by Tola Sarumi
Let me start by saying, I am not a fan of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum. Like most Nigerians, I think of it as an avenue self interested politicians use to ensure their ‘will is done’ so to speak. Until Rotimi Amaechi that is. The Rivers State Governor has been the spice in the political broth recently, in more ways than one.
The NGF, under his leadership, has proved to be opinionated and willing to disagree with the federal government way. As it goes in Nigerian politics, the actors look after parochial interests that serve the narrowest interests. Amaechi in his role, was not expected to challenge the president; the Forum, being that it is also dominated by PDP members, was essentially to reaffirm the federal government’s stance and where there were differences, they were to be expressed with caution.
The governor presides over a state that gave the president the highest percentage of votes he received in any state. Rivers is a PDP state so much so that Amaechi himself is governor by virtue of a (highly controversial) Supreme Court decision that held that the electorate voted for the party and not the candidate, Amaechi, having won the PDP primaries, became the duly sworn in governor.
The point of all this is that he is not a neophyte, Amaechi is used to fighting battles in which he is the underdog and emerging as the winner.
In his bid to tame Amaechi’s independent streak, the Presidency (the president himself has been careful to put a semblance of distance between himself and the actions that seem to pointedly target Amaechi) has taken steps that prima facie look legal but on closer examination are designed to frustrate him into submission. The private jet saga, threatening to withdraw the governor’s security details, locking the Rivers State House of Assembly and perhaps most egregious, displacing all state level party officials that were seen as too loyal to him.
The danger for Jonathan in all this is he risks making Amaechi a hero of sorts, Nigerians, so unused to seeing any one taking on the might of the federal government are lining up behind Amaechi, even whilst professing their distaste for the NGF. Whilst there is no doubt that that if the elections were to hold tomorrow Jonathan would win, he appears to have inadvertently set in motion a set of events that’ll only serve to weaken his own chances of another term.
The most desirous outcome for the government would have been for Gov. Jang of Plateau to have emerged as victor in the NGF election. The NGF would go on being largely insignificant and in lock step with Jonathan’s moves, Jang is inoffensive, incurious and would have been perfect. What we have instead is a Forum near collapse. This would leave the regional Governors, especially the Northern Governors’ Forum, too strong for Jonathan to ever counter.
It is an open secret that the ‘North’ has no wish to see a second GEJ term, a Northern NGF would not be shy in expressing these sentiments, where the central body was careful enough to sound collegial.
The president also risks looking petty, though this may be the least of his worries, if the party persists with its witch-hunt against Amaechi. The governor is wildly popular in his state, if PDP (and by extension, Jonathan) choose to ramp up its war against an obstinate Amaechi, they risk forcing the governor in to the arms of an opposition that will only be too happy to fire this potent shot across the ruling party’s bow.
The president also risks further stoking the fires of true federalism, as a result of the threat to withdraw Amaechi’s security detail, Babangida Aliyu, the Niger State governor, mused that having a state controlled police force might just be a good idea, no Northern governor had previously expressed such a sentiment and if Abuja’s hand continues to stir the broth in Rivers, who knows what long term effects it could have not just on Rivers but on Nigeria as a whole.
Olusegun Mimiko has nailed his colours to the PDP mast, it seems his desire to stem ACN’s relentless take over of the South West states is leading him to making overtures to the PDP. I’m of no doubt that the governor is popular in his state but this is a rather curious game he is playing.
On the matter of the Security Service agents killing in Nassarrawa, the head of the SSS was quoted as saying that the service will leave the killers to the ‘God of vengeance’. This was one of the more disgusting things I’d read in a while. Divine justice is something that must be left to the Divine to mete out, true but earthly justice is needed here. These killers, if that’s what they are, need to be made to account for their dastardly actions, this will show that the state cares about the men and women we send to harm’s way, there can be no compromise on this.
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