Governor Rotimi Amaechi
My victory shows democracy is working, says Amaechi
Presidency denies involvement
Jang group meets Sambo
By Vincent Obia, Chuks Okocha and Mohammed Bello
Indications that the once united, strong and influential Nigeria Governors’ Forum may have split into two factions emerged Saturday in Abuja as Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State led some governors to hold what they called the first inaugural meeting of the new NGF leadership.
Jang has been claiming emergence as NGF chairman, despite his defeat by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who was re-elected as chairman of the forum at an election held on Friday.
The Plateau State governor’s basis is a typed endorsement letter signed by 19 pro-presidency governors before the poll, where his name was filled in after his selection as the party’s consensus candidate.
But Amaechi had defeated Jang by 19 to 16 votes at the election proper.
The Rivers State governor described his victory as a proof that the country’s democracy is working and a reaffirmation of the unity of the governors.
“Today the governors have spoken with one voice reaffirming our faith in democratic governance as the hope of Nigeria’s future,” he said.
The governor added: “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 realise the development dream of all Nigerians by reducing tension, uncertainty and insecurity in our beloved country.
But THISDAY gathered that the Presidency may recognise the Jang group as the authentic body of governors.
It is gathered that the Jang group of governors may pay an official visit to President Goodluck Jonathan immediately after his return from the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
As part of their consolidation drive, however, the Jang group yesterday visited Vice President Namadi Sambo, PDP Chairman Bamanga Tukur and Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Anthony Anenih.
They met for about an hour at Anenih’s Asokoro residence, after which AkwaIbom State Governor Godswill Akpabio, Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda, Jang and the other governors in the group went to see Vice President Sambo.
The group also later met PDP chairman Tukur.
Led by Jang, Akpabio, Yuguda and Garba Umar, the acting governor of Taraba State, the group met Sambo in private.
All the governors refused to reveal what transpired between them and the nation's number two man.
Akpabio, who was first to be approached by reporters rushed into his car while Yuguda, who was available, didn't utter a word.
A statement yesterday by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, denied the widely believed involvement of the presidency in the NGF election, saying the governors should resolve their differences.
“Contrary to the impression of presidential partisanship and interference in the affairs of the governors forum erroneously conveyed by some headlines in the media today, President Jonathan, who is currently leading Nigeria’s delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, had no preferred candidate in the NGF elections and could therefore not have been ‘floored’ by any other candidate as some newspapers sensationally reported,” Abati stated.
He said: “Jonathan trusts that as true democrats and respected national political leaders, members of the governors’ forum will quickly resolve the issues and differences amongst them, which emerged yesterday and continue to contribute effectively to national development as a strong and progressive body.”
Amaechi’s victory in the election is an indication that some of the governors that had earlier endorsed Jang may not have voted for him during the election that was done by secret ballot.
The 19 pro-presidency governors circulated a statement after the announcement of Amaechi’s victory, rejecting the result and recognising Jang as the new NGF chairman.
Governors who signed the statement included Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, who is also chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, Jonathan’s home state, Garba Umar of Taraba, Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Peter Obi of Anambra, Idris Wada of Kogi, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo, and Jang.
Others were Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna, Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Martin Elechi of Ebonyi, Yuguda of Bauchi, Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta, Theodore Orji of Abia, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina, Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, and Abdufatah Ahmed of Kwara.
However, at the meeting at the Benue Governor’s Lodge, presided over by Jang, 18 governors attended.
They included the governors of Kogi, Benue, Bauchi, Ondo, Katsina, Delta, Kaduna, Anambra, Taraba, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Kwara, Bayelsa and Abia states, and the deputy governor of Gombe.
The governors of Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Adamawa and Rivers states were absent. The governors of Enugu and Ebonyi were not physically present, but they signed as part of those that attended the meeting.
The communiqué at the end of the meeting was read by Mimiko, the deputy chairman of the Jang group.
It read: “The NGF under the new leadership of Governor Jonah Jang as chairman and Olusegun Mimiko as vice chairman at the inaugural meeting attended by 18 governors held today Saturday, May 25, 2013 resolved as follows:
•The new chairman of the NGF thanks the Northern Governors Forum, the PDP Governors’ Forum, all the governors for the support and confidence reposed in him and vowed to work for the interest of the forum and country.
•The chairman of NGF, Governor Jonah Jang, vows to unite members of the forum, work for the interest of the forum and country.
•The forum re states its commitment to continue being a platform for peer review, productive and collaborative engagement with all levels of governments.
•The forum also resolves to continue to encourage and collaborate with Mr. President to restore peace and security in the country
•The forum resolves to secure a befitting permanent secretariat outside of any Governor’s Lodge
•The forum thanks all Nigerians for their support and promised not to let them down.”
After the communiqué was read, the governors, who were described as chairmen of the various geo-political zones, spoke one after the other on how Jang emerged.
First to speak was the chairman of South-east Governors’ Forum, Obi, who until yesterday was the vice chairman of NGF. He said: “A new vice chairman has emerged, as you know we in the South-east have always worked together as governors. We have seen it in the last election and yesterday again; the South-east together supported the candidacy of Jang. We all in the meeting here signed.”
Meanwhile, Nigerians have continued to react to Friday’s NGF election.
Lagos-based lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, described the NGF election as “a keenly contested democratic race” and commended Amaechi on his victory.
Falana said, “The victory is a clear affirmation of the confidence of the majority of the governors in the leadership of their chairman. It is hoped that Mr. Amaechi will accept the renewed call to service as a challenge to lead the forum, to address the increasing wave of poverty, unemployment, insecurity of life and property in the land.
“Now that the election is over, the governors should close ranks and collaborate with President Goodluck Jonathan to restore law and order in all parts of the country.
“It is however unfortunate that some of the governors who contested and voted in the election have decided to embarrass themselves by challenging the integrity of the exercise. Indeed, the reason adduced for attempting to discredit the election by the camp that lost is childish and bunkum.
“They claim that the election was vitiated because Governor Amaechi did not step down before the race. Did any of the governors who recontested elections and won in their states step down before the elections were conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission? In any case, having not complained before the NGF election before voting for the candidates of their choice, all the 35 governors who took part in the election are deemed to have waived any right to challenge the procedure collectively adopted and agreed upon by them at the voting centre.
“Therefore, all the governors are estopped from questioning the results of the polls on the basis of the alleged procedural effect. In line with the decisions of the election petition tribunals which upheld the election of each of the governors on the basis of substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act in their respective states it is indubitably clear that the election of Governor Amaechi as the NGF chairman was in substantial complied with the Electoral Rules and Guidelines of the NGF.”