BACK STORY OF THE DAY: The Evolving Tussle In Zamfara Over Matawalle’s Defection

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As much as Zamfara State governor Bello Matawalle’s defection from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not unexpected, the dimension of the political drama trailing his action remains intriguing. While his deputy, Mahdi Aliyu stayed put in PDP, the party has initiated moves to reclaim the governorship from Matawalle, arguing that the mandate belongs to it and not the governor.

The defection was a bitter pill to swallow for PDP because it had pursued the case in court which saw to its being upheld as winner of the 2019 polls after the APC was disqualified from the race on account of not having candidates in the elections in the state.

As such the national publicity secretary of PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said Matawalle doesn’t have a legitimacy to the seat seeing as he has dumped the party.

The party leadership has approved a legal team led by a former attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Godwin Kanu-Agabi, to challenge the defection.

PDP hopes to rely on Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution and the pronouncements of the Supreme Court in Faleke v. INEC (2016) to argue that the political party that stands for election, that votes scored in the election belong to the political party, and that the candidate nominated to contest at an election by his party acts only as the agent of his party.

However, the minister of state for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, argues that there is no law against Matawalle’s decision to defect to APC.

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“To give its illogical assertions some veil of constitutionality, the PDP placed reliance on Section 221 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as well as the judgment of the Supreme Court in FALEKE V. INEC,” the minister said.

“Unfortunately for the PDP, the Supreme Court decision in FALEKE V. INEC does not relate to the consequence of the defection of a governor from one political party to the other.”

The PDP refuted Keyamo’s stance, maintaining that Aliyu should be accorded the statutory office of the state governor given Matawalle’s defection.

Ologbondiyan said “We refer Keyamo to the definite pronouncement of the Supreme Court in that case, to the effect that it is the political party that stands for election, that votes scored in election belong to the political party and that the candidate nominated to contest at an election by his party acts only as the “agent” of his party.”

However, an APC chieftain and former governorship candidate of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) in Zamfara State, Sani Shinkafi, who defected to APC alongside Matawalle, has said unless the provisions of the nation’s constitution are changed, no amount of pressure from PDP will cause Matawalle to step down as the governor of Zamfara State, describing the suit instituted by the PDP seeking to reclaim its mandate as laughable.

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