Governor Rotimi Amaechi
Bad loser Akpabio cries foul
How Northern governors swung victory
By Chucks Okocha
Despite intense lobbying that had made defeat for him seem like a foregone conclusion, Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, defeated his Plateau State counterpart, Mr. Jonah Jang, to remain the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
Amaechi polled 19 votes while Jang polled 16 in the election held at the Rivers State Governor's Lodge in Abuja and presided by the director-general of the NGF, Mr. Oshisana Okauru. Only the governor of Yobe State was absent. The election was conducted via secret ballot with Okauru describing it as "transparent".
Governor Abdullaziz Yari of Zamfara State had no challenger for the position of deputy chairman and was elected unopposed as a result after Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko withdrew from the election.
The Rivers governor's victory was in spite of the People's Democratic Party and is a further highlight of the bitter division that exists in the ruling party and the disaffection it has bred. This disaffection is the reason about seven governors elected on the party's platform appear to be on the verge of ditching the party for another.
THISDAY had in March this year reported that eight governors were set to leave the PDP as a way of expressing their frustration. The governors cite in the report were those of Rivers (Rotimi Amaechi), Adamawa (Murtala Nyako), Kano (Rabiu Kwankwaso), Jigawa (Sule Lamido) and Kebbi (Seidu Dakingari).
Others were Governors Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara.
To underscore the frustrations of the group with PDP, three of the Governors, Lamido, Kwankwaso and Wamakko had boycotted a PDP peace parley in Kaduna organised late March, which had Vice-President Namadi Sambo in attendance.
In a post-election speech, Amaechi described the election as transparent, adding that "power belongs to God". He also revealed that he intends to embark on a mission to reconcile and unify the Forum, adding that he would "reach out to the president".
But the outcome of the election has been rejected by some governors in a move that may sound the death knell for the already polarised Forum.
Specifically, Akwa Ibom State governor, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, said it was wrong for Amaechi to have presided over an election in which he was a candidate. "The election cannot be valid," he said.
Waving document titled Resolution of Nigerian Governors, Akpabio told journalists that the 19 governors who signed the document had elected Jang as Chairman of the NGF.
In denouncing the election, Jang argued that the result was inconsistent with the fact that he had been endorsed by 18 governors from the North before the election.
“I was endorsed by 18 governors before the election. How come I did not win?" he queried, noting that Governor Amaechi ought to have resigned before the election.
Even though his candidacy was never a considered possibility in the weeks preceding the NGF election, Jang emerged the consensus nominee of the PDP governors at a meeting held earlier at the Akwa Ibom State Governor's Lodge after it emerged that neither Shema nor Yuguda was willing to step down for the other.
But given that governors elected on the PDP platform had resolved to present a single candidate who would then run against Amaechi, both Shema and Yuguda had to set aside their ambition. The lot then fell on Jang.
Thereafter, both Shema and Yuguda left the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge in the same car.
THISDAY learnt that the meeting of the Northern State Governors’ Forum which also held a few hours before the NGF election at the Niger State Governor’s Lodge ended in a deadlock as neither Shema nor Yuguda agreed to step down.
However, it has emerged that the core of Amaechi's supporters in the Northern State Governors Forum had played a fast one by getting both Shema and Yuguda to withdraw from the race and prodding Jang, considered a weak candidate, to run.
"It would have been a close call had Shema or Yuguda run against Amaechi," a source told THISDAY. Most of these governors actually voted for Amaechi, contrary to the impression they had given earlier at the meeting, the source added. So, essentially, their dummy helped swing victory in Amaechi's favour.
Ten Northern Governors voted for Amaechi while 8 voted for Jang.
But as the PDP governors were meeting at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge, the opposition parties’ governors were also holding a meeting at the Lagos State Governor’s Lodge. It was from there that they all arrived at the venue of the NGF election at about 4.40pm led by the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola.
Okauro said while declaring the result: "The governor of Yobe was not present. We counted all the votes and the chairman, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State emerged winner with a total vote of 19 against the governor of Plateau State who secured a total vote of 16.
"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.
"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 State."
The pro-Amaechi governors however maintained that Mimiko did not withdraw from the race. "I present to you my successor," Anambra State governor, Mr. Peter Obi, told journalists after the election.
Yesterday's election had been preceded by a divisive campaign that pitted governors in two camps. The culmination of this bitter campaign was the formation of the PDP Governors Forum established in an apparent bid to curb the influence which being the chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum confers on Amaechi and, also, to forge a united front in the quest to thwart his re-election.
The election was also seen as an indirect contest between Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan, both of whom had been engaged in a cold war. But aware of such perception and knowing that his victory would do little in warming him to the presidency, the Rivers State governor offered an olive branch.
"Today our democracy was tested and proven," he said. Today the governors have spoken with one voice reaffirming our faith in democratic governance as the hope of Nigeria’s future.
"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."