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NGF crisis lingers as Obasanjo peace initiatives hit the rocks

By The Citizen
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The peace initiatives of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to douse the tension among the governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party were botched as both Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi; and his Plateau counterpart, Jonah Jang, could not be persuaded to step down for a neutral person as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF).

Obasanjo met with the governors on Tuesday night at the Presidential Villa, Abuja to intervene in the crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors' Forum.

Amaechi and Jang are both claiming the chairmanship of the forum since its controversial election three months ago. The NGF has since split into two with Amaechi and Jang controlling different factions.

Before the Tuesday's meeting, which ended at a few minutes after 3am, Obasanjo had earlier met with the governors on Monday night.

The two meetings were said to have centred on discipline in the PDP, the NGF crisis and sundry issues among which are the crisis in Rivers State; matter of  automatic tickets for political office holders, and lack of cohesion among the governors.

On Wednesday, it was gathered that some of the governors in the Jang faction of the NGF raised the matter of persuading both Jang and Amaechi to step down but those in the Amaechi Camp objected, saying that the matter was beyond what could be discussed at the meeting.

There were hopes that the issue would be resolved, but the matter assumed a new dimension at the resumed meeting on Tuesday when both parties refused to shift ground.

It was also gathered that Obasanjo had agreed to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan on the matter.

Speaking through the Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Yiljap Abraham, Jang said, 'The meeting is still inconclusive.'

The Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, described Amaechi as a defender of democratic principles and would not hesitate to yield to the opinion of the governors that voted him as their chairman.

Semenitari, who spoke  in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, explained that the governors had not asked Amaechi to step down, so he remained the NGF chairman,

She said, 'What I know is that Nigerians are aware of the democratic process by which the chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum was picked. As far as I know Governor Chibuike Amaechi, I also know that he believes that the democratic process should not in any way be one that we will treat with levity.

'Everybody who knows Amaechi knows that he does defend democratic principles. What I am certain of is that the Chairman of the NGF as of today is Rt. Honourable Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi.

'But if all of the governors, especially the governors who voted for Governor Amaechi, ask him to step down, that would mean that the majority of the governors have decided that there should be a new chairman. Naturally, he would concede to his colleagues. But today, that is not the case.'

Meanwhile, one of the aggrieved northern governors, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, on Wednesday met with the President behind closed-doors at the Villa, Abuja.

That was the first time Nyako would meet with Jonathan alone since the crises rocking the PDP and the NGF started.

While speaking with State House correspondents at the end of his meeting with Jonathan, Nyako insisted that Jang did not have any claim to the NGF chairmanship because he did not win the election.

When asked specifically whether the governors resolved at their recent meeting with Obasanjo that both Jang and Amaechi should step down as the chairman of the NGF, the governor said, 'You are saying Jang should step down, step down for what? Did he win the election? What we are saying here is that if he is going to step down because he is second winner, then that is their business and it is not the business of others or the winner to tell him to step down. He is number two, he got the second highest votes and that is the way forward. Step down for what? From number two to where? Number three or four?'

Nyako said the crisis in the NGF was unnecessary because it was clear that Amaechi won the election.

He said one of the criteria of electing a leader for the forum was that their chairman must be trustworthy.

He said while the governors wanted a chairman that would have a cordial relationship with the President, they could not be comfortable with a chairman that would turn himself to the President's 'yes man.'

Nyako said, 'The election in the governors' forum has become an issue. It should not be an issue. When you say 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20, even someone who is in elementary school knows which one is higher.

'If one group got 19 votes and the other got 16, in a democracy even in the eyes of the people in elementary school, they know that 19 is higher than 16. It should not be turned into a controversy.'

When asked whether the NGF issue was discussed in the meeting with Obasanjo, he simply said, 'It was part of it but you should understand the rationale.' - Punch.