Governors in support of the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, have begun mobilising members of the Peoples Democratic Party to thwart President Goodluck Jonathan’s bid to contest the 2015 presidential election.
Saturday PUNCH’s investigations revealed that the governors’ game plan is to ensure that they are in full control of the party’s structures in their states.
Some PDP state officials, particularly chairmen, are notational delegates, and members of the PDP National Executive Committee.
The latest plan follows the Presidency’s failed bid to secure the removal of the Rivers State governor as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. The aggrieved governors are also not relenting in their bid to push out PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
The NEC is the highest decision-making organ of the party and is dominated by state governors and state chairmen.
It was gathered that the pro-Amaechi governors were working on a game plan that would ensure their state chairmen frustrate Jonathan’s alleged plan to take over the party’s NEC as part of moves to fufill his 2015 ambition.
Saturday PUNCH learnt that Jonathan, having taken over control of the PDP’s National Working Committee and the Board of Trustees, was determined to ensure total control of the NEC.
An aide to one of the pro-Amaechi governors, who pleaded anonymity, said the group was aware of the President’s plan.
He said, “Jonathan’s man, Tukur, is now in control of the NWC with the sacking of Olagunsoye Oyinlola as national secretary.
“With the installation of Tony Anenih as BOT chairman, the President is now controlling two organs of the pary (NWC and BOT).
“His eyes are on the NEC, which is the highest decision-making organ of the party. Whoever controls NEC and majority of the delegates will get the party’s presidential ticket.”
Prominent among PDP governors, who are said to be backing Amaechi are the governors of Niger, Sokoto, Jigawa and Kano states.
The President has the support of all South-South governors, except Amaechi, as well as Gabriel Suswan (Benue) and Jonah Jang (Plateau).
The President has, however, started fighting back.
One of his strategies is to ensure that the party executives in non-PDP states are put under his control.
A Presidency source told Saturday PUNCH that the President’s political strategists had met with the party chairmen from 13 non-PDP states several times in the last two months.
He said, “The meetings were to ensure that the chairmen and their officials remain loyal to the President as we approach the 2015 elections.
“Also, the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Goodswill Akpabio, has been directed to mobilise the party officials in these states.”
Investigations showed that with the removal of loyalists of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the South-West, the coast has become clear for Jonathan in the zone.
The Presidency official said, “The President will have the backing of the South-West PDP, with Obasanjo out of the way. As part of moves to sustain his control of the region, he will also address the marginalisation of the zone.”
It was also gathered that ministers believed to have been recommended by Obasanjo may be fired by the President soon.
T hose under threat are some ministers from the South-West, who were either inherited from the administrations of Obasanjo and the President Umaru Yar’Adua or were put forward by the ex-president.
It was gathered that pro-Amaechi governors were also in touch with their colleagues in the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Progressives Grand Alliance and Congress for Progressive Change, who came together under the Progressives Governors Alliance, to checkmate the PDP.
A governor told one of our correspondents that they would “not allow Jonathan to humiliate Amaechi because of his (President’s) bid to seek a second term in 2015.”
The governor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the formation of the PDP Governors Forum on Sunday was a “knee-jerk” response to the PGA platform of opposition state chief executives.
He also dismissed the election of Akpabio as the new forum’s chairman as a “non-issue.”
He noted that Akpabio lacked the immense clout commanded by Amaechi, adding that it was “unfortunate that the Presidency has turned our chairman’s bold stance on issues to a personal war.”
An attempt to replace Amaechi with Katsina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema, as NGF chairman on Sunday failed as the election almost ended in a deadlock.
When it was apparent that Amaechi would carry the day, the governors adjourned the election till May.
But the governor said, “Everything Amaechi has said or done as it concerns the NGF has the support of all governors.
“Amaechi has never canvassed any issue through NGF without being asked to do so by the governors.
“When Amaechi said the Presidency should give states their share of excess crude funds, it was because the matter had been extensively discussed by the governors before they mandated him to speak on it.
