26th May, 2013
The Nigeria Governors Forum is dead. A very noble idea, copied from the United States, has been sacrificed, on the altar of Nigeria’s peculiar brand of cheap and petty politics, governed by the mentality of ‘winning at all costs’, a politics that brooks no opposition to the president and that will stop at nothing to smash any opposition on the way.
Governor Godswill Akpabio and his group of governors dealt the fatal blow on the 14 year-old forum on Friday night. Yesterday, it completed the embalming and buried it. To be sure, Akpabio and co. will certainly be remembered for a long time for this.
The death of NGF was inevitable, judging by the chain of events leading to Friday’s re-election of Governor Rotimi Amaechi as the chairman.
Amaechi, who succeeded Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara state as chairman in 2011 had breathed a new life in the NGF, making it politically relevant, canvassing positions, at times opposite those upheld by the Presidency.
One of the most bold positions was the decision of the NGF to challenge the Federal Government’s decision to create a Sovereign Wealth Fund, whereby money jointly owned by the three tiers of government, will be deducted by the custodian of the funds, the Federal Government for some foreign investment, completely out of control of the entire owners of the fund. The NGF position was rooted in the Nigerian constitution: when it comes to Federation money, the Federal government does not own everything; it is just a custodian and thus states can question it about how the finances are managed by Federal officials.
Even though, the SWF has taken off, the resolution of the constitutional issues is before the apex court.
The NGF has also vigorously canvassed for state police and generally under Amaechi’s leadership, Nigerians have seen the forum playing more activist role, giving the nation an alternative viewpoint and making the governors compare notes with one another, in terms of policy and programme implementation in their states.
As the NGF’s public profile blossomed, also blossomed the plot to unseat Amaechi and reduce his and NGF’s political relevance and influence.
The first step taken was the formation of the PDP’s Governors Forum, under the leadership of Godswill Akpabio, an undisguised deep hater of Amaechi, also a PDP governor. On its own, the PDP Forum ought to be a powerful platform, consisting of 24 PDP Governors, who make up two-thirds of the NGF. But the Akpabio group was not satisfied with this.
Apparently, the group coveted the bigger, all embracing platform for the Nigerian governors and thus worked out a strategy to take control and cut out Amaechi.
For the election last Friday, the Northern Governors Forum purportedly met and endorsed Jonah Jang of Plateau state as the consensus candidate of the zone. There are 19 Northern Governors and on paper Jang, should sail through as the new NGF chairman. Then the Akpabio-led group of governors, said to be inspired by President Goodluck Jonathan or sympathetic to the President, some say under pressure and blackmail, also collected the signatures of politically- mixed 19 governors, which included the APGA-PDP governor of Anambra state and the Labour-PDP governor of Ondo state, enough to stage a coup de grace against Amaechi. Armed with the signatures, the group came to the election venue and asked that Amaechi hand over. Not so fast, the other governors said. The NGF rules say there must be an election. And so the election was held, with Akpabio and Jonah Jang’s majority vanishing into the thin air.
Instead of Jang winning, it was Amaechi that got the magical 19 votes, while Jang got 16 votes. One governor was absent. In politics, what could have happened was that out of the 19 votes that Jang thought he had in his pocket, three simply failed to deliver. Since the vote was by secret ballot, with a simple writing of names, three governors in the Akpabio camp simply switched allegiance to the Amaechi side.
This is politics, real politics and one thinks it is taught in Politics 101 that never count the vote, until delivered. Even in real life, ‘Never count your chickens, until the eggs are hatched!
Akpabio and Jang did not accept the result. They staged a walkout and announced that the vote had been rigged! How can an election, a club election of 36 governors be rigged in the full glare of Nigeria’s leaders?
Political observers have simply found it hard to accept the verdict of Akpabio and what is being suspected is that the Nigerian factor has come into play again. In Nigeria, politicians do not easily accept defeat; a Nigerian politician expects to win and he loses because the opponent rigs him out!
The NGF has never been the same since Friday night. Even though Amaechi in his speech, attempted to reconcile with the Akpabio group and their principal, President Jonathan, the Akpabio-Jang camp went on full throttle, accelerating the demise of NGF.
On Saturday, the group presented Jang as its alternative NGF chairman and moved its base to the Benue State Lodge in Abuja.
Reporters said 18 Governors attended the presentation at Benue State Lodge when they announced the decision to journalists.
In a communiqué they issued after their meeting, the Governors said they stood by the endorsement of 18 governors, who had earlier pledged their support for Jang who is the consensus candidate to be chosen by them before the NGF election and not Amaechi.
Governor Mimiko, who was also presented as the Vice Chairman of the Jang-led NGF, read the six-paragraph communiqué issued and jointly endorsed by the faction.
“The Nigeria Governors’ Forum, under the new leadership of Governor Jonah Jang, as Chairman and Governor Olusegun Mimiko as the Vice Chairman, at the inaugural meeting held today, Saturday, May 25, 2013, resolved as follows:
“The new chairman of the NGF thanks Northern Governors’ Forum, the PDP Governors’ Forum and all the governors for the support and confidence reposed in him and vowed to work for the interest of the forum and country.
“The chairman of the NGF, Governor Jonah Jang vows to unite members of the forum, work for the interest of the forum and the country.
“The forum re-states its commitment to continue being a platform for peer review, productive and collaborative engagement with all levels of government.
“The forum also resolves to continue to encourage and collaborate with Mr. President to restore peace and security in the country.
Apart from Akpabio, Mimiko and Jang the other Governors opposed to Amaechi’s victory include Idris Wada of Kogi, Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Martin Elechi of Ebonyi, Theodore Orji of Abia, Peter Obi of Anambra and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi. Also in the pro Jonathan camp are Ibrahim Shema of Katsina, Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna, Garba Umar of Taraba, Ahmed Abdulfatah of Kwara, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa and Gombe Deputy Governor, Thaanod Rubainu.
And so marked the end of the NGF, the way we had known it since 1999, killed by Nigeria’s politics.
.bayo Onanuga is the editor-in-chief of TheNEWS magazine and Pmnewsnigeria.com