Update: Respite for Gov Amaechi as Governors’ Forum defers election of new chairman till May

Rotimi Amaechi, governor of River state

A temporary respite came the way of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, on Monday evening as state governors agreed that he should continue as chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum till May when a new head of the Forum is elected.

There had been reports that the Forum would conduct a new election on Monday to either re-elect Mr. Amaechi or replace him.

In fact, four of his colleagues had commenced campaigns to succeed him while the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, created a splinter group to weaken Mr. Amaechi’s chances at the election.

But the Forum, at the end of its four-hour meeting at the Rivers State Governors’ Lodge, Abuja, resolved to elect a new chairman in May at the expiration of Mr. Amaechi’s two-year tenure.

Mr. Amaechi was elected in June 2011, shortly after the 2011 general election.
The Rivers State Governor read the three-paragraph communiqué to journalists without entertaining questions.

The communiqué reads as follows:

“We, the governors of the 36 states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at our 3rd meeting of the year held today Monday 25th February 2013 at the Rivers State Governor’s Lodge Abuja deliberated over a number of issues and resolved as follows:

*Members reviewed the affairs of the Forum in the past 21 months detailing activities, achievements and challenges experienced during the period:

* After exhaustive deliberation of the issues regarding filling vacant positions, the Forum resolved that election in this regard be postponed until May when the Chairman’s initial two year tenure will expire.”

At the end of the meeting, the chairman of the new PDP Governors Forum, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, told journalists that there was no crisis within the Governors Forum and that Mr. Amaechi has the right to seek the nod of his colleagues for a second term. He also noted that there was no correlation between the emergence of the PDP Governors Forum and the NGF.

The Anambra State Governor, Peter Obi also said “there is no problem.”

“When the tenure of our chairman ends in May,

Read our earlier story on the NGF crisis below.

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The Nigeria Governors’ Forum descended into chaos early this morning with President Goodluck Jonathan and the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party masterminding the formation of a splinter group within the group.

At the end of  what seems an emergency meeting  attended by Mr. Jonathan, the PDP National Chairman, Bamanga Tukur and governors elected on the platform of the party, the Akwa Ibom State governor, Godswill Akpabio, was presented to journalists as the chairman of a newly formed PDP Governors’ Forum.

Sources familiar with the intrigues that threw up the new group and Mr. Akpabio say the move was a last gasp effort by Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Tukur to dilute the perceived growing political influence of Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, who was elected chairman of the NGF in June 2011 for an initial two-year term.

He could re-contest after the expiration of his tenure.

Since 1999 when the NGF was formed, and until last night, whoever led the NGF had always served as coordinator of an informal association of PDP governors.

But the presidency and the top brass of the PDP had of late become uncomfortable with Mr. Amaechi who is believed to be leading a massive opposition against Mr. Tukur and the president. He is also believed to be using his post to strategically position himself as vice-presidential candidate of the party in the coming election.

Mr. Tukur has been holding on to his position with a hair’s breadth after governors and some elements within the National Working Committee launched a plot to oust him.

With the development this morning, the party would most likely not back Mr. Amaechi for a second term of office when his tenure expires in few months.

Instead, Mr. Akpabio might be presented as the party’s candidate for the position.

But Mr. Tukur told journalists  the formation of the PDP Governors Forum was “out of necessity”.

Mr. Akpabio also said his election was part of the plot by the PDP to restrategise, and that there was no plan to remove Mr. Amaechi from office.

“There was never a discussion to remove him “The tenure will end by April, though he has the right to re-contest,” Mr. Akpabio said. “There will be no crack. Other parties are also meeting. There will be no crack. It will strengthen the forum,” he said.

With the plot to hijack the PDP bloc from his grip, Mr. Amaechi is now turning to his sympathetic colleagues to ensure  the presidency is not allowed to foist a chairman on the group.

The Rivers State Governor, who attended the meeting and reportedly opposed the formation of the PDP Governors Forum, is said to enjoy the support of opposition governors and some of his colleagues within the PDP.

Those believed to be opposed to him are Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Theodore Orji (Abia), Gabriel Suswam (Benue), , Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi),) and Acting Governor Garba Umar (Taraba).

There are suggestions that the ruling party is wooing Anambra Governor Peter Obi (All Progressives Grand Alliance) to cross over to the party.

He is currently the deputy chairman of the NGF and the PDP, sources said, might support him to become chairman if he crosses over to the party before the expiration of Mr. Amaechi’s tenure.

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