The president said the NGF is independent and he would work with the winner of the election.
The Presidency has distanced President Goodluck Jonathan from Friday’s controversial election of Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State as the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF).
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, the presidency claimed Mr. Jonathan played no role and had no preferred candidate in the election.
Mr. Amaechi was re-elected despite stiff opposition from his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and allegedly by Mr. Jonathan, the party leader. The Rivers Governor is currently facing many challenges, many of which have been allegedly caused by his confrontation with the president. The federal aviation ministry grounded a private plane owned by Rivers State on excuses federal lawmakers described as frivolous; while Nigerian police officers were recently deployed to a Rivers council against the wishes and orders of the governor and to prevent Mr. Amaechi’s appointee from resuming office.
Many had predicted that Mr. Amaechi could not win his re-election as NGF chairman because of his differences with his party and the president. He, however, on Friday defeated his challenger and Plateau State Governor, Jonah Jang, by 19 votes to 16 to re-emerge.
The presidency has now said it did not support Mr. Jang, or indeed any candidate in the elections.
“We have noted with regret the mischievous effort by sections of the mass media to portray President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as an interested party and the main loser in yesterday’s election of the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF)” Mr. Abati said.
Mr. Abati, who is away with the President in South Africa attending the 50th Anniversary of the African Union, also said contrary to the impression of presidential partisanship and interference in the affairs of the Governors Forum, “President Jonathan who is currently leading Nigeria’s delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa had no preferred candidate in the NGF elections and could therefore not have been “floored” by any other candidate as some newspapers sensationally reported”.
He added that President Jonathan has the greatest possible respect for the Nigerian Governors Forum as an “independent body of mature, responsible, and knowledgeable elected political leaders who have a critical role to play in strengthening democratic governance in the country, and who are quite capable of running their own affairs without being tele-guided, as some media reports misleadingly implied.”
“The President has always shown a willingness to work harmoniously with any leadership freely and independently chosen by the Governors Forum for the collective progress and development of all sections of the country and will continue to do so,” Mr. Abati said.
“He has not in the present instance or ever before, interfered in elections to leadership positions in the Governors Forum. Reports in the media which convey that impression are totally off the mark and the handiwork of mischievous individuals and groups with the intention of sowing the seeds of discord and disunity in the polity.
“President Jonathan trusts that as true democrats and respected national political leaders, members of the Governors Forum will quickly resolve the issues and differences amongst them which emerged yesterday and continue to contribute effectively to national development as a strong, and progressive body,” he added.
Some governors, led by Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, have alleged that the election was manipulated to favour Mr. Amaechi and have insisted on recognising Mr. Jang as the chairman of the governors’ forum.