by Dare Lawal
It would have been a surprise if the statements made by Kano governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in Lagos on Tuesday were left unchallenged by key actors in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election drama. Barely 24 hours after the Kwankwaso’s remarks became widely circulated in the media, two state governors have responded to their colleague.
Isa Yuguda and Gabriel Suswam, the governors of Bauchi and Benue respectively, who were particularly mentioned by Gov. Kwankwaso in reference to their decision to quit the Northern States Governors’ Forum fired back at the Kano governor in separate statements.
Yuguda described Kwankwaso’s decision to nominate Jang in order to set him up for failure and his admission of same, as a tragedy for Nigeria.
On Monday, Kwankwaso had disclosed that it was he who nominated Jang as a compromise candidate for the North, a decision which he said he took to teach the anti Amaechi governors in the NGF a political lesson.
“It was a game and we were trying to prove to them that nobody can shave our heads in our absence. We proved to them that they are still at the elementary level of politics,” Kwankwaso said.
But Yuguda did not see things that way, instead he questioned the kind of leadership Kwankwaso “and his likes” were providing if that was the type of politics they preferred.
“Kwankwaso has spoken his mind and he has confirmed that his idea behind nominating Jang was to go and disgrace him. If you read the piece, that is a tragedy for Nigeria.
“So for you to say that you did this thing so that you will go and disgrace him, I don’t know where we are going and if that is the calibre of leadership we want to give to Nigerians, then we have a problem.
“If I as a leader, as a governor, will look at my colleague and sit and I take a decision ostensibly to go and disgrace him, then it is a tragedy. Where is our morality, where is Islam and Christainity in this country for goodness sake,” he said.
He said that he (Yuguda) would never have done such a thing to anyone but would simply have looked the person in the face “and tell him that I am not going to go with you, I am going with this gentleman.”
Speaking further, Yuguda said: “Being the chairman of the forum is not supposed to be a do-or-die affair the way some of our governors have taken it to be. It is not supposed to be an elective issue, because since 1999, the first set of governors of the present democracy, who started it, never had elections.
“Even when he, Amaechi, became chairman, we never had election. I was in Ilorin when Danjuma Goje proposed him as the consensus candidate, I seconded and he took over from (Bukola) Saraki.
“We were 13 in number and we all agreed that election cannot be held because it will divide us even if we were all in one party.”
On the issue of his decision to quit the Northern States Governors’ Forum, which Kwankwaso warned could be the biggest mistake of his and Suswam’s career, the Bauchi governor said he could not be part of a group where the members are dishonest with one another.
According to him, the 19 governors of the NSGF agreed to present Jang as their consensus candidate after he was nominated by Kwankwaso, a motion seconded by Suswam. They presented their decision to the Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF) making 23 people backing the candidacy of Jang and ordinarily that should have carried the day for Jang.
He however added that even though he would no longer attend NSGF meetings, Bauchi state still remains a part of the forum and the deputy governor would attend meetings.
Yuguda exonerated Pres. Jonathan from the politics of the NGF.
“What would the president gain by sponsoring a chairman for the NGF?” he queried, adding that Jang had no intention of contesting and even walked into the meeting late before he was proposed as the consensus candidate.
“If the president wanted to stop Amaechi, then it meant that everybody except Amaechi was the president’s man. The president has to be insulated from all this.
“In fact, we are always trivialising the office of the president and I don’t know why because the public has always seen the president as maybe something else. But God asked us to respect our leaders and we should not ridicule the president by saying that he is interfering in the situation,” he said.
On his part, the Benue governor, Gabriel Suswam responded directly to the Kano governor’s remarks about his withdrawal from the NSGF. In a statement issued by his office, Suswam took exception to the insinuation of Kwankwaso that his decision to leave the NSWF was against the interests of his people.
He said, “This is certainly untrue and a total misinterpretation of the decision of Governor Suswam on the subject matter under discourse. Governor Suswam wishes to state in very clear terms that on the contrary, he is a leader that takes decisions carefully and weighs the implications on his people.
“His decision to withdraw from meetings of the Northern Governors Forum was also well thought out and taken in the overall interest of the people of Benue State whom he represents, as well as the people of the old Northern Region of which Benue people are a proud part,” it read.