Two days ago, the Zamfara State Peoples Democratic Party-led government released a press statement announcing the defection of eight local government council chairmen elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The official statement, signed by the Special Adviser on Public Enlightenment, Media and Communication, Zailani Bappa, said the defecting chairmen were received by the chairman of the Zamfara State chapter of the PDP, Alhaji Ibrahim Mallaha.
Those reported to have joined the PDP were the Zamfara State Association of Local Governments of Nigeria chairman/chairman of Birnin Magaji Local Government Council, Alhaji Muhammadu Umar; the ALGON vice chairman/chairman of Maru Local Government Council, Salisu Isah Dangulbi, and the ALGON secretary/chairman of Bukkuyum Local Government Council, Nasiru Zarumi Masamar Mudi.
Others were Ahmed Balarabe (Anka), Lawali Abdullahi (Kaura Namoda), Shehu Muhammad Faru (Maradun), Abdulaziz Ahmed Nahuche (Bungudu), and Aminu Mudi Tsafe (Tsafe).
The council chairmen “announced their defection today shortly after a meeting with His Excellency, Governor Bello Muhammad,” said the statement.
The ALGON chairman, Balarabe Anka, told journalists shortly after the meeting that their “decision to join the ruling Peoples Democratic party in the state was as a result of Governor Bello Muhammad’s leadership style in restoring peace and tranquility in all parts of the state within a short period of time.” Fantastic.
The chairmen said they defected to the PDP alongside thousands of their supporters and assured of their readiness to rally round the administration of Governor Matawalle.
On his part, Governor bello Muhammad Matawalle said “from today, they (defecting chairmen) would be treated like any bonafide member of PDP in the state.”
For the record, it is pertinent to mention here that Matawalle was enthroned as governor of Zamfara State after a controversial judgement of the Supreme Court voided the electoral victory of the APC in the general election in Zamafara.
The apex court, on April 24, transferred APC’s victories in Zamfara to the PDP for alleged irregularities in the ruling APC’s primaries.
The verdict sacked all 34 elected officials, comprising a governor, his deputy, senators, members of the House of Representatives and House of Assembly members.
The above was the fallout of the artificially engineered crisis in the ruling APC in the state, which peaked when some elements in the party, having realised that they had lost their electoral value, launched a vicious campaign against the party in courts.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Zamfara electorate rejected the PDP and, even though the apex court has imposed on them a government they thunderously rejected, it is something they find very difficult to stomach.
With this, it is clear why Governor Matawalle and his party are desperate in coercing elected APC council chairmen into the PDP by all means necessary in a blind attempt to curry acceptance from the public.
The PDP government’s new approach was arrived at due to the gale of defections that hit the Matawalle administration, where commissioners and special advisers he appointed resigned and crossed to the APC.
While the PDP government tried to indicate to the public that the defection of the eight local council chairmen was voluntary, available information revealed that it was indeed not; instead, it was at gunpoint.
Frustrated by the gale of defections from the PDP, Matawalle’s strategists devised a means of cajoling the council chairmen to join the APC or risk losing their elected positions. That was how the project was executed and, out of the 17 local council chairmen threatened, eight gave in to save their positions.
The PDP government, it was learnt, promised large sums of money to the chairmen, deputy chairmen, and councillors, if they agreed to defect to the PDP. The governor also promised to buy officials cars for the chairmen and their deputies, it was alleged.
Another part of the project was to instigate the House of Assembly to audit the council chairmen and indict them for immediate removal.
He also threatened to stop the salaries of chairmen, their deputies and councillors, if they refused to budge. If all the above strategies failed, the governor said he would invoke his executive powers to remove the chairmen from office.
In a nutshell, this is the story of how the eight council chairmen elected on the platform of the APC were herded into defecting to PDP. Whether their defection can improve the nosediving ratings of Matawalle in the state is left to be seen.
•Gusau, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Gusau, Zamfara State