As the election for the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) is around the corner, the presidency and the supporters of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State are set for a “do or die” contest.
While some governors of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) want Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State as the sole candidate for the chairmanship position of the NGF, others want Governor Amaechi to run for a second term. Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State and his Jigawa State counterpart, Alhaji Sule Lamido, are reportedly mobilising their northern colleagues to return Amaechi to the office.
Reporters learnt that the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) leader and key promoter of the All ProgressiveCongress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has been drawn into the politics of succession in the NGF.
He is allegedly mobilising the APC governors against Shema, who has been allegedly anointed by the presidency to replace GovernorAmaechi.
Sources within the PDP and the NGF claimed that Kwankwaso and Lamido had been holding regular meetings with Amaechi on how they can get the support of their colleagues to return the Rivers State boss to the office.
The meetings were allegedly shelved when Governor Lamido travelled abroad for his annual vacation.
Amaechi’s abrupt ending of the meeting of the NGF, ostensibly in honour of the deputy governor of Ekiti State who died recently, was to avert a looming stormy session.
At the PDP Governors’ Forum which preceded the meeting of the larger NGF, a bloc of the party’s governors loyal to the presidency was allegedly poised to hijack the modus operandi for the election as well as nominate a presiding officer for the forthcoming election.
Their move forced Amaechi to end the meeting to allow his group strategise as it was clear that the Shema group would outnumber Amaechi’s and have its way at the meeting.
It was learnt that the development informed Amaechi’s visit to Kano the next day where he held a closed-door meeting with Kwankwaso on how he could be re-elected.
It was further gathered that against the “being in the state (Kano) to see for himself the level of development and transformation he had been told about” tale that Amaechi told newsmen prompted his visit, the real purpose of the trip was to perfect his strategy for the NGF chairmanship contest.
With talks of dumping the PDP hovering on the head of the Kano governor, sources said that Kwankwaso’s role had been strategic as, aside lobbying some northern colleagues, the governor’s rumoured decamp to the APC is also said to put him in the comfort zone of the 11 APC governors.
Of the 36 state governors, the PDP which has 23 is caught in its own game as the division within the ranks of the state helmsmen as regards affiliation means the chairmanship of the NGF will be won by the candidate who gets the bloc vote of the APC governors expected to back Amaechi in the bid to check President Jonathan’s influence ahead of 2015.
Sources said subtle entreaties have been made to both Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) and Tinubu to ensure that the APC governors help Governor Amaechi to stop the presidency’s candidate.
Among the PDP governors, Amaechi reportedly enjoys the support of the governors of Niger, Kano, Jigawa, Enugu, Delta, Sokoto, Benue, Adamawa and Kebbi states. He is also expected to get the endorsement of Peter Obi of Anambra State while Shema may get the nod of the governors of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Plateau, Kaduna, Ebonyi and Abia states.
The battle to covert the governors of Bauchi, Kwara, Kogi, Taraba and Gombe states, who are said to be playing safe, is the source of the current headache for the contending groups, as their votes can go either way.
It is this division that informs the PDP’s push for a consensus candidate amongst its governors since they are in the majority, a move allegedly opposed by Kwankwaso, Lamido and Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State.
While both Kwankwaso and Aliyu have been dealing with the PDP-GF with a cold shoulder, Lamido has rejected the Governor Godswill Akpabio-led leadership of the forum, describing it as alien to him. Till date, Lamido has not attended any meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum.
The chairmanship seat of the NGF was a non-issue until the relationship between Amaechi and President Jonathan turned sour.
While a salient political war between the Ijaws and Ikwerres is said to be the genesis of the bitter rivalry between the two leaders, the seeming muscle-flexing has since degenerated into a full-blown crisis with issues regarding 2015 election now on the front burner.