Monday, February 25, 2013

The influential Governors’ Forum: Crack Widens

LIKE the dawning of a new day, the uncertainty that surrounded the source of the crisis rocking the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) has finally cleared. And in what appeared to be a perfect prelude to an imperial climax, the arrowhead of the anti-Amaechi splinter group in the Forum, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, was crowned Chairman of governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

For one, the “selection” of Akpabio by his “colleagues and the party” to lead the PDP Governors Forum (PDP-GF) has not only given credence to the words of Eckhart Tolle that, “Humans have learned to split the atom. Instead of killing ten or twenty people with a wooden club, one person can now kill a million just by pushing a button.”

It has also widened the chasm in the umbrella NGF, and reinforces the suspicion that the Presidency is not comfortable with the NGF leadership and desires to have a firm control of the body.

While Nigerians grapple with so many questions like why the PDP governors would have their forum while still enjoying the leadership of the umbrella NGF, Akpabio said the formation of the PDP-GF is in line with the emerging political realities in the country and the need for the party to consolidate its hold as the front runner on the Nigerian political landscape.

He told Journalists at the State House in Abuja, immediately after his selection, that it was “a revaluation and the need for us to restrategise and make the party stronger. We will not work in conflict with the Nigeria Governors Forum… it is not a competition; it is only in the interest of the party. It is a step in the right direction.”

The creation of this splinter group, according to political pundits, has succeeded in tearing the NGF apart, as it has become clear that the president wants to have a hold on the Governors Forum using the party machinery.

“The party is supreme and every member of the party is answerable to her guidance.

He insisted that the interest of the PDP Governors would be extensively protected. Suffice it that the PDP governors meet after every meeting of the NGF and, of course, Amaechi presides.

Therefore, the Chairman of the NGF, who is a member of the party, would have to respect the position of the PDP-GF Chairman, who is his leader, as far as the almighty party is his platform.

Chairman of the NGF and Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, reportedly stormed out of the four-hour meeting on Sunday night, called at the instance of President Goodluck Jonathan, when it became clear that he (Amaechi) was out of favour, and a parallel Governors Forum to ensure this was in the offing.

In recent weeks, he has faced series of attacks from some notable good ‘boys’ of the president, both in the South-South region and within the NGF.

Prelude to the general meeting of the NGF scheduled to hold at the Rivers Governors Lodge (perhaps, for the last time during Amaechi’s tenure as governor), there are indications that he would be removed as the chairman of the Forum.

Sources at the Pro-Amaechi Camp have finalised arrangements to ask him to step aside and not contest again but to sponsor another candidate outside the president’s faithful. The most likely candidate, if their strategy succeeds, would be Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, who is also known for his radical stance on issues.

Among the pro-Change Camp, who has indicated interest in bearing the mantle are Gabriel Suswam of Benue, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina, Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and, of course, the already “selected Chairman,” Godswill Akpabio.

Inside sources told The Guardian that, “the other three governors would step down for one if it appears that the pro-Amaechi camp has a strong backing.”

At his inaugural interaction with the press at the Presidential Villa, after his selection, Akpabio said the NGF is supposed to have another body with the semblance of a Board of Trustees, which would check, from time to time, perceived excesses of a sitting-in chairman.

This is a strategy by the Pro-Leadership Change group. The plan is to ensure that their men are strategically placed to represent their interest, at that level and in the Executive body of the forum where Akpabio said there are vacancies like the “vice chairman and others.”

But as at last night, Governor Suswam was reportedly lobbying the governors of other political parties, who, he believes, “have the key to the success or failure of any candidate.”

These governors have vowed to ensure that they take most of the key positions, including the vice chairmanship, for which Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State is the preferred candidate.

According to Benjamin Wada, an aide to former Governor Abubakar Audu of Kogi State, “the crack in the House of PDP Governors now has exposed the desperation in our leaders. They are ready to descend down the road of shame naked without looking back to see if their enemies are watching.”

“It is a good opportunity for the opposition parties to look carefully and pick the loopholes in the PDP house and make up for 2015, now that it is obvious Jonathan is interested,” he said.

As Wada queried: “If the Chairman of the (Governors) Forum, Amaechi, is arrogant and dictatorial (as alleged), are they just knowing it at the twilight of his tenure? The fact is that the president wants him out and they are all just acting a script. We are not fooled, but it is certainly not in the interest of the PDP.”

It is interesting to note that Akpabio had denied that there was a move to remove Amaechi at last Thursday’s meeting.

According to him: “What you heard was rumour; that was not what we discussed at the Forum. We discussed the need for us to fill all the positions in the Forum: the position of vice chairman and others, and also form a BoT. We will fill up the positions at the Monday (yesterday’s) meeting.”

Meanwhile, the communiqué at the end of the meeting, said: “Forum exhaustively discussed the administration of the Forum and resolved that all the organs of the Forum be made functional at the next meeting.”

What has become clear from the foregoing scenario is that, the desire of the pro-Leadership Change group may be fulfilled and Rotimi Amaechi would cease to Chair the Governors Forum even before his tenure expires in May.

Indeed, according to sources, all PDP governors were advised to toe the decision of the party, which is the ouster of Amaechi. But would their yarning to be in total control, as it has become obvious, come to pass?

Certainly, the pro-Amaechi Camp also has the numbers, as at the last count and a ‘Plan B’, to ensure that the PDP-anointed do not have their way.

When there is a crack in the wooden bed, the bed bug finds a place to habitat. And as watchers of the polity wait expectantly, the crack in the house continues to widen, and the bed bugs maybe having a field day in the days to come.

---------Karis Tsokar/ Guardian Nigeria

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