by Ibrahim Faruk
If newspaper reports are anything to go by, then Monday February 25 is expected to be the most politically significant day in politics in 2013 since the emergence of the new party, All Progressive Congress (APC).
The nation’s dailies on Sunday were filled with stories about the wrangling within the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) reportedly as a result of some prompting from Aso Rock. Consequently, the Forum is expected to elect a new chairman on Monday if the anti-Amaechi clique have their way, or reaffirm its confidence in Amaechi if governors loyal to the Rivers governor have their way.
Since 1999 when the NGF was established, it has gradually grown to become the most powerful pressure group in the country and consequently, its chairman is one of the nation’s most powerful men.
The Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) is a coalition of the elected governors of the country’s 36 states. It is a non-partisan association which seeks to promote unity, good governance, better understanding and co-operation among the states and ensure a healthy and beneficial relationship between the states and other tiers of government.
So who are the men who’ve led this group, and how exactly does this influential body choose its chairman?
A brief history of the forum reveals that since it was established in 1999 following a multi-party conference of all the 36 democratically elected State Governors, the Nigeria Governors Forum has been chaired by 5 different men, all from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The first chairman was Alhaji (Dr.) Abdullahi Adamu, the former governor of Nasarawa State. His tenure ran from 1999 to 2004.
After him was Arc. (Obong) Victor Attah, former governor of Akwa Ibom State. He led for two years, between 2004 to 2006. He had to step down as chairman as a result of his presidential ambitions. Unfortunately for him, his party’s ticket in that particular election was won by Umaru Musa Yaradua, a fellow member of the forum as Katsina governor.
Mr. Lucky Igbinedion, former governor of Edo State took over from Attah. He led the forum briefly between 2006 and 2007, when his tenure as Edo governor expired. Igbinedion has since been convicted on allegations of corruption by a Nigerian court.
At the advent of the new administration in 2007, the then Kwara governor, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, became chairman of the NGF. During his four year stint, the forum gained unprecedented clout, owing to the wobbly leadership of a sick president and subsequently a successor who largely owed his ascent to the intervention of the NGF.
Saraki handed over to the present chairman, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state in 2011.
The constitution of the forum was amended such that a governor can only serve as chairman for a two year tenure, effectively ensuring that no governor would ever serve as long as Saraki or Abdullahi for that matter except there’s another amendment.
Despite the current clamour by some governors that a popular election be held, it is on record that the forum’s chairman has never been elected via that means.
Every single chairman since 1999, has come in through consensus.
Power plays between President Goodluck Jonathan and Gov. Rotimi Amaechi have revealed cracks in the relationship between two of the most powerful men in the country.
After a meeting of the Forum on Wednesday, strong indications emerged that there were alleged plans by the Presidency to remove the Chairman of the Forum and governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi.
The NGF seems to be split as 4 governors namely Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Gabriel Suswam (Benue) and
Ibrahim Shema (Katsina) are believed to be spearheading intense moves to oust Amaechi (Rivers).
13 more governors are also believed to have tabled their “minimal demand” before the leadership of the NGF with a threat that they could be forced to pull out of the forum if its leadership continued in its refusal to adopt democratic tenets.
While the present chairman of the Forum also appears to have a few more governors in support of him than against – political calculations towards the 2015 elections will remain at the back of the minds of members of the Forum as well as political observers when the Forum meets on Monday.