PDP governors, presidential aide differ on governors’ invitation
An expanded security meeting to dwell on the worsening insecurity across Nigeria was held on Wednesday in the absence of 16 of Nigeria’s 36 state governors.
The absentees, all members of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, were not invited to the meeting, the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Godswill Akpabio, who was asked to brief journalists after the meeting, said.
“”No, No, No; they (APC governors) were not invited,” Mr. Akpabio, a member of Mr. Jonathan’s ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, told journalists.
Despite the fact that three of the states mostly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and thus under emergency rule – Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe – are controlled by APC governors, and that Mr. Jonathan had blamed the APC governors for the insurgency in their states, Mr. Akpabio tried to justify the reason why the opposition governors were not invited to the meeting.
“You know there was an initial requisition of this meeting by the PDP governors, this was as a fallout of our own meeting. And so it wasn’t something that was extended to all,” he said.
“That is why I said they have been invited on Wednesday,” the Akwa Ibom governor added, saying the opposition governors have now been invited to an enlarged meeting on April 23 where all the governors, security chiefs, and the president will be present.
He said Thursday’s meeting was initiated by the PDP governors, whose forum he heads, to give the president and the service chiefs their views on the security challenge.
Mr. Akpabio stated that Mr. Jonathan, however, decided that since the security challenge was a national one, all the 36 governors should be in attendance.
“We just wanted to meet with our president and some service chiefs to hear our views and also make some suggestions. Now he (the president) is insisting, which is right too, that is a national issue because it must be handled nationally and that is why all the governors must be here.”
Mr. Akpabio’s claim contradicts a Wednesday statement by presidential spokesperson, Reuben Abati, that all the state governors were invited for Thursday’s enlarged meeting of the National Security Council.
The statement said the enlarged meeting would be held hours after the main National Security Council meeting. The enlarged meeting would review the security situation in Nigeria as well as the ongoing national security measures and operations with a view to determining the best way forward, Mr. Abati said.
“The meeting of the National Security Council will be followed at 1300 Hours by an enlarged meeting on security developments in the country to which President Jonathan has invited state governors,” Mr. Abati said.
The spokesperson did not mention that only selected governors would be invited to the meeting.
In what appears a ploy to mislead Nigerians, while Mr. Akpabio was justifying the deliberate non-invitation of the opposition governors, a presidential aide, Reno Omokri, was telling Nigerians that the APC governors boycotted the meeting.
“APC governors don’t shun meetings where the Federal Government gives state funds. But as this one is to take care of the security of Nigerians, they shunned it,” Mr. Omokri, President Jonathan’s assistant on New Media, said on his twitter handle.
“Government is different from politics. It’s quite unfortunate that in the pursuance of politics, APC governors shunned a meeting to secure the nation,” Mr. Omokri added.
It is not clear who among Mr. Akpabio and Mr. Omokri was lying, although Mr. Akpabio was at the meeting and spoke on behalf of the attendees.
While Mr. Akpabio painted a picture of the meeting being a ‘PDP’ meeting, at least two non-PDP governors were at the meeting.
Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra (a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA), and Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo (Labour Party) attended. Both men, as well as their parties, are known loyalists of President Jonathan.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt from a reliable source that the APC governors were initially invited for the meeting.
“We were invited. That is why all the APC governors were in Abuja on Tuesday,” an aide to one of the APC governor’s told PREMIUM TIMES.
While in Abuja on Tuesday, the APC governors had visited victims of the Nyanya bomb blast in various hospitals.
“But on Tuesday evening, after the APC governors’ meeting, the presidency reached out to us to say the meeting had been postponed,” the aide said.
PREMIUM TIMES leant that the presidency reached out to the APC governors individually through the official channel by raising what is called a ‘signal’ through the ADC of each governor.
“It was after getting the message that all the APC governors went to their various states on Wednesday morning,” the aide said, adding that “one wonders why the president is politicising something as crucial as insecurity that affects us all.”