“Amaechi can never say anything of his own volition because he knows that we are all equals.
“In the same vein, governors are not errand boys of the President. Neither are they junior to him. We are in a federation and the states are not inferior to the Federal Government.
“Senate President, David Mark, cannot impose any decision on the 108 other senators. He must first obtain the consent of majority of senators.
“It is the same thing Amaechi has been doing as NGF chairman.
“Therefore, what we see is a desperate attempt by the Presidency to destroy the NGF by pursuing a vendetta against Amaechi.
“Let me assure you that we are with Amaechi all the way. In May, we will show that he remains our chairman.
“Those governors showing interest in the NGF chairmanship are not really serious about it. When the chips are down, they know where to stand.”
Asked if the governors were not worried that the Presidency might hound them with anti-graft agencies, the state chief executive replied, “That is an old matter. It won’t work.
“If you send anti-graft agencies after us, we will respond appropriately.
“We are ready to face them in court. So, that tactic won’t work. Governors are not errand boys of the President.
“It happened in the past (under Obasanjo) but we will not tolerate such this time around.”
Some state chapters of the party expressed divergent views on the crisis between the governors and the President.
In Anambra, a non-PDP state, the State Chairman, Ken Emeakayi, told Saturday PUNCH that it had not seen any crisis between the President and Amaechi.
“We totally agree with what the national chairman said that it is not true that there is a crisis between the President and the Chairman of the Governors’ Forum,” Emeakayi said.
In Cross River the State PDP Chairman, Mr. John Okon, said the state chapter believed that the committee set up by the PDP conference of chairmen would address issues in the party.
Okon, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said, “We belong to the Conference of the PDP chairmen and we have raised a committee to meet with the governors. We hope that the issues raised would be resolved amicably.
“Note that the President and Amaechi are members of our party, so, that is the more reason why we would do everything to settle the matter.”
However, a reliable source at the state secretariat of the party, said the chapter might not support efforts to reconcile Jonathan and Amaechi due to the Bakassi issue and loss of 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom State for which the Federal Government was yet to make any concrete redress.
In Oyo State, a non-PDP state, the party’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Kehinde Salawu, said, “In a big family like our party, we need to disagree on issues then later agree.
“The matter at the moment between President Jonathan and Governor Amechi is on principle. I believe they will settle amicably for the nation’s betterment soonest. That is normal in a democracy.”
The Organising Secretary of the party in Plateau State, Mike Dachom, said, “We have no option than to stick to PDP, even though we have not been compensated for our loyalty to the party. You know that the PDP gave Goodluck Jonathan more than one million votes but we are yet to see the reciprocity to this patronage.
“We are not talking about Jonathan now, but the survival of PDP as a party and that is why we have no option than to remain within the fold.
“And of course, our governor is the only remaining member of the G37 who is a governor and he has just been readmitted into the PDP board of trustees, so you don’t expect any divided loyalty from the governor.”
Commenting on the alleged move by Jonathan to take over the PDP NEC, the Political Adviser to the President, Ahmed Gulak, said, “The President and a number of governors belong to the PDP.
“The President is the leader of the party in Nigeria, the national chairman of the party is the leader of the NWC that runs the party on a day to day basis. If any body tells you that the President has taken over the party, he is not telling the truth.”
He described the PDP as a political party consisting of various people from across the country.
He stated, “It is a national party, it is not a regional party, it is not a tribal party. No individual can take PDP to be his own.
“No individual can pocket PDP. The PDP is a mass movement, it is a national party neither the governors nor the President can pocket PDP, the PDP belongs to all the members.
“So, no individual can pocket the PDP. Whatever anybody says, the PDP is the only organised party and the fact that the President is the national leader of the party does not mean that he has pocketed the party.
“The President is a democrat., Whatever he does follows wide consultations with all senior stakeholders, especially members of the BOT who are members that are about 50 years of age. As the conscience of the party, the BoT is supposed to mediate every disagreement.
“And the President also subjects himself to the mediation of the BOT and advice and counseling of BOT members. That is the position.”