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NGF chair: Jonathan, Amaechi in final showdown

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… As Yakassai, Junaid Mohammed counsel govs

The Presidency and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi are set for the final showdown today as the latter seeks reelection as Chairman of the powerful Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). The venue of the epic battle is the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja.

From Second Republic politician, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai and National Chairman, defunct Peoples’ Salvation Party (PSP), Dr. Junaid Mohammed, came an appeal that the governors should vote according to their conscience and not succumb to any intimidation from the Presidency. The Presidency and Amaechi had engaged each other in a battle of wits ostensibly over the 2015 general elections.

The President is rumoured to be interested in going for a second term while Amaechi is being rumoured to be eyeing the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ticket as running mate to Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State. Main contenders for the NGF’s exalted office include the incumbent chairman, Amaechi and his Katsina State counterpart, Ibrahim Shema.

A new entrant into the race is their Bauchi State counterpart, Mallam Isa Yuguda. Both Shema and Yuguda are believed to be enjoying the backing of the Presidency. Findings revealed that Governor Yuguda was drafted into the race to replace Governor Shema if Amaechi succumbs to intense pressure from the Presidency to withdraw from the race.

Meanwhile, the 36 governors who will be picking a new chairman to direct their affairs for the next two years are already polarised along pro-Amaechi and pro-presidency camps. Amaechi’s leadership of the strategic platform has run into troubled waters over what notable PDP stalwarts and Presidency foot soldiers claimed to be his anti-Jonathan posturing.

Under Amaechi’s leadership of the NGF, there is a subsisting case between the Forum and the Federal Government over the management of the Excess Crude Account by the Presidency.

The monetary deductions from the Federation Account without recourse to states had been viewed as an affront on fiscal federalism and the governors under the aegis of NGF which had instituted a case at the Supreme Court, challenging the Federal Government. An out-of-court settlement attempt by the Presidency even collapsed as the NGF under Governor Amaechi accused the Federal Government of insincerity in its trouble-shooting initiative.

At its meeting held on January 28, 2013, the governors hinted that talks between the NGF and the Presidency were not yielding positive result and ‘’resolved to take no further adjournments in the subsisting case in court, but seek a final resolution of the matter from the Supreme Court.” Investigation also revealed that Amaechi’s January 28 pronouncement rattled the Presidency and it had since initiated moves to unseat the embattled Rivers State governor.

In the camp of the pro-Presidency supporters are the South-South governors, including the opposition governor in the zone, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, leaving Amaechi in the cold.

Leading this camp is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum and Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio. Working in league with Akpabio outside President Jonathan’s political fortress are, Governors Theodore Orji, Gabriel Suswam, Seriake Dickson and Peter Obi, of Abia, Benue, Bayelsa and Anambra states respectively.

The North holds the ace Amaechi enjoys the support of the Forum of the 19 northern states governors under the leadership of the Niger State’s Gov. Babangida Aliyu. Aliyu and his Jigawa State counterpart, Sule Lamido have been able to impress it on a sizeable number of their colleagues that today’s battle is not about Amaechi, but the survival of the Forum as an autonomous pressure group in the country.

But in spite of their admonition, the Presidency has polarized the camp as three of the governors from the North Central zone where Governor Aliyu belongs, are supporting President Jonathan’s candidate.

The states are Kogi, Benue and Plateau. “Even as these North-Central governors share Governors Aliyu and Lamido’s fear, they have not lost sight of the fact that whichever camp emerges victorious, will use the platform to feather its interest ahead of 2015 presidency.

Recall that Jigawa governor had been mentioned as aspiring for the PDP’s presidential ticket, even as the PDP Governors’ Forum was created to push Jonathan as a consensus candidate, through an affirmation process .

All these talks about the need to protect NGFs’ independence is mere sermons, ’’ a Daily Sun source submitted. The fear of emergency rule With the proclamation of emergency rule last week in some states in the North, some of the governors who had declared support for Amaechi’s re-election, findings revealed, have since backed out. The governors in Amaechi’s camp who are wary of the Federal Government’s high-handedness are Al-Makura, Ibrahim Geidam, Murtala Nyako and Abdulaziz Yari of Nasarawa, Yobe, Adamawa and Zamfara states respectively.

Newsmen could not confirm, if Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima also gave his word in support of Jonathan’s candidate for the position at a private audience the former had with some of the violence- prone states before his proclamation of emergency rule.

Meanwhile, Alhaji Yakassai and Dr. Mohammed have urged the NGF to vote according to their beliefs and conscience. Yakassai further called on the governors not to succumb to any pressure that does not represent their views on good leadership and governance that would translate to a better service to the people of Nigeria. Expressing same view was Mohammed, who warned that any attempt to impose a candidate on the governors would, in the end, be counter-productive to the nation’s fledgling democracy.

Yakassai charged the governors “ to realize that the eyes of the world are on them and therefore, they should not do anything that would tarnish their image or tarnish the image of the country as a whole”.

He maintained that it is unfortunate that a simple matter like the election of the Chairman of the NGF, which has for so long been conducted without any form of rancour or controversy, should this time around, generate unnecessary tension among the governors.

Mohammed said: “Any attempt to circumvent the Constitution for whatever reason or to interfere in the running of those branches or tiers of governance is prone to danger. Any attempt to reduce the position of the governors to that of errand boys of the President, through bullying, intimidation and blackmail, must be resisted by the governors themselves and must be condemned by Nigerians.”

He noted that there are 11 non-PDP governors in the forum, adding that among the governors, at least four of them are PDP governors who profess to PDP only by their name. He therefore, argued that the NGF should not be treated as a PDP affair where anything goes.

According to him “democracy presupposes credible and free choice. It presupposes the integrity of the choice and the people who are making the choice” adding, “ once that fundamental right of a people to freely choose is tampered with or in any way curtailed, then something is fundamentally wrong about that democracy.”

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