Salihu Lukman, the Director General of Progressives Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of the APC governors, confirmed the same position to PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview on Thursday evening.
“The APC governors were even shocked to learn that the meeting held after they had been told it was postponed,” Mr. Lukman said.
The APC later released a statement in which it denied that its governors shunned the meeting with Jonathan.
The opposition party later released a statement on Thursday saying its governors were deceived into believing the meeting had been called off.
The spokesperson for the party, Lai Mohammed, said in a statement, “On Wednesday, the Presidency called the Chief Detail of the Kwara State Government to say that the meeting had been called off.
“On the basis of this information, which apparently got to other governors under the aegis of the APC, our governors did not attend.
“Now that the meeting has been held, it is incumbent on the Presidency to launch an investigation into the source of the call to the Kwara State Government and what the call was meant to achieve.
“Irrespective of the totally unfounded and absolutely irresponsible allegation that the APC is behind the escalating security situation, our party will not shy away from any serious effort to end the terrorist attacks in our country. Therefore, it is not true that our Governors shunned the meeting with the President.”
The meeting, which held at the Presidential Villa, was attended by President Jonathan, Vice President Nimadi Sambo, PDP governors, Governors Obiano and Mimiko, and the Service Chiefs.
None of them disclosed the decisions reached at the parley.
While speaking after the meeting, Mr. Akpabio warned that the security challenge should not be politcised, insisting that all hand must be on deck to contain the situation.
“We must face the situation and it is not something we can politicize. You don’t politicise security. All hands must be on deck, the entire country every single Nigerian must contribute his quota towards bringing the current situation to an end,” he said.
“I believe that if you are not a soldier you can also be an informant. And of course you know that this thing is becoming like an HIV if you are not infected you are affected.
“Your children are also involved, your grand children and relations. If people are now attacking schools to disrupt the lives of children how will you not be concern. A market woman is affected when motor parks are being bombed, so there is no way any governor in Nigeria will not be concerned and will not show interest.
“In bringing this situation to an end, all Nigerians must know that we must be our brothers’ keepers as far as security is concern,” the governor added.
On what transpired at the meeting, Mr. Akpabio explained that the president listened to the attendees.
“Mr. President has listened to us and even said that since it is a problem that involves all the state of the federation. It is better for all the state governors to be in attendance. Because of that he has graciously agreed to meet with all the 36 states of the federation on Wednesday by 4 p.m.,” he said.
Further defending the non-invitation of the opposition governors, Mr. Akpabio said, “Of course you know we are very much concerned, first as PDP governors and the centre belongs to the PDP; and so we felt that we should see our dear president and if need be with some of the security chiefs.”
“He has graciously listened to us and he said since is a national issue we must have all the 36 governors in attendance. So I believe strongly notice will be going out and all governors will be meeting with Mr. President and service chiefs next week Wednesday so we can sit and discuss and proffer solutions to the current insecurity in the country. I believe it will come to an end.”
When asked about the possible extension of the emergency rule in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, Mr. Akpabio said Mr. Jonathan did not discuss it with the PDP governors.
According to him, “No he didn’t go into details with us. Of course you know that is a national issue and if you discuss you can’t shave a man’s head behind him. The governors of the states that are involved in emergency are not here. So I believe that issue will be taken on when all the governors are around on Wednesday.”
Also speaking, the governor of Abia State, Theodore Orji, corroborated Mr. Akpabio, saying the parley was at the instance of the PDP governors.
“We undertook an essential discussion on the security of the nation; that is exactly what we did. Details are not for public because they are security issues. Of course no governor is happy with what has happened but bear in mind that the meeting is at the instant of the PDP Governors,” Mr. Orji said.
He also did not comment on why Messrs Mimiko and Obiano, two non-PDP governors, attended the meeting.
“We took a decision when we went to Jigawa and we requested the president to invite us to a meeting with the security chiefs. That is why we are here. We initiated the meeting for clearance.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post has been updated with the statement by the Interim National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed.
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