Governor Isa Yuguda’s decision to pull out of the Northern States Governors Forum over the controversy surrounding the Nigeria Governors Forum election may have far reaching implications on the unity of the forum, our correspondent reports.
The poor attendance at last week’s meeting of the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) where only five governors out of 19 turned up was not altogether unexpected as many reports had on the eve of the meeting day, predicted that many of the governors in the forum would boycott the meeting.
Since the crisis that ensued from the election of a new chairman for the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) last month, it was clear that the unity of the regional units of the forum, especially that of the northern governors would be threatened as the bulk of the controversies surrounding the issue revolved around the failure of the governors to stand by an earlier agreement they were said to have made in connection with the election.
Members of the NGSF in demonstration of the unity that was supposed to guide such blocs had prior to the NGF election, resolved to present one of theirs as the next chairman of the NGF as the forum had from inception rotated its chairmanship between the North and South candidates as a southerner, Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State was concluding a term.
Initially Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina was favoured to succeed Amaechi but later, some forces who were not comfortable with Shema were said to have thrown up Isa Yuguda of Bauchi.
When the two could not agree to step down for neither, it was agreed that a fresh candidate be supported for the position and Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau State was chosen as the northern governors’ consensus candidate.
But as Jang scored only 16 of the votes to Amaechi’s 19 it became obvious that some from the 18 northern governors that took part in the election, had not acted true to the spirit of the agreement.
While the other governors had chosen not to comment on the issue, Yuguda decided to introduce a new dimension to the matter by not only expressing his views but going further to accuse his northern governors colleagues of betrayal. He also vowed to leave the northern governors forum due to what he said amounts to lack of sincerity.
“I don’t see any reason why I should attend the Northern Governors meeting again. Yes! If that is what we will do, I am not going to be a part of it. For the remaining two years of my tenure I will not be part of the Northern Governors Forum. I want any Northern Governor to come out and say yes, I voted [at the NGF election] and I voted against Jang. I will then ask him why, after sitting with me in the Northern governors meeting and agreeing on a consensus candidate, after saying Shema and I should withdraw for Jang, he then went and voted against Jang. I would like to know why,” he had stated.
Analysts posit that this would be about the first time the forum which had always resolved issues concerning its members through close door deliberations would be witnessing a schism of that magnitude, where one of its members would jettison the option of meeting with the others in private to sort out issues, but will choose to come out openly not only to dissociate himself from the forum but to accuse the other members of something untoward.
At the height of the Jos crisis, when Governor Jang had accused states bordering Plateau of complicity in the attacks on the people of his state, it was at the meeting of the NSGF that the issues was thrashed out.
The NGSF had always also mapped put strategies to avoid the constant conflicts with herdsmen in the various states in the North and only recently set up a reconciliation, healing and security committee which worked out areas of cooperation among the states.
It was not clear if Jang was thinking along the line of Yuguda before the Bauchi Goverenor came up with the accusation as in all his comments after the crisis, he did not accuse any of the northern governors of betrayal choosing to rest his case on the fact that there was a consensus arrangement that preceded the election which as he argues, should take preeminence over the latter.
But the Yuguda bombshell may have changed all that.
A political analyst, Ibrahim Buba, said Yuguda’s action cannot be taken at its face value. He said beyond trying to exonerate himself from what transpired, the action of the Bauchi governor suggests that if a governor does not want to be seen as being against the President, he should do everything possible to avoid associating openly with the northern governors. President Goodluck Jonathan is said to be against having Amaechi return as chairman of the forum.
Buba explained that by casting aspersions on the integrity of the forum, Yuguda had craftily set the stage for its disintegration as those who do not want to be in the bad books of the PDP may not want to seen in the fold.
This argument may hold water as all those that refused to attend the last meeting of the northern governors are those who do not want to be seen as having moved against the president at the NGF election.
This analysts say might be the reason why many of the PDP governors decided to stay away from the Kaduna meeting.
Fourteen out of the 19 members of the NSGF boycotted Forum’s meeting in Kaduna.
The five governors that attended the meeting included the chairman of the forum; Niger State governor Babangida Aliyu, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Muhktar Ramalan Yero of Kaduna, Tanko Al-Makura ofNarasawa, and Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe.
Those represented by their deputies included Kwara, Kano, Kogi, Borno, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi states while Plateau and Benue were represented by the secretaries to their state government. While Adamawa and Taraba States were said to have sent apologies.
The only surprising attendance from the camp of the PDP governors was that of Dankwambo as Yero’s attendance could be explained since the meeting was happening in his state.
The suspension of Governor Magatakarda Wamakko from the PDP shortly after that of Amaechi may have also given the indication of what may befall any of the PDP governors who is seen as not working in tandem with the interest of the PDP and by extension, the presidency.
But for how long the Yuguda issue may affect the unity of the northern governors is what nobody is sure of as many of the PDP governors who are entitled to further terms and are likely to depend on the presidency for support, like the governors of Taraba, Gombe and Kogi may not want to be seen as hobnobbing with those opposed to the president while those who are in their second terms but are intending to run for other offices like senate or are eyeing other appointments may not want to be in the bad books of the presidency.
Analysts say Yuguda by choosing to boycott of the activities of the NGSF forum may have unwittingly contributed to the division of the forum as it does not appear that the crack would heal soon more so as the PDP had decided to wield the big stick on one of its members and the 2015 campaign may soon start which may further divide the governors along the two divides of those who are pro and those who are anti Jonathan.
But many say it is strange that it would be Yuguda that would lend himself as a catalyst to the division of the NSGF.
This is because it was through defiance that he also emerged governor in 2007 when was denied the ticket of the ruling party by pro-establishment forces and the opposition proved to him that it was possible to win elections without the support of government. But immediately Yuguda got on the saddle he became more catholic than the hope by aligning more with those in authority.
He later decamped form the ANPP to the PDP and had his then deputy impeached for refusing to join him in his new party.
He dumped Buhari on whose back he rode to power and pitched tent with Jonathan in 2011 and has since then been striving to show himself as loyal to the president. His recent comments over the NSGF issue analysts say, may not be unconnected with this.