The worsening Matawalle, Yari rift in Zamfara

Governor Bello Matawalle has barely settled down in office as the helmsman in Zamfara State, but many people in the state are of the view that the ongoing face-off between him and his predecessor, Alhaji AbdulAziz Yari, is a battle of supremacy ahead 2023, MUHAMMAD SABIU writes.

THE crisis in the political space in Zamfara State has continued unabated, six months after the change of baton in the state. Involved in the ongoing battle for supremacy are two members of the same family but who are now on the either sides of the political divides in the state namely, former Governor AbdulAziz Yari and his successor, Governor Bello Matawalle. The duo featured prominently in the Yerima political dynasty.

At the inception of democratic government in 1999, the first governor of the state, Ahmed Sani Yarima, appointed Matawalle as the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, while Yari was the first secretary of the then ruling party, the All Nigerian People’s Party (APP), in the state.

Both Yari and Matawalle enjoyed a robust relationship with the then governor who made them members of his kitchen cabinet. For the eight years that Yarima governed the state, they both contributed to the success of his administration. Towards the end of Yarima’s administration, they won elections to represent their constituencies at the House of Representatives where the relationship further blossomed and extended to their families.

However, in 2011, when Yarima’s successor, former Governor Mamuda Shinkafi, decided to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Matawalle went with him, while Yari chose to remain in the ANPP with his boss. The defections marked the beginning of the ding dong within Shinkafi’s group, which included Matawalle and Yarima’s group, which included Yari. The soured relationship worsened last March when Matawalle was elected the governor of the state. Yarima, in a recent phone-in programme in Gusau, however said, both Yari and Matawalle remained his “boys,” declaring: “I groomed them. In 2011, it was Matawalle who came to me holding Yari’s hand and told me ‘Your Excellency, this is our next governor since Shinkafi has failed.’”

Matawalle’s prophesy came to pass, as Yari defeated the then incumbent Governor Shinkafi. Since then, Matawalle did not hide his ambition to rule the state. While, he supported the candidature of Yari to fly the ANPP ticket, he too decided to give it a trial as he went into the PDP primary election with Shinkafi and, according to a source, he was about to clinch the ticket but for a last-minute decision of some stalwarts of the party to support Shinkafi.

However, Matawalle still decided to remain in the opposition in spite of overtures from the ruling ANPP which later coalesced into the All Progressives Congress (APC). Thus, again the opportunity came for him in 2019 when he clinched the PDP ticket to contest the governorship election. During the election, he came second behind the APC candidate, Muktar Idris, but he headed for the tribunal to seek justice, even as Yari was not worried as his candidate was elected governor.

Meanwhile, the internal crisis in the ruling APC reached a crescendo when eight aggrieved aspirants, under the umbrella of the G8, came together to challenge Yari’s candidate at the Appeal Court. Two judgments were given in favour of the two gladiators- Yari won at the Appeal Court, Abuja, while Senator Kabir Marafa, won at the Sokoto appellate court.

Senator Marafa went to the Supreme Court to get legal interpretation of the two judgments. The apex court voided the judgment of the appeal courts and said the second person with the highest number of votes should be declared the winner. That decision led to Matawalle becoming the governor of the state.

On assumption in office, Matawalle vowed to end the challenge of insecurity challenges bedeviling the state. He engaged suspected bandits in a peace meeting, instead of being confrontational. The agreement that followed the meeting ensured peace in the state for about six months as there was no form of attack whatsoever. However, there were a renewed attacks at Bakordi and reprisal at Karaye, in Gummi Local Government Area of the state. The two incidents also led to a renewed hostility between the two former friends turned political foes.

During a disarmament ceremony held at the Government House, Governor Matawalle accused former Governor Yari of being responsible for the two attacks. He alleged that any time the former governor was in town, there would be an attack, alleging that it was not a mere coincidence that the attacks happened in three places.

“Three different attacks were launched every time the former governor visits the state and that can’t be coincidence. Let there be another attack or violence the next time you set foot in Zamfara, so help me God; politicising people’s lives will never hold as long as I am the governor,” he said.

However, Yari told Matawalle to search for those responsible for the attacks, as he mocked him that, from all indications, the governor didn’t have the capacity to lead the state. Zamfara APC, through its secretary, Publicity Committee, Ibrahim Danmaliki, also said the governor had lost focus and had no idea on how to give the state a sense of direction.

Danmaliki also described the peace agreement between the government and the bandits as a ‘cosmetic agreement.’ He said it was inappropriate for the governor to have a peace deal with criminals whom, he said, were in possession of over two million guns. He also alleged that a committee set up by the Inspector General of Police had indicted some traditional rulers in the state of compromising with the bandits, but the ruling PDP government left the indicted traditional rulers free.

Matawalle, however, said the opposition was only wiping a dead horse, adding: “If not, how did they know that the bandits have over two millions guns? As far as the security challenge is concerned, we have been vindicated over the claim of the APC spokesman that the bandits are in possession of arms.” The governor, who spoke through his Director General, Yusuf Gusau, called for the arrest of the APC chieftain “so that he can take us to where these arms are. How did he know that there are over two million guns with the bandits?” The APC spokesman was subsequently arrested and arraigned before an Upper Sharia Court for alleged public incitement and defamation.

As an indication that Matawalle was ready to take the Zamfara APC and Yari to the cleaners, the state House of Assembly recently decided to repeal the pension law, which providedN10m monthly upkeep for former governors of the state. Yari had reportedly wrote to the governor, demanding that he should be paid the outstanding of his monthly upkeep, in accordance with the law which came into existence shortly before the expiration of his tenure. In response to the letter, which leaked to the public domain last week, the state House of Assembly eventually repealed the law.

A social commentator, Abubakar Maradun, described the crisis as another realignment of forces to fight the former Governor Yari ahead of 2023, even as he said Yari had fallen out with some key stakeholders in the party in the state, where he was seen as the de facto leader.

Another commentator said: “Don’t forget that the fight between former Governor Yari and the G8, who are members of the APC is not over. All of them are not on the same page with the former governor. If you recalled, Yari’s deputy said in a recent interview with a private television in the state that he was still in the APC and that he is not on talking terms with Yari. So many members of the group too are not in talking terms with Yari. Yarima too told his supporters to support Matawalle and even went further to seek the governor’s support on his presidential ambition. His wife, Karima, has just been appointed permanent secretary, Protocol and Liaison by the governor.”

A member of the PDP in Zamfara, Haruna Shehu, however, blamed Matawalle for his recent face-off with the APC as, according to him, the governor has not been fair to the PDP members, who supported him to win the election. He said the governor’s romance with G8 was not in the interest of most members of the PDP.

A ‘concerned’ citizen of the state, Ibrahim Kanoma, also attributed the face-off to the incarceration of the APC spokesperson in the state by the government. He however wrote on his Facebook timeline that: The chairman of the Zamfara Youth Forum, Abba Muhammad, also contended that the former governor has no right to be coming to the state and doing as if he is still the governor. According to Muhammad, “Governor Yari has to come to terms with reality and accept the fact that he is not in government but to support the present administration as a stakeholder. The governor needs the support of the former governor at this critical moment.”

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