Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State has concluded plans to dump the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the All Progressives Congress (APC), multiple sources around the governor told Daily Trust.
Matawalle, who became the governor of the state following the Supreme Court judgement on the internal squabble that rocked the APC primaries in 2019, has dissolved the state executive council ahead of the defection.
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The governor, it was gathered, has been perfecting plans to join the ruling party at the centre but the stiff rivalry between him and the APC’s leader in the state, Abdulaziz Yari, has been a clog in the wheel of the plan.
Yari, Zamfara’s immediate past governor has been at daggers-drawn with Matawalle, who became an unexpected beneficiary of the APC’s wrangling.
If Matawalle joins the ruling party, he would be third governor to jump ship since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term. The first to dump the PDP was the Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi and he was recently followed by Cross River State Governor, Ben Ayade.
Since February, when the two warring camps in the state chapter of the APC – Yari’s and that of Senator Kabir Garba Marafa, were reconciled, by the national caretaker committee of the party, politicking and scheming for the 2023 race in the state peaked.
While the governor is being touted to join the APC, Yari and his co-travellers are against it. Recently, a delegation of APC governors led by the party’s caretaker committee Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, visited Matawalle at Government House, Gusau.
As part of the visit, Daily Trust gathered, a closed-door meeting was held with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami in attendance.
It is a battle to grab the soul of the party ahead of the 2023 elections.
A top ally of the governor told Daily Trust that barring any last minutes change, Matawalle will join APC before the end of this month.
He also disclosed that the governor had separately met and briefed members of the state House of Assembly and those of the National Assembly from the state about his planned defection.
“I’m not sure about the date but what I can assure you is that all is set for the defection. He recently met with members of the National Assembly from the state and he has done same with members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly,” he said, pleading not to be named.
Similarly, one of the sacked commissioners, while confirming the planned defection said the dissolution of the cabinet was part of the arrangements for the defection.
“The governor does not want a repeat of the Cross River State scenario, whereby after the governor decamped to APC, some of the commissioners refused to follow him. His excellency is going to join the ruling,” he said in a phone chat.
The governor had on Monday night dissolved the state executive council and principal political appointees with immediate effect. The Secretary to the State Government, the Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff were also relieved of their appointments.
Anxiety in Yari’s camp
The planned defection of Matawalle to the APC, our correspondent gathered has unsettled the camp of the leader of the party in the state, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari.
Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State had recently cautioned Mattawale against joining his party. Matawalle and Yari have been at loggerheads since the former took over the affairs of the state in 2019.
A source in the state said one of the things delaying the defection of the governor was the position of Yari towards him. The source further said that when the discussion for Matawalle’s defection started, Yari was not contacted, a development that irked him.
“The former governor does not want Matawalle to join the party. He is all out to scuttle it but he cannot stop it because it has gotten the blessings of the national caretaker committee of the party and even the Presidency, “he said.
I’m still consulting – Matawalle
Speaking to Daily Trust last night, Governor Matawalle confirmed ongoing consultations for his political fate insisting, however, that it was not a definite decision yet.
“There is nobody that I told I am moving to any party. But as someone who is well-groomed in politics, I feel it is only fair to intimate my people about overtures towards me and seek their own thoughts and opinions,” he said.
We are not bothered – Yari
Yari’s spokesperson, Alhaji Ibrahim Birnin Magaji said there was no anxiety in their camp, saying they are not bothered.
“As far as we are concerned, this is mere rumour. We will respond when it is official,” he said.
Matawalle has right to decamp- Lawyers
Lawyers have submitted that the planned defection of Matawalle is within his political right under the Nigerian constitution.
Reacting, Dayo Akinlaja (SAN) said from the perspective of law, nothing prevents Matawalle from decamping.
“It is a right recognised by the Constitution for anyone to belong to a political party of one’s choice for the protection of one’s interest,” he said.
On the impact of the alleged planned defection on the country’s democracy, he said it is not unprecedented as there have been series of decamping in the course of the country’s democracy without turning the country into a one-party state.
“There is no assurance that the APC will not experience the kind of implosion that significantly eroded the base of PDP in the build-up to the 2015 elections and eventually cost it the control of the central government.
“It is a truism that man proposes but God disposes. So, whoever is minded to decamp and re-decamp should be allowed to do so. God is the ultimate decider of the fate of the country and the democracy it runs,” he said.
Also reacting, Sunusi Musa Esq said it is within the constitutional right of Governor Matawalle to choose a political party that he wants to belong to.
“As far as my understanding of the constitution is concerned, he will not breach any provision of the constitution. This has been decided long ago by the Supreme Court in the case of Atiku Abubakar against the Attorney General of the Federation where the Supreme Court clearly said that the Vice President had the right to change his political party because there is no provision of the Constitution which prohibits him from doing that,” he said.
He said the case of the governor or deputy governor is not like that of members of the State or National Assembly who the constitution says if they change their political party, their seats should be declared vacant.
On Matawalle’s alleged choice of APC, Musa said the choice shows that APC is waxing stronger and that the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari is better than the PDP governments in the past.
APC, PDP mum
Contacted for comments over the phone, the Director General, Press and Media Affairs to Yobe State Governor and Chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the APC, Mamman Mohammed, asked our correspondents to call the spokesman of the party.
However, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, did not pick his calls or respond to a text message sent to him by our correspondent.
Similarly, Secretary of the APC Caretaker Committee, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, did not pick his call or respond to a text message sent to him.
Other key officials at the party’s national secretariat also declined comment on the matter at the time of filing this report.
Similarly, the Deputy spokesman of the PDP, Diran Adeyemi said the party will not comment on the issue, saying the party was not aware of the development.
By Ismail Mudashir, John Chuks Azu, Saawua Terzungwe, Hamisu Kabir Matazu (Abuja) & Shehu Umar (Gusau)