Now who can stop the PDP governors?

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By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor

SENATOR Jibril Aminu’s frustrations after failing to bring Governor Murtala Nyako under control could not be hidden at the press conference penultimate Sunday in Yola, the Adamawa State capital. Blurting out his anger over how governors had ganged up to bolster Nyako, a man who only few years ago was his political disciple, Prof Aminu said: “We are talking of terrorists in Nigeria; the main terrorists are members of the Governors’ Forum. They are terrorizing ministers, senators and state assembly members. In fact, everybody in the country is under the threat of the Governors’ Forum. It is not good for democracy and must be removed for the system to grow,” he said.

His denunciation of the Governors’ Forum which arguably, has taken over from the Senate to become the country’s most exclusive club resonates in many quarters. And largely among many who may have fallen victim to the increasingly assertive powers of Nigeria’s 36 governors.

While Senator Aminu could openly protest what many consider as the overbearing influence of the governors, many others with similar observations, however, are not so bold. Notably among those still cowed are members of the National Assembly, senior officials of the PDP, state legislators, and many presidential aides who are often on the wrong side of some of the actions and aspirations of the governors.

Ogbulafor, Bello, Baraje and Nwodo

Ogbulafor, Bello, Baraje and Nwodo

Just before he became the PDP’s gubernatorial candidate in 2007, Nyako was at Senator Aminu’s beck and call. He was one of the regular political disciples of Aminu that flocked around the former senator ahead of Aminu’s pronouncement on who would fly the PDP gubernatorial ticket. But once Nyako emerged governor in May 2007, such subservience to Aminu disappeared as the governor bared his fangs.

All over the country the ‘overbearing’ influence of the governors is clearly evident. But only few would dare go the extent of Senator Aminu in describing governors as power terrorists. But in reality, they bear terror to many around them. And no other political party in the country bears the scars of the governors’ influence like the PDP.

The latest proof of that sway was seen in last week’s macabre dance by the PDP’s National Working Committee when the party unashamedly disowned its recent actions in Adamawa State. The most intriguing display of the power-show of the governors was displayed in the way and manner the governors compelled the national leadership of the party to reverse the suspension of the state executive committee of the Adamawa State chapter of the party. It was a decision firmed in power survival as the NWC members panicked as the governors moved with vengeance to get a pound of flesh from the party leadership.

Last October, the NWC through its spokesman, Chief Olisa Metuh had justified the dissolution of the Adamawa State executive thus: “Elders, leaders and stakeholders of the party have been petitioning on issues, bordering on zoning, lopsidedness, irregularities that has to do with the composition of the state executive committee; it isn’t the national chairman that has been doing that.

Amaechi, Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum; and the national chairman, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur

Amaechi, Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum; and the national chairman, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur

“What is the issue is the serial breaches of the constitution of the party and that’s what the NWC is addressing. The Adamawa State executive disregarded, disobeyed an order of the NWC, not an order of the national chairman.”

One of the breaches and irregularities was the notable fact that the state party chairman, Alhaji Mijinyawa Kugama comes from the same local government and ward with Governor Nyako.

Another reason given by Metuh was what was claimed to be the insubordination of the state executive to the decisions of the NWC on the submission of names of candidates for the local government election.

In both cases, the national chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur was believed to be on the disadvantage in the local politics of Adamawa. The dissolution was obviously to correct the disadvantages and put the national chairman at an advantage over and against the governor ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election where Tukur’s son, Awal is largely speculated to be interested in contesting.

The Adamawa chairman, Kugama is known to be an unflinching loyalist of Nyako. Both men are from the same local government area in the state. So, what he lost in Adamawa, Tukur was believed to be using his reaches in the NWC to win back, a development that stirred the governors.

Particularly instructive was the determination of the governors to resolve the dispute in the favour of their colleague. As one governor in the front of the battle for Nyako said: “Today it is Nyako, tomorrow it could be me,” and hence the governors’ decision to mobilise themselves to confront the national leadership. Their threat was to use their influence upon other members of the National Executive Committee, NEC of the party to instigate the dissolution of the NWC either directly or through forcing a national convention.

Remarkably, the governors had following mediations by President Goodluck Jonathan last December offered Tukur a soft landing. That was through the establishment of the Governor Sule Lamido intra-party panel on the Adamawa crisis. The Governor Sule panel it was learnt, was to prescribe the reversal of the dissolution following which the NWC would use the panel’s recommendation as a yardstick so that Tukur would not be seen to have been humiliated.

However, contrary to expectations the national secretariat continued to push for a new executive in Adamawa during the Christmas and New Year holidays with the release of schedules for congresses in the state.

It was an action that stirred the governors to roar. And when they roared last week with a warning to the NWC it was no surprise that majority of the NWC members who had earlier fully backed Tukur turned against him by reversing the dissolution.

Now after retrieving the Adamawa executive for their colleague, the governors are expected to go for issues that directly concern all of them. Their first target would be the renewed attempt by the national leadership of the party to reintroduce the campaign for e-registration. The e-registration of party members and its automated base is one which governors had in the past shot down. Their fear it is claimed, is that such a scheme would remove the party from their hands as it would transmit power directly to the people.

President Jonathan; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker, House of Reps, Hon Aminu Tambuwal

President Jonathan; Senate President, David Mark and Speaker, House of Reps, Hon Aminu Tambuwal

The same scheme was shot down during the regime of Dr. Okwesileze Nwodo when the governors even compelled the president to abort the project after the president had personally flagged off the scheme. The governors are also expected to now start preparing themselves for the 2015 project after their first thirst of blood.

That the governors allowed President Jonathan to have his way in foisting Tukur as the national chairman was according to one party insider a tactical move by the governors.

“When they (governors) were putting him there they knew that it could only be for some time knowing that it would only be a matter of time before Bamanga would bungle and now he has bungled seriously.”

The party source added: “Many were expecting that Bamanga would help the president to actualise his candidacy in 2015 and in return the president would help him put his son as governor of Adamawa, but now both ambitions are turning into far dreams.”

Remarkably, the governors seem to be getting an unsolicited hand of fellowship ahead of 2015 from an unexpected quarter. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has lately been criss-crossing the country reaching out to many governors.

Obasanjo according to sources has confided that he knows where the power of the party is and that it rests with the governors. So given his own personal agenda of reverting power to the north it is not surprising that he is positioning himself for a possible alliance that would be to the realisation of a common goal with most of the second term governors, many of whom do not want to leave President Jonathan behind in office as president in 2015.

Having effortlessly shaken Tukur and asserted their dominance over the polity, there is no doubt that the governors have drawn a battle line with Tukur’s sponsors in the presidential villa. The question now is ‘who or what can stop the governors’?

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