In this piece, MAIHARAJI ALTINE examines the crisis in the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress ahead of the 2023 general election
The Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress has again fallen into troubled waters, appearing not to have learnt any lesson from its experience in 2019 when the party lost all the elective positions that year as a result of internal crisis. Without any doubt, the current skirmish among some members of the party at the state level is one of the indications that it is heading towards a similar direction. Many are of the view that the lingering crisis between two factions, one led by Governor Bello Matawalle, who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party to the APC few months ago, and another faction led by former governor, Abdul’aziz Yari, and Senator Kabiru Marafa, is doing more harm than good to the ruling party, and that if the situation is not quickly addressed, the consequences may be damaging for the party.
Recall that the state chapter of the APC was engulfed in a serious crisis as a result of the 2018 primary elections, where Yari was accused of single-handedly sharing all the positions to favour his loyalists, leaving Marafa and seven other governorship aspirants with no political benefit. Unhappy with Yari’s action, Marafa and the other seven governorship aspirants, who called themselves ‘G8’, went to court to challenge the legality of the primary elections and at the end of the litigation, the Supreme Court nullified the elections of all the APC candidates who were elected in the 2019 general elections and announced the party with the second highest votes as the winner. That was how the then candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Matawalle, became the governor.
Realising their mistakes after the Supreme Court’s decision, Yari, Marafa and other aggrieved APC stalwarts decided to reconcile and face their political opponent (Matawalle), who clinched the position of a governor on a silver platter. Surprisingly, the governor defected to the APC on June 29, 2021, possibly afraid of the inherent dangers ahead of him in the 2023 general elections as a result of the reconciliation between Yari and Marafa.
Matawalle, who has been unable to end the security challenges he inherited from the immediate past governor (Yari), coupled with the seeming non-performance in the execution of people-oriented projects, probably realised that it might be difficult for him to get a second term under the umbrella of the PDP, and as such decided to join the ruling APC so that he could get the support of the Presidency and retain his seat beyond 2023.
The incumbent governor also understood that the opposition APC in the state under Yari’s leadership remained very formidable and could defeat him in future elections. Perhaps, that made him to join the APC and became its leader so that he could actualise his dream of continuing in office beyond 2023. His defection, according to sources, was expertly arranged by the first civilian governor of the state, Alhaji Ahmed Yarima, who also has a presidential ambition that may not be realised if the state is controlled by the PDP.
Yarima and Yari, who had been political allies since 1999, are currently at daggers drawn because of Matawalle’s defection to the APC. Based on this development, Yarima is not comfortable with Yari’s political strength, especially this time around when Yari is vying for the chairmanship position of the APC. The crisis within the APC further deepened when the National Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, visited the state to welcome Matawalle to the party and announced that the governor was automatically the leader of the party in the state. This did not go down well with Yari, Marafa and their supporters who vehemently opposed Buni’s pronouncement.
The last straw that broke the camel’s back was the recent ward congresses organised by the party. The national headquarters of the party had sent its delegates under the chairmanship of Alhaji Ibrahim Masari, a chieftain of the APC in Katsina State, to conduct a congress in Zamfara State which was rescheduled on several occasions due to the unending feud between Matawalle and Yari’s supporters.
Before the commencement of the congress, while addressing members of the party at the Government House in Gusau, the state capital, Masari, who was sent from the party’s headquarters in Abuja to supervise the congress, said, “We are in the state to organise the congress based on our party’s constitution. I am calling on all members to respect the party and join the congress.” He further warned that the party would not recognise any parallel congress apart from the one he was sent to supervise.
He added, “I am calling on all members of our great party to participate in the congress if they want to be recognised as bona fide members of the party. Anybody who fails to participate in this congress is not loyal to APC and is not its member.”
Not swayed by Masari’s warning, Yari urged his supporters not to participate in any of the congresses. In a letter signed by the Publicity Secretary of his faction of the APC, Alhaji Ibrahim Magaji, Yari called on his supporters to boycott the congresses because of a pending court case.
“We will not participate in the congress because there is a pending court action which ruled that we should maintain the status quo,” the letter quoted Yari as saying.
Also, Marafa had conducted a parallel congress, where he claimed the new executive members of the party were elected. Marafa’s spokesman, Alhaji Bello Bakyaauwa, said, “Today, the 13th of November, 2021, we have successfully conducted our ward congresses. We have elected and filled 147 ward chairmanship positions across the state. These congresses were conducted in parallel with Governor Matawalle-led faction of the party. I, therefore, wish to clearly state that our ward congress is genuine, legal, constitutional, democratic and in accordance with our dear party’s constitution.
“Permit me to use this opportunity to restate our unyielding support to our party executives, who could not join us today because of the court case. We truly appreciate their concern and commitment to APC Marafa/Yari’s faction of Zamfara State. I also wish to state that the elected executives of Marafa/Yari’s faction are the bona fide members of APC. We will not accept any ward leader of the party arising from the faction of Governor Matawalle because we are fully convinced that no congress was democratically conducted on their part.”
However, Marafa has threatened to take legal action against Buni for conducting what he described as an illegal congress, in the state despite the court order. Marafa expressed disgust over what he described as an attempt by Buni to destabilise the APC in Zamfara. Briefing journalists on the parallel congresses which were held across the state, Marafa described them (congresses) as an exercise in futility, stressing that he was prepared to challenge the legality of all actions taken by the Buni-led CENCPC since inception.