By Emmanuel Edukugho
The whole political landscape of this country has been blighted by the controversial election of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF). For most people who believe in freedom and democracy, the air smells a little less sweet, the sun shines a little less bright and the future is a little less hopeful.
Seeds of fear, doubt and mistrust about our democracy have been scattered far and wide from the dust of the disputed NGF election which has not settled. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was declared winner of the NGF poll, while another faction of the NGF pronounced Plateau State’s Governor Jonah Jang winner, backed by the ruling PDP and the Goodluck Jonathan presidency. So we have two chairmen, almost co-equal.
A bulk of the Northern governors, South-West governors seemed to support Amaechi. The entire South-East governors, South-South and just a handful from the North lined up behind Jonah Jang. Both of them are from the same political party. A PDP Northern governor denounced his colleagues for betraying the party by voting for out-of-favour Amaechi at the secret balloting which saw him emerged as winner.
Maverick Governor Amaechi, who in this case is behaving differently from the expected way, has remained adamant, insisting on his mandate as NGF chairman, not minding whose ox is gored.
He has been slammed with suspension by PDP, refused to be cajoled or give up the chairmanship to Jonah Jang. He is likely to be expelled and may face impeachment.
Senate Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, reacting on Ray Power Radio when asked about the Governors’ Forum crisis on Democracy Day edition of Fact File, said: “It is mere distraction, completely unnecessary and uncalled for,” pointing out that the NGF was not provided for in the Nigerian Constitution as amended.
While political observers are of the view that Amaechi should have acted with wisdom, character and maturity in this matter, others believed he has the right to pursue his political ambition within constitutional limit.
His presidential ambition is not going down with the PDP who sees him as a spoiler, a pawn in the Northern political chess board – a region wishing to wrest power from the incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan at any cost. For Amaechi, he has reached a point of no return and prepared to go the whole distance. But the question is, must he remain in PDP to actualise any presidential ambition whatsoever? Amaechi had an option to resign from PDP and join the opposition. Why he is fighting the PDP is best known to him.
On the other hand, some are contending that Jonah Jang, who looked like a reluctant candidate was drafted at the eleventh hour by the PDP to do the “dirty job” and protect the integrity of the party.
“Jang is a complete gentleman who did not bargain for the job, taking into cognizance, his age and poor health,” a competent source told Saturday Vanguard.
From past, aggrieved candidate in an election went to court to seek redress,s if he is ot satisfied with the result. But instead, Jang declared himself, with connivance of a faction of the governors who are pro-Jonathan, chairman of NGF.
There are several governors forums/fora in Nigeria today which was not the situation at advent of democracy.
From the original NGF to which the 36 governors belonged, now the centre cannot hold, with splinters according to party and geo-political zones. There are PDP Governors’ Forum (PDPGF), South-East Governors’ Forum (SEG-F), Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF), South-West Governors’ Forum (SWGF) and who knows if South-South Governors are also contemplating having a forum.
The positive aspects of the crisis include creating public awareness about the existence of the forum which hitherto people took for granted as not relevant to the good of the masses. The NGF is coming to the realisation of maintaining viable and functional secretariat. Both Amaechi and Jang have commissioned their different secretariats in Abuja with fanfare.
The Jonah Jang faction of the Nigeria Governor’s Forum has gone ahead to launch a new website, “expected to project and propagate the vision and mission of the NGF under Dr. Jang as a non-confrontational, fence mending, bridge-building and above all, supportive of Mr. President and other leaders in their quest to build a new Nigeria of our dreams and aspirations.”
According to Jang, “the NGF is out to strengthen the democracy we have all painstakingly nurtured overtime, serve the collective interests of all Nigerians devoid of selfish tendencies which could threatened the unity, peace, stability and progress of the nation.”
He insisted that there is no factionalisation at the NGF and the body is one and he is the chairman of NGF. President Jonathan has even publicly acknowledged and recognised Jang as NGF chairman.
For Governor Amaechi, there is no going back on his mandate freely given by his colleagues. He has also ruled out the possibility of a consensus candidate to replace him in order to resolve the dispute.
Referring to the May 24, 2013 NGF election in which he defeated Jang by 19-16 votes, he told the press in Abuja: “That is the mandate that was freely given and I will stick to that mandate.”
Extolling the virtues of democracy, he declared: “I think it is up to Nigerians to know that nothing pays more than democracy, the right to choose who you want to choose and the governors, having made their choice, we can only do one thing but stand by the choice the governors have made.”
A social critic and rights activist, Mr. Aggrey Erikowa, acknowledged the freedom of Nigerians to seek any political office in the land as long as he satisfied the criteria, conditions and requirements needed for the election.
He frowned at what he called, “meddlesomness of the presidency in NGF election.”
While condemning the inordinate ambition of Governor Amaechi to retain the NGF chairmanship; by all means, Erikowa told Saturday Vanguard that, “the emphasis should be on providing good governance and dividends of democracy to the people.”