Despite assurances by the Jigawa State governor Sule Lamido that he did not wish to be drawn into the 2015 presidential fray, there are strong indications that President Goodluck Jonathan's government will not turn back until the governor is politically dead.
A highly placed source told LEADERSHIP in Abuja yesterday that "the presidency has intensified surveillance over Governor Sule Lamido" and two other governors suspected to be interested in the presidency on the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The two other governors are those of Rivers, Rotimi Amaechi, and Niger, Muazu Babangida Aliyu.
"This is clearly about 2015 and Jonathan's plan to seek re-election. Separate teams have been formed to dig up evidence against them. The committees have four months to complete their assignment," the sourced said, adding that the teams comprised anti-corruption and other security agents.
Since LEADERSHIP exclusively broke the news last year that Lamido and Amaechi may pair as presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2015 race, Jonathan's government has launched a subtle, but escalating war on them.
Governor Aliyu's 'offence' could be a reported interview last week in which he was quoted to have said that President Jonathan agreed to serve for only one term of office before he assumed office.
On his part, Lamido had said in a newspaper interview on Saturday that it was up to the PDP to decide who its next flag bearer would be. He said the PDP, as a national party for all Nigerians, has a way of doing things and "as such, it is the party, not the individual, that would say A, B and C will be this or that."
His disinterested comment, however, appears to have fallen on deaf ears. For Aliyu, no word of denial or confirmation of the report has been made by his office.
The development, said the source, is a tacit confirmation that the president would contest the 2015 presidential election.
To underscore the seriousness of the presidency, the 'remove Amaechi' as chairman of the NGF has gathered momentum. But the governors are not letting go: the Rivers State governor survived a plot to impeach him as the NGF chairman a few days ago.
His survival, said the source, did not happen without a price, however, as the governors were said to have been divided down the line.
"As at the last count, 14 governors said to be loyal to President Jonathan have threatened to dump the forum, citing high-handedness and uncompromising attitude of its leadership," the source said. "There seems to be a settled decision to ease this governor out and drastically whittle down the powers of the governors, particularly those of the PDP governors.
"The three governors are of the PDP stock and, of course, they may be used to whip others into line. It is a project the presidency is placing much premium on. How it plays out is better left at the level of conjecture," the source added.
Nonetheless, the governors are not leaving anything to chance. Sources disclosed to LEADERSHIP last night that they are mounting spirited effort to put a lie to their rumoured ambition, which is the source of the said grouse.
NGF Election Deadlocked, Postpones Meeting Till May.
After a four-hour meeting, the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) yesterday failed to elect a new chairman and other officers of the forum. The meeting ended in a deadlock and the election was postponed till May.
With this development, the embattled chairman of the Forum and Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi would remain the chairman until the period, as his tenure expires in April.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the governors failed to reach an agreement on the modality to hold the election, even as early predictions had pointed a consensus vote in favour of Amaechi.
Reading from the communiqué after the meeting held behind closed doors, Amaechi said: "Members reviewed the affairs of the Forum in the past 21 months detailing activities, achievements and challenges experienced during the period.
"After exhaustive deliberation of the issues regarding filling vacant positions, the Forum resolved that election in this regard be postponed until May when the chairman's initial two-year tenure will expire."
The Rivers governor declined to entertain questions after reading the communiqué.
But addressing journalists later, the chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum and Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, said: "We felt that the elections should be held in May so that the leadership of the Governors' Forum can begin to act immediately after
they are elected or selected or by consensus - whichever way they are brought into office. So, it is not a big deal; this is almost a committee of equals. So anybody can be chairman or vice -chairman. This is something we have agreed upon.
" I was hoping you would ask me about the union of the PDP. For the first time, we came together as a forum. We are now going to ensure the total unification of the PDP. We want to look at the grey areas, the areas of disagreement and acrimony and then reconcile the party in different areas.
"The governors want to act like a pivot to bring about total unity of the party because we know very well that the opposition cannot win election because they don't have better programmes than us. But if we lose election as a result of internal wrangling, that is when the opposition can gain. So we want to put our house in order and ensure that the confidence Nigerians have in us... that we ensure that we work harder and make Nigeria happier."
