By Tonnie Iredia
Quite often, many State Governments in Nigeria openly express dissatisfaction with the sharing of the proceeds of the federation account. Last week, the trend took a rather serious turn when Commissioners for finance from the States walked out on the Minister of State for Finance, Dr Yerima Lawal Ngama who chaired the May 2013 Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting in Abuja.
As was expected of the father of the nation, President Goodluck Jonathan sought to resolve the bone of contention with state governors in a meeting in Abuja– a decision that would have presented a good opportunity for the aggrieved states to table their grievances. Surprisingly, most of the governors according to media reports refused to turn up for the meeting. Why would governors shun a meeting called by the President when he and a majority of them belong to the same political party- the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)?
Anybody who has followed the recent activities of our Governors would probably answer the question with some ease. Until recently, the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) was a united and powerful body of all Governors in Nigeria. For some strange reasons, the PDP which produced the majority of the governors suddenly set up another forum for its own governors as if to halt some anti-PDP feelings in the main NGF. Interestingly, the body was at the time also led by a PDP Governor-Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State making it appear that the problem of the PDP was not the Governors Forum but its leader-Amaechi. In due course, the plot to upstage the latter as Chairman of the NGF became the topical issue of discourse everywhere in the nation.
The prominence which this gave to the body made people to assume that perhaps the President himself had a hand in it. While some critics condemned his alleged undue interest and asked him to leave the forum to its owners-the governors, others who were not comfortable with what they described as Amaechi’s disloyalty, urged the President to look for another NGF chairman that he could rely upon. Now, which Governor can President Jonathan trust?
It would be foolhardy to ask the President to look for such an ally from non-PDP governors because they are the main pillars of the emerging political coalition which is seeking to take over the government at the centre. To even consider that as an option would be a major risk. So, is it safer to trust a fellow party member? Some would say yes but not Amaechi. But then, there is doubt if other PDP Governors are actually better than him, because if Amaechi alone was the problem, no PDP governor would have voted for him after the party had ostensibly anointed a different candidate.
Oh yes they did and boasted about their feat only a few days ago. The explanations of Governors Kwankwaso of Kano and Lamido of Jigawa clearly showed the two governors to be strong characters that could not be teleguided. Thus if PDP is looking for weaklings it must look at a different direction from these their two members. The same appears to be true of Murtala Nyako of Adamawa, Babangida Aliyu of Niger and Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto. The latter would not even take kindly to any purported disciplinary action against him by the party. If therefore, there are certain impending important party assignments, the President needs a back up team.
Unfortunately, the other PDP governors may not be able to do this necessary backing. Although some of them are always being portrayed as loyalists, there is danger in giving assignments to persons who are quite proficient in adducing “strong” reasons for why the assignments failed. If we take the alleged mandate to unseat Amaechi as a test case, there are too many questions begging for answers. Is it true for instance that the party’s anointed candidate changed from time to time making the party look confused? There is in fact the story that at a point, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State revealed that Governor Yuguda of Bauchi was to replace Governor Shema of Katsina as the President’s choice for the election against Amaechi; but later changed it to Jonah Jang of Plateau. This can easily go for a shoddy job. Who wants to give the handlers a second assignment?
In addition, some of the reasons being given for why Amaechi could not have won the election are more annoying. There is the claim that the man won because as a sitting chairman he didn’t step down before voting started. That would probably have been a good reason for why the anti-Amaechi group should have refused to vote. Instead, after voting, they said they didn’t and when a recording of the event surfaced, they said the filming was illegal. It is in retrospect more irritating to imagine that although, the group kept talking about 19 signatories who pledged to support Governor Jonah Jang, we have continued to see only 16 persons in the group as the results of the election reflected. The group has not been able to increase even by one member. It was the same figure of loyalists that took part in the search for legitimacy by paying courtesy calls on some leaders of only one party- the PDP. Why could they not visit elsewhere? Why did the figure of those in the faction not change when the group opened its secretariat?
The implications of the Amaechi faction remaining the majority are grave. As one member of the group said, the faction boycotted the meeting called to resolve the federation account allocation impasse to protest what it called the presidential recognition of the loser of an election.
Considering that the posture of the losing team can give the President a bad image, this is the appropriate time for Jonathan, a man with a pan-Nigerian mandate to discard sycophants and re-engineer his team notwithstanding the vote of confidence on him by his party some 3 days ago. In this search, he should remember the saying that “when a man is searching for his lost item, he may never find it if a thief is among those in the search party”