NGF Reunion Versus The Broken Walls Of South East Governors’ Forum
The coming together of most of the members of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, (NGF) on May 18, 2015 in Abuja after its long disruptive squabbles was melodious. Nigerians were excited at the sudden resolution of the bitter acrimony that boiled over during the chairmanship election of that august body exactly two years before.
Apart from the political arithmetic over which was superior, between the 19 and 16 votes garnered by the two candidates, Governors of Rivers and Plateau State, Rotimi Amaechi and Jonah Jang respectively; the belated logic of incumbency leverage, helped to dislocate the once close knit NGF.
While the Jang group argued that Amaechi, the then incumbent; ought not to contest while still on the seat, the Amaechi group dismissed that revised chant stressing that it beggars logic to shift the goal post after the penalty had been booked. And both sides, hardened by the logic of political expediency, went their separate ways. Exactly two years after, the squabble turned full circle and the fencers dropped their swords in the scabbards.
The reunion of the governors under their common platform, gave Nigerians reasons to cheer and reminisce over the noble place of the NGF in the nation’s socio-political development. So relieved were most citizens that they refused to pay heed to the faint denial by the Jang faction that it was party to “any reconciliation with the Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi-led faction.”
The Administrative Secretary of the Jang Forum, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, released a statement the next day contending that “any such reconciliation attempt was futile as majority of the governors will be out of office in a matter of days” adding that issues of reconciliation, reorganisation and election of a new Chairman should be left to the incoming governors.
But in their wisdom, the departing governors picked the Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, as chairman for one year.
The loss of camaraderie within the SEGF lasted through May 29, 2015 when some new governors came on board. With the new governors, only one of which was the deputy governor in the immediate past dispensation, it seems new challenges have come on board to further challenge the rebuilding of the South East Governors’ Forum. These challenges are in the main traceable to pedigree and political clout of the new State helmsmen
That was good thinking and it helped to keep the good music on! But while observers enamoured of that refreshing development celebrated the melody of the NGF reunion, governors from the South East wing left a dirge for the broken walls of the South East Governors’ Forum.
This was so because while members of the Northern Governors’ Forum were moved to emulation by undertaking a smooth handover of the reigns of leadership from the Chief Servant of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliu, to the Bornu State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima; the last chairman of SEGF, hurried to the Senate without discharging similar social burden.
And with what played out at the twin chambers of the National Assembly, there is every reason to believe that His Excellency Senator Theodore Ahamefule Orji, may not find it feasible to handover the chairmanship of SEGF to Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the governor of Imo State. By geographical location, Imo State is contiguous to Abia.
Again it is a historical fact that Governor Anayo Okorocha is the longest serving governor as yet in the South East geopolitical zone. There is therefore no political arithmetic that could provide a plausible alibi for the post of Chairman of SEGF not to be transmitted to the Imo State governor.
But the devil is in the classification of the various political platforms on which the governors of South East are divided. It is also against that variegated backgrounds and political idiosyncrasies of the governors that the chasm in SEGF may linger till 2019.
APC-PDP Rivalry: Prior to the March 28, 2015 Presidential election during which the All Progressives Congress, (APC) beat the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) incumbent president, APC was looked at as a repugnant political platform in the South East. Again when the Imo State Governor, Okorocha, decided midway into his tenure to hobnob with the party during its formative stages, many politicians in the zone believed that he has dug his political grave.
Not only did Okorocha begin to display aloofness to various discussions at the SEGF meetings due to their PDP appeal, he gradually stopped attending the Enugu meetings. At first, he mooted the idea of rotating the venue of the meetings.
Later he made it a common practice of delegating his deputy to attend the meetings. Finally when the political push and shove over the 2015 election gained momentum, the Imo State governor left the South East Governors’ Forum for PDP and their concubine, All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) which lone Governor, Mr. Peter Obi, was the chairman.
But while Obi continued to facilitate the SEGF meetings, the fact of his ending tenure troubled the Forum further such that the then Anambra State Governor continued to serve as the Chairman till few days to his exit from office.
