The battle for supremacy between the two factions of the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, will again play out tonight as the two contending groups have scheduled two separate events for the same time in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The imminent show of strength and test of popularity between the camp led by Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi and that led by his Plateau State counterpart, Jonah Jang, is over a dinner organised by President Goodluck Jonathan to which all the 36 state governors have been invited.
Mr. Jonathan had organised a similar mid-term dinner earlier this month for his party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
However, the 8 p.m. time of the presidential dinner for governor has now clashed with the time fixed for a meeting by the camp of Chairman Amaechi.
Mr Jonathan is reportedly putting the dinner together to mark his administration’s two years in office.
It is however not clear which of the two events was the first to be scheduled. But the secretariat of the NGF, which is still under the control of the Amaechi camp, had sent out invitation for the NGF meeting on Monday.
Osaro Onaiwu, the sole administrator of the Jang faction, told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Tuesday night that the governors in his camp would honour Mr Jonathan’s invitation to the presidential dinner for which they were issued invitation last Friday.
He said the invitation was routed through the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President.
Describing the Presidency as “an institution which should be respected by all”, Mr. Onaiwu explained that as a mark of respect for the President, the PDP Governors’ Forum, which had planned its meeting for today (Wednesday), shifted it to another day.
But in a separate telephone interview on Tuesday night, Mr Okauru told PREMIUM TIMES that, going by the brief from his employers, the meeting of the Amaechi-led NGF would hold at 8 p.m. as scheduled. He said he was not aware it was clashing with any dinner.
He said all the 36 governors were duly served invitations to the NGF meeting.
“Yes, the invitation was extended to all the governors,” he said.
Asked if he was optimistic that the governors in the Jang’s faction would attend, Mr. Okauru said, “Are you asking me? Don’t they have the right to attend?”
The DG, however, said he is hopeful that the two groups would soon resolve their differences and reunite for the good of the country.
The invitation to the NGF meeting, the first since the May 24 controversial election, was signed by Director General Asishana Okauru, and has four items on its agenda.
Prominent among the items listed on the agenda is the disagreement arising from the NGF election, which eventually led to the splitting of the Forum into two.
Although Mr. Amaechi, who sought re-election as Chairman of the Forum, beat Mr Jang, his lone challenger, by 19 votes to 16, the latter, allegedly prompted by some of his colleagues, protested the result and went ahead to float a parallel faction, setting up an office and a website. Thus began factionalisation of the Forum, the first since its formation in 1999.
Both claimants to the position of the NGF chair belong to the ruling PDP, which has 23 members in the fold.
However, the Jang’s faction has the sympathy of the national leadership of the party as well as the backing of the Presidency.
Apart from attending the PDP family dinner where he was recognised as NGF chair, Mr Jang also led the governors loyal to him to meet Mr Jonathan two weeks ago to purportedly discuss the misunderstanding between the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Finance Commissioners of all the 36 States.
Interestingly, the FAAC challenge, which appears to been temporarily resolved, is one of the issues the Amaechi camp will discuss at its meeting on Wednesday.
According to the agenda for the meeting, the NGF chair will brief the governors about “NGF in the news; fresh and subsisting litigations; visit to the NGF Secretariat; and updated on FAAC; ECA; and Sovereign Wealth Fund; update on SPRM; and other issues”.
Others items listed for discussion at the meeting, holding at the Rivers State Governors Lodge in the Asokoro District of Abuja, are “NGF and its partners; NGF Strategy Plan (2013-2015)”, all of which are under the subheading “Moving NGF Forward.”
The structuring of the programme to address the emerging challenges on the Polio eradication initiative is also listed on the agenda.