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."
Tinubu: Opposition Leaders Determined to Rescue Nigeria Ibrahim Shuaibu
Former Lagos State governor and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) national leader, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has said opposition leaders will remain resolute in their desire to reconstruct Nigeria into a better country.
Tinubu said there were leaders in the country with the ability and capability to turn the nation around by chasing away, "the demons, whose activities have remained a source of impediment to the general growth of the Nigerian society".
Speaking Saturday at the Kano University of Science and Technology (KUST) Wudi, where he was conferred with an honorary doctorate degree, the ACN leader stated, "History teaches that those who stay resolute shall win in the end. We are resolute for there is no shame in wanting democracy, no shame in wanting prosperity, fighting against poverty, ignorance and disease, just as there is also no shame in believing in justice, striving for a better life and demanding good governance."
The ACN leader was conferred with Doctor of Science, Honaris Causa in recognition of his contribution to the development of academics.
He said: "A heavy cloud hovers overhead and there seems to be no woe by which we are not besieged: poverty, unemployment, diseases, religious and ethnic divides as well as terror. Sadly, our house is weak because of poor infrastructure.
"All that is needed to address the country's problem is to possess the willpower to face the challenges, and education plays a vital role in this direction".
Tinubu added: "To lift this nation from its low state, you must equip the people with the knowledge needed to face the challenges on ground. Education is a practical dynamic thing that must be adapted to our needs and reflect our circumstance; it must give us the skills needed to become architects of the destinies we seek and not idle bystanders in our lives."
The award ceremony was turned into a political rally of sort with the attendance of the Congress for Progressive Change leader and presidential candidate of the party in the 2011 election, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), House of Representatives Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Governors of Ogun and Oyo states, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Senator Abiola Ajimobi, former Ogun State Governor Olusegun Osoba and former EFCC Chairman Nuhu Ribadu.
Tinubu said an effective educational system must turn people into positive, social and economic agents. "We should not abide by a system whereby 1.7 million candidates seek admission to universities, where only 5000 places exist in both private and public universities."
Lamenting over the dangers of unemployment, he described as a costly waste to educate children with knowledge irrelevant to the society as it makes little sense "to give our people skills for jobs that do not exist, while the work at hand goes undone because of lack able labour.
"We shall create the change that will render extinct Boko Haram and other violent movements across the land. In the face of increasing progress and prosperity, such groups shall remain where they belong; small, fringe and inconsequential. By wedding innovative technology and good governance, we guide the nation to her better future".
He also noted that, "There will be no need to even contemplate a state of emergency in Nigeria, there will only be a nation and 36 states of emergence towards development, prosperity and hope".
Tinubu, however, pledged to build a science incubator that will be a reservoir of knowledge where students can create websites to enhance their academic performance.
He described the award as a symbol of unity, saying that the institution realised the fact that, "we are one in Nigeria regardless of cultural, religion or political differences. I am touched to the heart by this expansive gesture. In doing this, you ignored the imaginary divide between North and South because of your nationalistic courage; you recognise no such divide exists except in the minds of those who would keep us down, divided and at each other's throats.
"In your wisdom, you realise that we are one. Come what may, we shall remain one. I commend your courage and wisdom. You must maintain this standard because we need this type of courage and wisdom to see our nation through its current tumult. Although storms break all around us, we shall not faint. We shall not cower in fear for our purpose is right and our ways are democratic and just,"
Tinubu eulogised Kano State Governor Rabi'u Musa Kwankwaso, saying hse is an exemplary leader.
NGF Election: The Hidden, Unseen Hands
Friday's election was to pick a chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum and the electors were the 36 state governors. But beyond them, there were some other silent or hidden hands who stayed at the background influencing the governors in the decision as to who should be elected or should n't be. Jaiyeola Andrews unearths these underground but potent players...
President Goodluck Jonathan said yesterday through his spokesman Dr. Reuben Abati that he had no hand in the Nigeria Governors' Forum chairmanship election. Not many would believe him. In the election, the president, the PDP machinery and presidency apparatchik were all behind the latter candidate, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State. That the president is opposed to Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi's re-election as NGF chair and openly worked against him is an open secret. It was because of Amaechi's seeming belligerent attitude towards him that the president allegedly gave support, if he did n't sponsor outright, the creation of the PDP Governors' Forum. The president did more to balkanize the Governors' forum more than some governors themselves.
Former President Obasanjo
Perhaps unknown to many, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the willy Ota farmer, who is still influential in some PDP circles, helped to steer things in favour of Amaechi. There has been no love-lost between the former president and the man he helped to power, President Jonathan, for sometime now.
Amaechi even visited Obasanjo last week in Abeokuta to seek his support, which he was said to have willingly given.
The former president remains a political godfather of sort to Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido and Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako. Both governors rooted for Amaechi in the election.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd)
That opposition leaders Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) would stoke the fire within the PDP-controlled NGF should be understandable. The politics of the opposition parties has always been skewed against PDP and its interests. For the opposition, since PDP had openly declared support initially for Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema and later Jang, political correctness was in rooting for Amaechi. And the Rivers State governor had earlier been alleged to be hobnobbing with the opposition merger group APC. Both Tinubu and Buhari helped to move the 11 opposition governors behind Amaechi and that was block votes for him to swing the pendulum to his side.
Who are the 3 Governors Who Turned The Table against Jang?
Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang was in an upbeat mood after the meeting of the PDP Governors shortly before the election of the NGF chairman on Friday. The governors had prevailed on Governors Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) and Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) to step down from the race and had endorsed Jang as the PDP candidate for the exalted NGF chairmanship.
PDP governors are in a majority within the NGF (23 of them) and the chairman always comes from the party's fold. At the PDP Governors' meeting, 19 of the 23 governors had signed a document endorsing Jang-16 PDP and three opposition party governors of Yobe, Ondo and Anambra states- for the position, so the Plateau State governor was as good as having emerged. The election within the larger Governors' Forum was supposed to be mere coronation as it was always the case. But the unexpected happened.
There was a volteface by three governors. Three governors backpedaled. Who are these governors? THISDAY learnt Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) who earlier endorsed Jang abstained from voting in the larger body. The election was by secret ballot. The ballots had been prepared and printed for the election. Because the voting was by secret ballot, it was difficult to know who of the remaining 18 did not vote for Jang. Speculations abound that Kwara State Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed and Katsina State Governor Shema may have had a change of mind when it mattered most.
There has been no love lost between former Kwara State Governor Bukola Saraki, Ahmed's political godfather and President Jonathan for sometime now, and the NGF election may be a payback time for the former governor. Saraki had moved to contest the 2011 presidential election against President Jonathan. He was among the four northern candidates working to pick a consensus candidate among them. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was picked to contest the PDP primary election against Jonathan. Jonathan had defeated Atiku at the primary election at Eagle Square in Abuja. The presidency was also said to have been piqued by Saraki's role in the subsidy probe. The former governor moved the motion that paved the ground for the probe of the management of the oil subsidy by the Jonathan government. As for Shema, unconfirmed sources said the Katsina governor may have pulled a fast one in anger. He was promised the NGF chairmanship before only for the PDP to drop him for Jang.