So heated was the issue of who to head the SEGF that former Ebonyi Governor, Chief Martin Elechi, once hinted, “what if we just hold our meetings without a Chairman?” in answer to media queries.
The fact that the immediate past Abia State Governor, T. A. Orji, was granted the chairmanship of the SEGF merely because nature abhorred a vacuum was to come to light during the few meetings that he presided over in Enugu before the forum went into permanent coma. Sometimes he was shunted to a side corner to address journalists after the meeting. At other times he would be schooled on what to say.
At all times it was obvious that Orji was merely being tolerated by the Governors of Enugu and Ebonyi, who perceived him as a very slimy character eager to do the bidding of Abuja.
Observers hold that the comparative low vote tally secured by former President Goodluck Jonathan in the zone during the March 28, election was in part due to the low acceptability rating of the Chairman of SEGF.
Orji courted the disfavor of his colleagues when he ill-advisedly sacked non-indigenuous civil servants from Abia State. Sources said that that action pitted the Abia Governor against his counterpart from Imo, Okorocha. The loss of camaraderie within the SEGF lasted through May 29, 2015 when some new governors came on board.
With the new governors, only one of which was the deputy governor in the immediate past dispensation, it seems new challenges have come on board to further challenge the rebuilding of the South East Governors’ Forum. These challenges are in the main traceable to pedigree and political clout of the new State helmsmen.
Imo: Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha: Political ‘Prodigal’ Treated like a prodigal political son, the emergence of Okorocha as Chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum raised his political clout in the country though despised at home.
When most people thought otherwise, the Imo State Governor who came to power in 2011 in a blaze of anti-PDP sentiment waltzed his way back to power for a second term in office. His membership of the victorious APC no doubt further alienates him from his brother governors who still feel the trauma and shame of losing the powerful aura which their erstwhile connection to the federal governor confers.
Having played the prodigal in the years just gone bye, it is left to be seen how the governor will want to unite the governors of the South East under the usual SEGF. Moreover the background of his membership of APC, his quelled motion for the rotation of venue of the SEGF meetings around the five states, would arouse further suspicion among the other governors three of which are still under the PDP umbrella.
This likely scenario makes it implausible that the broken walls of the SEGF could be rebuilt. Worse still, with his near impudent swagger, not many of the new governors would be easily disposed to sit at meeting with “the loudmouth of Owerri”.
Anambra: Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano: Political ‘Orphan’ Not long after he was sworn into office as the fourth executive governor of Anambra State on March 17, 2014, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, lost the companionship of his political godfather, Mr. Peter Obi.
No thanks to small talks that circulated around the two big men, the new Governor sought to crave his leadership style. Showing closer affinity to the controversial National Chairman of the ragtag APGA, Chief Victor Umeh; Obiano became estranged from Obi.
But after his eventual victory at the poll, getting down business became a thorn on his flesh. A plethora of lists of potential appointees inundated the table of the new governor such that he had to convoke a stakeholders’ meeting before he could make his first appointments. Now faced with these hungry mouths to feed and sundry interest groups to warm up to, would Ugwuanyi find the luxury of time to ruminate over the SEGF?
And irked by the somewhat betrayal of his political protégé, Obi crossed over to the PDP to continue rowing the presidential boat in the South East. As such armed with federal might, Obi dislodged the shook the integrity of the APGA political structure at the 2015 poll by ensuring that virtually all candidates for the National Assembly, including Umeh, were roundly disgraced.
Had President Jonathan won the March 28 election, it is possible that Obi would have used the PDP machinery to ensure that APGA lost all the State Assembly seats and leave Obiano no room for further antics. But pained by Obiano’s search for new friends, Obi who stepped on a lot of toes to return the Aguleri-born former banker as his successor continued to maintain visibility by visiting schools and churches to the utter chagrin of Obiano.
In the display of political hide and seek, it became very obvious that Obiano had become a political orphan without any umbilical cord to Aso Rock.
