The Nigerian governors forum was formed in 1999 as a forum for the governors to supposedly discuss issues of mutual concerns to their various states and the country in general. It has been reported that the governors used the the National Governors Association of the United States as a template.
However, unlike their counterparts in the United States, the Nigerian Governors elect their chairman and vice chairman for two year terms. The National Governors Association of the United States do not elect their chairs and vice chairs. It rotates automatically every year between the democrats and the republicans, thereby avoiding contentious elections and aggrandizement of power.
On May 24 this year, the Nigerian governors held their so called election for a new chair and vice chair. Governor Rotimi Amaechi of the Rivers state, who was the chairman ran again for the position. However, almost half of the governors-predominantly from his own party PDP- opposed his desire for a second term and preferred Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State. Amaechi reportedly had the support of 19 governors, while 16 were opposed to him.
The opposing governors led by Imoke of Cross River State, Mimiko of Ondo State, Obi of Anambra State, Uduaghan of Delta State and Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, stated that they reached a consensus agreement to rotate the chair between the north and the south, and hence no need for an election. Since Amaechi is from the South and has already served for 2 years they reasoned, it is time to shift it to the North, hence the choice of Jonah Jang as chair (PDP-North) and Governor Mimiko (LP-South).
However, Governor Amaechi and his own supporters insisted on having an election in which he claims to have been re-elected to a second two year term. Since then, you have two competing factions of the NGF with no side in the typical Nigerian fashion giving an inch. It is noteworthy that despite his Igbo name-not trying to be sarcastic-no Igbo governor deemed it necessary to support or vote for him in the so called election. I guess since he and his Ikwerre folks said they are not Igbo, why bother. Okorocha was straddling the fence. Likewise, no governor from the South-South supported Governor Amaechi.
But why is Amaechi trying to cling on to the chairmanship after serving for two years. One wonders why a governor with infinite responsibilities to take care of in his state, will want the added distractions of this position. The simple answer is that the governors forum has taken a life of its own and become a center of opposition to the President, instead of been a forum for constructive discussions and problem solving amongst the governors.
Given Governor Amaechi's current political predicament vis a vis the Presidency, it is not difficult to see why he would want to cling to that position. Understandably, Amaechi has Presidential ambitions, but the forum should not be used as a lunch pad for actualizing such ambitions. The forum was created as an association of willing equals. There is nothing in the law or in the constitution that created the forum. Any governor is free to join or not to join. In this regard, the chairman should be seen as the coordinator of twelve triumvirates, a temporary primus inter pares and not as the boss or headmaster.
The governors know how to resolve this issue quickly, but most of them are grandstanding in order to create distractions from their own domestic problems and at the same time keep the Presidency unbalanced prior to 2015 elections. They have not taken the right roads which are-First, Amaechi should do the statesmanlike thing and resign as chairman.
Second, Governor Jang should agree to serve for only one year and hand over to somebody else. Third, the Governors agree on automatic rotation of the chair and vice chair between North and South every year. This would remove the incentive for aggrandizement of power and at the same time ensure that every governor gets his or her turn as chair or vice chair. Fourth, the Governors should have their meetings at a neutral place, not at the lodge of the governor who happens to be the the chair as has been the case. Fifth, instead of trying to play the role of the federal legislature and executive, the forum should adopt a lower profile.
In the United States, few Americans know about the existence of the National Governors Association, despite the fact that it has been around for decades. This is because they focus on issues of common interests to their respective states, sensitize the president on their needs and avoid becoming a bastion of opposition to the federal government. The governors are elected to govern their states, and not to become instrumentalities of Presidential destabilization.
As usual after giving poor Nigerian folks high blood pressure with their shenanigans, most of these governors will jet out to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to spend some money, instead of going to Tinapa Resort in Cross River State where that money will help support Governor Imoke's tireless efforts to turn it into Africa's biggest resort. `