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Zamfara 2023: The betrayal in Matawalle’s loss

In the Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde posited that ….”each man kills the thing he loves. By each let this be heard. Some do it with a bitter look. Some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss. The brave man with a sword.

The governorship election has come and gone, but not without leaving behind classic cases of betrayal of which Zamfara state and Governor Bello Matawalle must feature prominently. Without doubt, the people of Zamfara have been led to kill the thing they love without fully understanding the stark ramifications of their actions.

In analysing Zamfara, I will attempt to present the facts and the oddities leading to Governor Matawalle’s failure at the polls. After the presidential and National Assembly elections of February 25, 2023, APC polled 298,396 and won 12 of 14 local government areas to emerge winner. This was in addition to winning two senatorial seats with one still hanging in the balance. In the House Representatives election, APC clinched three, PDP two while two were declared inconclusive. On the strength of this strong showing, it would have been easier to predict a flawless victory for Matawalle heading to the March 18 governorship.

Sadly, when you fast forward to the gubernatorial and House of Assembly polls, you are sure to be marvelled by the complete turnaround in the results. In addition to Governor Matawalle losing to Dauda Lawal Dare of the PDP, the APC lost virtually all her House of Assembly seats to PDP beginning with the current speaker of the Zamfara state House of Assembly.

Whereas emergency analysts have interpreted the governorship results to mean that Zamfara people rejected Governor Matawalle, I beg to differ. I have no doubt in my mind that it was actually the big men in Matawalle’s party that sold him out. This is because, Zamfara is the perfect example of a conservative state with a very close political setting and strong political actors. Right from 1999, the Zamfara people have never voted for PDP. As a consequence, virtually all political gladiators from Zamfara state are in the current APC.

Secondly, the people of Zamfara have always followed their leaders and this played out in the presidential and
National Assembly elections where Senator Sahabi and former Governor Abdulaziz Yari won their senatorial bids, culminating in the victory of APC in the presidential election. What changed? Simple, betrayal!

It is my firm belief that Governor Matawalle was simply setup to fail at the polls and this has nothing to do with his performance as governor. In fact, I believe his stellar showing as governor may have been his greatest undoing. He appears to have threatened the legacies of the so called political godfathers who fear that his reelection may signal the end of their reign as strong men of Zamfara politics. Also, on fighting banditry and illegal mining in the state, he stepped on many toes including those of some retired generals who ganged up against him during the election.

Governor Matawalle’s Achilles heels was that he trusted easily. He was led into believing a phantom APC unification story leading to the election and this made him relax. The victory of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu during the presidential election in the state further confounded him to laxity and as he let his guard down, a realignment of interest was concluded between what he believed were his people in the APC and the governor-elect’s camp immediately after the presidential poll, the aim of which was to clip his wings. Apparently, the so-called APC bigwigs of Zamfara baited him into leaving his door ajar and they struck with deadly precision.

I think Suzanne Collins captured it best when she declared that: “For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first”. Matawalle trusted too easily and with his head already on a slab with only the gift of hindsight to cherish, I hope the harsh lessons of his fatal miscalculation do not become lost on him. Lessons do not come any harsher.

The bright side for him, I suppose, is the fact that he delivered big time in his role as North-west coordinator of the Asiwaju Tinubu/Kashim Shettima presidential campaign where he led APC to score huge votes in the region to effectively seal victory for the duo. It won’t be too much to expect President-elect Tinubu to accommodate him in the new government of national competence.

Those who doubt his competence may feel free to compare and contrast the man’s performance as governor with those of his predecessors who handed over a state on the verge of being run over by bandits to him.

The saying that you never know what you have until you lose it rings loud here. But; the loss for Zamfara becomes a national gain especially as it will stick at those cowards who stabbed Matawalle with a kiss!

Surprisingly, Matawalle’s adversaries have now shifted their battle ground to the pages of newspapers with mischievous analysis and perspectives ostensibly to further denigrate him and his political prospect at the national arena. The man is strong and has positioned himself firmly in the political firmament of this nation and it can be laborious and strenuous for him to be pulled down by his political enemies within and outside his fold.

Matawalle, apart from his position of determining who gets what in the state as far as national politics is concern within the APC, his chances of reclaiming his mandate in the court are also clear as the APC has vowed to challenge the outcome of the election and already a request for the review of declaration and return made in the governorship election in Zamfara state has been submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, through the counsel to the governor and the APC. The facts remain cogent that Matawalle has several lifelines to the chagrin of his adversaries.

Wada writes from Gusau, Zamfara state



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