Four years after it cruised to the Zamfara Government House on the strength of a Supreme Court judgement in its favour, the PDP is eyeing a return to the seat of power. This time, rattled and wounded by the decision of Governor Bello Matawalle to defect with ‘their mandate’ to the APC.
With the power of incumbency, federal might, and many other factors in favour of the APC, can PDP and Dauda Lawal take their ‘pound of flesh’ from Governor Matawalle on March 11?
Ahead of the 2023 governorship election in the North Western state of Zamfara, the political atmosphere is increasingly heated up by the day with the plethora of movements and earthshaking alliances across the two dominant political divides in the State; the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).
The bid is to sell their ideas and programmes so as to remain in the good books and, perhaps, garner the support of the electorates who will be going to the polls to elect their next governor.
BELLO MATAWALLE (APC)
The All Progressives Congress parades Governor Bello Matawalle as its candidate, who was initially in the People’s Democratic Party but assumed office following the decision of the Supreme Court, which nullified the 2019 APC gubernatorial primaries and ordered the party with the second-highest number of votes to assume office.
The teacher-turned-politician would later defect to the All Progressives Congress on June 29 2021, on the strength of the need to align with the major power brokers in the State who are of the APC stock. The decision, however, did not go down well with his deputy, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, who stayed put in the PDP and later got impeached from office. Political watchers say that was a direct consequence of his refusal to follow in the footsteps of his former principal.
Governor Matawalle, a former member of the House of Representatives, enjoys the power of incumbency and is largely expected to leverage it in his bid to hold on to the strings of power. Members of his cabinet and government appointees will also be expected to galvanise resources and contacts to ensure the governor scales through the challenge ahead of him.
Another factor going well for the governor is that he practically has the support of at least two former governors of the state, with the immediate past governor Abdulaziz Yari, chairing his Campaign Council. Some political observers thus argues that it will only be a matter of time before the governor triumphs in the forthcoming polls.
Additionally, the State has largely been an APC-controlled State right from the days of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), which is one of the legacy parties that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A major tar on the governor’s white linen is the state of insecurity bedevilling the state. Some experts are also of the opinion that the state helmsman, despite the resources at his disposal, has not done enough to tackle the spate of banditry that has enveloped the state.
They also opine that in terms of infrastructure, the state is trailing behind its contemporaries, and not much has been done to uplift the structure it met on the ground. Others also argue that Governor Matawalle is doing relatively little to uplift the living standards of the people, further accusing him of being an Abuja-based governor who buzzes in and out of the state on a weekly basis. His critics say another four years for the governor will compound the situation, urging the electorate to shift grounds and allow another person to test the waters and see what he can do.
The governor, on his part, has, however, told all who care to listen that he is the best for Zamfara at this point in time, stressing that he has done optimally with dwindling allocations to uplift the living standards of the people. He also says his record using the indices of human capital investment remains unparalleled in the governance of the state. He adds that he is doing all the best he can to boost the revenue base of the state with his move to harness the abundant mineral resources in the state so that it can thrive with or without federal allocations.
DAUDA LAWAL (PDP)
The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), on its part, has the stupendously wealthy Dauda Lawal as its governorship candidate. A banker before descending into the political arena, Lawal got his first baptism of fire in politics when the primaries that initially produced him as a candidate was nullified by a Federal High Court sitting in Gusau.
Armed with a PhD in Business Administration, Lawal says he has had a remarkable career in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy, which has well-prepared him for the onerous responsibilities of governance. He says Zamfara has remained backwards due to the calibre of leaders who have held the state by the jugular since 1999 and have refused to release it to cerebral and 21st-century leaders which he represents.
Having constructed a three-and-half kilometre dual carriageway in the Federal University Gusau and donated male as well as female hostels to the citadel of learning, the former First Bank Executive Director says his numerous philanthropic footprints are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf.
He is also said to have paid for the accreditation of the State’s School of Nursing and Midwifery and that of the School of Health and Technology, among so many others. He is also acclaimed as having established businesses and industries in the state to reduce youth unemployment, in demonstration of his love for the state.
Pundits, however, say Lawal is too elitist as he rarely stays in the state due to his numerous international engagements. They say he is not known in the nooks and crannies of the State where the real voters reside.
Some others argue that the PDP platform upon which Lawal is seeking to realise his ambition has never won governorship elections in the state and have expressed fears that he may be lacking the magic wand to change the narratives. They also wonder if Lawal has the capacity and contact to match the APC, which will also be deploying the much-touted federal might to ensure the state remains in its firm grip.
With the election barely six weeks away, it will be interesting to see who among the two major contenders will be the choice of the Zamfara electorate. The boardroom guru or a dye-in-the-wool politician.