Temidayo Akinsuyi, Lagos
With less than six days to his alleged defection to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Monday said that it was confident that Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle, will not leave its fold.
Even though Governor Matawalle had denied fixing a date for his defection to the APC, sources close to the governor had said arrangements were in top gear to receive him into the APC on June 12, as part of activities marking this year’s Democracy Day.
In April, a delegation of APC governors led by Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and governor of Kebbi State, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, visited Matawalle at Government House, Gusau.
Chairman of the APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee and Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, as well as Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru, were also part of the visit.
Even though the three APC governors said their visit was to commiserate with Matawalle over a recent market fire in Gusau, the state capital, many believed it was to finalise the governor’s defection to the ruling party.
While the APC governors donated N50 million, the PDP governors in a counter move also visited Matawalle and donated the sum of N100 million to victims of the fire incident.
Also speaking with our correspondent on Monday, a top PDP chieftain in the state who asked not to be named said the governor was “already technically in APC but waiting for formal declaration to join the fold.
“I can tell you that His Excellency, Governor Matawalle is 80 percent in APC as we speak. If you look at the events that have played out in the past few weeks and you are a good political analyst, you will know that he is physically in PDP but his mind and body are in APC.
“Recently, like his counterpart in Cross Rivers, who defected to APC few days ago, Governor Matawalle has not attended any PDP meeting in the last couple of days. He has only been sending representatives. Also, if you look at the dissolution of the cabinet carried out by the governor and few other actions taken by him, then it is safe to assume that his defection to APC is fait accompli”.
However, speaking with Daily Independent, Kola Ologbondiyan, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, said the party leadership has not given up on the governor and they are optimistic that he will not leave for the ruling party.
According to him, given the misgovernance by the ruling party since coming to power in 2015, only those who do not mean well for Nigeria will contemplate joining APC at this moment.
To this end, he said the National Working Committee of the party led by Prince Uche Secondus is using various organs of the party such as the Board of Trustees (BoT), the PDP Governors’ Forum, former PDP Governors’ Forum and the PDP National Assembly caucus to dissuade Governor Matawalle from leaving the PDP.
“We cannot give up on a governor. We are working within the confines of the power conferred on the National Working Committee (NWC) using our various organs such as the Board of Trustees (BoT), the PDP Governors’ Forum, former PDP Governors’ Forum and the PDP National Assembly Caucus.
“We will use all our organs to speak with the governor of Zamfara State, Matawalle, and make him see reasons why he should not leave the party for APC. I don’t think anybody who means well for this country will go and join APC today.
“And I am confident that the governors elected on the platform of our party means well for Nigeria and as such I don’t think Governor Matawalle for any reason will go and join the APC”, he said.
Our correspondent gathered that the PDP is still making last minute efforts to prevent Matawalle from leaving the party.
It was also gathered that Matawalle was desirous of joining the ruling party so as to secure his political future ahead of the 2023 general elections.
If Matawalle eventually joins the APC, he would be third governor to dump the PDP for the ruling party since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for a second term. The first to dump the PDP was the Ebonyi State governor, David Umahi, who had on several occasions denied plans to dump the PDP.
Like Umahi, Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, also dumped the PDP few days ago for the APC after several denials.
PDP was declared winner in Zamfara State when the Supreme Court on May 24, 2019, ruled that the APC did not conduct valid primaries in the build-up to 2019 general election in the state.
The Supreme Court validated the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Sokoto Division, which ruled that no valid primaries were conducted by the APC in Zamfara State.
The court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-member panel, decided that a party that had no valid candidates cannot be said to have won the general election.
The governorship candidate of the APC, Mr. Mukhtar Idris, had been declared winner of the election after he polled 534,541 votes despite controversies trailing his candidacy.
The PDP candidate, Matawalle, who came second in the election, was subsequently declared the governor-elect.