The recent crisis within the NGF is not the first. Our false steps in an unhelpful race to the bottom of brinkmanship were similarly taken in recent past. It will be recalled that on the trail of the 2010 PDP presidential primaries, Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue state led an 11 PDP governors’ ( G-11) putsch against Governor Bukola Saraki chairmanship of the NGF. Bukola’s crime; daring to exercise his democratic right to contest for the presidential primary with the then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. Just like in recent times, the presidency denied
involvement but the star-governors in that 2010 NGF palace coup, namely Benue State governor Gabriel Suswam and the then Ogun State governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel were indeed regional campaign coordinators of President Goodluck Jonathan.
It took the spirited bi-partisan principled intervention of the likes of Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo Sate for Bukola to retain his chairmanship of the Forum. No doubt about it therefore; the recent feverish claim by group-18 that Governor Amaechi violated consensus succession arrangement and must therefore be denied chairmanship was a desperate smear diversion from his real crime; audacity to expresss his legitimate democratic aspirations ahead of 2015.
It is generally assumed that Nigerians have said a farewell to military forceful power usurpations, impunity, gross violations of human rights, and serial annulment of elections of the recent past. King Kongism however still runs through the veins of most notable politicians (or better still, militicians!) notwithstanding our annual “Democracy-Day activities” and inter-faith services and sermons in mosques and churches to match. It is certainly a sad commentary that some governors would not abide by the outcomes of the democratic process they willingly submitted to. The recent shameful executive disputations are as unhelpful as they are definitely aviodable . Given the way we are increasingly trampling underfoot basic democratic rights, criminalizing dissents, it is right
to say Francis Fakuyama wrote too much in a hurry to proclaim the “End of History”, global triumph of the market and “democracy” following the deafening collapse of Soviet communism in late 80s. It is NOT yet the end of history of executive impunities in Nigeria. The exhibited growing democratic deficits of some of our governors and the creeping dictatorship of some Federal operators are scary. Devil is in the details of the NGF elections ; Governors converged in Abuja to elect their Chairman with two contestants, namely the incumbent Chairman
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state and chanllenger, Plateau state governor, Jonah Jang. The elections did take place with votes reportedly counted. The results were actually announced by the Director General of the Forum indicating that Rotimi Amaechi won with 19 votes while Jang polled 16 votes. Barely before the observers could make sense out of a simple process of getting a Chairman for 36 governors, some 18 governors (including those that participated in the seemingly concluded fair process and one that did not attend) stunned the nation with a different result that Jonah Jang was the new Chairman. And within 24 hours” (in their words), the splinter faction held an “inaugural meeting of the Forum under Jang leadership,”. The lowest point in the incepent executive brinkmanship
was when President Goodluck Jonathan formally accorded Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang recognition as the authentic chairman.
Benjamin Disraeli, who in the 19th century was twice Prime Minister of Great Britian once observed that; “The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians”. Until recently President Goodluck Jonathan had a respected image of an emerging statesman given his statesmanship approach to Edo, Ekiti Osun and Ondo state elections in which he promptly recognised elected governors in these sates regardless of their party affiliations and in deference to INEC declared results or judicial pronouncements. Pitching tent (out of sheer partisan preference) with a factional NGF led by ever divisive Governor Jang regrettably diminished the President’s hitherto celebrated statesmanship credentials. It is not too late for President Jonathan to recognize and congratulate Amaechi on emerging as the chairman of NGF. It’s all about the principles and respect for democratic outcomes
however unfavourable. Admittedly yours comradely has no cause to be kind or charitable with Governor Amaechi who used the platform of NGF to oppose minimum wage (only Oshiomhole commendably “voted” against the governors who openly ganged against minimum wage law). Amaechi led-NGF crudely dared to remove minimum wage on the exclusive listing of the constitution even as he could pay for a 40 million dollar state jet in the same economy that says N18,000 minimum wage was too high. As wrong headed and reactionary his leadership of NGF was, it does not mean that he should be denied a mandate he was freely given by his peers within the
Forum. Labour would always engage any leadership of NGF. The presidency must adopt similar statesmanship approach to NGF and all state and non-state institutions. I agree with Linda Lingle that “Politicians all too often think about the next election. Statesmen think about the next generation”. President Jonathan must
rethink the implication of non-respect for unfavourable democratic outcomes for the future of democracy in Nigeria.
Lastly, the most intriguing was Governor Mimiko of Ondo. His recent negative visibility on the side of unfairness and incipient fascism curiously looked like a total commitment just as making a beacon by a pig is not a partial commitment. But why? After undermining a group cohesion, he cheekily read out a six-point communique according to which the Forum “is committed to continued peer review as well as productive and collaborative engagements of governments at all levels”.Ben Okri, the great Nigerian writer, would characterise Mimiko’s double talks as “..Words said and not meant…. Words divorced from feeling…. Dead words” . But even worse, while decrying Governor Amaechi for presiding over his re-election he was quoted as saying the “option opened to us would have been to be physical….”.
Haba! A governor whose political party proclaims Social Democracy as its ideology taunting an executive thuggery as an “option” in a democracy stretched impunity to its limit. Whence the statesmanship? A spectacular picture of some stone-throwing governors over a simple election was better imagined! Increasingly Labour Party (LP) has become a flag of convenience for opportunistic office seekers who seem to believe in nothing but definitely fall for anything. The web site of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) (www.nggovernorsforum.org) says the Forum “is a policy think tank and coalition of the elected Governors of the country’s 36 States”. NGF was conceived as an informal Forum for pan-Nigerian platform for governors cutting across parties and regions. However the Forum has further mirrored the increasing divides of the nation. Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) just marked 50th anniversary during which African youths demanded for immediate common citizenship, borderless continent. It is regrettable that at the time of African renaissance, we are assaulted with discredited exclusive enclaves; South―South governors Forum, Northern Governors Forum, PDP governors Forum and opposition governors Forum. It’s time we reinvented all inclusive statesmanship for good governance, national development and pan-Africanism.
Issa Aremu mni ([email protected])