Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi
By Chuks Okocha
It was a night of long knives at the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) meeting on Wednesday night as majority of the governors rallied round their chairman and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, against whom a plot had been hatched to have him ousted by some of his colleagues described as loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan.
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If the anti-Saraki plot had succeeded, he would have been replaced by his counterpart in Ogun State then, Chief Gbenga Daniel.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.
By the constitution of the forum, a governor is to serve a two-year tenure renewable for another two years.
THISDAY gathered that Amaechi and the governors supporting him, having got wind of the plot, went on the offensive by directing the Director General of the forum, Mr. Asishana Okuaru, to include in the agenda of the meeting, change in the leadership of the organisation.
Due to the intense mobilisation by both camps, the governors’ meeting was attended by 33 out of the 36 governors in the country.
Before holding discussions on items on the agenda, the governors had asked all administrative staff of the forum to leave the meeting to enable them have a closed door conference.
According to a source, “The moment the administrative staff left the venue, Governor Amaechi threw down the gauntlet stating they would discuss the leadership of the forum as there had been uncomplimentary comments that he was dictatorial.
“He then asked any of the governors that was interested in taking over as the chairman of the forum to indicate his interest as he would immediately step down.”
But when Amaechi announced his willingness to step down, the duo of Sule Lamido of Jigawa State and Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State rallied round the chairman.
They solicited for the support of others who condemned the plot and urged Amaechi to stay on.
Nonetheless, it was also gathered that Amaechi insisted that the issue should be discussed and that any governor desirous of chairing the forum should indicate interest, but no governor was said to have indicated his desire to replace him.
Following the silence, the governors of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) spoke against changing a winning team in the middle of the game.
THISDAY gathered that the governors of Katsina State, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, and his counterpart in Akwa Ibom State, Chief Godswill Akpabio, championed the plot to remove Amaechi. Had the plot succeeded, either of them would have succeeded him.
Wednesday’s aborted plot against Amaechi was not the first time an attempt was made to unseat him.
Early this year, the governors had passed a vote of confidence on Amaechi as the chairman of the forum, prompting Shema to storm out of the meeting, said a source.
A source told THISDAY that Saraki also played an important role in making sure that the plot to remove Amaechi did not succeed.
The former chairman was quoted as telling some of the governors: “Don’t allow anyone to come in between you and the forum. The more united that forum is, the better for all the governors.”
The failed plot stalled a meeting of governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that was planned to take place in the early hours of Thursday as some of the party’s governors quickly left the venue of the meeting.
Although no allegation was levelled against Amaechi, he has had less than a fractured relationship with the president following what some of Jonathan’s associates and aides considered as his “unfriendly” posture towards the president.
Recently, the governor and Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, were engaged in a war of words over the parlous state of the East-West Road.
Also, there has been a growing concern that Amaechi, who is alleged to have been paired with Lamido for the 2015 presidential ticket of the PDP, may not support Jonathan if he decides to run for a second term in office.
It is also believed that Akpabio is eyeing the vice-presidency, in the event Jonathan chooses not to contest in 2015.
The governors, however, in a communiqué read by their chairman called for solidarity among them to finally eradicate polio in Nigeria.
They also agreed to make functional some of the NGF organs for effective administration of the forum’s activities.
“Members exhaustively discussed the administration of the forum and resolved that all organs of the forum be made functional at the next meeting,” the communiqué said.
The communiqué commended the governors for their resolve to continue with their polio eradication programme in the face of many challenges.