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NGF election: Amaechi emerges victorious; Akpabio, others reject result

| May 26, 2013 More

Several weeks of horse-trading and political alignment climaxed yesterday as all state governors, except Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe, partook in the election of a new chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF.

The election which had been rescheduled on two occasions finally held at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja.

The poll was conducted by open-secret ballot in which each voter (governor) was handed a paper on which to write the name of his choice and drop in a box.

At the end of the of the three-hour widely monitored meeting, A.B. Okauru, the returning officer and Director-General of the NGF, announced that incumbent leader of the Forum and Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, defeated his opponent, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State by 19 to 16 votes.

Speaking further, Okauru said that “Now, for the vice-chairman, it is important to announce to you that there were four candidates, two of the candidates withdrew from the race but they participated in the voting process.”

“Governors Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State also participated in the election. At the end, it is clear that the chairman emerged as the chairman for the next two years. The vice-chairman position was also up and there were two candidates: Governors Mimiko and Yari.”

“But the governor of Ondo withdrew from the race and yielded the position to the governor of Zamfara, who, as from today, is the vice-chairman of the NGF.”

Immediately the results were announced, opposition and some PDP governors, hugged and shook hands while rendering victory songs.

Jang’s candidature was agreed upon when the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors met at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge hours to the election. He joined the race only on Thursday night and there was allegation that his indication of interest fell short of the required 24-hour pre-election notice.

The former military officer replaced Katsina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema and his Bauchi State counterpart, Isa Yuguda. Both withdrew at the last minute.

Opposition governors under the aegis of the All Progressives Congress, APC, met at Lagos House where they agreed to queue behind the eventual winner.

On receiving the news, Rivers Information Commissioner, Ibim Semenitari, was sighted in an elated mood. She then uttered “mission accomplished” while the rest of the delegation sang “It is a miracle working God” chorus.

The Presidency and leadership of the PDP had wanted Amaechi out, over his hard stance against the President on some critical issues, part of which is the Excess Crude Account, the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the re-election bid of Mr. Jonathan.

The President, who left for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Union Summit before the conclusion of the election, had made spirited efforts to get the commitment of at least twenty governors.

Sources say some actually signed an undertaken to cast their votes for whoever Mr. Jonathan anoints.

A source informed our correspondent that “The jittery ones quickly bowed to pressure as security reports within the purview of the Presidency indicted them of corruption. You can now see why it is better to be corrupt-free; no one will threaten or push you around.”

Pro-Jonathan governors kick

Refusing to go down without a fight, governors loyal to President Jonathan, led by Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, claim that Jang and not Amaechi, won the election.

Akpabio who stormed out of the venue of the meeting in company of allies, told newsmen that at the Akwa Ibom State Lodge, Abuja, that the result was a sham and unacceptable.

Done with a list of anomalies he claimed occured, Akpabio then distributed a sheet of paper containing 19 signatures which he said belonged to the Governors that voted for Jang. He maintained that the outcome which gave Amaechi a 19-16 win was actually the other way round.

He however refused to comment on why he and his group did not boycott the election despite the alleged shortcomings.

Those who were at the briefing were the governors of Bayelsa, Ebonyi, Cross River, Abia, Kogi, Bauchi, Ondo, Delta, Anambra, Enugu and Kogi states.

Some of the PDP governors were reportedly infuriated with the emergence of Jang as the consensus candidate and decided to vote for Amaechi.

Moments later, Jang in supporting Akpabio, read a statement signed by the 19 governors that had endorsed him.

He said, “The northern governors met in the morning and both Shema and Yuguda agreed to step down and I was asked to take their place. The PDP governors also agreed and endorsed the action.

“Any further discussion about the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, I should be addressed as the chairman of the forum as from today.

“We, the undersigned governors of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, having taken cognisance of the state of the nation and the perception of the Nigerian people, do hereby resolve as follows:

“That we thank the outgoing chairman, His Excellency, Chief Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State for his leadership and achievements;

“That we strongly agree for a change of leadership of the forum from May 2013 to May 2015.

“We hereby elect His Excellency, Jonah Jang of Plateau State as the new chairman,” the statement said.

Although the statement was typed, Jang’s name was written with pen, a confirmation that it was hurriedly prepared for the poll.

Those who signed the statement were the governors of Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Bayelsa, Taraba, Benue, Anambra, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, Kaduna, Enugu, Ebonyi, Bauchi, Delta, Abia, Katsina, Yobe, Cross River and Kwara.

As soon as Jang finished reading his speech, the Governor of Bayelea State, Seriake Dickson, said there should be no question from journalists.

The Governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, said he was going to introduce his successor as the deputy chairman of the forum. He then raised the hands of Mimiko.

To prevent external influence, telephone communication was jammed at the venue.

Battered ego

Analysts say they are not surprised by the turn of events, especially Akpabio’s rejection of the result. He had been at the forefront of the campaign to oust Amaechi.

Lately, there has been no lost love between the two men. The former only weeks ago, described the latter as the proverbial Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus Christ’s twelve disciples who later betrayed him.

As it stands, the Presidency may perceive the Friday’s development as failure on its part despite the huge resources it devoted to ensure victory swung its way.

Earlier in the year, the PDP, in a bid to crush the re-elected chairman’s influence on the NGF and polity in general, established its own Governor’s Forum as a counterpoise. Curiously, Akpabio, a South-southerner like Amaechi, was handpicked to head the body.

In the meantime, Akwa Ibom helmsman, who relocated to Abuja last week solely to swell chances of his camp, maintains he and likes regard Governor Jang as the duly elected head of the NGF.

The presidency is believed to be against the return of Amaechi over his 2015 presidential or vice-presidential ambition.

Amaechi speaks

In the meantime, Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi has reacted to the outcome of the election.

While thanking his colleagues for their tenacity and determination to ensure the unity of the forum and the nation, he noted that the aim of democratic governance was for everyone to partake in winning.

He pledged his commitment to President Jonathan, saying, the NGF remains committed to supporting him towards realising the development dream of all Nigerians by reducing tension, uncertainty and insecurity in the country.

“We want to pledge our steadfastness and resolve working alongside Mr. President to better the lives of our people as we render transparent and accountable stewardship,” Amaechi said.

The governor thanked all those who have patiently endured the recent troubled times “especially our constituents and members of the fourth estate of the realm who have followed these elections with keen interest.”

“We promise that we will not betray the confidence you have reposed in us,” he concluded.

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