Members of the Zamfara State House of Assembly fast-tracked the impeachment of Mahadi Ali as deputy governor last week after he called the lawmakers ‘illiterates’ at a press briefing.
They received the report of the judicial panel that investigated the allegations against Mr Ali, immediately impeached him and removed him from office, received nomination for a new deputy governor, screened and confirmed the nominee in a matter of hours.
Governor Bello Matawalle had invited a senator, Hassan Nasiha, to Gusau on Monday and asked him to remain on standby. While Mr Ali was being impeached, Mr Nasiha was getting ready to go to the House for his screening.
The swift nature of the process, especially on the final day, February 23, left no one in doubt that the whole saga was done to get rid of the only odd personality in the corridors of power in Zamfara State.
Mr Ali was drafted into politics allegedly to compensate his father, Aliyu Gusau, a retired army general and former National Security Adviser, for the role he played in not only financing but nurturing the Peoples Democratic Party in the state.
Born on December 5, 1981, Mr Ali had his first ever political experience in 2015 when at the age of 34 he ran for the House of Representatives’ seat for Gusau/Tsafe constituency but lost to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mr Ali, who is a lawyer, is believed to have continued to represent his father’s interest in the party especially after some bigwigs of the opposition party decamped in 2015 to the APC. His presence in party political meetings gave members of the party access to his father, Mr Gusau, and his money, this reporter learnt.
Matawalle and Mahadi
Governor Matawalle and Mr Ali were never the best of friends from the beginning. While Mr Matawalle was busy moving from ANPP to PDP and later to APC, Mr Ali and his father stayed back to build the PDP. Political pundits saw the nomination of Mr Ali as deputy governorhip candidate as a way of holding his father, using his influence and money to wrest power from the then governor, Abdulaziz Yari. They tried in 2015 and failed, so the 2019 convergence was meant to be an all out war.
Mr Matawalle, who was by then the face of the PDP, was said to have run to Mr Gusau in a desperate move to ensure that his candidature of the party in 2019 was still intact. He had every reason to be afraid. Top APC bigwigs were being frustrated by Mr Yari and Mr Matawalle heard that some of them – like Kabir Marafa, a senator; Dauda Lawal and Abu Magaji – were planning to defect to PDP. He felt insecure with the possibility of the trio of Messrs Marafa, Magaji and Dare in the party.
While his camp now insists that Mr Gusau imposed his son on Mr Matawalle, those from the old general’s camp said it was the governor who invited Mr Ali to be his deputy as a way of ensuring that even with others decamping to the party, Mr Gusau would still support him. Mr Ali was thus given the green lights for obvious reasons.
Following Mr Yari’s ruinous combat in the APC with the G-8 (Messrs Marafa, Magaji, Dare and others), PREMIUM TIMES reported how the ruling party failed to conduct primary elections which made the Supreme Court to eventually disqualify all its candidates after they APC had been declared winner of all seats in the general elections in the state.
Mr Matawalle, who as the PDP candidate got the second highest votes in the governorship election, was sworn in as the governor and Mr Ali as his deputy, PREMIUM TIMES reported.
But contrary to the beleive of many, their fight did not start with the decamping of the governor to the APC. Mr Matawalle allegedly saw Mr Ali as a political liability without his father, someone who could not win a polling unit. And the governor, who like his predecessor, Mr Yari, likes junketting around, wanted his deputy to stay back in the capital while he is on the road.
But Mr Ali did not grow up in Zamfara and is also not comfortable with confining himself there. His business is international. His friends, though many from Zamfara, are largely in Kaduna and his family in Abuja. He is mostly in Abuja or Kaduna and that made Mr Matawalle uncomfortable. But there was nothing he could do especially with Mr Gusau’s presence.
Mr Matawalle’s origin is in the ANPP, one of the parties that merged into APC. He was a commissioner and House of Representatives member. His first political godfather, Ahmed Sani (Yarima), paid him a visit immediately he was sworn in and, among other things, reminded him that his original house (ANPP – APC) still needed him and that PDP does not win elections in Zamfara State.
There are also the calculations for 2023. Mr Matawalle, who first joined PDP around 2010 in protest, wants a second term in 2023. He felt he does not stand a chance fighting Yari, Yarima and Marafa, from the PDP, so he felt joining APC would make things easier for him, this reporter learnt.
