NIGERIA: PDP in Fresh Plot to Unseat Amaechi as NGF Chair

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has come up with a fresh plan on how to achieve its agenda of ensuring that Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, does not return as Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) chairman, THISDAY has gathered.

The party, whose previous attempts at unseating Amaechi failed because it did not enjoy support from majority of NGF members, including PDP governors, is now considering sponsoring amendments to the forum’s constitution so that the party with majority members would have the right to present a consensus candidate as the NGF chairman. The PDP has 23 governors in the 36-member forum.

The NGF chairmanship election was postponed until May after a meeting of the governors on February 25 to elect a new chairman was stalled by differences between pro-Amaechi governors and those that backed the presidency’s moves against the Rivers State governor.

The botched election was followed hours later by the formation of the PDP Governors’ Forum (PDP-GF), and the emergence of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, as its chairman, at a meeting reportedly summoned by President Goodluck Jonathan.  The emergence of the new forum is seen as an attempt to weaken the pan-governors’ forum.

THISDAY checks revealed yesterday that ahead of the May date for the planned election of the NGF chairman, PDP, besides pushing for the right to present a consensus candidate as the forum’s chairman, is also proposing an amendment to the constitution of the forum that would limit the tenure of an NGF chairman to a single term of two years, with no option of re-election.

The party, in addition, wants a stipulation in the NGF constitution that an incumbent chairman shall step down before a chairmanship election to allow an election committee to conduct the election to the leadership positions of the forum.

A source told THISDAY yesterday that the decision to push for the amendment of the NGF constitution was reached at the last PDP-GF, held at the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja about three weeks ago.

Akpabio had said in the communiqué he read after the meeting that the PDP governors would move for an amendment of the NGF constitution.

The source, who gave an insight into the kind of amendment to the NGF constitution that PDP would be pushing for, said the exercise is aimed at changing the present situation whereby each governor is allowed to present himself for the NGF chairmanship election, irrespective of party affiliation.

It aims to give the party with the highest number of governors the option to present a consensus candidate for the position, he added.
The source, a governor from one of the North-central states, said: “In the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, there is no provision for an independent candidate and it follows that at all times, the party should be seen to be sponsoring a candidate for any election that is under the constitution of Nigeria.

“Since there is no provision for an independent candidate anywhere in the constitution, the NGF cannot be seen to be operating outside the confines of the laws. By the planned amendments, PDP, with 23 governors, should be allowed to present the candidate for the office of the chairman of the forum.

“It is not going to be in the overall interest of the party to have two governors from the same party presenting themselves for the election. It does not present PDP, in this case, with the highest number of governors, as a united and disciplined party.”

The source cited the National Assembly to buttress the position of the PDP governors that the NGF constitution should be amended.
“It is the party with the highest number of legislators that is constitutionally allowed to present candidates for the office of the Senate president and speaker of the House of Representatives and the NGF shall not be an exception.

“The planned amendment will also include that the term of office for the chairman of the forum at all times shall be for a single term of two years and that before any election, an incumbent chairman shall set up a three-man committee to conduct the election, even if the election is unanimous,” the source said.

Although, the governor denied that the amendment bid has ulterior motive in view of PDP’s plan to ensure that Amaechi does not return as the NGF chairman, THISDAY gathered that the plot was hatched by some interested parties outside the forum in conjunction with some PDP governors to stop the Rivers governor from re-contesting.

The bid to amend the NGF constitution is the latest in a series of attempts to stop the re-election of Amaechi, who remains popular among the governors, despite the fact that the presidency does not favour his continued stay as the NGF chairman.

A source said last week’s pasting of presidential campaign posters of Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, with Amaechi as his running mate, was part of the plot to cast the Rivers State governor in bad light as one who is too ambitious.

Meanwhile, the search for a consensus PDP candidate for the NGF chairmanship election in May has suffered a setback, as governors from the opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), as well as Governor Rochas Okorocha of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – have refused to dump Amaechi.

According to a source within the forum, “The opposition governors are strongly backing Amaechi and this has not helped with the inability of the northern governors to find a consensus candidate among them.

“The first option that was thrown up in the person of Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State was not acceptable to the northern governors.

“The Amaechi factor is still making it difficult for the northern governors to support any other governor for the office of the chairman.”
Benue State Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, and his counterpart from Bauchi State, Mallam Isa Yuguda, the source said, were being considered as possible consensus candidates.

The source, however, explained that in the event that the PDP-GF fails to have its way at the NGF election, the party would come up with a Plan B. But he declined to explain what the Plan B would entail.

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