BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
The respect many had for Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, a two time military governor, two time civilian governor and a Gentleman Officer may have reduced after he claimed victory in the Nigerian Governors Forum chairmanship election of penultimate Friday.
With the result of the election showing that he polled 16 votes to the 19 scored by his rival, Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, many were at loss as to Jang’s permutation of victory.
What Jang and his ‘leader’, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, used to claim victory was the endorsement purportedly given by some 19 governors prior to the election. The signatures were later proved to have been collated in April, when Jang was not a candidate for the NGF chairmanship.
Waving the endorsement paper, Jang and Akpabio sought to convince a sceptical audience of their ‘endorsement victory.’
“How come I lost in an election I was endorsed by 19 governors,” the Plateau governor looked on in askance.
Last weekend after Jang and three of the governors that endorsed him, Segun Mimiko (Ondo) Peter Obi (Anambra), and Liyel Imoke (Akwa Ibom) explained themselves to newsmen in Abuja and editors in Lagos, the weight of what hit them began to further unfold.
As some of them explained they took some things for granted in the run up to the election.
Crucial to the point marshalled by the Jang group is the claim that chairmen of the NGF had in the past emerged by consensus and not by election as Amaechi did this time around.
The Jang gang are also claiming that Amaechi ought not to have conducted the election, an argument that is easily vitiated with the overwhelming recognition of the role of the Director General of the NGF in that election.
Dr. Mimiko, himself, an expert in overwhelming the odds and hitting incumbents as he has so much done in Ondo, admitted that they should not have participated in the election. He has gone so far as to say that he didn’t vote but that his vote was counted!
Even more, the four governors are questioning the underlying reason for Amaechi’s insistence on rocking the boat with an unprecedented second term.
Remarkably, Amaechi has largely kept quiet in the midst of the steadfast efforts of the Jang group to claim recognition. Jang has opened a new office of the NGF in Abuja, hired an administrator and sought to keep the flag of the NGF flying. But no one is deceived.
The NGF can not in the immediate future ever be the same again and it is no thanks to the governors themselves and the presidency.
The governors have greatly devalued the prestige of the office by their lack of coherence in an election that involved just 35 of them. If they could so much manipulate the facts on such a local election, one is definitely not surprised by the ease with which the governors rig local government elections to favour their parties.
Of course there is no doubt that the presidency may have won the war even if Amaechi is seen to have been declared winner of the election by the secretariat of the NGF.
Governor Amaechi’s ability to mobilse all 36 governors to stand up to the presidency on political and economic issues that concern them has been completely neutralised.
Amaechi is now a captain with half of his troops on AWOL and the majority of the remaining forces demoralised.
President Jonathan according to his aides did not take sides in the election and that fact is upheld by the fact that he was heavily engaged representing the country at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa at the time of the NGF election.
That, however, does not remove the damage the NGF crisis has put on his presidency. After all, the same president was quick to receive Jang as the chairman of the NGF just days after disowning both factions.
No one side has really come out of the crisis better. The office of the governor has been greatly diminished and even so the unseen presidential forces that led to such diminution.