Saturday, May 25, 2013

Amaechi wins Governor's Forum election. Drama as Jang, Akpabio, others reject election

GOVERNOR Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has been re-elected chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) defeating a late entrant, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, by 19 votes to 16.

The Director-General and Returning Officer of NGF election, Asishana Okauru, announced the result of the election which took place at a meeting of the forum in Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, on Friday.

He revealed that Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema and Bauchi State governor, Isa Yuguda, withdrew from the chairmanship race.

The Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum had met at Akwa Ibom Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, moments before the election where it apparently endorsed Jang as its consensus candidate.

Zamfara State governor, Abdulaziz Yari, emerged as the vice chairman of the forum unopposed after his Ondo State counterpart, Olusegun Mimiko, stepped down.

Announcing the outcome of the election, Okaru said: “The governors of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the 6th meeting of the year held today (yesterday) Friday, 24th May 2013 at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, for the purpose of conducting elections to fill the positions of leadership, elected the following officers for the next two years.

“Chairman: Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, Governor of Rivers State. Vice Chairman: Alh. Abdulaziz Yari, Governor of Zamfara State.”

Apart from Kebbi State governor, who was represented by the deputy governor and Yobe State governor who was absent, all the other state governors took part in the election.

In his reaction to the outcome of the election, Amaechi told journalists: “There is no victor, no vanguish. I thank all those that voted for me and those that did not vote for me. What is important is that democracy has prevailed.”

Apparently expecting protest from some disgruntled governors over the election, Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, on his part, said: “Before they go out to address the press that they did not vote, let me tell you that all of them voted in a transparent manner and they were defeated.”

Security was beefed up around the venue of the election as security operatives barricaded the major roads leading to the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge and almost all the governors arrived promptly at the scheduled 4:00p.m. time for the election.

Some of the governors later converged on the Akwa-Ibom Lodge, where ghe Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum (PDPGF), Obong Godswill Akpabio, declared the election in Rivers Lodge as a sham.

He stated that Amaechi stage-managed the election after he had refused to dissolve the former executive and personally conducted the election he claimed to have won.

Akpabio stated that rather than Amaechi winning 19 votes, Jang had secured 19 votes through governors who had endorsed his candidature through their signatures gathered at the PDPGF meeting and the Northern Governors Forum meetings held earlier in the day.

According to Akpabio, who was flanked by governors Jonah Jang, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi, Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko and Peter Obi of Anambra State, the election at Rivers Lodge was against the dictates of democratic norms, adding that 19 governors who had earlier endorsed Jang recognised the Plateau State governor as The Chairman of NGF.

Interestingly, 19 members of the forum later circulated a statement endorsing Jang. They noted that they strongly agreed with a change of leadership and thanked Amaechi for his service so far. They noted that they would recognise the leadership of Jang as the new chairman.

Those who signed the statement included Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, I. H. Dankwambo of Gombe, H.S. Dickson, Bayelsa, Garba Umar, Taraba, Suswam Gabriel, Benue, Mr. Peter Obi, Anambra, Idris I. Wada, Kogi, Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo, Jonah D. Jang, Plateau, Mukhtar R. Yero, Kaduna, Sullivan I. Chime, Enugu, Martin N. Elechi, Ebonyi, Isa Yuguda, Bauchi, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Delta, T. A. Orji, Abia, Ibrahim S. Shema, Katsina, Ibrahim Gaidam, Yobe, Liyel Imoke, Cross River and Abdufatah Ahmed, Kwara.

At no time in the history of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has its election commanded so much political passion and following than this time. The governors went into the polls late on Friday with news of the election dominating the airwaves in the past week. For a forum that has no clearly assigned constitutional role, that is no mean feat. The governors, by the power of their offices and influence, have ensured their election remained the talk of the town since last week. The same feat was achieved in the last days of February when it was indicated that the NGF had foiled a plot to oust its chairman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi ahead of the end of his first term in office.

As the governors went into the polls late on Friday, expectation of the outcome had remained top on the political agenda. The attention directed at the NGF election and its activities were a fallout of the elevated status its former Chairman, Senator Bukola Saraki gave the Forum. Saraki, the former governor of Kwara state, ensured the influence of the NGF became noticeable in the most important corridors of power while he held sway as Forum Chairman between 2005 and 2007.

But this particular election has become all the more important as the NGF Chairman in the current dispensation has gathered even more influence than the days of Saraki. Governor Rotimi Amaechi has been seen as the alternative head of state in some parlance, as the NGF was seemingly assuming the toga of alternate government. Incidentally, the clash between President Goodluck Jonathan, largely a product of speculation initially, but which has become a full blown matter, heralded the importance many have ascribed to NGF election. In many circles, the election of the NGF on May 24 was more or less a battle between President Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaechi.

