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Power Struggle Splits Governors' Forum As Saraki Hangs On To Chairmanship

Source: AUSTYN OGANNAH. - thewillnigeria.com
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San Francisco, Oct 31, (THEWILL) – The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) may have become engulfed in the tension and disagreements enveloping Nigeria’s political landscape as Kwara State Governor, Chairman of the NGF and presidential aspirant of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Bukola Saraki has challenged the appointment of Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel as the new Chairman of the influential Forum.

Recall that Benue State Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswan had announced to the media on Saturday, October 30, 2010 that the Governors’ Forum had selected Gbenga Daniel as its new Chairman following Saraki’s declaration to contest in the 2011 presidential election.

Gbenga Daniel is also the South-West Coordinator of the Jonathan/Sambo presidential campaign.

However, contrary to Suswan’s claim, in an email statement to THEWILL today signed by ‘Asishana Okauru Esq, Director General, Nigeria Governors' Forum Secretariat, On behalf of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Chairman, Nigeria Governors' Forum’, Saraki said several state governors have denied knowledge of the selection of Gbenga Daniel as the Forum’s new Chairman.

“They (governors) argued that the meeting where the action was taken was not convened in accordance with the laid down procedures that have been followed over the years. They therefore see this development as inimical to the internal democratic process, the culture of inclusiveness and consensus on which the NGF was built, and on which it has operated,” the statement said.

Saraki therefore urged Governor-members of the Forum and the general public to disregard the reports.

“Therefore, in keeping with the desire of majority of NGF members, he calls on the general public to disregard the said newspaper reports; saying that a meeting has been called where a decision will be taken on the issue of leadership of the NGF in keeping with the laid down procedures of the Forum,” the statement added.

Photo: Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.

The statement in full reads:

“RE: NIGERIA GOVERNORS’ FORUM LEADERSHIP

“The attention of His Excellency, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has been drawn to reports in some national newspapers, today October 31st, 2010 that the Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel has been selected as the new Chairman of the NGF.

“Since the reports, Dr. Saraki has received complaints from several State Governors who have denied any knowledge of, or involvement in the action. They argued that the meeting where the action was taken was not convened in accordance with the laid down procedures that have been followed over the years. They therefore see this development as inimical to the internal democratic process, the culture of inclusiveness and consensus on which the NGF was built, and on which it has operated.

“Dr. Saraki wishes to note that due process and strict adherence to laid down procedures are paramount in any democratic institution. He assures all members of the NGF and the Nigerian public that these principles will be followed in this case.

“Therefore, in keeping with the desire of majority of NGF members, he calls on the general public to disregard the said newspaper reports; saying that a meeting has been called where a decision will be taken on the issue of leadership of the NGF in keeping with the laid down procedures of the Forum.

“Dr. Saraki wishes to note further that the strength of the NGF, which has played key roles in resolving some important political challenges in our country in recent years despite its varied membership, depends on the sense of belonging and inclusiveness that it is able to give to all its members. And for the NGF to continue to play this critical role in the politics and governance of this country in the future, its leadership must be positioned to readily inspire the confidence of all its members and be seen to be guided by laid down standards of democratic practice."

Reacting to the election of Daniel, Edo State Governor and member of the forum, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), expressed disappointment with the process that threw up Daniel as Chairman.

Oshiomhole in a Benin City news briefing said: “Yesterday, I watched a news item to the effect that Daniel has been elected as Chairman of the Governor’s Forum and according to the report, Suswam claimed that the decision was unanimous. The truth of the matter is that the governors’ forum is scheduled to meet on Wednesday. I was taken aback when I read the story because the day before, I received invitation from the out going chairman (Saraki), in which he summoned a meeting of the Governors’ Forum for Wednesday at 8 p.m. So when I watched that news I got confused, and I can confirm that as a matter of fact there was no meeting of the governors’ forum, the governors’ forum is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

“However some PDP governors, not more than 16 or 17 of them met at a venue that was never the venue for our meetings at Ogun State Government Lodge and it is that forum they are now claiming represents the Governors’ Forum.

“If Gbenga wishes to chair the Governors’ Forum, he should come through the front door and I think it is important that we remind ourselves that we are supposed to live by example, our action more than our words make several statements about our commitment to democratic norms and values. If a caucus of governors met to choose or to identify with a particular individual that cannot be mistaken for governors’ forum. And for me, I found it extremely embarrassing and I thought it is important I disassociate myself from that claim and appeal to my colleagues that all of us must be seen to be committed to President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to electoral reform,” Oshiomhole said.

In his reaction, Kano State ANPP Governor, Dr Ibrahim Shekarau through his Media Aide, Malam Sule Ya'u Sule, said he was not consulted on the matter and therefore dissociated himself from the selection of Daniel.

He said: “Kano State Governor Malam Ibrahim Shekarau has dissociated himself from the purported appointment of Governor Gbenga Daniel of Ogun State as the new Chairman of the Nigeria Governor’s forum.

“To the best of His Excellency’s knowledge there was never a meeting where a decision to appoint a new Chairman of the forum was reached.

“A situation where some few PDP Governors could sit and take a decision on behalf of 36 Governors is not acceptable, more so the forum is not only for PDP governors but all governors including those from other political parties as such it is a non-partisan forum.”

“Governor Ibrahim Shekarau therefore recognizes only Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State as the Chairman of the forum.”