Governor Bello Matawalle’s feud with his Deputy has become the major story out of Zamfara state in the past few weeks. Mr. Mahdi Aliyu Gusau’s refusal to defect to the All Progressives Congress (APC) signalled the beginning of friction that’s dominated politics in the state, and which has drawn the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) out to stand in solidarity with their highest-ranked member in the state government. The two politicians rode to power on the PDP ticket after the Supreme Court’s five-member panel of Justices, in a unanimous judgment, nullified all votes cast for the APC in the 2019 general elections in the state, and sacked its candidates declared winners by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
What’s more interesting about this development is, if Mr. Gusau agrees to join the APC today, the serial threats of impeachment, which began when he made known his decision to remain in the party that gave them the mandate, would stop immediately. Equally interesting is how the APC in Zamfara state perceives the Deputy Governor as a threat more in need of the state’s limited resources than the banditry and the alarmingly high debt profile wrecking the poor state. If Zamfara State House of Assembly weren’t a rubber stamp deployed by Governor Matawalle to pursue his personal agenda, its scrutiny of the state’s disappointing security lapses and economically disastrous standing should’ve been of more concern.
The motivations for the two politicians’ partisan choices are different. Mr. Matawalle’s defection was inspired by the need to survive the next election, and his best idea was to join forces with the ruling party and betray the party that gave him a platform to become Governor. For Mr. Gusau, the choice is to remain and help build the structure of the PDP in the state. This, I believe, is healthy for our democracy, and gives the opposition room to thrive and to provide the people with a diversity of options.
That a politician has to identify with the ruling party to survive politically has to be the peak of cowardice, and, unfortunately, those expected to build a lasting structure to check the transgressions of the ruling party are the very people eager to sell out for the protection of the powers in Abuja. But it’s easy to see the root of Mr. Matawalle’s paranoia and political insecurity.
But building a political fortress to resist the ruling party’s interferences doesn’t require selling out or compromising. Only that what Mr. Matawalle seeks is the federal might from Abuja to move against or neutralize his perceived enemies some of whom are key figures of the APC like his predecessor, Governor Abdulaziz Yari. But the obsession with having his Deputy removed has taken his quest for power and political security to another level.
Ironically, Mr. Gusau had predicted a smooth relationship with his principal before things began to fall apart. After the Governor announced his defection, he rushed to say, “I have a good working relationship with the governor,” and insisted he still won’t be joining him in the APC. But that relationship came to an end when Mr. Gusau was barred from entering Gusau, the state capital, by the Zamfara state commissioner of police acting on the order of the APC-led government.
Mr. Gusau shared a screenshot of their exchange with the police commissioner on Instagram, which revealed the part he clarified what the Police commissioner had misrepresented: “I am in a convoy with my family to my house and using the route I always take,” he wrote to counter the accusation that he was organizing a rally, and that “If the well-wishers wish to follow me home, it’s their right. If the youths choose to escort me home, it’s their right. If all political platforms deem me fit and decide to watch me as I drive home, it is their constitutional right.”
A few weeks earlier, the same Police commissioner had allowed Mr. Matawalle to hold a large gathering of the APC to celebrate his defection to the ruling party at the Gusau Trade Fair Complex. The grand ceremony had about 10 APC governors in attendance, along with serving ministers and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha. All the participating governors are from states ravaged by banditry. This episode was the point the feud between Mr. Matawalle and Mr. Gusau became a scandal of national attention.
In a functional democracy, Mr. Gusau ought to have easily secured the alliances and projections of the judiciary and the legislature to overcome his persecution by a vindictive executive. Only that, in Zamfara state, the three arms of government have formed an unfortunate alliance against him. Zamfara State Chief Judge, Kulu Aliyu, could’ve easily been a line of defence but she’s chosen to head a compromised and unconstitutional panel to make mockery of her position.
Zamfara state’s Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Nasiru Muazu Magarya, has also missed the chance to demonstrate that he’s not heading a rubber-stamp legislature. As an example of youth inclusion in government, one who got into office through an electoral lottery allowed by the Supreme Court, he ought to have known that the victim isn’t Mr. Gusau, it’s him and all the vulnerable young people in government. History is going to remember his role in enabling a personal political agenda while the people of Zamfara yearn for good governance and bury their loved ones, day in, day out.
Mr Nasir is a writer, public affairs analyst, and governance advocate. He writes from Abuja.