by Paul Osas
The governor of Rivers state and winner of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) elections, Rotimi Amaechi, was at the NGF secretariat in Abuja on Tuesday to reassure management and staff that the ongoing fracas in the Forum would not affect their work and salaries.
He used the occasion to pass across a message that he had no intention of turning his back on the mandate freely given to him by his colleagues.
The Ekiti governor, Kayode Fayemi accompanied him on the visit.
When asked if he would yield to pressure and step down, Amaechi said:
“No, No, No. That is a mandate that was freely given and I would stick to that mandate.
“The election has come and gone, like I said after the election… It was a test for democracy and democracy won at the end of the day. All we can do as democrats that were elected by the people is to uphold democracy and stand by democracy.
“I honestly do not know why the disagreement, I don’t know why. I believe that my brothers and colleagues would see reason why we should stop distracting the country and get the country united to focus on development because at the end of the day it is about legacy. It is about what we would leave behind for the people.”
Then he went on to tackle the Ondo governor who has become one of his most vocal opponents. Mimiko claimed recently that he did not vote in the elections even though a video showed that 35 ballots were cast and 35 governors were present. And when the number of ballots were announced, Mimiko did not complain.
Amaechi’s response to Mimiko’s claim was: “Again, tell my brother Mimiko that he voted. If he still says he did not vote, I am willing to go with him to his church, Redeemed Church. We’ll kneel down at the altar and say it before God.”
As for Jonah Jang, the factional chairman of the forum, who despite not having enough votes declared that he was chairman and is now recognised by the PDP hierarchy and Aso Rock, Amaechi used a round-about way to accuse him of being untruthful.
“I want to urge Jang – because he said he is a Christian – to know that God watches over everybody and whatever you say, say it according to God because beyond NGF you and I know that there is heaven and you can’t go to heaven if you don’t tell the truth and stand by the truth. I am not saying he is not saying the truth; I am not saying he is not standing by the truth; I am just saying that nobody can go to heaven when he is not saying the truth,” he said.
He appealed to the Jang faction to sheathe its sword because, “There is no special benefit that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum Chairman is getting. I don’t see why there is this disagreement. When I read them saying I am desperate; desperate for what? I am only proving a point that Nigerians are allowed to run for any post they want to run. And when they do and they are elected, they should stick to their mandates. That is the only point.
“My brothers who are complaining, not about the election… should come back and let’s work together. They must be willing just as we are willing to accept. It is not really a battle; it is about God. I usually tell people, ‘don’t win the battle and lose the war’.
Amaechi said that he only needs support from four quarters – God, Nigerians, Governors and the President.
He said that his mandate as NGF chair was given by his colleagues and only they can remove him.
“When we say President, it is because he is the President of the country and all of us must be loyal to him, but my employers are the governors. If they wake up tomorrow and say ‘chairman you have to go’, then I will go. But they must wake up and say so. Not somebody saying it on their behalf.”
He highlighted what he saw as hypocrisy by his opponents who say the constitution was not amended with their consent.
“Now that we have emerged, they are now saying that the constitution is not correct. They were quoting that same constitution to subvert the election we would have held earlier. As much as possible, the strategy on our side is not to be confrontational.
“I think we should work together for the interest of the country. Poverty is everywhere. Poverty in 1970 was 30% or 31% but what is it now? It rose to as much as 70% in the last one year.”
To the NGF secretariat staff, he said: “It was a meeting of 36 governors and then I think that whatever the issues are will be resolved. I think that we should focus more on those issues that unite us, those issues like fight against poverty, fight against polio and malaria. These are things that are killing the poor.
“We are busy here at Abuja and different state headquarters talking about NGF election, when indeed Nigerians are dying of poverty and hunger.
“I think that as a secretariat you should focus on those issues. Forget the internal dynamics of the politics of NGF. We are colleagues. When we talk among ourselves, you will understand that there are underlining factors that are making them to behave the way they are behaving that you cannot take away. It is usually things that happen sometimes; it is beyond the control of the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, but either way be rest assured of you salaries.”
On his part, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, said: “As far as we are concerned, it is a period of sober reflection and healings. There are moves on all sides to ensure NGF stands on the side of truth. The NGF is not about the election that just held; it is about governance and development in our states.”
“Some of you are already confused about which NGF you work for; there is only one NGF. Governors will come and go, but NGF will remain.”
Fayemi also said that contrary to claims by the Jang faction that a hidden camera was used to record proceedings at the election, the recording was done in the open by a governor. He warned that there would be legal issues if anybody is found impersonating the NGF websites and other illegal actions.