The President Goodluck Jonathan-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday night cut the chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to size by splitting the forum into another faction called the PDP Governors' Forum.
Accordingly, Akwa Ibom State governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, was unanimously elected as chairman of the newly formed PDP Governors' Forum. In a meeting well attended by the PDP leadership, the governors under the party's platform and President Goodluck at House 7 of the presidential villa, Abuja.
Rivers State Governor Amaechi, who was also present, later stormed out of the meeting.
After the meeting, which started at about 8pm and ended at about 12:05 this morning, a very elated national chairman of the party, Bamanga Turku, led all the PDP governors to address journalists after the president and vice president Namadi Sambo had left the venue.
Tukur said that the formation of the PDP Governors Forum was borne out of necessity.
"Let me present to you the newly elected chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum, Governor Godwill Akpabio," he declared.
With all the PDP governors in attendance and some PDP leaders standing behind him, Akpabio said the party at the meeting decided to form its own governors' forum because of the emerging political trend in the country, citing the new political merger, the All Progressives Alliance (APC), as the reason why PDP decided to consolidate.
He, however, stated that the new PDP governors' forum would not in any way affect the operation of the Nigeria Governors Forum, currently chaired by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who is also a PDP governor.
Asked why the ruling party had to wait for 14 years before forming its own governors' forum, he answered that things happen in line with current trends, noting that even the new development called global warming had necessitated some measures that were not there in the past.
He added that other parties, the ACN, CPC and APGA, could form their own governors' forum, and choose their own leaders.
Akpabio said that his election was borne out of the urgent need for the party to re-strategise.
He explained that the new body would not in any way.
He said the Governors Forum still subsist and other political parties also have the right to form a similar organ.
Denying that there was a move to remove Amaechi, who was also at the meeting but later left, from the position of Chairman of Governors Forum, Akpabio said, "There was no move to remove the Rivers governor as chairman of the Governors' Forum. There was never a discussion to remove him. His tenure will end by April, though he has the right to recontest."
He also denied that the new development would cause a crack in the larger forum, saying: "There will be no crack. Other parties are also meeting. There will be no crack but it will strengthen the forum".
Earlier, at about 7:30pm when the governors started trooping in, in good numbers to the venue of the meeting, ministers of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke and her aviation counterpart, Mrs Stella Oduah, were seen walking down to the venue, with their security details, drivers and other aides following them.
It had been reported in the media that President Jonathan's men were plotting to remove Governor Amaechi as NGF chairman.
At about 7:30pm, the governors started trooping in, in large numbers to the venue of the meeting, but before journalists could start taking the roll call of who and who were at the meeting, they were asked to leave House 7 on the ground that it was a private meeting.
Our correspondent reports that as State House Correspondents were leaving the place, ministers of petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, and her aviation counterpart, Mrs Stella Oduah, were seen walking down to the venue, their security details, drivers and other aides following them.
Details of the meeting were sketchy at the time of filing this report, but LEADERSHIP gathered that it was not unconnected the allegation widely reported that President Jonathan's men were plotting to remove Rivers State governor Chibuike Amaechi as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF).
The governors are expected to meet today at 4pm elect their next chairman in a context that has governors Godswill Akpabio ( Akwa Ibom), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) as the major contenders of the governors' top seat currently being occupied by the Rivers governor.
LEADERSHIP learnt from dependable sources at the presidency yesterday night that President Jonathan summoned the meeting to enable them settle the looming crisis within the ranks of the PDP governors ahead of today's meeting to avoid embarrassment for the ruling party.
"The president wants to mediate as a father in this unsettling affair. It is not about him taking sides. It is about putting the PDP house in order," said the source who pleaded anonymity.
Amaechi was elected the chairman of the governors in June 2011 in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, succeeding former governor Bukola Saraki.
NGF split ahead of election today
Meanwhile, Governors, under the aegis of Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF), are set to have a showdown today as they vote for a new chairman and the executive members of other organs of the forum, including a Board of Trustees (BoT).
From the outcome of last night's formation of a new group, the PDP Governors' Forum, it appears the hopes of the incumbent chairman and governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to retain his seat might be put to serious test.
According to sources, the meeting, whose major agenda are voting in new chairman and filling out other positions, would commence by 4pm.
Amaechi is seeking a second term as chairman of NGF as his current tenure expires by July this year.
LEADERSHIP gathered that while an earlier plot to remove Amaechi was strongly linked to the 2015 election, the current move to oust him as chairman is against the background of demands for accountability in the running of the forum's activities.
LEADERSHIP, however, gathered that the pro-Amaechi group planned to meet in Abuja at 8pm to strategise ahead of the election.
A source noted that the pro-Amaechi governors, led by the governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and that of Kano, Rabiu Kwakwanso, would try to reach out to their colleagues to support Amaechi's leadership.
The source said barring any hiccups in their strategy, Amaechi is set to emerge a consensus candidate as he enjoys the backing of 30 governors, including most of the opposition governors.
For the governors who had earlier given a vote of confidence in his leadership in January, they are angered by the interference of the presidency in the affairs of the governors.
However, anti-Amaechi governors, led by Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema, and financially backed by his Akwa Ibom State counterpart, Godswill Akpabio, were said to have also met on Saturday night, to stop Amaechi from returning as chairman, with some of them allegedly threatening to split, or leave, the forum.
The governors, who reportedly enjoy the backing of the presidency, are miffed that Amaechi is leveraging on his position to advance his presidential ambition as a possible running mate to Governor Lamido ahead of the 2015 election, an ambition which pits him against President Goodluck Jonathan, who is believed to be angling for a second term.
According to reports, some of the strategic options available to them include a court action to stop the NGF from going ahead with the election in the event Amaechi would win, and the demand for a caretaker committee, or an interim chairman, to run the affairs of the NGF until the planned litigation is over.