More than anything else, the bitter rivalry over the Nigerian Governors' Forum chairmanship, is an indication of what to come in the 2015 elections.
With each passing day, only the discerning is able to see the representative danger inherent in the bitter politics that seems to be defining the proposed election of the chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). The issues are pointless, petty and unintelligent. The analysis is scary just as the implications are niggling. But the actors are less bothered. Instead, they have continued to display crass insensitivity to the collective good on the altar of politics and ego and they are not stopping yet.
Although, the incumbent NGF chairman and Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, has not fixed a date for the election for obvious reasons, the presidency as an interested party in the affairs of the NGF has thrown caution in the wind, causing as much chaos and discontent in the polity as this owes critical its survival.
The supremacy battle peaked last week with an even more damning twist. In the latest pull, the president was alleged to have adopted some sinister ploy in the streak to not only break Amaechi but seize complete control of the NGF. Here, the president, sources hinted, had employed compulsion as a tool, in addition to the threat, blackmail and harassment that had characterised the trend.
Shortly after the National Economic Council meeting last week, the president was said to have invited some of the governors to his office to sign an undertaking, declaring support for him over the NGF chairmanship election.
Apart from having dropped the Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, for his Bauchi State counterpart, Isa Yuguda, as the establishment candidate for the office of NGF chairman in what appeared a game changer; the need to secure as many supports as possible was believed to have led to the latest development.
THISDAY learnt at the weekend that Jonathan had invited some of the governors whose loyalty was still in doubt to his office and insisted they must sign an undertaking and pledge loyalty as the NGF election inches closer, although without a date in view yet.
According to sources, the president had invited the Kebi State Governor, Saidu Dakingari; Yobe State Governor, Ibrahim Geidam; Kwara State Governor, Abdul-fatah Ahmed and Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, to his office to sign the undertaking after the NEC meeting presided over by Vice-President Namadi Sambo.
The President, sources said, had done this with subtle threat on the implications of not supporting him in the bid to edge out Amaechi, as well as the benefits that accrue to supporting the presidential project.
Although, three of the governors- Dakingari, Geidam and Ahmed allegedly stooped to the president’s threat and signed the undertaking, the Borno State Governor, Shettima, was said to have declined and accused the president of blackmail, arm-twisting, and harassment, noting that the reason the president was doing that was to prevent the NGF from holding the all-important election.
Shettima, sources said, insisted there was no justification for signing any undertaking and allegedly reiterated the implications of interfering in the affairs of the governors as a body, adding that the recourse to blackmail by the president in order to have his way would backfire, the implications of which would be enormous.
Besides, the dropping of Shema for Yuguda has been hinged on political exigency. Sources said the reason Jonathan had dropped Shema was because the president’s camp sensed that Yuguda could play a spoiler if not fielded since he had indicated a strong interest in the seat.
The calculation, sources noted further, was predicated on the fact that since Shema was already an in-house person and a stakeholder in the Jonathan re-election project, it was only sensible to lure Yuguda, who was believed to have more than a passing influence on his Gombe State counterpart, Ibrahim Dankwambo, to their camp and then, continue to build a formidable team, albeit to rattle Amaechi.
As a result, the equation has since changed from Amaechi versus Shema to Amaechi versus Yuguda even though in the real sense, it is Amaechi versus Jonathan.
While Amaechi being the NGF chair is undecided on a date for the election because of the confusion that has dogged the exercise, sources said the reason Jonathan has embraced a somewhat desperate measure was because of his plan to stop the election at all cost since it has become apparent that an open-secret ballot would not serve his interest and the only way to go about it was to stop the election from holding.
Observers contended that it was enough to bother the rational mind that with the insistence of the pro-Amaechi governors that the only way to the election is an open-secret ballot as guaranteed by the constitution of the NGF, then, there is serious problem.
That the president and his foot-soldiers had latched on to various excuses to justify the descent into indecent politics also calls for reflections. From the argument that Amaechi wanted to challenge Jonathan to the fact that he was romancing former president Olusegun Obasanjo, have all been played up without substance or even proof of the allegations. Yet the polity is on steady heat.
Particularly instructively is the fact that what is happening now signposts something loathsome for the polity- it is the fact that the 2015 election may have been doomed! The degree of desperation on the part of the president to always want to have his way with brute force and without properly analysing the consequences of his actions suggests that the same treatment could be administered on the 2015 elections- subverting all known democratic norms and tenets.
It is no wonder, therefore, that observers believed that those desirous of an enduring democratic legacy for the country must stand up and be counted. Whatever are Amaechi’s shortfalls- either as an individual, chairman of NGF, or Rivers Governor- observers believed are not enough to jeopardise the gains of democracy in one fell swoop, either for personal aggrandizement or ego massaging.
Unfortunately, the governors, observers held are no more than a sheer disappointment. They argued that the crisis in the NGF may have further exposed the corruption of most of the governors since the only reason the president could blackmail them is because their hands are not clean and in the event that he chooses to send the anti-graft agencies after them, then, they would be consumed.
Observers therefore see the latest development as an eye-opener in the next general election. That choice is inevitable in 2015 is common place. The indices are there and Nigerians may exercise their franchise more determined than they have ever been.
Indeed, the country faces a lot more challenges than to dissipate as much energy, time and resources in advancing personal causes with no convincing raison d’etre other than a self-serving motive.