By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA—Northern Elders Forum (NEF), yesterday, examined the rift between President Jonathan and governors under the aegis of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, NGF, and passed a verdict on the matter: Jonathan should concentrate on the enormous task of solving Nigeria’s problems and stop dissipating energy on needless war with governors.
Similarly, the Northern elders asked Jonathan to accept governors as partners in progress and desist from treating them as opponents, as they were elected to serve the diverse needs of Nigerians from their respective states, just as the President.
The position of the NEF was made by its spokesman, Prof. Ango Abdullahi, while speaking in an exclusive interview with Vanguard in Abuja.
According to Abdullahi, the North believes that the president should work symbiotically with the governors to produce more democracy dividends for Nigerians rather than continue to flex muscles with those he suspects do not share the same political opinions with him.
Describing the ongoing assault on the NGF chairman and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, as unnecessary and unfortunate, the NEF pointed out that the Presidency was yet to explain to Nigerians what offence the governor had committed to warrant being harassed and intimidated by the Presidency and its agents.
“Well, I think the President created the confrontation which is totally needless. I have not seen any governor who has come to interfere with activities of the Presidency.
“I have not seen one and those who are criticising the governors for forming themselves into a forum to plan for their own meetings should come forward and tell Nigerians how they are disturbing Jonathan.
The President shoudn’t be party leader
“What seems to be happening is that the President wants to exert himself everywhere as the leader of the party and the country. That is just the problem. But that is totally wrong and inconsistent with the democratic principles of the party because when we drafted the PDP constitution, there was nothing like the President also serving as the leader of the party.
“It is not done anywhere even in the United States of America from where we borrowed our mode of democracy. But the President is trying to copy what Obasanjo did when he anointed himself and forced the party to appoint him as the leader of the party and the President of Nigeria.
“I am saying so because when we drafted the constitution of the PDP, there was no provision for party leader. What we had was the Chairman of the PDP. But before we knew it, Obasanjo had concocted something which is applicable in the Parliamentary system of government where the leader of the party becomes the Prime Minister as we have in Britain.
“In the US, the party is totally different from the president. Once the election is over, the president gets on with his job and the governors go to their respective states to do their job of providing services for the people.
“The problem we now have is that the President wants to exercise excessive control over the governors and all other party members and organs. He wants to take everything and that is what is responsible for the conflict between the president and the governors individually or as a group.
“As far as we are concerned, the creation of this conflict needs not be there. What is wrong with the governors getting together under a forum to discuss common problems and issues that can help them to serve their people and Nigerians better? What is wrong with that?
“How does the NGF meeting affect or prevent the President from doing his own work for Nigerians? Of course, we have been having the Northern Governors Forum because of the history of the North. There has always been the South-West Governors Forum where they meet to discuss problems confronting them.
“The same thing has been going on in the Eastern Region and so on. So you can see that the meeting of the governors in this country is not a new thing and has never been a setback to any government either at the national or local level.
“So how can the President now begin to worry governors simply because of their regular meetings? Is this not a democratic government that we are practising? I would advise the President to do away with the isolationist approach to governance in this country.
NGF is necessary — NEF
“If I were Jonathan, I would rather go for regional cooperation with the governors in order to fast-track the development of Nigeria. So to me, the NGF is a vital platform for enhancing the development and progress of Nigeria and should be encouraged by well-meaning Nigerians.
“I don’t see anything wrong with that at all. But I think the Presidency fears that the control of the governor is slipping out of his hands especially now that it is clear to him that he is ready to contest election.
“But he is going about it the wrong way and I hope he will continue to go the wrong way so that it becomes easy for the North to get him out in 2015,” Abdullahi stated.