NGF ELECTION: Amaechi, Yuguda, Shema in final battle

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By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—Uncertainty fired by a web of intrigues, last night, shadowed aspirations of three of the nation’s governors ahead of today’s election of a new chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum.

Three governors- the incumbent, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State; Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State were the three candidates listed by the secretariat of the NGF for the election.

However, the shape of the contest was, last night, still being framed by the determination of associates of the president to stave off Amaechi’s re-election by persuading his two rivals to join forces against him.

Northern govs weigh options

Besides, many Northern governors are also afraid that electing one of their own as the NGF chairman could endanger their chance to produce the president in 2015.

Shema,Yuguda and  Amaechi

Shema,Yuguda and Amaechi

The Northern governors could also play a decisive role at a meeting scheduled for this morning where they hope to take a decision on the chairmanship of the forum.

Following the NGSF meeting, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Governors Forum, PDP-GF is also expected to hold consultations before the governors assemble at the Rivers State Governors Lodge for the decisive contest.

Findings by Vanguard showed that Amaechi submitted his form on Wednesday morning while Shema sent in his later that day.

Governor Yuguda on the other hand, filed his paper for the contest on Thursday afternoon after all efforts to persuade Shema to step down for him appeared to have failed.

Initial reports had indicated that the Presidency wanted Shema to take over from Amaechi so as to boost his profile and put him in a position to take over from the current Vice President, Namadi Sambo.

However, some analysts within the Presidency are said to have prevailed on the President to swing his support from Shema and give it to Yuguda, whom they consider to be more loyal and politically useful to the Jonathan camp.

Vanguard learnt that it was based on the advice of the strategists that Governor Yuguda, who was not in the picture of the NGF election, was drafted last week to begin preparations for the post.

The governor is said to have been persuaded to join the race based also on the refusal of many Northern governors to back the candidature of Shema.

Yuguda Vs Shema

Vanguard’s investigations revealed that no fewer than eight of the 10 Northern governors said to be sympathetic to Jonathan, had thrown their weight behind Yuguda and asked Shema to perish the thought of running against Amaechi, as he would not be able to dislodge the Rivers State Governor.

The decision to dump Shema for Yuguda is said to have jolted the Katsina Governor, who had, in anger, reportedly shunned all entreaties to step down for Yuguda.

Analysts fear that the presentation of two candidates by the Jonathan camp against Amaechi could weaken the President’s camp and give easy victory to the incumbent.

Worried by the development, top PDP chieftains, led by Governor Godswill Akpabio, who had been in Abuja for many days coordinating the pro-Jonathan’s camp, held series of fence-mending meetings last night to put the camp in order so as to present a common front to challenge Amaechi, who appeared unperturbed by the deluge of political intrigues against him.

A source close to Governor Yuguda told Vanguard that the governor, who had since filed his nomination papers with the NGF Secretariat, was already in Abuja and was hopeful he would emerge as the next NGF chairman.

“Everything is okay. The governor emailed his nomination form directly to the DG of the NGF. The DG received it and confirmed receipt and we are ready for the election,” the source said.

“Governor Yuguda is going to contest the NGF election basically because he believes in the peace and unity of the country and for the success of Mr. President. That is why he wants to contest so as to assist him,” the source added.

But a source close to Governor Amaechi told Vanguard in Abuja that the governor was the candidate to beat, given his performance during his first term.

“I can tell you that Amaechi will be re-elected to continue his good work as the NGF chairman,” the source said.

Amaechi calm, hopeful

“As it is now, if the election is conducted under a free and fair atmosphere Amaechi is sure to carry the day irrespective of the lies being churned out against him by his detractors.

“But we are certain that truth is constant and cannot be hidden for too long. All those who are rising up against the governor for no just cause will soon see reason and retrace their steps,” an aide said.

But the Presidency might have devised a plan B to save itself in the event of Amaechi being re-elected by the governors in a secret ballot, which they hope to use.

The Presidency is said to be mulling the idea of dialoguing with the embattled governor and wooing him back to its fold as one of the loyal governors of the PDP.

Already, some well-placed PDP chieftains are said to have been despatched by the Presidency to make peace with Amaechi and to assure him that no harm would come his way despite the recent political disagreements.

Many of such emissaries met with Amaechi last night and tried to persuade him to support the President’s re-election in 2015, which appears to be the bone of contention between the two politicians from the Niger Delta.

The NGF, which started as a platform for governors to share ideas on national issues, gained more prominence under the Rotimi Amaechi leadership and forced the Presidency to abandon many arbitrary decisions.

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