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NGF Chairmanship: Odds Favour Fayemi

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All things being equal,Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi will today emerge as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum( NGF) . JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH writes

For the first time in its history , a governor from the south west will today emerge as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors forum( NGF). Odds favour Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi to emerge as the chairman of the elite club.

It is instructive to note that since the creation of the NGF 20 years ago, the Southwest, the Northeast and the Southeast have not chaired the forum.

The former chairmen of the forum include  : Alh. Abdullahi Adamu, (Nasarawa, 1999 – 2004),  Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom State, 2004 -2006), Chief Lucky Igbinedion (Edo, 2006 – 2007), Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (Kwara, 2007- 2011), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers, 2011 -2015) and Abdulaziz Yari (2015-2019).

According to reports on its website,the formation of the NGF was not only expedient but imperative for the states to assert themselves and to collectively influence the nature and course of policies at the national level. Given the state of the polity in the days following the end of many years of military rule, there was a clear need for States to re-assert themselves and exercise the level of independence that is the wont of a true federation. It had also become necessary for them to regain their past glory of constituting a credible unit within the wider context of the federation, thereby removing the manifest distortion which militates against the realization of true federalism.

Forum meetings have formed the basis for major policy contributions on important national issues such as the debates on Sovereign Wealth Fund, Minimum Wage, and the removal of fuel subsidy. In addition to regular meetings, various working committees (e.g. on Constitutional Review, Revenue Allocation, Security, etc.) are functional. More broadly, the National Executive Council (NEC) monthly meetings usually drive the scheduling of Forum meetings and common positions adopted at these meetings form the crux of the Governors priorities at NEC.

The NGF from the outset in 1999 was  characterised by very minimal activity by the Forum. The forum started gaining the attention of Nigerians when Bukola Saraki emerged as the chairman of the forum.He spearheaded a major restructuring and redefining of the NGF.

The most turbulent period for the forum was when former Rivers State governor, Ameachi emerged as the chairman of the forum.Ameachi then had a running battle with the former president, Goodluck Jonathan. In a bid to weaken Amaechi’s powers, Plateau State governor, Jonah Jang was projected as the winner of the election regardless of the fact that he had 16 votes against the 19 for Amaechi .

Recall that  immediately after Amaechi was announced as the chairman of the forum,  some governors led by the Chairman of PDP Governors Forum, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, rejected the result of the poll which was conducted by secret ballot, saying it was rigged in favour of Amaechi.

Akpabio told journalists after a meeting of the opposed governors at the Akwa Ibom State Governors Lodge, Asokoro District, to which they retreated, that the ballot papers used for the election did not have serial numbers; adding that they would recognize Jang and Mimiko as the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Forum, respectively.

The Akpabio-led governors claimed  Amaechi and his supporters rigged the election.  Akpabio told journalists that the Rivers State Governor failed to step down prior to the election.

Till the end of their tenure, we had  two NGF chairmen.However on the website of the NGF, only Amaechi was recognised as the chairman of the forum.

The tenure of the Zamfara governor,Abdulaziz Yari was  regarded as the best years of the forum. Yari was able to convince the Buhari administration to pay the Paris London refund to states.  He was nick named NGF chairman for life by his colleagues because of his ability to get a good deal for the states especially in the area of finances. Yari leveraged on his good relationship with President Buhari to get most requests approved. He was able to unite the governors across party lines.

Today the governors will converge in Abuja to elect Yari’s successor.Odds favour Fayemi to succeed Yari.

It is worthy to note that that there is an unwritten rule that the chairman ship of the forum rotates between the north and south, also the party with the majority governors produce the chairman.

Since Yari is from the north, naturally the next chairman should come from  the  south. Among all the All Progressive Congress (APC)governors from the south , Fayemi is the most ranking having served his first term as governor from 2010 to 2014..According to political observers if Lagos State governor ,Akinwumi Ambode  had returned for a second term ,it would have been a contest between the two. As things stand now , Fayemi is the sole candidate for the position.

A top official of the NGF,also dismissed media reports claiming the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El- Rufai is interested in succeeding Yari.According to the official who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the condition of anonymity said” the story that PDP governors rejected El-Rufai’s candidature as chairman of the forum is false. As far as I know ,the governor is not interested in becoming the chairman of the forum. You know the chairmanship rotates between the north and south so el – Rufai knows that he will breach the constitution of the NGF if he throws his hat into the ring for the NGF chairmanship. An APC governor from the south will emerge as the chairman ,”.

Suffice it to say,Fayemi is also respected among his colleagues,he is urbane,suave and seen as a cosmopolitan politician who will take the NGF to the level.  Like Yari, Fayemi also enjoys a close relationship with President Buhari.Its no secret that the President is very fond of Fayemi.The Ekiti governor performed creditably well as minister of mines and steel as for the first time , there was genuine desire and drive from the federal government to exploits the potentials in the solid mineral sector .

Political observers contend that the NGF chairmanship may be a springboard for a rumoured 2023 presidential ambition for Fayemi who is regarded as a frontline candidate .

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