Unless the provisions of the nation’s constitution are changed, no amount of pressure from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will cause Bello Matawalle to step down as the governor of Zamfara state, Sani Shinkafi, a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has said.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Friday, the former All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) Zamfara state governorship candidate, also called on security agencies to invite and interrogate PDP leaders for claiming that the governor has vacated his seat for defecting from the PDP on whose platform he was elected.
He said the main opposition party’s position was synonymous with treasonable felony, adding that the call by the PDP was not different from what the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, and Yoruba secessionist, Sunday Adeyemo alias Sunday Igboho has done.
Shinkafi, who defected to the ruling APC about the same time Governor Matawalle, described the suit instituted by the PDP seeking to reclaim its mandate as laughable.
He said: “It is extremely laughable that the PDP that celebrated the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from the APC to the PDP with such elaborate ballyhoo and fanfare would muster the effrontery to attempt to remove Governor Bello Matawalle from office for defecting to the APC. Once again, it is simply ridiculous.
“We are also wondering why the PDP which benefitted from the defection of Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Godwin Obaseki of Edo State from APC to PDP, did not see anything wrong with such defections.”
He said it was also a wonder that the PDP which did not challenge the earlier defections of Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and Ben Ayade of Cross River State was suddenly waking up from its deep slumber to isolate Governor Matawalle’s defection for litigation, wondering why they did nothing to stop Matawalle from defecting after his known grievance over the last one year.
Shinkafi affirmed that the governor was fully protected by section 308 of the 1999 Constitution as it grants him constitutional immunity from being a criminal proceeding.
He further stated: “A similar case as this had come up in the case of EJURA V. IDRIS & ORS (2006) LPELR-5827, and the Court of Appeal held that a Governor once elected can only be removed by an election petition tribunal and not a regular court such as the Federal High Court.
“The court also held that the provisions of the Electoral Act can only operate to remove an elected Governor if the provisions are invoked before an election tribunal.
“The Court of Appeal, therefore, held that the trial judge was right to have declined jurisdiction to remove Governor Idris by an Originating Summons filed before the Federal High Court (as in this case) since the Governor was absolutely protected by immunity in section 308 of the Constitution.
“It should also be noted that the Supreme Court decision that enthroned Governor Matawalle into office was a pre-election matter between two factions of the APC (not PDP) and that the time to have challenged Governor Matawalle expired over two years ago.
“More significantly, section 180 of the Constitution provides the only situations in which a validly elected Governor can cease to hold office; not by removal through an Originating Summons filed before a Federal High Court.”
“The entire suit against Matawalle falls within the realm of a political question which is not justifiable or actionable in a court of
law, ‘That until the Constitution and the Electoral Act specifically debar a Governor from defecting, no Governor who has defected can thereby lose his seat, or
have his seat occupied by his Deputy Governor. Such postulations are legally untenable,’ they argued.
“No constitutional or Electoral Act provisions state that Governor must continue to remain in office under the same party on whose platform he contested and won an election, so as to sustain his governorship position. The days ahead will definitely show some interesting legal fireworks. “
Shinkafi, however, advised the state deputy governor, Mahdi Aliyu Gusau, who remains in the PDP, to refrain from any action that may cause the state more problems, noting that he is still a young man who should work to maintain his seat.