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Governors in Make-or-Break Election Today

| May 25, 2013 More

A crucial meeting of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) commences this evening in Abuja during which a chairman of the forum is expected to emerge. In this analysis, our reporter writes that the battle line has been drawn between the incumbent chairman, Rotimi Amaechi, who is seeking re-election and President Jonathan’s ‘preferred’ choice.

Barring any last minutes change in political permutation, the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) will either effect a change in its leadership or endorse another tenure for the incumbent chairman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State at a crucial meeting scheduled to take place in Abuja this evening at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge.

The Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) was registered in 1999 under part ‘C’ of the Companies and Allied Matters Act.

The mission of the Forum as encapsulated in its website reads: “To provide a common platform for collaboration amongst the Executive Governors on matters of public policy; to promote good governance, sharing of good practice and enhance cooperation at the state level and with other arms of government and society.”

The NGF, the mission statement further reads: “Is a coalition of the elected governors of the country’s 36 states. It is a non-partisan association which seeks to promote unity, good governance, better understanding and co-operation among the states and ensure a healthy and beneficial relationship between the States and other tiers of government.”

From its inception, the NGF has been led by five governors. It started with the former governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu,who piloted the affairs of the body from 1999 to 2004.

He was succeeded by former Akwa Ibom State Governor Obong Victor Attah who led it from 2004 to 2006 and handed over to former Edo State Governor Chief Lucky Igbinedion who led it from 2006 to 2007.

Thereafter, former Kwara State Governor Senator Bukola Saraki took over the mantle of leadership and held sway for four years. The incumbent Chairman, Amaechi, took over in 2011 and his first four year tenure ends on May 26.

With the next chairmanship election of the NGF expected to hold this weekend, a major contender is the incumbent chairman, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is having a running battle with the Presidency. A new twist was recently added to Amaechi’s running battle courtesy of the private jet controversy from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NACA) and a section of the polarized Rivers State House of Assembly.

The question on the lips of analysts is: will Amaechi weather the storm or will he be defeated by the forces opposed to his re-emergence as NGF chairman?

Analysts are of the view that the protracted crisis rocking the NGF and its recent polarization would certainly have implications on the next chairmanship election and its future.

The die appears to be cast and the 36 governors are already in high spirit for the forum’s chairmanship election. The NGF is polarized into the pro-Amaechi and anti-Amaechi factions even though majority of the governors are said to be backing the Rivers State governor.

But the Presidency, which is believed to be uncomfortable with Amaechi’s leadership of the forum, is trying to raise another aspirant to upstage him. Last month, the pro and anti-Amaechi elements returned to the drawing board to perfect their scheming strategies to have the upper hand. Consequently, the election was earlier postponed following the forum’s acrimonious meeting in Abuja.

Amaechi’s relationship with President Jonathan turned sour when he openly criticized the federal government’s transformation agenda. Under his leadership, the NGF had tackled the President over critical issues on true federalism. For instance, the NGF objected to the formula for revenue allocation and the controversial Sovereign Wealth Fund.

Of course, the presidency did not fold its arms as it turned the heat on the embattled NGF chairman. This played out recently at the Akure Airport,when Amaechi’s plane was grounded for allegedly violating aviation rules. Many observers believed that the problem was heightened by the existing cold relationship between the governor and the President.

Jonathan’s choice

It is not clear whether the chairman of the newly formed PDP Governors’ Forum (PDPGF), Godswill Akpabio, will throw his hat into the ring for the NGF chairmanship contest. It is however, not in contention that Katsina State Governor,Ibrahim Shema has his eye on the seat. His entry into the race was said to be based on the calculation that the NGF chairmanship should go to the north.

Although Shema was said to be initially enjoying the backing of the presidency as Amaechi’s replacement, a new twist was added to the NGF chairmanship election as Jonathan is said to have shifted support to Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi state. This development is said to have created a division among the governors with respect to supporting Jonathan’s candidate.

Daily Trust gathered that the Presidency has allegedly perfected plans to coerce members of the forum into endorsing his preferred candidate for today’s election.

But his attempt to foist Yuguda’s candidature is said to become a major source of division among the governors. A presidency source informed Daily Trust that while a few governors were invited to the presidential villa during the week to endorse the “election” of Yuguda as the new chairman of the Governors’ Forum; others have refused to do so insisting the president must not use the forum to settle his scores with anyone.

A presidency source disclosed that the presidency had adopted a ‘voting sheet memo’ at the Villa where the governors are being individually invited and demanded to append their signatures in support of Yuguda’s candidature. This move, it was learnt, was part of last minute strategy by the president to checkmate Governor Amaechi and ensure that he is not re-elected.

Analysts are, however, of the view that today’s battle for the chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors Forum is between the incumbent Amaechi and his Katsina State counterpart Shema, as Yuguda is yet to express interest in the position while Shema has.

If the forum decides to shift its chairmanship to the North, the Katsina State governor is likely to carry the day because most of the governors, especially those of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who are in the majority, are believed to be on his side.

A source said previous aspirants to the position have always sought the support of the President.

“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,” the source said.

This is the first time the body comprising mainly of the 36 state governors-from the ruling and the opposition parties-is electing their chairman by election and observers are keenly watching to see if external influence would be allowed to play in deciding who emerges the next NGF chairman.

Category: Bauchi State News

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