Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda
Muhammad Bello in Abuja and John Shiklam in Kaduna
The aftermath of the election of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) continues to reverberate and is posing a serious threat to the existence of the Northern States Governors' Forum (NSGF), an umbrella body for the governors of the 19 northern states.
In protest over what some northern governors have described as an act of betrayal by some of their colleagues who voted for the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi to retain his position as chairman of the NGF, 14 northern governors stayed away from the NSGF meeting, which took place in Kaduna thursday.
Also opening up on why he had opted out of the NSGF, Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda, did not mince words thursday when he accused the Niger State Governor and Chairman of the NSGF, Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, of betrayal.
Prior to the NGF chairmanship election, the governors on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had met and asked their colleagues – Yuguda and the Katsina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema – who had thrown their hats into the ring, to step down for the Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, as the consensus candidate of the party.
However, during the election, five of the northern governors turned around to vote for Amaechi, thus handing victory in the chairmanship contest to the River State governor.
Owing to the crisis that has ensued since then and the factionalisation of the NGF, only five of the governors attended the meeting of the NSGF.
However, seven northern governors were represented by their deputies, two by their Secretaries to the State Government (SSG), two were absent but sent their apologies, while three stayed away.
The governors, who attended the meeting, included Aliyu, Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Tanko Almakura (Nasarawa), Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo (Gombe) and the host governor, Alhaji Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State.
Those who were represented by their deputies included Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Borno, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi States, while Plateau and Benue were represented by their SSGs.
Adamawa and Taraba States, according to the chairman of the forum, sent their apologies, while the governors of Katsina, Yobe and Bauchi States were absent.
But Aliyu while responding to reporters’ questions shortly after reading the communiqué of the meeting insisted that sending deputies to the meeting did not reduce the importance of any decision taken at the meeting.
He, however, admitted that there were problems with the NGF election but promised they would be resolved.
“If I’m to tell you what led to the problem in the NGF, we will stay here till tomorrow, so I have no intention of doing that.
“I will only tell you that in whatever process of election or whatever, there may be one person or the other that will be aggrieved. But we seem to be developing a culture, even in our normal elections, such that as you prepare to contest for elections, you should also prepare to contest it in the court.
“I am speaking to you as the chairman of NSGF, so if you want my view I will tell you we had an election, we have a problem, but we will resolve it,” the governor said.
But he declined to state categorically who had emerged winner of the NGF election. When asked, “Who won the election?” He responded: “You.”
However, THISDAY also gathered that the decision by the governors to present Jang as the consensus candidate for the NGF chairmanship election was a plot to edge him out of the chairmanship of the NSGF.
According to sources close to the governors, the chairmanship of the NSGF is passed on in an alphabetical order, on the basis of the name of the states.
After Niger, Plateau should have produced the next chairman of the NSGF but because some of his northern colleagues did not want Jang to head the northern governors’ group, they decided to present him as a consensus candidate for the NGF election.
Explaining why Jang was absent at the meeting, his aide, who preferred to remain anonymous, told THISDAY that Aliyu had no moral right to preside over any meeting of the northern governors, alleging that he had betrayed his principal.
“It was the same Babangida Aliyu who as chairman of the NSGF presented Jang as the consensus candidate of the forum and he was the same man who stabbed Jang in the back. So how do you expect Jang to attend a meeting presided by such a man?” he asked.
But the Plateau State SSG, Prof. Shedrack Best, who represented Jang at the meeting, said Jang had no grudges against the NSGF.
In the meantime, for the first time since he parted ways with the NSGF, Yuguda yesterday blamed the controversy still trailing the leadership crisis in the NGF on Aliyu's betrayal.
Yuguda, who was at the State House, Abuja to see President Goodluck Jonathan for an undisclosed issue, told State House correspondents that prior to the controversial NGF election, all the 19 governors, who are members of the NSGF had agreed in principle that Jang of Plateau State was their consensus candidate for the post of the NGF leadership.
Observing that since Amaechi was a product of a consensus arrangement, Yuguda therefore insisted that Jang remained the leader of the NGF, against the backdrop of their adoption of the Plateau governor, saying the crisis could have been averted if Aliyu had provided astute leadership and direction.
“In the first place, we have never had elections in the NGF. I was in Ilorin and I seconded the motion that made Amaechi the chairman of NGF. There were only 13 of us in Ilorin, so if 19 governors presented a candidate in a 35- member association, I think the game should have been over that a consensus had been reached.
“In all things, my word should be my bond. If I had sat down with 19 of my colleagues and we agreed on something, I should not see the chairman of that forum not coming to protect the integrity of the Northern Governors’ Forum and by extension, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and that is why I say all the crisis and all the unfortunate comments made about the governors today, the fault should be traced to the Northern Governors' Forum.
“We are the culprits and that is why I say on his honour, let the chairman of the Northern Governors Forum come out and tell Nigerians that either we in the forum did not agree on Jang or we did,” Yuguda stressed.
Explaining why he quit the NSGF, Yuguda said he did so because he felt that leadership is about integrity and honour; and having taken the path of dignity, it would be inconsistent with his status to continue to pitch his tent with Aliyu as a person.
Instead, he said his deputy would seat on the NSGF on behalf of his state, adding: “As for me as a person, I don't want to attend their meetings, but my deputy can attend on behalf of the people and government of Bauchi State. But as a person, I will not. That has always been my position.”