When the immediate former governor of Zamfara, Abdulaziz Yari, accepted an invitation to a meeting at the national headquarters of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, he knew that the outcome of the meeting would determine the fate of the ruling party in the banditry-ravaged state.
If he had gone ahead with his plan to defect from the party to the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the situation within the two parties would have been different.
Mr Yari and another faction leader, Kabiru Marafa, a former senator, reached an agreement with Governor Bello Matawalle that may allow the APC to go into the next general elections as a united party.
Ironically, a do or die dispute between Messrs Yari and Marafa was the undoing of the APC in the 2019 elections. Both politicians could not agree on the modalities for party primaries, resulting in Mr Marafa going to court to challenge the list of candidates produced by the then governor, saying the list was not the product of valid primaries.
INEC agreed with Mr Marafa and the Supreme Court eventually voided the victory of all the party’s candidates in the general elections, the development that allowed the runner-up governorship candidate of the PDP, Mr Matawalle, to be declared as governor.
Mr Matawalle’s defection in June last year to the APC, however, brought the two old foes, Messrs Yari and Marafa, together in resistance against the party’s declaration of the governor as the leader of the party in Zamfara.
Mr Matawalle is understandably excited that the reconciliation with the old APC leaders will enable him to use a stone to kill two birds.
First, he wants to end the internal crisis in the APC which could have seen Messrs Yari and Marafa prodding a candidate against Mr Matawalle at the primary election.
Secondly, he has stopped the duo from crossing over to the PDP to increase the opposition party’s chances of wresting the seat from him.
Without strong contests, the primaries in both leading parties in the state appear set to be mere formalities.
Despite all the factions agreeing to support Mr Matawalle for a second term following the reconciliation, a youth leader in the APC, Abdulmalik Gajam, will challenge him at the primary.
Probably banking on the wealth and political clout of his father, Garba Gajam, the aspirant has rebuffed entreaties to him not to contest against the incumbent.
But the young businessman, who is also the President of a group, Youths Liaison Motivity (YLM), has very slim chances of winning the primary, such that some political pundits have said Mr Gajam is contesting to draw attention to himself for the future or position himself for appointment by the governor after 2023.
The APC state executive committee, which has control over most of the delegates, is led by Tukur Danfulani, a loyalist of Mr Matawalle.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that some stakeholders, especially from the governor’s camp, have been putting pressure on Mr Gajam to withdraw from the race, with a promise to refund the N50 million he paid for the nomination forms.
Even if Mr Gajam stands his ground to contest, he is certain to lose because the party is now firmly in Mr Matawalle’s control.
A political reporter in the state, Abdul Balarabe, agreed that Mr Gajam’s prospects at the primary are “bleak” but said the young man could be betting on the eventuality of Mr Matawalle somehow running into trouble over “pre-election” matters, in which case he as the only other contestant would be the beneficiary.
Like APC, the PDP has only two strong aspirants seeking its ticket for the governorship election as other aspirants have withdrawn for the man endorsed by party chiefs.
The main contestants are Abu Nakwada and Dauda Dare. But the latter, a former Executive Director at the First Bank and a defector from the APC, has won the endorsement of party leaders and appears set to be coronated at the primary.
“General Ali (Gusau) asked every aspirant to shelve their ambitions and support Dauda Lawal Dare, who has shown interest,” a top member of the party, who asked not to be named, told this newspaper in a telephone conversation on Tuesday.
“It shows that General has now learnt his lessons because he would have imposed his son, Mahdi Ali, on the party but he didn’t,” he said.
Mr Ali was recently impeached as deputy governor by the Zamfara State House of Assembly for alleged financial misconduct and other irregularities. But he and most observers attributed his impeachment to his refusal to join Governor Matawalle in abandoning the PDP for the APC.
Despite the stakeholders’ anointment of Mr Dare, a former House of Representatives member, Ibrahim Shehu-Bakauye, also picked the form for the governorship race.
Mr Shehu-Bakauye is a son of a popular businessman and agriculturalist in the state. While he has the support of some party members, especially at the grassroots, he does not have the financial muscle to seriously bother Mr Dare.
The anointment of Mr Dare by the stakeholders, led by Mr Gusau, will work against Mr Shehu-Bakauye. The old general, Mr Gusau, is the main financier of the PDP and its leader in Zamfara and his decisions are rarely challenged in the party.
All the party leaders are loyal to Mr Gusau. The party chairman, Baka Mande, a former military governor of Nasarawa State, was one of Mr Gusau’s proteges in the military and was believed to have been installed as the party chairman by the ex-National Security Adviser.
The two other aspirants, Messrs Madawaki and Nakwada, have withdrawn for Mr Dare, therefore increasing the odds against Mr Bakauye’s nomination.
Mr Dare also has the support of the two members of the House of Representatives from the state, Kabiru Yahaya (Anka/Talata Mafara) and Sulaiman Abubakar (Gumi/ Bukkuyum).
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