Governors backing the newly reelected chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Rotimi Amaechi, had premonition that the keenly contested election might become tumultuous, so they requested one of them to secretly video the poll, multiple sources close to the governors have told PREMIUM TIMES.
With his mobile phone, an unnamed governor secretly captured most of the proceedings of an election that featured intense maneuvering from governors on a clear divide, either in support or against President Goodluck Jonathan’ candidate, Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau state.
The president has repeatedly denied having interest in who becomes the next chairman of the group, but that claim has been disproved by insiders and governors, and even the president’s body language.
The footage, seen by a PREMIUM TIMES source, documents how the 35 governors, who participated, were transparently accredited, assigned ballot papers, before they took turns to slot them in a transparent ballot box hired from the Independent National Electoral Commission, our source said.
At a point during the election, a source said, the arrowhead of the opposition against Mr. Amaechi, Governor Godswill Akpabio, realized the election was being taped and he charged angrily at the governor doing the recording. But once Mr. Akpabio turned away, the governor simply resumed his secret recording.
With a fierce allegation of fraud now up against Mr. Amaechi’s victory, from governor’s known to be die-hard associates of the president, the recording is seen as the first documented evidence of a transparent process to crush that concern.
“Let them keep dancing around, we will release the video of the election at the appropriate time, “ a governor, who pleaded not to be named because he was not authorized to speak for his camp said Saturday. “We have hard core evidence that these clowns (governors) voted without any complaint during the election. We are ashamed to have these shady characters as colleagues.”
The Director General of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Asishana Okauru, said the NGF secretariat did not arrange a recording of the election and that he is unaware that the proceedings were secretly taped.
“I was busy counting the votes so I didn’t know that any governor recorded. And by the votes I counted, Amaechi won,” he said in a telephone interview. “I will find out and let you know.” Mr. Okauru, who was returning officer at the election, is yet to revert and did not answer subsequent calls.
The outcome of the poll has been rejected by governors in support of Mr. Jang, and apparently, President Jonathan. The protesting governors, led by Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state, said the process violated key rules, and declared the group’s decision not to recognize Mr. Amaechi as the winner.
But for all the authority of incumbency and presidential leverage, Friday’s elections provided a teachable moment on the potency of an alliance between discontent members of a ruling party, and the opposition All Progessives Congress – a coalition bonded by common goal to upset and humiliate the establishment.
Mr. Amaechi, not favoured to win by the pro-Jonathan team, emerged despite intense strategizing that saw the Peoples Democratic Party raise a list of supporting governors who agreed Mr. Jang was the rightful candidate to win the seat. Nineteen PDP governors signed the document before the polls.
The Northern Governors Forum met early Friday and prevailed on the Katsina and Bauchi governors, Ibrahim Shema and Isa Yuguda, respectively, to yield their ambition, for a consensus candidate in the person of Mr. Jang.
Both men are known supporters of the president, and were seen as having been put up as part of the effort to ensure Mr. Amaechi, embroiled in a testy row with Mr. Jonathan over 2015 election, stood no chance.
Removing Messrs Shema and Yuguda was to soothe the president’s camp, led by Mr. Akpabio, and leave them with the impression all was well, our sources say. It turned out a dummy, well sold.
When Mr. Jang, also a supporter of the president, was presented by the group to the PDP governors later Friday, he drew no objection, not even from Mr. Amaechi, and soon won the signatures of most of the governors present.
In the end, at least three governors, who rallied that support on paper, backed off when afforded the luxury of an unmarked ballot paper, and a secret voting system. Their votes, alongside the opposition, apparently went Mr. Amaechi’s way.
After the polls, Mr. Akpabio, backed by other governors in support of Mr. Jang, said using the unmarked papers (which should betrayed those who opposed the president’ choice), and the refusal of Mr. Amaechi to resign first before the poll, nullified the elections.