By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR & LUKA BINNIYAT
Loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan are boycotting today’s meeting of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, as payback for the alleged betrayal of the governors’ collective decision to support Governor Jonah Jang for the chairmanship of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF.
While some of the governors are boycotting the meeting holding in Kaduna, a number of them are also mussing the fact that the developments from the NGF are masking collective issues that bother on the interest of the northern states.
One of such issues is the consideration of a report of a committee constituted by the NSGF on the state of insecurity in the North.
Among the governors boycotting today’s meeting are Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State and Gabriel Suswam of Benue State, Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, three of the leading canvassers for the enthronement of Jang for the NGF chairmanship.
Despite their efforts, Jang lost the NGF election by 16 votes to the 19 scored by the incumbent, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
That was also despite the fact that he was proclaimed as the consensus candidate of the NSGF for the position.
Initial speculations that Governor Jang would make a comeback to the NSGF and use it as a platform to consolidate his claim to the chairmanship of the NGF were dashed yesterday when a senior aide to the governor asserted that Jang would not attend. “No, capital NO, he is not coming,” a senior aide said.
Jang was as at yesterday holed up in a strategic retreat for his cabinet holding on the outskirts of Jos, the state capital and sources told Vanguard that the governor would not want to abandon the retreat for the NSGF meeting.
Governor Jang had boycotted most of the recent meetings of the NSGF following perceptions that he was denied the chairmanship of the forum upon pressure from governors from the core north who took offense at his handling of the crisis on the Plateau.
Governor Jang was expected to take over the chairmanship of the NSGF from Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State based on the principle of alphabetical rotation of the chairmanship but when it got to his turn, it was decided that Governor Aliyu should hold on to the chairmanship, a decision that made Jang to boycott most of the meetings since then.
Besides Jang, Suswam and Yuguda, Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State and the Acting Governor of Taraba State are also not expected to attend the meeting.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that Governor Rabiu Kwankwanso of Kano State, who returned from a foreign trip, yesterday, is sending his deputy to represent him at the meeting.
However, 14 Secretaries of State Government, SSGs, were present at the preparatory meeting that was held to prepare for today’s meeting given optimism that the NSGF may not fully break as the larger body.
At the end of the meeting of the SSGs of the northern states yesterday, the chairman of the forum of SSGs, Alhaji Saidu Ndako Idris, insisted that the NSGF had no issue that will divide it, describing today’s meeting as “normal”.
But a source said: “It is sad that today’s meeting will not focus on the issue facing the North, but will be on how to muscle power and stay relevant by the governors.
“As you are aware, Governor Isa Yuguda of Bauchi State, has left the NSGF because he cannot stand in the same room with those who opposed Jonathan.
“Those who are supporters of Amaechi are also going to vent their anger on their colleagues for refusing to stick with the Rivers State Governor who wants to help the North get the PDP Presidential ticket in 2015..
“Some of them are also not happy that the President has taken over the accounts of the Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states and using the money to fund military bombardment of these states. But, many others are seeing it differently.
“I want to assure you that the way that the Presidency has been handling Boko Haram has rubbished all the efforts that the Northern Governors have made to see that violence of Boko Haram is reduced. But the President’s men will attempt to stand firm for him, even when it is clear that Jonathan does not intend to hold any dialogue with Boko Haram, not to talk of amnesty. I am very pessimistic about today’s meeting”, said the source.
However, speaking before the commencement of the meeting of the SSGs yesterday, Idris said: “The meeting we are having today (yesterday) in this forum is a normal meeting preceding that of the NSGF.
“The meetings of our governors is aimed at addressing issues that directly affect the Northern part of this country, and the essence was to see the socio-political and economic growth of the nation.
“It is always a normal meeting and not a product of any emergency. It is a product of usual rubbing of minds, and trying to understand each other’s problem so that we can as well be party to the success of each and every State that make up the North. And in turn make it possible across the North.
“The agenda of this meeting, I believe are issues that are bothering us now. And I am not aware of any expected stormy session.
“This meeting is to look into the issues of the report of the committee that was constituted by our principals on peace and reconciliation in the North.
“As you all aware, the committee has submitted the report to the Governors and the report which will be presented formally to the governors tomorrow (today) will be part of the discussion we are going to present here.
“We are also going to discuss other carry-over decisions like that of the New Nigerian Newspapers, Northern Nigeria Development Company, NNDC. I believe by the time we are through with these, we will come out with a position paper which I believe we are going to give to our principals to deliberate on in their meeting”.