million or be closed down for one whole year! In addition, the offending media house shall pay N20 million compensation to the victim of the fake news.

 

To all this nonsense, the press that is gradually becoming a victim of the state, is telling anyone who cares to listen that there is literally a fire on the mountain and it is kindled by the APC regime.

 

The print media is stating its case in a rather dramatic manner. It sets the image of an inmate, whose mouth is sealed by a tape made of prison bars. And below the image is the following sorry narrative:

 

“Information Blackout is what the National Assembly (dominated by APC, erstwhile friend of the media), wants to achieve with the NPC and NBC (Media) Act Amendment Bills.” The media also notes, “It’s not just against the media… it’s about the society’s right to know, your right to be heard.”

 

What the media didn’t add is that the acts of both the legislative arm, that is proposing the Amendment, and the Executive Branch, that is encouraging the compromise of the liberty of the media and the Nigerian citizens, are the stuff of which dictators are made.

 

The ominous signs are just too obvious.

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OPINION

Dancing On The Blood Of Zamfarans….

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BLOOD

Recently , no fewer than 40 persons were reportedly killed following attacks by suspected bandits on some villages in Zamfara state. The villages are Wari Tsaune, Gidan Adamu, Gidan Maidawa of Faru, all in the Maradun Local Government Area of the state.

 

It was also reported that the attacks left hundreds of others, including women and children with various degrees of injury.
Also several cows were said to have been rustled during the attack and shops in the affected villages were looted by the gunmen. This is a furtherance of the story of “sorrow, tears and blood” which has plagued Zamfara state in the last five(5) years.

 

Curiously, it was less than a week that Matawalle dumped PDP for the APC that his own local government came under serious attacks.
Who dun-nit ? The answer is not far fetched.

 

In this dystopia-like situation, widespread sobriety is expected of everyone especially the public office holders in Zamfara which is why the gross insensitivity displayed by the Deputy Governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau is offensive, wicked, and imbecilic.

 

It was reported that barely 24hrs after the said attack which left a river of blood and tears, the deputy Governor held a rally in the state capital. The said rally was to show the presence of his party in the state.

 

I am now of the utmost conviction that his recent show of shame is a piece in the puzzle of insecurity which has plagued Zamfara.

 

This is one of the many vices of the party which made Governor Matawalle ditch the party for the All Progressive Congress. A party which is insensitive to the plight of its members and those it governs should not be a platform for anyone with selflessness and purposeful leadership to build his lofty agenda and aspirations on.

 

 

The first piece of the puzzle which I will like to share was a tweet by Femi Fani Kayode few weeks ago in which he stated “May God deliver Zamfara & Nigeria from the evil of a madman that is determined to soak the state & our country in blood.

 

This man is responsible for the instability, bloodshed & violence we have suffered in Nigeris over decades & he works for the CIA. Many fear him but I do not.” He further affirmed “He is pure evil & I am going to expose him. The sword of truth will cut him down & the light of righteousness will expose his dark & evil ways & secrets.

 

What he is doing in Zamfara; the NW & indeed all over Nigeris today is unacceptable. He is a dangerous snake filled with hate, poison & blind & vaulting ambition even at his age”.
This is an indication that the sponsors or sponsor of banditry in Zamfara is known and can be revealed.

 

The second puzzle is the bold action of His Excellency, Governor Bello Muhammed Matawalle when he publicly challenged everyone in the state to follow demonstration of sincerity by swearing by the Holy Quran that he knows nothing about the banditry ravaging the state or anybody coordinating it. In his words on March 21, 2021 at the state capital while receiving an award as the Khadimul Quran conferred on him by the Centre for Quranic Reciter, he said; “I have sworn with the Holy Quran that if I know, or if I am part of, or I know anybody who is coordinating this (banditry), or with my hand or any of my family, may Allah not give me (speaks in Arabic) in this life,” he said.

 

Matawalle added, “I dare all the people from Zamfara State, from our father, Aliyu Gusau to Yarima Bakura and all the cabinet members, right from the inception of the political dispensation of the state, to take this oath as I did.”
Curiously, none of these aforementioned persons took up the challenge.

 

The last piece of the puzzle here is the celebration by Mahdi Aliyu. This only affirms the said attack a day before his rally was a successful muderous plot while the rally was a celebration of the successful execution of the evil plot.

 

With these three puzzles, it is evident one need not to look too far for the mischief makers behind the wickedness which has engulfed Zamfara for over five(5) years. The inssentive action of Mahdi Aliyu Gusua was dancing on the blood of innocent Zamfarans

 

 

Abdukadir Sulaiman,

a public affairs analyst.

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