There was a twist to the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) election early this morning as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) elected Akwa Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio Chairman of the ruling party’s newly formed PDP Governors’ Forum.
There have been intense intrigues over today’s election of the chairman of the NGF. The Presidency is believed to be against the re- election of Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi as chairman.
The PDP leadership met with its governors at the Presidential Villa last night. President Goodluck Jonathan attended the meeting which started at 730pm.
At about 11.30pm, PDP National Chairman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, presented Akpabio to reporters as the Chairman of the new body.
Tukur explained that the formation of the PDP Governors Forum was “out of necessity”.
Akpabio said his election was borne out of an urgent need for the PDP to re-strategise.
He said the formation of the PDP Governors’ Forum would not disrupt the NGF. Amaechi, who is also a PDP governor, attended the meeting.
Akpabio said other political parties also have the right to form their own parties’ governors’ fora.
He denied any move to remove Amaechi from the position of Chairman of NGF
“There was no move to remove the Rivers State governor as chairman of the Governors’ Forum.
“There was never a discussion to remove him “The tenure will end by April, though he has the right to re-contest,” Akpabio said.
The Akwa Ibom governor said the new development would not lead to any crack in the larger forum
“There will be no crack. Other parties are also meeting. There will be no crack. It will strengthen the forum,” he said.
It was gathered this morning that pro-Amaechi governors were strategising on how to get the NGF to elect its leader without external interference.
One of them said: “We are not moved by the development in the PDP. Governors will still elect their leader.”
Before the Villa meeting last night there was a desperate bid by anti-Amaechi forces to win the sympathy of the 19 governors in the North, especially the 15 PDP governors among them.
Also, some second term PDP governors are being offered automatic senatorial tickets for them to remove Amaechi.
As of last night, only seven governors were believed to be opposing Amaechi. They are Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), Theodore Orji (Abia), Ibrahim Shemma (Katsina), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and Acting Governor Garba Umar (Taraba).
Governor Martin Elechi (Ebonyi) was yet to make up his mind last night, according to sources.
Most of the governors were in Abuja last night ahead of the poll holding today.
As at press time, governors have broken into caucuses to perfect their strategy for the election in which Amaechi might contest against an unknown candidate, who is expected to be thrown up at the last minutes by anti-Amaechi forces.
A Southwest governor is said to be pushing the Amaechi ticket, rallying fellow governors to resist an attempt by the Presidency to choose a chairman for the NGF.
Another governor – from the North – is also involved in the pro-Amaechi campaign because, according to sources, he believes the Presidency should not dictate who should lead the forum.”
A source said: “But the anti-Amaechi forces have launched a new offensive by campaigning that the NGF chair should shift to the North. This is the bait they are trying to use to win over most of the 19 Northern governors.
“They want to throw up a Northern candidate to narrow down the chances of Amaechi, who is enjoying the confidence of many of the governors from the region.
“After they had failed in their smear campaign against Amaechi, their new selling point borders on the fact that since President Goodluck Jonathan is from the South-South, the NGF chairman should be produced by the North.
The anti-Amaechi forces were said to be making plans to scuttle the election if it appears to be going in favour of the Rivers governor.
They are also believed to have perfected a plot to stage a walk-out.
“Some second term governors are also being promised automatic senatorial tickets, if they could assist in removing Amaechi from office.”
The Amaechi group is said to be engaging in a last-minute campaign for support. It is embarking on a reassurance campaign because of the desperation of those fighting the Rivers State governor, a source said.
A pro-Amaechi strategist, who spoke with The Nation, said: “We are aware that the NGF chair is beyond the Forum. Some forces in government want to take advantage to deal with the Rivers State governor.
“But governors are no fools; they won’t allow anyone to lead them by the nose. I think there is hope that members of the NGF will vote for change, which Amaechi represents.”
For the anti-Amaechi camp, the strategy, The Nation learnt, is to force a postponement (most likely by walking out) of the election to allow the Villa, to perfect its strategy to get the Rivers governor out.
Another source in the NGF, who is against Amaechi’s return, said the election might be tough.
He said: “The election is going to be a battle royale and there is no way Amaechi could fight the Presidency and other forces against him.
“The Presidency is worried about the unusual interest of the media in the NGF election. That is why the anti-Amaechi forces have also resolved to make a point with the poll on Monday.
“But there is need to correct some misrepresentations in the media. At the last meeting of the NGF on Thursday, Amaechi did not ask anyone interested in the NGF chair to indicate interest.
“Secondly, as a matter of fact, Northern governors are the one pushing for a change of chairman of the NGF and not the Presidency. Amaechi may have issues with the Presidency, but these are not related to what is happening in the NGF.
“We will meet on the turf on Monday and see who will laugh last.”