Kano State governor Rabi’u Musa Kwankwaso has given a rare insight into what transpired during the recent chairmanship election of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), which Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi and his Plateau State counterpart, Jonah Jang, are laying claim to the NGF chair.
Speaking during an interview with LEADERSHIP yesterday, Kwankwaso further stated that though the arrowheads of Jang’s supporters had assumed that they would win the election on the strength of alleged backing of the federal might, he added that he and some governors taught Jang’s supporters a political lesson they will not forget in a hurry.
According to him, the NGF will not relent in efforts to resist any forms of external influence from “Abuja” elements in the NGF’s affairs.
Amaechi had won the election with 19 votes while Jang scored 16 votes. The Jang faction of the NGF further went ahead to inaugurate a new secretariat, saying that it was better to operate in a neutral secretariat without the influence of any governor.
Kwakwanso also lashed out at the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors’ Forum and Akwa-Ibom State Governor Godswill Akpabio over the role he played in factionalising the NGF chairmanship position.
He also said the Northern Governors Forum will have made a move to wrestle the PDP governors’ chairmanship from Akpabio in view of Northern governor’s superior number if they so want to.
He said, “We should decide on what we want in the north. We are 15 PDP governors in number. If there is anything we should be given, it is the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum.”
Kwankwaso further confirmed that the advice by many northern governors asking Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda and his Katsina State counterpart, Ibrahim Shema to step down for one and another fell on the deaf ears, thus paving way for a surprise Jang candidature from the Forum’s northern caucus.
He also declared that Amaechi’s claim to the NGF chairmanship is legitimate.
Going by credible monitored reports, the Presidency propped up Shema to challenge Amaechi who has fallen out of favour with President Goodluck Jonathan and some PDP leader on the grounds of his disposition to major national issues.
Narrating what transpired on the fateful day to elect the NGF chair, Kwankwaso said, “I was very opportune to be a governor in 1999 when this Fourth Republic started. And I am also happy to say that I participated actively in electing our first chairman, the former Nasarawa State Governor Abdulahi Adamu who has always been my friend. My humble self and a very few others decided to nominate him and he was eventually elected. It was just like any other game and everyone was happy. The day was like any other game to us because we were able to elect somebody we respected, loved and liked. He was the NGF chairman until 2003 when I left.
He however added when he was elected as a governor again in 2011, he realised just before he came in that Amaechi had been elected.
He said, “As far as I am concerned, Amaechi is a good man. He has respect for all of us and I remember when I was member of the NDDC, anytime I went to Port Harcourt, all what we needed to do was for my SA to phone them to tell them. He never allowed me to sleep in any hotel. I was always in the Government House, its presidential wing and I was treated like what it should be. And we kept on having good relationship and Gods willing I became governor and we are in the same forum.
“You see, early this year when there was a meeting, he raised the issue of election. And somebody said he should continue. Many of us supported but others said no.
But Kwankwaso stated that the issue of the constitution for the NGF was brought in at this stage, saying that different argument were canvassed by the governors.
He added that at the end of the day, it was decided that the election should be postponed because the constitution of the forum has given specific days and notice.
He said, “I think three days that must be given to all members and at that time, three days were not given and we all accepted. Even those who were supporting him (Amaechi). Another date was fixed and we all came in for the election, unfortunately, there were people who were desperately trying to kick against the election because they thought Amaechi will win.
“Now that election didn’t take place again especially that some people brought in an issue that we just had weeks to the handover day and people decided to say look, if we have an election, it means, you have to hand over, they said there was no problem yet it was decided because of the desperation of some people to postpone the election again.
“And along the line, some people suggested that the PDP should have a leadership then many people thought there is linkage between that election and of course the appointment of the NGF chairman.
Speaking on the determination to hold election as against endorsement, Kwankwaso said, “Of course we now have chairman of PDP governors forum and we met immediately after the appointment of the chairman PDP governors forum. Let me say that at that meeting, we made it very clear that we are determined to ensure democracy in this country and if there is no democracy in the NGF , I begin to wonder where we can have democracy in this country.
“And many people don’t understand how angry many people are. Many people here in Abuja don’t understand how committed we are to ensure democracy in this country. We are not even talking of the NGF. So we decided to stick to our guns. I have two grand -children in primary school and no father or grand -father will choose a friend to your grandchildren. You only see them. Who is your father, they will tell you maybe he is your enemy. It is very difficult to tell your child that the father of this your friend is my enemy. A good father or grandfather is better if he keeps quiet. Because the more you tell your grand children that your grandfather or father is your enemy, the more they stick to their friends because they wouldn’t understand what you mean by that’.
On the high wire politics before the NGF election, the governor said, “During the meeting of the PDP governors forum, we made the point but you see, after the meeting we decided to call the northern governors forum meeting. We sat down at the Benue Governor’s Lodge and at that meeting, the issue of Shema came up. And I told Shema look, I am terribly disappointed with you that you are my neighbour, friend and you never came to tell me you were contesting the election and you are parading yourself like someone who was sent to us. I advised him and told him clearly, I will never vote for him on that issue. I will never ask anybody to vote for him and I will make sure that he lost that election. I even told him to withdraw. Other governors present supported me. Isa Yuguda was there, Adamawa supported and others supported that he should go and withdraw. Unfortunately, some people took that opportunity to go and say that Shema had no support in the north. Later Shema was dropped and they brought Isa Yuguda. Isa came to me and I told him that look, I am still a villager, I behave in many ways like a villager.
“In my village in Kwakwanso in Kano, if a councillor goes to a family and says I am contesting to become a councillor in the morning and they accepted, when someone comes in the afternoon, they will tell him that you are late. I told him clearly, look, you are late. Let me also correct the impression that many thought north didn’t like Shema, No. That is not the issue. On that particular instance, we did not want Shema because we want to choose our own chairman. Now you are coming through the same route and I advised him, you must not try it, if you do that, you will lose. When he insisted of course it was in my house, I didn’t want to go as hard as I did to Shema whom we met in a neutral ground. I told him let’s see how it goes. A day to election, he phoned me and I said still Amaechi is our target.
“On the day of the election, we went to the chairman northern governors forum. You see it was all politics, it is okayed. Some people were determined to ensure that Amaechi didn’t win the election and on the other hand, were determined to prove to them that nobody can shave our heads in our absence. A situation where our colleagues are going round in Abuja abusing us telling them that they can do it alone, I don’t think that is acceptable. That was why we proved to them that they are at the elementary level of politics in this country. By the time they went there, the Niger State Governor’s Lodge, of course we had serious deliberations. The question was any of them ready to step down for the other? None was ready to step down. At the end of the day, we had as governors the privilege, the luxury of selecting who was to be the NGF governor.
“Let me say that we are northerners and I think we should be consulted on what we need for the north. Some people have decided that we should take chairman governors forum. That is not our choice. We know what we want in the politics of this country and even if that is what we want, we are not expecting anybody to choose for us, we should choose for ourselves. I think that point should be very clear.”