Yet in search for attention from the Villa, Obiano overreached himself by declaring that no sane Igbo could vote for APC in the presidential election. Then in a curious twist of fate, Buhari won! The Governor nearly made himself a laughing stock in the South East as his congratulatory visit on the president-elect received an equal mixture of praise and condemnation.
Thus having gone through such not so becoming path in trying to reach to the power foci in Abuja, would the former Fidelity Bank director find it convenient to seek political tutelage from Owerri, where Owelle, who does not stoop to conquer; presides? Again, can he play the new errand boy to loquacious Imo State Governor without further injury to his image? Above all, how would the foot soldiers of his former boss view his political pilgrimage to Owerri, assuming Obiano condescends to such a maneuver? Chances are that Obiano may wish to remain between the devil of defeated PDP and the deep blue sea of unpredictable APC! Ebonyi: Chief David Nweze Umahi: Disinherited Political Heir To a lot of people in Ebonyi State, Governor David Umahi is like a son who saw the father’s nakedness.
In a state where it was the norm for the Governor to have the final say on who succeeds him, Umahi rose up to defy his benefactor. A civil Engineering contractor, Umahi was conscripted into the chairmanship of PDP when the fall out of the 2007 governorship primary of the party in the state threw up two claimants to the office.
While none of the chairmen, Barrister Okeagu Ogada and Chief Joseph Obinna Ogba, agreed to back down from the struggle to occupy the chair, Chief Elechi emerged victorious in the 2007 election. And in a bid to arrest the distortion which the leadership squabble was giving to the party, the new governor sued for dissolution of the State Working Committee and in its place, a Care taker Committee, set up. When the National Working Committee of the party acquiesced, Elechi nominated Umahi, from Ebonyi South Senatorial Zone, to serve as Caretaker chairman.
Virtually all PDP stakeholders from the state including the former Governor Sam Egwu, objected to the nomination for reason that Umahi was a neophyte and recent joiner to the PDP.
But Elechi was said to have argued that since he would be handing over the governorship to a person from Ebonyi South, Umahi should be made the caretaker chairman to organize the State Congress the following year where chairmanship candidates from Ebonyi North would contest. However Umahi, supported by Elechi, reneged from the arrangement as the caretaker committee members were given a blanket endorsement to run unopposed as candidates in the State congress. In 2011 Elechi selected Umahi to contest the election as his running mate.
That way he eventually became the deputy governor after the election was won. But towards the tail end of their tenure last year, Umahi indicated interest to contest the governorship to which ambition Elechi distanced himself.
Elechi was said to have told some PDP elders that though he had in mind to have the younger Umahi succeed him, what he saw by way of character traits and disposition towards primitive accumulation of wealth made him to rethink that promise. As such no sooner had Elechi nominated a former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, for the PDP ticket than Umahi started mobilizing to challenge the plan.
In the heat of the skirmishes for the PDP ticket through contentious congresses to elect delegates, Elechi disowned Umahi publicly stressing that over his dead body would he handover the state government to the Uburu-born contractor. With the tacit support of PDP NWC, Umahi picked the PDP ticket at a huge cost.
Yet the governorship election was made so expensive that Umahi had to fall back on two wealthy Anambra politicians and the presidency to fund his campaigns. But on May 29, 2015; Umahi was sworn into office as the third Governor of Ebonyi State.
The Labour Party Governorship candidate, Dr. Edward Nkwegu, who received Elechi’s endorsement and support, is challenging the election in the Tribunal. Consequently bogged by colossal debts and political IOUs and domestic challenges, it is left to conjecture how the resuscitation of the SEGF would occupy the immediate attention of the new Ebonyi Governor.
Enugu: Chief Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi: Heir Of A Polygamous Political Family The new Governor of Enugu, the Coal City State, Chief Ifeanyi Lawrence Ugwuanyi, casts the image of a first son in a polygamous household. As the heir to the father’s estate, this kind of first son is wont to behave in such a manner as to give the impression that he belongs to everybody and belongs to nobody.
