NGF Crisis Deepens

24 Feb 2013

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Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi

•Anti-Amaechi governors move to quit •Election holds Monday

By Vincent Obia

The crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is getting more intense and threatening to boil over, as some governors who are up in arms about the alleged style of the forum's Chairman and Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi have threatened to pull out.

THISDAY learnt the governors moving to break up the forum unless there is an election to determine whether Amaechi would continue or not are Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and Gabriel Suswam (Benue).

The governors perceived to be loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan had tried unsuccessfully to oust Amaechi as chairman of the forum on Wednesday.

After the failed plot to remove Amaechi, some of the governors were said to have met again in Abuja to discuss the development within the governors’ forum.

THISDAY, however, learnt a meeting of the governors’ forum has been scheduled for tomorrow in Abuja and the election of the chairman is said to be high on the agenda.

Meanwhile, President Jonathan is said to have slated a meeting for Monday in Abuja with some specially chosen governors and the agenda is suspected to be the Rivers State governor's perceived animosity against Jonathan.

The anti-Amaechi governors have alleged that the Rivers State governor is "rash and arrogant" and carrying on in a dictatorial manner as NGF chairman.

They also claimed that Amaechi, who will be spending two years as NGF chairman by May this year, is standing against attempts to determine the continued leadership of the forum by election.

The governors also claimed that their agitation was not connected to the 2015 presidential election, but the need to do the "right thing".

The president’s meeting with the select governors is said to have become imperative following Aso Rock’s frustration with what a source described as Amaechi’s belligerent stance and uncomplimentary remarks about the presidency.
The presidency was said to have been particularly irked by Amaechi’s remarks during the recent visit of the Good Governance Team to the state to inspect projects.

Niger Delta Affairs Minister Godsday Orubebe had taken umbrage over what he called Amaechi’s alleged disrespect for President Jonathan.

The Rivers State governor had squared up with Orubebe at the time over the allegation.

Sources close to the Rivers State governor, however, said Amaechi had always acted based on the consent of the governors and that those rooting against him were being instigated from outside the group.

One of the governors from the South-south opposed to Amaechi said: "We were selectively invited to the last meeting (NGF meeting). At the meeting, the secretariat claimed they sent out all invitations accordingly. However, when some of us got wind of the meeting, we dashed in to attend.

"Even for those that got invitations, election was not on the agenda but suddenly it found its way into the agenda. Two things stalled the meeting: some of us said give us the score-card, the achievements for the tenure, which was a legitimate demand and a normal thing to do, at the end of the tenure of every executive of any association.

“The second demand was that elections should not be by affirmation. We said open the space for interested candidates. Let's conduct this election, as it should be. Let there be democracy or even semblance of it. These are our minimum demands.

“On these grounds, at least 13 of us are speaking with one voice. This has nothing to do with any rumoured presidential ambition or whatever one does not want to become. Do we look like people that could be sponsored?

"You have a rash, arrogant and overbearing situation in your hand and then you need to be flogged to assert your independence. In NGF we are all equal. Nobody is the boss.

"Look, if the right thing is not done, some of us are ready to pull out of the NGF in the next meeting. That is given already. And they know."

A source close to Amaechi defended him against the allegations, saying he always carried the entire forum along as NGF chairman.

“They are just whipping up issues. Amaechi acts based on the consent of the governors. He carries them along on all issues. He only happens to be the one presenting what is decided to the whole world. For instance, on the suit over federal government’s deductions for oil subsidy, it was a collective decision of the governors to go to court,” he said.

He added: “On the matter of NGF chairmanship, Amaechi would be the last person to want to sit tight. He would be two years on the job by May and even at the last meeting he indicated that anybody who wanted to contest for the office should indicate and nobody indicated interest.

“Even now, the forum will meet tomorrow (Monday) and election is the only programme on the agenda. Anybody who wants to contest should come out at the meeting to contest.”

A majority of the governors had rallied round Amaechi on Wednesday as a plot was hatched to have him ousted by some governors described as loyalists of the president.

Before the meeting, which took place at the Rivers State governor's lodge, Abuja, the pro-Jonathan governors had mobilised to remove Amaechi.

The plot to remove Amaechi was likened to a similar one before the 2011 general election when some governors had conspired to remove the then NGF chairman, Dr. Bukola Saraki, who was the governor of Kwara State.

If the anti-Saraki plot had succeeded, he would have been replaced by his counterpart in Ogun State then, Chief Gbenga Daniel.

Amaechi was elected the chairman of the governors in June 2011 in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, to take over from Saraki, who had completed his tenure.

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