By EMMA AMAIZE & IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—The politics of acrimony currently tearing the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, apart, has assumed a fresh dimension, as the warring factions have through two separate suits, asked different Abuja high courts to recognize them as the authentic body of Governors in the country.
This was just as monarchs from the South-South geo-political zone have commenced moves to resolve the face-off between President Goodluck Jonathan and Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, which dovetailed into the crisis rocking the Governors Forum.
The Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, is leading the faction loyal to Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, while the other faction in court has Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, who is equally a lawyer, as its leader.
The Akpabio group are urging the high court to hold that only Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State has the valid mandate to represent and speak on behalf of all the Governors of the 36 states of the federation, having emerged as the consensus candidate for the chairmanship position of the NGF.
It is their contention that 19 Governors of the federation had unanimously endorsed Jang, insisting they have proof of evidence to that effect.
On the other hand, the Fashola group has asked another Abuja high court to in the meantime, not only to stop Governor Jang from parading himself as their leader, but to further issue an order of injunction restraining him from using the name “Nigeria Governor’s Forum” in respect of any other organisation that does not have the 36-Governors as members and/or in any other manner inconsistent with the Constitution of the Governor’s Forum.
Besides, the pro-Amaechi group urged the court to also restrain one Mr Osaro Onaiwu from parading himself as the Sole Administrator of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in any manner whatsoever and howsoever.
“Before the said election the Governors of Bauchi and Katsina states withdrew from the election leaving the contest for the governors of Plateau and Rivers states. The 35 governors voted for the candidates of their choice.
“At the end of the voting the Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi scored 19 votes while his rival, the governor of Plateau State, Mr. Jonah Jang scored 16 votes.
“Consequently, Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was declared the winner of the election.
Meanwhile, Vanguard learnt that 14 royal fathers from the South-South geo-political zone involved in the peace move between President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi led by the chair of the Steering Committee of the South-South Monarchs’ Forum, King Edmund Daukoru, Amanyanabo of Nembe kingdom in Bayelsa State, met for over four hours on May 7, with Governor Amaechi in Port-Harcourt.
South-South Monarchs’move to reunite Jonathan, Amaechi
However, due to conspiracy which was said to have crept into the move and divided the house the monarchs have been unable to meet President Jonathan, and up till yesterday, some of the royal fathers have been in Abuja for over one week, without seeing the President.
They have reportedly contacted the chair of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih and elder statesman, Chief Edwin Clark for assistance.
In the meeting with Governor Amaechi, one of the royal fathers from Rivers State told Vanguard that “Amaechi laid bare the reasons for the quarrel as they are, but promised to obey the monarchs in whatever decision(s) they take to resolve the matter in the interest of the South-South zone.”
He said, “The royal fathers were categorical that President Jonathan is senior to Governor Amaechi and the governor has to apologize to him and Amaechi agreed. He assured them he would prostrate before Jonathan as his “big brother” and ask for forgiveness if that is what they (royal fathers) want him to do for peace to reign.”
Another traditional ruler from Bayelsa State confided in Vanguard, yesterday that, “The plan after the meeting with Amaechi was to proceed and meet President Jonathan before the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, election. But somehow, some of the royal fathers met secretly and schemed out the monarch, who initiated the move in the first instance, Charles Ayemi-Botu, the Pere of Siembiri kingdom in Delta State from the delegation.
“It was HRM Ayemi-Botu, former national chair of the Traditional Rulers of Oil Mineral Producing Communities of Nigeria, TROMPCON, who spearheaded the peace move and rallied the other traditional rulers. Nevertheless, as I speak to you, some royal fathers have gathered in Abuja for over one week now to see President Jonathan without the man that initiated the effort. You can see the disunity among those calling for unity”.
Contacted on the matter, HRM Ayemi-Botu, aka Lion of the Niger, confirmed that he, indeed, started the move by South-South monarchs to mediate in the face-off between President Jonathan and Governor Amaechi, adding, “I was beseeched by indigenes of the region and concerned stakeholders to do so because of similar roles I played in the past.”
His words, “I am taken aback by the development, actually, I contacted the South-South Monarchs Forum because it is something that concerns the South-South region. I was the anchor and got some royal fathers from Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, etc. We were with Governor Amaechi on May 7, we were together for close to four and half hours, from 8.00 pm to about 12.30 am.
“We discussed, the man was also very favourably disposed and was even ready to go and prostrate before Goodluck Jonathan as a senior brother. This is to say that he was ready to apologize and this arrangement was well-concretized, but before we could meet Jonathan, I and other royal fathers were eradicated from the team.
“But for internal power struggle, we would have got this thing done even before the governors’ election that came up the previous Friday. Those of us that met with Governor Amaechi resolved there and then that 14 of us would move to Abuja to see Jonathan. Incidentally, the President was in South Africa for trade mission, we now had to wait.
“And because we got information that the NGF election may either hold on May 9 or likely to be shifted to end of the month, we thought we had some respite, and that between this period, we were going to broker peace and see how things will follow. Unfortunately, among the monarchs, we now see ourselves acting less than royalty demand”.
According to him, “Whenever there is problem, there are some people who try to benefit from it. Instead of holding the bull by the horn and ensuring that they give peace a chance, they will be dilly-dallying.”
Ayemi-Botu disclosed, “I was surprised to hear they are in Abuja more than a week now without letting me know, but I do not want to blame anybody. Not even those who know that I started it all, how we met in Victoria Island, Lagos on May 5, to fashion how to go about it and all that. I leave them to their conscience.”
The monarch, however, stated that the dispute between President Jonathan and Amaechi “is a very sad commentary and a setback to the people of South-South region, that two of our sons, the President at the helm of affairs and a governor, who is the chair of the Nigerian Governors Forum are now seen to be the two combatants.”
He asserted, “I strongly feel that this problem is not for President Jonathan and Amaechi alone, it is a matter that affects the entire South-South geo-political zone. It is a mockery of sort because it has not happened in other geo-political zones, and it is in our region this kind of thing is happening. So, we have to unite them, it is better for you to fight outside than fighting in the house.
“If you fight outside and you come home where there is peace, you can settle and go back to fight again. So, let Goodluck Jonathan, as a senior partner, grant audience to the people who are there. As we say in Warri, nothing spoil. We must first organise our affairs before we can go out for any engagement or any assignment.
“If he (Jonathan) concedes to Amaechi that he is already the chair of NGF, although they have split into two, that notwithstanding, one vote is something for us. He should understand with Governor Amaechi, there are certain important things that we have to discuss; I cannot say them on the pages of newspaper.
“If Amaechi remains as the chair of the NGF, he has to forget the idea of running against his own brother, big brother for that matter, in the race for presidency, either as a presidential candidate or a vice presidential candidate. Because that alone will make nonsense of whatever efforts that monarchs and other sympathizers are trying to broker,” he said.
“We have to firm up the contending issues to resolutions, such as if this happens, I will not do this, if this does not happen, then I will do this and by so doing, people will not be seen as oil flowing on top of water. We want everybody to be very earnest in his or her dealings to see that agreement reached will be kept,” he added.
The monarch counseled, “In that premise, I will say that President Jonathan should give chance for the monarchs to have audience with him and subsequently, we will still all come in, we can still be playing the various roles we are known to have been playing .”
He also admonished, “in politics, they say no permanent enemy, no permanent friend, but permanent interest, they should not rock the boat; they should reconcile and forge ahead.”