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Governors' Forum and the struggle within

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'If governors will seek to outsmart each other and manipulate a process that is fairly simple and straight forward, how can we expect that as leaders, we are all committed to genuine electoral reforms'

—Governor Adams Oshiomhole
It was the worst example of a coup d'état; but last weekend, it was reported that 'only 11 governors attended the meeting', according to a statement issued by the secretariat of the Nigerian Governors' Forum, nevertheless, these men announced a leadership change in the NGF. For the plotters, the niceties of a democratic gathering did not matter (in any case, which one of these governors was genuinely a product of free and fair votes?), but the pre-determined outcome. The 11 governors in attendance summarily announced the end of Bukola Saraki's reign as the chairman of the larger-than-life body, and in his place, 'elected' Gbenga Daniel. As The Nation newspaper reported on Monday, November 1, 2010, 'forces in the presidency, including President Goodluck Jonathan, and some governors loyal to him, had been uncomfortable that Saraki was still calling the shots at the forum'.

The plotters believed that chairmanship of the Governors' Forum conferred undue advantage on Bukola Saraki, as a presidential aspirant. Saraki's removal, like a witches' broth, was cooked in the haloed precincts of Aso Villa, last Friday, the same day that government-approved billionaires like Femi Otedola, Jimoh Ibrahim, AbdulSamad Rabiu, Mike Adenuga and others, were corralled into donating money for the Jonathan/Sambo campaign. So not only was money collected, Jonathan and his governor-supporters also planned a 'coup'! 'The (fund raising) event had hardly ended at about midnight when some PDP governors who attended headed for the presidential villa to visit the president. Thereafter, the governors relocated to the Ogun State Governor's lodge in Abuja where Saraki was removed and Daniel enthroned', according to THE NATION's report. In the first outing after the 'coup', Gabriel Suswam of Benue, said (the irredeemably controversial) Gbenga Daniel had been installed 'due to his exemplary leadership qualities (REALLY?), track record (WHAT MANNER OF RECORD?) and experience as a second-term governor'.

Gabriel Suswam might be pardoned for throwing empty words, in that first instance, but the clincher was still to come. Saraki was removed, he said, because he 'is contesting the presidential election in 2011'! But it is a most incredible reason to give, since Suswan appeared to have forgotten, in the triumphal tone befitting a plotter, that Gbenga Daniel is co-ordinator of Jonathan's presidential campaign in the Southwest! Apparently in the new order of things, the only form of politicking allowed is that which promotes the candidacy of Goodluck Jonathan. But like conspirators who hurriedly buried a corpse but ended with its leg sticking out from the ground, the Goodluck Jonathan-supporting governors were caught out in their pants, when Adam Oshiomhole bluntly responded that 'I can confirm as a matter of fact that there was no meeting of the Governors' Forum. The Governors' Forum is going to meet on Wednesday. However, some Peoples Democratic Party governors met at a venue that was never a venue of our meeting at Governor Daniel's lodge-and it was at that forum that they are now claiming to represent the Governors' Forum'.

The sloppy manner by which the coup was conducted certainly hurt the amour propre of other members of the Forum, because the Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau also rejected the purported change of leadership: 'a situation where some few PDP governors could sit and take a decision on behalf of 36 governors is not acceptable'. Governor Babangida of Niger state added that even though the position was a honorary one, due process must be followed in choosing a successor to Saraki. 'No person can go outside the forum to elect a chairman'. That 11 governors did just that at the weekend, gives another indication of the modus operandi of the people around Jonathan. If they were that desperate to carry out their own form of a coup, they might as well have consulted with one of the many retired warrant officers from the army that litter our country. The manner that the nocturnal removal of Bukola Saraki was engineered, with the active support of the presidency, underlines the desperate incompetence of the Jonathan camp!

We also saw again an example of the PDP manner of doing things with impunity, at a time when Goodluck Jonathan never ceases to mouth his commitment to democratic norms. Not even an iota of respect for their colleagues in the Forum. While the truth is that given his vulnerable position; his lack of charisma and a near-absent grip on the machinery of politics and party, Jonathan can only to the level that he able to in so many things since his assumption of power, but especially in recent weeks. That the Governors' Forum became another turf of contestation is indicative of the fact that Jonathan and his supporters are in the fight of their political lives, reflecting Dr Tafida's statement that Jonathan would pay any price to nick PDP candidacy. It should not even surprise us if at the end of the day, they score a pyrrhic victory, given the PDP dominance within the Forum!

The portents for the 2011 elections cannot be bright in the context that we have witnessed in recent days in the NGF. The PDP and its governors have been cultured within a tradition of impunity and have themselves been some of the worst expressions of all that is wrong with Nigeria's politics from 1999. They have been products of cloak-and-dagger politicking and most carry tainted mandates. The employment of transparent democratic processes is alien to them and their party. It is this which Adam Oshiomhole captured very well. The Governors' Forum, he argued should behave with responsibility and lead by example, but the act of nocturnal coup plotting against their chairman, was 'completely distasteful and embarrassing' and furthermore, 'whatever the governors do, make several statements about their commitment to democratic norms and values'. We do not need soothsayers to tell us that the rumbling within the Governors' Forum merely reflects the desperation of the governors working at the behest of Goodluck Jonathan and, by extension, of the man himself.

  By Modibbo Kawu    ( ) mailto: