The Nigeria Governors Forum on Wednesday elected Kayode Fayemi as its new chairman for a term of two years.
The Ekiti State governor was chosen at a gathering of the 36 governors in Abuja Wednesday night, following his nomination by Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State. Some governors, including Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, were not in attendance, but they were said to have sent representatives.
Mr El-Rufai was believed to be a contender for the top position in the forum, which is a congregation of all the country’s 36 governors towards a common front.
But hours ahead of the meeting, Mr Fayemi rocketed into the lead for the influential position, with governors from the south expressing sentiments about a rotational chairmanship of the forum. Mr Fayemi was unanimously elected, according to a statement from the forum.
Mr Fayemi succeeded Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State, who served two terms over the past four years. Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto was also elected as vice-chairman to Mr Fayemi during the meeting at the forum’s headquarters in Maitama District. Their tenure will expire in 2021, but they can seek a re-election for another two years.
The forum was established in 1999 to coordinate the activities of governors in matters of national interest, which sometimes clash with the interest of the central government. The forum has clashed with presidents on matters like the sovereign wealth fund and excess crude accounts.
In 2017, the governors sparred with President Buhari after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission opened investigation into how states were spending their Paris Club windfall.
Mr Fayemi’s first official confrontation with the Buhari administration could be over the recent guideline of the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU), which sought to restrict governors’ access to local government funds.
The governors have been protesting the regulation, which was announced earlier this month ahead of its implementation from June 1.
“The restrictions would be detrimental to Basic Universal Education Programme, primary health care, as well as payment of primary school teachers,” Mr Yari said in a statement Wednesday night. They said Mr Fayemi would lead other governors to see Mr Buhari over the matter, and other issues of national concern, especially the growing insecurity.
In his acceptance comments, Mr Fayemi said he would pursue a policy of mutual cooperation with the centre, even though that may not necessarily be at the detriment of states’ autonomy.
“We are committed to a strong partnership with the federal government,” Mr Fayemi said.