By HENRY UMORU
ABUJA — Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, yesterday, described as sacred the mandate given to him penultimate Friday as elected chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum which he was ready to defend and vowed not to step down for any body.
Governor Amaechi who spoke with newsmen after he met with staff of the Forum at the NGF’s Secretariat, Asokoro, Abuja, insisted that he won the election and God was in the hall where the election took place.
He urged his colleagues who are pitching tent with Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State as a factional Chairman to stop these distractions and concentrate on good governance and development of their respective states.
When asked if he was ready to step down at the end of the day, Amaechi said, “stepping down, no, no, that is the mandate that was freely given and I will stick to that mandate.”
The governor noted that overheating the polity now because of a forum was uncalled for when Nigerians are dying of hunger, polio, poverty among others.
He said the governors should think of good governance and building legacies through what must have been provided for the people and not an office which does not attract any extra benefit except to preside at meetings.
Amaechi said, “We are busy here in Abuja and different state headquarters talking about NGF election when indeed Nigerians are dying of poverty and hunger”.
Amaechi to colleagues: Let us stop these distractions
The Rivers State governor who was accompanied to the Secretariat by Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the NGF which already has a Secretariat at Asokoro cannot have two secretariats, adding that the governors decided to go for an election when they could not arrive at consensus because no aspirant was prepared to step down for the other.
He, however, assured staff of the Secretariat of continued support and payment of salaries, even as he urged them to continue with the Peer Review with Rivers, Kano; Niger states, among others waiting to be reviewed as it was done by the forum in Anambra and Ekiti states.
Said he: “I think that as a secretariat you should focus on those issues, forget the internal dynamics of the politics of NGF. We are colleagues, when we talk among ourselves, you will understand that there are underlying factors that are making them to behave the way they are behaving, that you cannot take away. Sometimes it is beyond the control of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, but either way be rest assured of your salaries.
“I believe that my brothers and colleagues will see reason why we should stop distracting the country and get the country united to focus on development because at the end of the day it is about legacy, it is about what we will leave behind for the people. Get the Peer Review committee to please visit these states so that we don’t get distracted. Let us leave the politics of NGF to the politicians, while you focus on the issues of development.”
Insists that Mimiko voted
When asked if governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State actually voted, Governor Amaechi who said Mimiko voted, however, vowed to accompany him to the Redeemed Christian Church of God where he (Amaechi) was prepared to kneel in front of the altar and call on God’s name as Christians.
He said, “Mimiko and I are Christians and I think he is a good Christian and one of the sins against God is the sin of lying. I am not saying he is lying, but I am saying Mimiko voted. During the elections, I was scared because at a stage seven governors refused to vote and Mimiko was one of those who refused to vote, but when they whispered among themselves and they thought they will win they all decided to cast their votes.
“When they were counting if you watch you will see that the governors who were pro-Amaechi voted first and those against him voted last. When they counted Governor Jang eight times I was scared, if you watch the video you will hear I was saying count the ballot first and I say to myself we are 35, I want to see the 35 ballots. When the first counting was done and there were 35 ballots, I said okay, I am satisfied, then you can then count who had what in the number of ballots.
Jang must remember there is heaven — Gov Fayemi
“Everybody including Mimiko voted and on the issue of video you will hear me shouting ‘stop it, don’t record it’ because some governors rushed to me and said Chairman protect us, so, so governor is recording and the governor said why won’t I record, it was not a hidden thing.
“It was not that somebody put camera somewhere which was hidden, it was an open thing. I said we cannot record governors’ election, we are responsible citizens and there is no disagreement here.
“But then I was making a mistake because that video has turned out to be historical. I was protecting my colleagues who did not want it recorded and the governor who was recording said he will not stop and thank God he did not stop because if he had listened to me and stopped, maybe it would have been more controversial than it is now.
“Again tell my brother Mimiko that he voted, but if he still says he did not vote, I am willing to go with him to his Church, the Redeemed Church, we will kneel down on the altar and say it before God.”
We must apologise to Nigerians — Fayemi
Meanwhile, governor Kayode Fayemi who pleaded with Nigerians to stop castigating them as they were also human beings and owed Nigerians apology over the crisis. He said what took place after the election was unfortunate which calls for sober reflection and healing of wounds.
Governor Fayemi who said he was apologising on behalf of the 35 governors who participated in the election, said there were moves from both sides for peace to reign, adding, “no peace without justice.”
Speaking further on the crisis, Governor Amaechi said “it was a meeting of 36 governors and I think that whatever the issues are, they will be resolved. I think that we should focus more on those issues that unite us, those issues that fight against poverty, polio and malaria. These are things that are killing the poor.
I think that it is up to Nigerians to know that nothing pays more than democracy, the right to choose who you want to chose and the governors having made their choice, we can only do one thing, and that is to stand by the choice the governors have made. We should ensure that we don’t allow what is happening now to affect Nigerians in the course of the 2015 elections. We are mature enough to manage our own democracy and our own election process.
“It is important we make peace, it is important we come together. I don’t see what Chairman of Governors Forum can do for anybody, he is just a person who presides over meetings of equals.
“I want to urge Governor Jang, because he is a Christian, to know that God watches over everybody and whatever you say, say it according to God because beyond NGF, you and I know that there is heaven and you can’t go to heaven if you don’t tell the truth and stand by the truth.
I am not saying he is not saying the truth, I am not saying he is not standing by the truth, I am just saying that nobody can go to heaven when he is not saying the truth. “I usually tell people that don’t win the battle and lose the war. I agree that all of us will come together and work for the interest of Nigerians. We should not allow our personal interest to override the interest of the nation.”
Group calls for scrapping of Governors’ Forum
Meanwhile, a Coalition of Civil Society groups, yesterday, called for the scrapping of the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, which it said has outlived its usefulness.
Protesting to the National Assembly, yesterday, with a message tagged “Save our Democracy now,” the group, decried the intractable feud within the NGF, which they claimed had what they termed the “presidency’s imprimatur”.
The spokesperson of the group, Columba Ogah accused politicians of “over heating the polity through the Federal Government’s meddlesomeness in the NGF by fighting the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, through a proxy”.
The activists decried what it termed “creeping dictatorship” in the land, stating that our democracy is being endangered by our politicians.
According to Mr Ogah, many of the activists suffered, risked their lives to bring about democracy and would not stay aloof and allow the institution to be destroyed by politicians’ personal ambition which have nothing to do with the Nigerian people.
They, therefore, submitted their demands to the National Assembly through Senator Sola Adeyeye who met the demonstrating activists at the gate of the National Assembly. Senator Adeyeye praised them for their orderly conduct, promising to pass on their letter to the leadership of the Assembly.