A major crisis capable of dismembering the powerful Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has sprouted. During the Forum’s meeting in the early hours of this Wednesday,its chairman and governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, narrowly survived a plot to unseat him, said sources at the meeting held at the Rivers States governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
If the plot had succeeded, Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State would have been enthroned, it was gathered.
The development is indicative of the festering altercation between Amaechi and the presidency and the division of the governors along two lines: the president’s supporters and his opponents. As to the masterminds of the plot to unseat Governor Amaechi, fingers are already pointing in the direction of the presidency. Two governors from the south and north-west spearheaded the move, said a source.
Amaechi survived the plot through the intervention of governors Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Sule Lamido of Jigawa State. The two governors were said to have prevailed on their colleagues “not to give in to a change in the leadership of the Forum” and as such oppose any interference by the presidency in the running of the Forum’s affairs, the source stated. There have been stories suggesting that Governor Amaechi is quarrelling with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Early this year, reports that former President Olusegun Obasanjo was plotting a possible presidential ticket that could see him (Amaechi) paring with Governor Lamido in the PDP presidential ticket in 2015 were said to have not gone down well with Jonathan.
The local newspaper had also exclusively published a photograph of a branded campaign vehicle bearing “Lamido/Amaechi” posters, which was sighted in Kaduna. Though Lamido denied knowledge of such vehicle, Amaechi was quoted as saying that he, like any other Nigerian, was qualified to contest for any position.
At the NGF meeting last month, however, the governors passed a vote of confidence on Amaechi as its chairman, thus signalling that there might have been a clandestine plot to kick him out of the office. Some governors, mostly from the opposition political parties, were said to have rallied round Amaechi in solidarity, insisting that, “if at all he would be removed, it would not be at the instance of the president”.
Nonetheless, the source added that Amaechi tested the potency of the support when he offered at the meeting to step down and called for any interested successor to signify interest by raising his hand. None of them showed interest. Amaechi, whose tenure as NGF chairman ends in June this year, succeeded former governor of Kwara State and now serving senator Bukola Saraki.
Meanwhile, reading the communiqué at the end of the meeting Wednesday night, Amaechi said that “members exhaustively discussed the administration of the Forum and resolved that all organs of the Forum be made functional at the next meeting”. He continued: “Governors expressed deep concern and condemned the recent killings of health workers in Borno, Kano and Yobe, while re-affirming their solidarity with the governors and people of these states. “Forum commended the governors of these states for their resolve to continue with their polio eradication programme.”
Speaking to newsmen later, Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State refuted claims that the Forum was against President Jonathan. “Jonathan is our leader, so we support him. We are all behind him,” he said. Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha, while condemning the killings of health workers, said polio has become embarrassing for the country.
“We think the issue of polio is becoming very embarrassing to our nation and those who travel to Saudi Arabia had to be subjected to some kind of disinfectant just because they are coming from Nigeria. So we have to look at the issue of polio,” he stated. “Key positions in the Governors’ Forum that need to be filled up – we never had such positions before like the Board of Trustees (BoT) and some of the key structures -- and we hope that by next meeting we will fill up those positions.”