By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA — Details of the ‘political coup’ carefully plotted and executed by the Presidency to oust Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State from the leadership of the influential Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, emerged, yesterday, with some of the governors claiming they were put under pressure to work against the governor.
Vanguard gathered that the Presidency had long nursed the plan to edge out Amaechi as the chairman of the NGF but was not sure of how to go about the controversial plot without raising eyebrows.
The idea to create a splinter group to be headed by a ‘core loyalist’ from among the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, governors, was mooted by Goodluck Jonathan’s political strategists as a way of stopping Governor Amaechi.
Reliable sources hinted that it was after the Villa was assured by top aides that they could secure the needed support from the PDP governors to deal a blow on Amaechi that the President summoned the governors to a parley, last Sunday.
Insiders said the Presidency was so sure that Amaechi would be removed, that a principal aide to Jonathan sent out text messages to State House correspondents to ‘expect breaking news’ at the end of the governors meeting with the President.
One of the governors, who attended the meeting, told Vanguard, yesterday, that he was disappointed with the desperation of the Presidency and its aides to remove Amaechi at all cost, regretting that such a dictatorial tactic, which he referred to as “gunboat democracy” could be employed in the current political dispensation.
Some PDP govs forced to sign document
The governor, who related what happened at the meeting with the President, on Sunday, and the one presided over by Amaechi on Monday, pointed out that most of the 15 PDP governors were forced to sign a document on the orders of the Presidency without knowing what the document was to be used for.
He noted:“What they did was that each of the governors was spoken to by some presidential aides and made to sign a document circulated to them without disclosing the purpose.
“What some of us did not know was that the signatures collected by the aides would be used as an endorsement for the setting up of PDP Governors’ Forum, which was later announced to our bewilderment.”
Efforts to remove Amaechi
The governor explained that on Monday, when the NGF meeting was in progress at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, the Villa also tried desperately to win over some governors to remove Amaechi.
Apart from monitoring the meeting from the Villa, Jonathan’s men also made frantic efforts to infiltrate the venue and personally convince the governors to vote out Amaechi.
The source said that at a point, the Villa was on the phone with the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum trying to ascertain if he had enough support to go ahead with the election or whether the poll should be shelved.
Threat against uncooperating govs
It was learnt that at some point, some of the governors who refused to cooperate with the Villa, were threatened with serious sanctions, including the withdrawal of their security personnel and other benefits they are currently enjoying.
One source told Vanguard that when the President’s men saw that they had lost the support of the governors to oust Amaechi, they quickly moved for the postponement of the election, a suggestion the Amaechi camp did not oppose to avoid a walkout, which had been planned by the pro-Jonathan group.
We’ll not abandon him— Pro-Amaechi group
A pro-Amaechi member of the NGF boasted, yesterday, that the NGF would not abandon Amaechi even if the election is held tomorrow, given the fact that he was not fighting a personal battle but working for the overall interest of the Nigerian people.
The governor said: “I am sure the Presidency is aware that it has lost the battle against Amaechi and that the latest attempt to force members to move against him has even made the governors to be more supportive of the RiversState governor.”
Presidency goes back to drawing board
The Presidency is said to have withdrawn to the drawing board to re-strategise on how to remove Amaechi when the election is held in May. It is believed that before then, the Presidency would have succeeded in wooing or forcing more governors to its side.
Amaechi is being accused of nursing a vice presidential ambition with his JigawaState counterpart, Sule Lamido, although both governors have denied having such ambition.
Last week, Jonathan’s wife, Dame Patience, boasted openly that 100 opposition parties put together would not unseat her husband’s party.
At the event, the women canvassed that Jonathan be given automatic ticket so as to give women 50 per cent representation in his administration, 15 per cent up from what they are currently enjoying.
Another set of the President’s posters has appeared in major locations in the country, without him condemning the campaigners.