Governor Rotimi Amechi
By Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Determined to save the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) from disintegration, several governors, especially those considered to be pro-presidency, have begun moves to ensure that the chairmanship election billed for Thursday does not hold.
Instead, they are opting for the emergence of a chairman of the forum on the day of the election through consensus.
But opposition governors, who would prefer to have an election proper through a secret ballot, have also found themselves in a bind, as THISDAY learnt over the weekend that if the issue of the mode of election is not resolved, it could spell doom for the continued existence of the governors’ forum.
This is because several of the governors – pro and anti-Amaechi – are aware of the fact that whatever the outcome of the election is, be it through an open or secret ballot, it will be divisive and could spell doom for the NGF.
Accordingly, for some of the governors, especially those who are sympathetic to President Goodluck Jonathan’s desire to see the end of Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi’s tenure as the NGF’s chairman, their preference is to push for the emergence of a chairman through consensus as obtained in the past.
These were decisions reached over the weekend, during which the pro-presidency governors claimed that they had more than 24 governors already in their kitty.
Speaking on the issue, one of the governors, who preferred not to be named, said: “All past chairmen emerged by consensus, not through elections. Even Amaechi’s emergence was a deal struck between himself, (Bukola) Saraki and one or two others, which was accepted by all of us.
“An election in whatever format would divide the forum, so for a lot of us our preference is to select a chairman by consensus as has been the case.”
The governor, who went through the history of the emergence of chairmen of the forum, said: “Since 1999 when the forum was formed with former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Victor Attah as chairman, followed by Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State, Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State, Bukola Saraki of Kwara State and Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, there has never been an election to elect the chairman of the forum and majority of us believe that it should not be now.
“If the election was conducted earlier than now, Amaechi would have won, but events may have changed since then. The recent state of emergency declared by President Goodluck Jonathan has changed many things.
“This action of not removing the governors of the affected states has endeared the president to many governors as friendly and supportive. Some of us are willing to use the election of the chairman of the forum to show appreciation.”
Already, Amaechi and Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State have indicated their interest to slug it out, but another dark horse from the north may be brought in at the last minute to take up the mantle of leadership of the forum.
According to Shema, who has thrown his hat into the ring, “It is not a monopoly that nobody will contest the seat, because we agreed that after the tenure of this leadership that came from the south, the north will take over the seat.”
Confirming this, the governor informed THISDAY that the chairmanship slot would most likely move to the north since the chairmanship of the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF) is currently occupied by a southerner, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State.
But he was not certain that if a consensus is reached, Shema would emerge as the new chairman of the forum.
He said: “It might not be Shema. We would most likely go for someone from the north that is acceptable to all parties.”
But when the governor was reminded that the PDP governors had in March at a meeting held at the Akwa Ibom State governor’s lodge decided that the election of the next chairman of NGF shall be between Amaechi and Shema, he said: “You just wait and see.
“With more than two-thirds of members in attendance, it will be changed and this is where the consensus governor would emerge. There is nothing sacrosanct in this matter, all we are talking about is what would be in the overall interest of the governors and not what will divide us.”
So far, it was gathered that save for Ameachi, who is a contestant, all the South-south governors including Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, and all the South-east governors including Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State were said to be in support of the consensus arrangement.
The position of the core northern state governors was said to be unknown and could swing either way. The source simply said that the position of the South-west governors was “obvious”, but doubted whether Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State will vote along side with other governors of the zone.