The two governors lay claim to the chairmanship of the NGF.
A mild drama occurred on Thursday morning shortly before the commencement of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, as two claimants to the post of Nigeria Governors Forum Chairman were made to sit beside themselves.
In what is probably the first meeting attended by both men since the governors’ forum, NGF, election in May, the seating arrangement was altered, which allowed Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Jonah Jang of Plateau to sit beside themselves.
Mr. Amaechi defeated Mr. Jang by 19 votes to 16 to emerge chairman of the NGF in May, but the Plateau Governor rejected the result and instead set up a parallel faction.
Obviously following directives, presidential aides altered the sitting arrangement at NEC meetings. Previously, the Chairman of the Governors Forum would sit directly opposite Vice President Namadi Sambo, who chairs the council.
However, on Thursday, no seat was reserved for the NGF chairman as the council apparently failed to recognize anyone for the position. The seats were rearranged for the governors in alphabetical order of the name of their states. With no state starting with the letter Q, Mr. Amaechi of River’s seat was directly beside that of Mr. Jang of Plateau.
The Rivers Governor went into the Chambers and headed for his usual seat opposite Mr. Sambo only to be informed that his seat was the one marked with R. He then realised who his neighbour was going to be.
The Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, who supports Mr. Amaechi, approached the latter and kick started the small talks and jabs.
“So you are going to sit with Jang. This is very nice oh. Somebody is trying to be diplomatic here,” Mr. Aliyu told the Rivers Governor.
Mr. Amaechi replied saying: “We are still together. So, I am going to sit with him. The real chairman and the… (laughter)”
Observers watched curiously to see how Mr. Jang and other governors would react to the sitting arrangement.
When Mr. Jang arrived; he walked in and exchanged pleasantries with other governors including Mr. Amaechi. After being told he was to sit beside his opponent, he did.
“You are welcome, I am the authentic chairman,” Mr. Amaechi told Mr. Jang while exchanging greetings.
The Plateau Governor did not respond and both governors sat without saying anything to themselves for a while before others started arriving.
The Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, who noticed the situation, held Mr. Jang’s hand and pointed to Mr. Amaechi, saying “that is my chairman.” He added that the Plateau Governor was the leader of the other Peoples Democratic Party extended faction of the governors’ forum; which drew laughter from those present at the venue.
The governors were finally accompanied to the meeting by their respective commissioners of finance and education.
While the mood at the event was mild, it also showed that the rancour within Nigerian governors was far from over. The crisis in the NGF worsened after the elections as supporters on both sides have thrown caution to wind, with verbal attacks through the media.