When Mr Matawalle first informed his deputy of his intention to defect, sources close to the two officials, said Mr Ali disagreed. Mr Ali reportedly said members of PDP may run to court to challenge them because their positions belonged to PDP as a party and not the individual contestants. The governor went ahead to decamp but Mr Ali and a few others, including a House of Representatives member representing Talata Mafara/Anka constituency, Kabir Yahaya, House of Assembly member, Salihu Usman, and the chief of staff to the governor, Bala Mande,remained in the PDP.
Immediately Mr Ali refused to join the exodus to the APC, the fireworks began. While hosting members of the APC from Gusau Local Government Area at Government House in Gusau, Mr Matawalle was seen in a video clip sending a note of warning to his deputy. That was quickly followed by a more direct missile aimed at Mr Ali when the deputy governor held a rallies/" 1014 target="_blank">political rally in the state. The governor was angry and the assembly members even invited Mr Ali.
“As governor of the state, I promised to work together with the deputy governor irrespective of our political affiliations. But I won’t tolerate a disrespectful attitude from him.I won’t join issue with him but if he dares me, I will give him the treatment he deserves,” the governor said.
“We all agreed to halt any rallies/" 1014 target="_blank">political rally welcoming politicians into the state since we lost some of our supporters while welcoming us. The deputy governor should have notified me of whatever he planned to do. Being of different political parties does not mean I am no longer his boss. Since the defection, he has stopped associating with me.
“I am the chief security officer of the state. I won’t tolerate any person trying to breach the security of the state,” the governor said.
The governor fired another missile in January when he said: “I can relinquish my position as the state governor if I know the son of Ali Gusau won’t take over the government. After all, I am not a power monger and all I am after is the wellbeing of the citizens of this state.”
Mr Ali fired back through the PDP spokesperson, Abba Bello, by saying the deputy governor was ready to resign alongside the governor.
The exchanges intensified when Mr Gusau, the former deputy governor’s father, got involved in the fight.
The APC spokesperson in the state, Yusuf Idris, said: “General Aliyu Gusau, who is the biological father of Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, the current PDP leader in the state, controlled over 70 per cent of the mining licenses before they were revoked by the Federal Government.
“One will be left with no option but to believe that Aliyu Gusau and other PDP stalwarts were behind banditry in Zamfara because their mining sites were never attacked by bandits.
“Similarly, he (Aliyu Gusau) and other PDP members have never come to the state to sympathise with the government and people of the state whenever there was bandits attack.”
But the PDP fired back through its deputy chairman, Kabir Jabaka, saying Mr Matawalle too owned about 10 mining companies in the state.
The state lawmakers, through the Chairman, House Standing Committee, Shamsudeen Basko, accused the deputy governor of three offences.
These are “abuse of office, criminal self-enrichment using public funds and failure to discharge official duties.”
Mr Basko said: “Abuse of office. This includes Constitutional breach of sections 190 and 193 (1), (2) (a)(b)(c), of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended).
“Criminal self-enrichment using public funds; includes criminal diversion of state funds, conspiracy to defraud the state and approval of dubious retirement in his office.
“Failure to discharge constitutional duties, which give rise to insubordination,” he added.
Mahadi and 2023
Mr Ali assumed the leadership of PDP after Mr Matawalle decamped to the APC. He has strengthened his hold on the party a bit especially now that the top executive members are his father’s known loyalists. Bala Mande, a retired army colonel and former military governor of Nasarawa State, is the party chairman while Kabir Jabaka is the deputy. Other known loyalists of Mr Gusau in the party are Faruk Rijiya and Salihu Usman (a lawmaker).
While it is not clear whether he will contest the 2023 elections, if he does, he will give Mr Matawalle a run for his money.
First, the disagreement between Messrs Yari and Marafa and Mr Matawalle has not been resolved. If the crisis in the APC continues into 2023, Mr Yari may team up with Mr Ali to punish the governor.
The House of Representatives member from Talata Mafara, Kabiru Yahaya, who remains in PDP, enjoys grassroots support. His support for Mr Ali will no doubt be a problem to Mr Matawalle.
Sympathy may also play a role. Now that Mr Ali has been thrown out of office, voters may sympathise with him and find his words persuasive.
In Sokoto State, when then governor Aliyu Wamakko decamped to APC, his deputy, Muntari Shagari remained in PDP. Mr Wamakko completed the tenure with Mr Shagari and though he contested under PDP, Mr Shagari had no political points to counter Wamakko since he was considered part of the government. Mr Ali will not carry that baggage and can criticise the government.
Mr Ali is still in court, challenging his impeachment. But his supporters are already strategising for 2023. On social media, supporters of former governor Mr Yari and former senator, Mr Marafa, are also expressing sympathy for him. But the decision to contest or not remains his.
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