Indications that Abuja was in for a major political battle had emerged from Monday, when some governors arrived Abuja with a promise to remain in town till after the NGF election fixed for Friday, May 24. On Tuesday and Wednesday, more Governors joined the Abuja train and at the close of work on Thursday Abuja was already swelling with governors. A meeting of the Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) was fixed for early morning Friday and sources had said that the meeting was so fixed to enable all governors attend.

On Thursday too, it was clear the governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi was ready to test his might against that of the loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan.

The parting of ways between the two sons of Niger Delta started around August last year when reports emerged that Amaechi was being romanced by some Northern political bigwigs to contest the 2015 Presidential election as a running mate to a Northern candidate, Sule Lamido, Governor of Jigawa state. Those who are opposed to Amaechi in Rivers immediately saw an opening to break the cord between him and Jonathan. They were said to have rushed to Jonathan to give them the enabling environment to rein in the Rivers governor.

Sources however said that the President was cautious in providing the “enabling environment” against Amaechi.

The Rivers governor was said to have had hand in the planned removal of the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur late last year, with the National Working Committee meeting behind him to pass some resolutions. Besides, he has also been quoted as claiming in the media that he could contest the 2015 presidential election. Thus some loyalists of the Presidency took it upon themselves to “put the governor in his proper place.”
That was the genesis of what is today known as the Jonathan/Amaechi political battle which gave the NGF election all the trappings of a PDP National Convention.

The question on the ground was who blinked first?

Arrowheads of the anti-Amaechi battle include Akwa Ibom governor Godswill Akpabio, Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam and the governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema. The trio were said to have taken it upon themselves to run the campaign to install a new chairman at the helm of NGF. On the Amaechi front, he campaigned for himself and insisting he would contest re-election into NGF seat. He was largely supported by governors of opposition parties under the aegis of the unregistered All Progressive Party (APC) which comprises the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). However, the Governor of Anambra and Ondo who are not on the platform of the PDP are aligned with the Akpabio, Suswam and Shema train, seen as the Presidency men.

By Thursday, three aspirants had obtained the forms for the NGF chairmanship slot. They included the incumbent, Amaechi, Shema and Isa Yuguda, the governor of Bauchi State. Yuguda’s entry was late in coming just as it was also discovered late that his decision to pick the form was to ensure consensus among the governors. It was learnt that many of the governors had seen Shema as a frontal member of the pro-Jonathan camp and that the strategists believed it would be better to push Yuguda, who would be seen as a peacemaker and more amenable to all members of the NGF.

The intrigues continued till the early hours of Friday as members of the Northern Governors Forum (NSGF) continued their meeting under the leadership of Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger state. It was learnt that strategists of the Amaechi front were strenuously engaged in some political calculations as they drew the line ahead of the election. in their calculation, governors of the ANPP and CPC in the North who are four in number would vote for Amaechi, while the ACN governors from the South West who are five in number would also vote Amaechi. They also calculated that Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo would join the Amaechi train from the South South, while they also believed that Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu would join the Amaechi train alongside Babangida Aliyu of Niger state. In their calculation, Amaechi should boast of 12 core supporters. The hope for the camp is to see a divided NSGF and PDPGF which would ensure that votes go either way.

The outcome of the meeting of the NSGF, which ended shortly after noon on Friday, however, threw some spanners into the calculations of the Amaechi camp. It was learnt that the NSGF meeting ended on a positive note for the opponents of the governor of Rivers state as Shema was said to have agreed to step down for Isa Yuguda at the meeting. The duo of Yuguda and Shema also drove in the same vehicle to the mosque, after which they proceeded to the Akwa-Ibom Governor’s Lodge for the PGDGF meeting. The PDP Governors Forum meeting was fixed to hold ahead of the NGF meeting.

Following the arrival of PDP Governors at the Akwa-Ibom lodge, a twist however crept into the fold. There was the feeling that to completely avoid bad blood among the pro-Jonathan governors, a neutral choice as NGF chairman should emerge.

The lot then fell on Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state while Ondo state governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko was to become the Vice Chairman.

The PDPGF had adopted this position ahead of the main NGF meeting at Rivers Governor’s Lodge in Abuja.

With that adoption by the 22 PDP governors (Amaechi did not attend the PDPGF meeting), Jang appeared on the way to his coronation as that adoption could easily guarantee 24 votes out of the 36 governors. But politics is not mathematics. In politics, two plus two is never four.

Amaechi’s response to his election
“Today our democracy was tested and proven. Democracy is about participation. The aim of democratic governance is for everyone to partake in winning. Today the governors have spoken with one voice reaffirming our faith in democratic governance as the hope of Nigeria’s future. I must thank my colleagues for their tenacity and determination to ensure the unity of the forum but more importantly of our nation.

“We remain committed to supporting our leader, the president and commander in chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr.Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to realize the development dream of all Nigerians by reducing tension, uncertainty and insecurity in our beloved 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.

“Finally our thanks go to all those who have patiently endured these 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.”

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