MUHAMMADU SABIU looks into the crisis rocking the Zamfara State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) wondering perhaps whether the PDP could profit from the unfolding political battle.
In 1999, a little unknown, Ahmed Sani of the then All Peoples Party (APP) stormed the political landscape of Zamfara State to challenge the likes of Ambassador MZ Anka, Ambassador Jabbi Maradun, the late Ibrahim Gusau, General Aliyu and some others. Sani was to fly the ticket of his party, the APP, while Anka was to contest under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP was convinced that it would produce the next governor since it had the financial strength and the people. But Sani beat the PDP big names and got the coveted position, becoming the first civilian governor of the state at the age of 39. Having settled down, Sani went ahead to introduce the Sharia legal system in the state. Indeed, the introduction of Sharia marked a watershed in the political history of the state. It also attracted condemnation across the country and even beyond.
When Jangebe, the popular cow thief was amputated on the directives of Sani, the whole country, as well as the international community, rose up to condemn him. But in his characteristic manner, he said he committed no crime but rather acted within the purview of the Sharia legal system being implemented in the state. To back up the full implementation of the legal system, he introduced the Hisbah otherwise known as the ‘Sharia police’ and gave them the powers of arrest. He also established the Zakkat and Endowment agency, among other agencies.
Towards the end of his tenure, he chose his then deputy, Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi, as his successor. Even though there was resistance by some party stalwarts against Shinkafi, he stamped his foot and warned them against such act of disobedience. Shinkafi eventually became the governor in 2007.
However, by 2008, the relationship between the duo deteriorated forcing Mahmud Aliyu Shinkafi to defect to the PDP. Sani saw the move by Shinkafi as nothing but the ranting of a frustrated politician. Sani boasted that Shinkafi would suffer defeat and be permanently retired from politics.
The prediction made by Sani came to pass. In 2011, he led a fierce campaign against Shinkafi. His candidate, Abdulaziz Yari, defeated Shinkafi at the polls. Yari who is seven years on the saddle as governor, like Sani, recently announced his successor, Muktar Idris.
Idris is presently the state commissioner for finance. However, to many onlookers, the choice of Idris did not go down well with many members of the ruling party. Yari’s deputy, Ibrahim Wakkala who thought he would automatically be his successor was disappointed.
According to a close aide of the deputy governor who pleaded for anonymity, “Yari betrayed the tripartite agreement reached between Sani, Yari and my boss that after Yari’s tenure, he would hand over to his deputy.”
According to a member of the ruling party who spoke on condition of anonymity, “We sensed danger when we saw the proliferation of aspirants going round and telling people that Sani asked them to contest the position of governor. I think if there is any rebellion, it was the fault of former governor Yarima who failed as a leader to control the proliferation of the aspirants. From the look of things, some of these aspirants were deceived.”
Former governor Shinkafi was said to have also been deceived when he was asked to purchase the party’s form to seek reelection. For Senator Kabir Marafa, his consistent attacks on the state government especially on security saw him locking horns with the governor. His criticisms stemmed from the fact that the state government seems not to be bothered about the plight of the ordinary citizens especially those in rural areas.
On several occasions, he called on the Federal Government to declare a state of emergency in the state since according to him, the government had failed to tackle the persistent cattle rustling and banditry in the state. So when he declared his intention to vie for the position of the state governor under the APC, it was clear that the battle line had been drawn.
However, apparently reacting to these claims, the state governor in a rally while unveiling his candidate told them to fear God and obey constituted authorities. He drew their attention to the fact that succession in the party had always been by consensus. Going down memory lane, he explained how Mahmud Shinkafi emerged after Sani and how the succession train continued.
He appealed to aggrieved aspirants to embrace peace and join hands with him. But the crisis in the state chapter of the party worsened as other aspirants accused the governor of trying to rig the election in favour of his candidate. But when the news did the round that five people had been killed midway into voting, it became clear that there were security challenges. The electoral committee headed by Professor Abubakar Fari had no option than to the cancel the election.
A few days later, another committee headed by a retired general was sent by the national leadership of the party to conduct another election. But the governor had warned that there would be no election as he could not guarantee security for the committee. The governor had also threatened to lead members of his party to police command to protest the role of the electoral committee which he said was biased in it conduct.
However, after series of meetings among the stakeholders, the governor withdrew his earlier threat and protest and agreed to hold an election. The committee tried to bring all the aspirants to a round-table and almost succeeded in its peace mission. A source who was privy to the meeting said the governor agreed to replace his candidate on the condition that one of the aspirants, Marafa, also dropped his ambition, to which they all agreed.
But when the committee asked the governor to name one of the candidates of his choice, Marafa was said to have vehemently disagreed with the governor’s choice. This again led to an uproar with the election eventually not holding. To the chagrin of the committee while in their hotel rooms, they were told that election was going on at the orders of the governor.
The governor had invited the press to tell them that he would conduct the election before INEC’s deadline. A few hours later, the state chairman of the party, Lawal Kaura, announced the results of the primaries declaring that it was won by Muktar Idris who polled over 300,000 votes to defeat other contestants.
Even though, there were attempts by the national leadership of the party to conclude that Zamfara State had fielded its candidates within the stipulated time, the statement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the APC in Zamfara State had no candidates in the 2019 general election compounded the crisis.
The situation forced the governor to rush to the state High Court to obtain a court order restraining INEC from carrying out its earlier declaration pending when the substantive case would be heard. Already, the party had submitted a list of candidates. At the same time news did the round that the governor and his supporters were planning on dumping the party. Should that occur, what happens to Sani’s political dynasty?
According to pundits, Sani appeared to have lost grip of the present political quagmire bedevilling the state. There’s no doubt that the much cherished political dynasty of Sani will not remain the same and from the look of things, the PDP would most likely boost its chances of winning following the present crisis in the APC.