While Bello Matawalle of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was widely expected to win reelection as governor of Zamfara State on March 18, few predicted that Dauda Lawal of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would defeat him.
The shocking result means that Mr Matawalle is the only incumbent governor to lose reelection this year. The election in Adamawa State was also ruled inconclusive, but incumbent governor Adamu Fintiri of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was ahead of his opponent from the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), Aishatu Dahiru (aka Binani), by more than 30,000 votes.
The incumbent governor’s destiny was sealed when Kashim Shehu, the Zamfara State collation officer, announced that Mr Lawal had won the election with 377,726 votes.
Mr Matawalle received 311,976 votes, whereas Aliyu Dansadau, the candidate for the National Rescue Movement (NRM), received only 2,416. Labor Party’s Ahmed Yahuza received 573 ballots, putting him in fourth place.
Mr Dauda won the local government areas (LGAs) of Anka, Bukkuyum, Shinkafi, Gusau, Tsafe, Gummi, Bungudu, Maru Kaura Namoda, and Zurmi, while Mr Matawalle took Maradun, Talata Mafara, Birnin Magaji, and Bakura.
Since 1999, the PDP has never won a governorship election in Zamfara, therefore this outcome came as a shock to many in the state and the rest of the country’s northern region. The PDP has consistently lost to the ruling party, despite its many incarnations, including the All Peoples Party (APP), the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), and the current All Progressives Congress (APC).
In 2019, Mr Matawalle won the election as a candidate for the PDP, but he did not take office until the Supreme Court penalized the APC for not naming its victorious candidate through proper primaries and appointed him president.
But, he swiftly switched to the APC, evidently realizing that only the party’s platform could ensure him a second term.
How then did Mr Lawal, a relatively unknown individual, pull off such a massive surprise? In what way did the opposition PDP party defeat the incumbent APC?
Making a mistake in judging Dauda Lawal
Until recently, Mr Matawalle was widely regarded as Zamfara State’s most popular and respected politician. Also, there was a rationale behind it. Mr Matawalle was the public face of the PDP at a time when all the other prominent politicians in the state had switched allegiances to the ANPP and, later, the APC.
Staying with the PDP and openly siding with the state’s underprivileged helped elevate him to hero status. After being named the next governor by the Supreme Court, no one expected him to defect from the PDP to the APC.
Mr Matawalle believed that the PDP and any other party had no chance of defeating him once he reunited with his old circle of erstwhile colleagues in the APC.
Former governors Ahmad Yarima and Abdulaziz Yari are among the “influential figures” in the APC. Others include Sani Jaji, a former representative in the House of Representatives, and former senators Hassan Nasiha, Kabiru Marafa, and Sahabi Yau.
Mr Matawalle falsely believed that by working with powerful politicians, he would be certain of being reelected. Mr Yari, along with other powerful politicians, has likewise made this claim.
Unfortunately for them, they were completely wrong.