From TAIWO AMODU, Abuja
Like a bolt out of the blue, the formation of the Peoples’ Democratic Party Governors’ Forum (PDPGF) shocked the ‘opposition’ flank within the PDP as it caught them napping.
As the announcement of its chairman was being made at the Presidential Villa, the news reverberated with a stunning effect: A new platform had berthed, successfully, to alter the profile of the ubiquitous Nigeria Governors’ Forum, (NGF) and call to order the alleged over-bearing influence of the NGF leadership.
Discerning Nigerians and PDP faithful, who have taken more than passing interest in the power tussle between the Presidency and the NGF, the platform of 36 state governors, knew that it was not going to take long before something would give way.
But no one ever imagined it would come in form of an alternative platform for the PDP governors, who are the majority in the NGF.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum and the Presidency have been permanently engaged in a war of attrition over an issue, which the former claimed was an affront on fiscal federalism.
It is the management of the Excess Crude Account by the Presidency. The governors are not comfortable with deduction from the Federation Account without recourse to states. They had instituted a case at the Supreme Court to challenge the federal government.
An out of court settlement move by the Presidency had collapsed as the NGF under Governor Amaechi accused federal government of insincerity in its trouble shooting initiative.
But while the governors have a genuine case against the federal government even in the court of public opinion, Sun Summit gathered that party elders have their reservations over the approach of the NGF leadership.
As party faithful, Sun Summit further learnt, they looked at the membership of the NGF and what they saw was the ruling party in the majority. And with consternation they complained aloud as to why their own governors would be the ones, goading the opposition governors to undermine the PDP-led federal government! Former works minister and chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih, recently spoke the minds of the exasperated party leaders.
Addressing party governors during their recent meeting in Abuja, Anenih expressed excitement over the formation of the PDPGF, as he confessed that he never believed in the Forum of 36 states governor which allows PDP governors to fraternise with governors from the opposition parties.
His words: “I have no doubt that with the formation of PDP Governors’ Forum, you will be able to discuss freely, issues in the interest of Nigerians. I never believed in Nigeria Governors’ Forum because you wine and dine with the opposition governors and when you read papers, maybe a day or so after your meetings, what some of them say and you remember that two nights ago you were together, then you know that there is something seriously wrong.
That’s why most of us were excited at the birth of the new PDPGF.’’ Akpabio’s emergence, political observers believe that a wrong impression has been created that the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio was itching for national relevance and being envious of the rising profile of his colleague, Rotimi Amaechi, had sold the idea of change in leadership of the NGF to the anti-Amaechi group, banking on the support of the Presidency.
Those who hold this view, went further to allege that it was when the loyalists of Amaechi spurned the move that they returned to their masters at the Presidential Villa and sold the idea of an alternative platform to them. But this was refuted by a Sun Summit source at Wadata Plaza, the party national secretariat.
According to him: “Whether Akpabio’s political foes like it or not, his innate talent as a great mobiliser of men cannot be ignored and that is what the Presidency and the PDP NWC wanted to exploit by giving him the leadership of the new Forum.
The source further argued: “One can readily recall that his loyalty to the party has never been in doubt. Those familiar with his style of politics attest to his distaste for prevarication: which Akpabio sees as tortoise politics.
At a time when zoning was an issue and governors were dithering over the eligibility of President Goodluck Jonathan for the 2011 presidential ticket of the PDP, only Governor Akpabio dared the odds and adopted Dr Goodluck Jonathan as the candidate of the Akwa lbom state chapter of the party.
Other south-south governors were emboldened to take similar position and later followed up with an enlarged south-south zonal meeting in Rivers State, where the entire zone later adopted President Goodluck Jonathan.
The rest is now history,’’ the source argued. Crave for party supremacy At his inaugural speech as chairman of PDPGF, Akpabio spoke with the passion of a leader conversant with the mission which informed the new platform and the challenges ahead.
He has assured that the PDPGF would not undermine the NGF but strengthen it. “It isn’t to challenge the Nigeria Governors Forum.
Rather, it is going to strengthen the Forum, because the PDP will be going to the NGF henceforth as a block, and as a major block that controls more than two thirds of this country, not two thirds of government houses alone, but in terms of their population of supporting Nigerians. We will not allow minorities to impose their ideas on us the majority.
We will not allow NGF to be seen as a trade union to fight government. We cannot be fighting the federal government, we are part of the federal government. Our job is to work with the federal government to initiate best policies for the interest of Nigerians.” From all indications, Akpabio appears set to chart a new course for the ruling PDP governors.
How he does this without undermining the NGF, as he has assured his colleagues in his inaugural speech, will be left to party chieftains to interpret in the days, weeks and months ahead. What is however clear and which is certain is that, with the emergence of PDPGF, the rules of engagement within the NGF will certainly change.