Perhaps on account of the near unanimity of the zoning arrangement and the perceived popularity of former Governor Sullivan Chime, the former member representing Igboeze/Udenu federal constituency in the House of Representatives, had massive following in the state. Reminiscent of the M.K. O Abiola Hope ’93 campaigns, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s candidacy received the enthusiastic support of many volunteer campaign groups.
Apart from a sprinkling of relations and friends of the election battle weary Okey Ezea of the APC, it was as if the whole of Enugu were settled in the choice of Ugwuanyi as governor even before the election held. Reputed as good man disposed to charity and constant interface with the less privileged, Ugwuanyi belonged to the three known political power blocs in Enugu State.
Sent to the House of Representatives initially in 2003 through the instrumentality of the Ebeano political grouping, Ugwuanyi maintained his cool. At the build up to the 2015 when incumbent Governor Chime and Deputy President of Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, started posturing for a showdown, it was not easy to pin Ugwuanyi to any of the budding factions.
In the end when wiser counsel prevailed, Ugwuanyi remained the toast of the two groups. But after his eventual victory at the poll, getting down business became a thorn on his flesh. A plethora of lists of potential appointees inundated the table of the new governor such that he had to convoke a stakeholders’ meeting before he could make his first appointments.
Now faced with these hungry mouths to feed and sundry interest groups to warm up to, would Ugwuanyi find the luxury of time to ruminate over the SEGF? Abia: Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu: Heir Of A Disputed Political Parentage He is about the only academic in a Government House in South East.
Within the first week of mounting the saddle, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, rolled his sleeves and set to work on the deplorable and squalid environment of the commercial city of Aba. With those impressive first steps, the former lecturer gave the impression to a lot of residents of Abia State especially Aba that he could turn out to be Okonkwo, the son of Mazi Unoka.
As a politician, Governor Ikpeazu was sired by a man whose political pedigree was defined by treachery and conflict. Despite belonging to the upper bracket of high revenue states in the Niger Delta Development Commission, (NDDC) Abia has remained on the front page of national news media for the wrong reasons.
When workers’ salaries are not owed in arrears, they are discriminated against through a divisive non-indigene policy. From tales of kidnapping and insecurity, stories about heaps of garbage decorating very bad street roads move citizens to ask whether there was a government in place in the state.
Therefore in a bid to adopt a social science approach to delivering on his disputed mandate, Governor Ikpeazu, reached out to the former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) Professor Chukwuma Soludo.
The new Abia governor believes that with good pep talks from Soludo, he could simulate the wonders contained the former CBN governor’s AfricanDubaiTaiwan developmental blueprint. But against the backdrop of the governor’s belief that harvesting the low hanging fruits of visible good deeds in office could fetch him the much needed goodwill to be his own man in power.
Intriguingly the governor’s attention is divided between demonstrating surefootedness in government and ensuring that the election petition tribunal does not cut short his grandiose plans for Abia.
Faced with these odd challenges, it is doubtful if Governor Ikpeazu would spare a thought for South East Governors’ Forum or an election of its chairman for that matter.
Inference: Flowing from the above scenarios at the states, the feasibility of rebuilding the broken walls of SEGF remains far and remote. And threatened by the bad weather reports, it is doubtful if the dry bones of SEGF would ever rise again.
A dreary challenge to be faced by those who may feel sufficiently inspired to attempt reviving the SEGF, is the possibility of a Rochas Okorocha chairmanship. Clearly, the Imo State Governor towers above his colleagues as a politician with a national clout. But how these governors, majority of who are in the PDP would feel to have a minority governor at their head is not easy for one to hazard a guess.
And remembering that the new PDP governors are mostly political Lilliputians, whose immediate concern is service delivery to the people and desire to earn a second term in office, makes it even harder to contemplate Okorocha’s acceptance of their chairmanship.
What would the chairman of Progressive Governors have to discuss with these minnows in national politics under a South East Governors’ Forum? Could it be that Nd’Igbo, are in for a four-year period of wandering in the political desert? Sadly, none of the collectively owned economic ventures inherited by the states from the founding fathers is still running to the shame of South East in political distress!