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2015 takes shape today as Jonathan moves to decide Amaechi’s fate

| May 24, 2013 More

•Factors that will shape election

From TAIWO AMODU, Abuja

The fate of one of the ubiquitous interest groups that will shape the direction of the 2015 presidential  election will be decided today at the Rivers  State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, as the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) elects a new chairman.

Main contenders for the exalted office are the incumbent chairman of the Forum and Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi and his Katsina State counterpart, Ibrahim Shema. A new entrant in the race is the Bauchi State governor, Mallam Isa Yuguda. Both Shema and Yuguda are believed to be enjoying the support of the Presidency for the office.

Daily Sun findings revealed that the Bauchi State governor was drafted into the race  as replacement  for Governor Shema in the event that Amaechi succumbs to intense pressure  from the Presidency to withdraw from the race.

The thirty- six state governors, who will be picking a new chairman to direct their affairs for the next two years are divided into the pro-Amaechi and pro-presidency  camps. Amaechi’S leadership of the strategic platform had run into troubled waters over what notable PDP stalwarts and Presidency foot soldiers claimed to be his anti-Jonathan posturing.

Under the Governor Amaechi leadership of the NGF, there is a subsisting case between the Forum and the Federal Government over the management of the Excess Crude.

Account by the Presidency

The deduction from the Federation Account without recourse to states had been viewed as an affront on fiscal federalism and the state governors, under the aegis of NGF, had instituted a case at the Supreme Court to challenge the Federal Government. An out of court settlement move by the Presidency had collapsed as the NGF, under Governor Amaechi, accused Federal Government of insincerity in its trouble shooting initiative.

At its  meeting held on Monday, January 28, 2013, the governors gave indications that talks between it and the Presidency were not yielding positive result and “resolved to take no further adjournments in the subsisting case in court but seek a final resolution of the matter from the Supreme Court.”

Daily Sun investigation revealed that the January 28 pronouncement of governor Amaechi rattled the Presidency  and it had since initiated moves to unseat the embattled Rivers State Governor.

In the camp of the pro-Presidency supporters are all the South-south governors, including the opposition governor in the zone, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, leaving Governor  Amaechi in the cold. Leading this camp is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Akwa-Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio.  Working in league with Governor Akpabio outside President Jonathan’s political fortress are, Theodore Orji, Gabriel Suswam, Seriake Dickson and Peter Obi, governors of Abia, Benue, Bayelsa and Anambra states, respectively.

The North holds the ace Amaechi enjoys the support of the Forum of 19 Northern states governors under the leadership of the Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu.  Aliyu and his Jigawa State counterpart  have been able to impress it on  a sizeable number of their colleagues that today’s battle is not Amaechi but the survival of the Forum as an autonomous pressure group in the country.

But in spite of their admonition, the Presidency has been  able to polarise their camp as  three of the governors in the North Central Zone where overnor Aliyu Niger state belongs are with President Jonathan’s candidate. The states include, Kogi, Benue and Plateau states.

“Even  as these north-central governors share governors Aliyu and Lamido’s  fear, they have not lost sight of the fact that whichever camp emerges victorious will use the platform to feather its interest ahead of 2015 presidency. If you recall, the Jigawa governor  has been mentioned as an aspirant for PDP presidential ticket, while the PDP Governors Forum was created  to push President Jonathan as a consensus candidate, through an affirmation process.

All these talks about the need to protect NGF’s independence is mere sermons, ’’ a Daily Sun source submitted. The fear of emergency rule With the proclamation of emergency rule last week in some states in the North, some of the governors who had declared support for Amaechi’s re-election, Daily Sun findings revealed  have since backed out.

The governors in Amaechi’s camp, wary of Federal Government’s high-handedness are Al-Makura, Ibrahim Geidam, Murtala Nyako and Abdulaziz Yari, Governors of Nasarawa, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara states, respectively.

Daily Sun could not confirm, if  the Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima,  also gave his words to support President Jonathan’s candidate for the position at a private audience the former had with some of  the violence-prone states before his proclamation of emergency rule.

…Odds favour Shema

It began with shadow boxing. Then morphed into a game of wits. Then a protracted and fierce battle. But all that would be settled today as members of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, file out to elect a chairman to lead them.

A couple of names have been thrown up but observers predict a two-horse race between the incumbent chairman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, and his Katsina State counterpart, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema.

With majority of the members reportedly declaring for President Goodluck Jonathan, pundits believe that Shema is in pole position to win the poll. Analysts believe the Katsina governor is likely to carry the day because most of the governors, especially those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who are clearly in the majority, are on his side.

It was not clear as at last night how the opposition governors will vote but sources said their votes would be split between Shema and Amaechi. A simple majority is all that is needed for a winner to emerge in the NGF chairmanship election.

This is the first time the NGF is producing its chairman by election. Previous chairmen – Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu (former Nassarawa governor), Obong Attah (Akwa Ibom), Chief Lucky Igbinedion (Edo) and Dr. Bukola Saraki (Kwara) – emerged by consensus to underscore the unity at that time among the governors. Sources said most of the governors are rooting for Shema to emerge as the new leader of the governors’ body on the ground of an agreement that cedes the leadership of the NGF to the North.

The Katsina governor is the only contender for the NGF chairmanship from that region. The other speculated contender from the North, Governor Yuguda of Bauchi State, was said to have never shown interest in the race. The election, it was learnt, would have been unnecessary had Amaechi complied with the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that the NGF chairmanship shall alternate between the North and South.

The agreement was reportedly reached in the twilight of the Saraki tenure when it was envisaged that the emergence of future leader of the group might be contentious. Saraki as a Northern candidate vacated the NGF chairmanship for Amaechi from the South. By the ‘gentleman’s agreement’, now that the Rivers governor is completing his term, the NGF leadership, observers said should return to the North.

They said Amaechi’s decision to continue in office thus making today’s election inevitable is a violation of that ‘gentleman’s agreement’. It is on that score that most of the governors are reportedly backing Shema’s candidature. The insinuation that Shema is favoured by the Presidency, according to sources, is some kind of blackmail to give the Rivers governor some edge in the NGF election.

“The truth of the matter is that anybody, seeking to lead the governors body usually seeks the endorsement of the president because whether you like it or not, the NGF leadership has to work with him. That is simply what Shema has done,” a source close to the NGF said.

“And Amaechi cannot say he didn’t seek and got that endorsement before he emerged as the NGF leader. If because he has misunderstanding with the Presidency now and so cannot solicit the president’s endorsement, that is another kettle of fish altogether.”

The sources insisted that the Rivers governor is not qualified to continue in office as the NGF chairman by the virtue of the ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which returns leadership of the group to the North.

It was learnt that Shema was in the race to actualise the pact and use his experience as a lawyer of long time standing, a top party official as deputy national chairman of the PDP and two-term governor to advance the frontiers of democracy as the NGF leader.

Category: Bauchi State News

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