On the alleged split in the Forum, Akpabio replied: "Don't ask me why we have Northern Governors' Forum or South-South Governors' Forum or ACN Governors' Forum. Those are all substructures of the Nigeria Governors' Forum. So, even if they meet and discuss affairs of their party or the region, they will still come back to the large forum to look at the interest of Nigerians.
"The chairman of the NGF must speak on behalf of all the parties; therefore the PDP governors must also have their own small forum where they can discuss issues pertaining to their own party."
Formation Of PDP Governors' Forum Portends Intolerance - Gov Aliyu
Barely 24 hours after the PDP Governors' Forum was formed, Niger State governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu has described the development as an act of intolerance within the polity.
Aliyu, who stated this while addressing the National Union of Local Government Employees yesterday in Minna, said a development "where if somebody speaks his mind he is blackmailed of eyeing the presidency is not good for the country".
He said the entire scenario was not healthy for the nation's democracy, adding that the Nigeria Governors' Forum had slated a meeting for yesterday evening to thrash out some of the salient issues in the interest of the nation. "We will go. We have become intolerant and this is not healthy for our democracy," he said.
Lamenting the upsurge of blackmail in the politics of the country, Aliyu said, "When you speak, you are accused of wanting to become the president."
Aliyu's recent revelation that President Goodluck Jonathan had a one-term pact with governors might have led to the formation of the PDP Governors' Forum.
Blackmail should not deter people from expressing strong views on issues that they have a conviction and have a moral duty, the governor stated. He said "the destiny of men are not in the hands of humans but in the hands of God," adding that people must remain steadfast to express their views on what they believe in within the confines of the law.
We are re-strategising for APC - Akpabio
Meanwhile, the newly-elected chairman of the PDP Governors' Forum, Mr. Godswill Akpabio, yesterday said the forum was created to enable the party to re-strategise and heal the wounds in the party in the face of the threat posed by the emergence of the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC).
Akpabio, who presided over his first meeting of the PDP governors ahead of the election of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) in Abuja, said a committee led by Katsina State governor Ibrahim Shema was set up to look into the crisis rocking the party in the south-west.
On the crisis in Adamawa State, Akpabio said the governors of the party resolved to allow the Kugama Mijinjwa-led executive in the state to continue, pending the outcome of the Governor Sule Lamido committee on the crisis in the party.
According to Akpabio, "we are of the opinion that we should take steps to set up structures to meet the emerging challenge of the APC. And part of the resolution is that we should have continued interaction of the party, the NWC, leadership of the Board of Trustees and then build a synergy with the Nigeria Governors' Forum.
He continued: "We set up a committee to evaluate the situation in the south-west and we will be communicating with the south-west leaders, and that committee is headed by Governor Ibrahim Shema. Governor Shema and the leaders of that committee would be meeting with the leaders of the south-west and they will come with resolutions that can resolve the issue in the south-west.
He explained that the Shema committee on the south-west had two weeks to submit its report.
He said: "We also looked into the issue of Adamawa State PDP and came to the conclusion that we should allow Governor Sule Lamido's committee to do its work -- to report immediately to the party, NWC and the presidency. But, in the meantime, we plead that the status quo should be allowed to remain. By the status quo, we mean the Mijinjwa Committee - the executive in place prior to the dissolution of the state executive."
Party's Governors' Forum long overdue - PDP
Also, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has thrown its weight behind the new PDP Governors' Forum (PGF), saying the formation of the body was long overdue.
National publicity secretary of the PDP Chief Olisa Metuh in a statement yesterday commended the governors for taking the bold initiative, adding that the party was optimistic that it would be an effective platform to project its activities and the successes recorded by PDP-led governments across the board.
He said: "The leadership of PDP commends the PDP state governors for having formed the PDP Governors' Forum and electing a new chairman. It is long overdue for the PDP to have its own governors' forum with its own chairman.
"The new PDP Governors' Forum must therefore use its large membership to project the people-oriented policies and programmes of the PDP as well as the successes recorded by PDP-led governments across the board."
The PDP also tasked its caucus in the National Assembly to emulate the actions of the governors and see it "as a tonic for them to engineer their caucuses in both the Senate and House of Representatives to ensure that their activities and debates are dominated by PDP objectives and our manifesto".