Those of us who were perceptive enough saw it coming. I had, a few week ago, taken a hard look at the crisis rocking the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) and came to the reasoned conclusion that Chibuike Amaechi may have won the election but may never reign as Chairman of NGF.
Just weeks after the governors emerged from an election that saw two people laying claims to one office, the bubble has finally burst. Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State, the factional chairman of the forum, is working at cross purposes with Amaechi. He called a meeting of the NGF this Monday. Hours before the meeting, Amaechi came smoking with rage. He cancelled the meeting and warned Jang to stop impersonating him.
That is the scenario we have before us. I envisaged all of this drama. I know that part of the plot against Amaechi by President Goodluck Jonathan’s supporters is to ensure that Amaechi is swept off his feet. They want to make him a lame duck. They want to ensure that confusion continues to reign supreme. The overall objective is to ensure that Amaechi continues to run from pillar to post. He is busy trying to control the damage inflicted on the NGF by Jang. That is the trick. The goal is: distract Amaechi as much as possible so that instead of piloting the affairs of the forum, he will be busy fighting for legitimacy and survival.
The problem we have on our hands is sticky. It will not be easy to wipe off. This is because the division within the forum is borne out of political survival and relevance. You do not need to look far to locate the problem for what it is—a battle for the 2015 presidential elections. A new political coalition called the APC (All Progressives Congress) has massed up against the PDP (Peoples Democratic Party). Every other political platform has been subsumed under the two broad coalitions. APC is simply an arrangement that insists that the north must produce the president in 2015. Believing as they do that it would be difficult to realize this objective under PDP platform, an APC had to emerge to neutralize whatever hold the PDP has on the Presidency.
But it is significant to note that there are a number of PDP stalwarts who have sympathy for APC. Governors Amaechi (Rivers), Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), just to mention some, are decidedly working to actualize the APC agenda. They are the strange bedfellows within the PDP which the party is fighting hard to keep in check. So far, the party’s hammer has fallen on Amaechi and Wamakko. The party’s National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, hinted recently that more PDP governors would soon face disciplinary actions. The party may have reasoned that there is no need accommodating elements who are working hard to undermine its interest. This is one of the ways in which the APC is making inroad into PDP’s stronghold.
Another strategy of the APC lies in the fact that it has found an ally in South West states led by Bola Tinubu. For the South West, the calculation goes thus: Politics is about group advantage. The zone wants to align itself strategically for 2015. It is doing this by showing support for the idea of a northern president in 2015. The calculation is that a president of northern extraction would choose his running mate from the south west. If this should happen, the zone (south west) would be the better for it. After Obasanjo’s eight years as president, his zone wants to return to the commanding heights of power too soon. An APC coalition that seeks to uproot the PDP will make this possible for the south west.
But many analysts do not seem to understand where Amaechi stands in all this. There have been speculations that he would be chosen as a running mate to a Northern Presidential candidate under an APC arrangement. But many do not consider this probable. The reason is simple. Amaechi, from all indications, does not enjoy the support of his South South brothers. All the governors from the zone are on the side of Jonathan. So if an Amaechi is positioned to fly an APC flag as a vice presidential candidate, from where would he get the votes to justify his nomination?
Besides, Amaechi as a one-man riot squad cannot be considered formidable enough as to use him to upset or topple the Yoruba who are jostling to be vice president under a northern Presidency.
Whatever the approach, the logic of the whole thing is that APC is out to push Jonathan out of the presidential seat. So far ,Amaechi has proved to be a good ally of those who do not want Jonathan to return. It is for this reason that his leadership of the NGF ran into a storm.
But the PDP coalition has failed on two occasions to neutralize Amaechi. First was the formation of PDP Governors Forum. The new arrangement led by Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State came with a lot of promise. It was thought that it would be used to clip Amaechi’s wings. Strangely and surprisingly, the PDP forum collapsed like a pack of cards. It could not make any impact.
The second was the NGF election. The PDP coalition failed to upstage Amaechi. The man and his allies outwitted the Jonathan arrangement. Amaechi returned as NGF Chairman, contrary to expectations.
What is happening now is a last ditch effort to stop Amaechi. The factional leadership of Jang is the last spanner in the works. It was hurriedly put in place shortly after Amaechi’s victory to ensure that the new leadership does not take off. This latest strategy appears to be working .Those who want Jonathan back in 2015 believe that they need to keep Amaechi and his group restless .For as long as the confusion reigns, Amaechi’s NGF will have neither bite nor grit. It will just be there in name. For as long as the Jang group continues to boycott Amaechi’s meeting and even have the audacity to schedule their own meetings for governors, the confusion will continue to grow in leaps and bounds. Amaechi may have warned Jang to stop his antics, but the factional Chairman appears determined. He has a brief. He is to ensure that the APC gang led by Amaechi at the NGF does not use the forum to undermine the PDP agenda of returning Jonathan to office in 2015. The divide is therefore sharp and clear. Both tendencies are gazing at each other eyeball-to-eyeball. Who will blink? Future developments will tell.