by Stanley Azuakola
The controversy which trailed the NGF election that held on 25th May, has refused to go away. Whereas Gov. Amaechi of Rivers won the election that day, a faction led by Gov. Jonah Jang of Plateau chose not to concede defeat, and has since been parading itself as the authentic Governors’ Forum, and even recently launched a new secretariat.
That faction led by Jang has won the endorsement of Aso Rock, and the PDP hierarchy. However the major opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria, as well as some local and zonal PDP chapters have pitched tents with Gov. Amaechi.
The Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi, in a recent interview with a national newspaper, gave reasons why he voted for Gov. Amaechi, and not the other candidate.
He said, “The reality is that we all refer to the President as our President, we respect his office, but we also feel strongly that we all have constitutional responsibilities to our people who elected us and to Nigeria collectively, and we must not do anything to shirk those responsibilities that have been placed on our laps.
“So, if anyone is saying that Amaechi is doing this, wanting to become a President, it is not to our knowledge that he has ambition to contest for Presidency, if indeed he has any.
“My reason for voting for him is that he has shown strength of character in an environment in which courage is in short supply, he has shown independent leadership, and he has shown responsibility in protecting the integrity of the Forum and the yearning of the governors.
“He has never deviated from any decision taken by the governors by consensus, even if those decisions might put him into trouble at the Presidency.”
Fayemi however clarified that voting for Amaechi was not to show that they were against the president. He explained that the votes given to Amaechi were neither “anti Presidency votes” nor were they “pro Amaechi votes.” According to him, “They were simply aimed at guarding the independence and integrity of the Forum jealously, as a body of elected governors, not a partisan body along party lines, even though we are politicians, it is a body based on our interests collectively and individually.”
The Ekiti governor also refuted claims that Amaechi’s victory was secured by opposition parties in order to spite President Jonathan.
“Factually speaking,” he said, “Governor Jang also has some of the non-PDP members in his support too. Governor Obi of APGA and Governor Mimiko of Labour Party voted for him and were some of his most vocal promoters. It is therefore not correct to say opposition or governors from the other parties are the ones causing crisis in NGF. Governors voted according to their own interests, according to their own reading of who will be pursue the interest of their own party and their own state and that is perfectly legitimate in my view.”
He gave an example of the kind of interest which the ACN governors believed made Amaechi the better candidate.
“It is no secret that we are very passionate about fiscal federalism and about reducing the powers at the centre through devolution and making states and local governments more accountable. I am sure you know that Amaechi is also very strong on those issues. It is therefore not difficult to come to the conclusion that the best way to go is to vote in a chairman who will not tie us to the apron strings of the Federal Government,” Fayemi said.
He further said that even though he had no doubt that if Amaechi were to call a meeting of the 19 governors who voted for him, they would all show up, they decided not to call any such meeting “until everybody is back on the same page. We need to appeal to all to sheathe their swords, let’s try and bring all our people back. And I understand that similar moves are being made from the other side. Thank God the Presidency has come out to say the President is not intervening in the NGF affairs and I want to commend the President for this.”