What next for Abdulaziz Yari, the immediate past governor of Zamfara State? This is the topical question on the minds of political pundits since the Supreme Court judgement on the application for the review elections in the state.
The apex court had on Friday dismissed the application for the review of its judgement which disqualified the governorship and other candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state in the 2019 general elections.
Observers of Zamfara State politic said the dismissal of the application had sealed the former governor’s effort to reclaim Zamfara in the current political dispensation, but they still forecast tough political battle in the state come 2023.
The feud between Yari and Governor Bello Muhammad Matawalle had worsened recently. The two politicians have been trading harsh words and uncomplimentary remarks thus heightening the political tension in the state.
Enter politics of defections. While former governor Yari has been trying hard to retain his loyalists largely through holding regular meetings to keep their hopes alive, Governor Bello Matawalle on the other side, has been making frantic efforts to woo such politicians to his side.
An observer said Governor Matawalle had succeeded in wooing some politicians from Yari’s camp.
Also more than half of 14 local government chairmen in the state elected on the platform of the APC have decamped to the ruling PDP in the state.
Yari’s camp has also lost top politicians including former commissioners to PDP, a development that has created apprehension in Yari’s camp with some of his supporters tagging the defectors as ingrates and fair-weather friends.
However, despite these defections, Yari has yet been able to retain some bigwigs largely seen as key players in the political battle of 2023. The former governor is trying hard to maintain good relationship with them to ensure they do not switch loyalty.
Matawalle’s impending defection threatens Yari’s base
With Friday’s victory, the coast is now clear for Matawalle’s defection to the APC. Sources around him said the governor may join the APC any time from now.
A former governor of the state, Senator Ahmad Sani Yarima, in an exclusive interview with Daily Trust said Matawalle will soon dump the PDP. He said plans have gone far for the ex-governor to join the APC.
“Yes. We are working and we are talking. Every politician tries to get more people to their party, especially governors. If I can have governors with me, the party will be better off. So very soon,” Yarima said.
On APC members decamping to PDP, he said, “This is politics. You would not understand what is happening. He will not just move in and not know who is with him. But now, if they move and he moves with them, they are his foot soldiers. Every politician wants to be sure that this man or this politician is with me.”
In the same way, the state Commissioner for Rural Development, Alhaji Abdullahi Abubakar Tsafe, also asked his boss to join APC. Tsafe is one of the members of the APC participating in what Matawalle called, “unity government” in the state.
Our correspondent reports that if Matawalle joined the APC, he automatically becomes the leader of the party in the state.
Other top politicians in the state said the calls on Matawalle are becoming louder by day.
Yari to contend with battle with Marafa and co
Yari has had to battle with eight former governorship aspirants in the state known as Group 8. The battle started when the ex-governor, in the build-up to 2019 elections, anointed his commissioner of finance, Alhaji Mukhtar Shehu Idris (Koguna) as his successor in the state.
The eight former governorship aspirants were former deputy governor Alhaji Ibrahim Wakkala Muhammad, Senator Kabiru Marafa, ex-federal lawmaker Aminu Sani Jaji, former governor Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, ex-defence minister Mansur Dan Ali, former federal permanent secretary Abu Magaji, Alhaji Dauda Lawal Dare and Alhaji Sagir Hamidu Gusau.
The Group 8 aspirants had resisted attempt by Yari to foist his candidate on the people of the state. The crisis resulted in a stalemate as primary elections could not be conducted in the state.
Yari insisted that the October 7, 2018 party primary elections were conducted and that his candidates won the polls. On the other hand, the G8 members said no primary election was conducted as such APC had no candidates for elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission also said APC had no candidates since the primary elections for the party were mired in controversy.
Consequently, a legal battle ensued as Yari’s faction ran to court asking it to compel INEC to accept the party’s candidates for the general elections. INEC had earlier rejected the candidates presented by the APC for the elections on the ground that primary elections didn’t hold.
The state high court gave victory to the ex-governor Yari faction after it ruled that APC conducted primary elections, and asked INEC to accept the candidates presented by the ex-governor.
APC participated in last February elections and won virtually all the contestable seats in the state. However, despite the party’s victory, the G8 members under the leadership of Senator Kabiru Marafa took the case to an appeal court in Sokoto.
The appellate court upturned the earlier judgement by the state high court, ruling that APC did not conduct primary elections as such the elections were nullified.
The battle then moved to the Supreme Court which upheld the judgement of the appeal court and ruled that the victory of the APC in the last general elections was null and void because there was no evidence that primary elections were conducted.
That was few days to the swearing-in of APC’s Mukhtar Shehu Idris as the elected governor of the state. The Supreme Court asked INEC to present certificates of return to the runners up in the said election, who were majorly PDP candidates.
The mantle of leadership of the state slipped out of APC’s hands as PDP’s Matawalle was sworn in as governor. All the other three senatorial, seven House of Representatives and 24 state assembly seats went to PDP.
Despite all these, watchers of the political terrain believe that political muscle would continue to be flexed with the fight reaching its peak in 2023 as both political contenders have vowed to fight a battle of supremacy in the state.