Previous chairmen of the crisis-ridden Nigeria Governors’ Forum used it as a campaign platform to promote personal ambition and as a tool for occupying national political space, thus derailing the NGF from its founding principles, so says Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State.
Dickson who spoke on a number of state and national issues to select journalists in Yenagoa recently alleged that the previous chairmen refused to stick to the founding principles of the forum, “which is a peer review mechanism, not a trade union, not a platform for personal political aggrandisement and not a platform for playing partisan politics.”
Said the Bayelsa governor: “We are there actually to compare notes and also to serve as a platform for collaboration. It is not a political organisation; it is not a partisan organisation. It is a bipartisan or multi-partisan organisation that enables us to focus on what is the best, how we can deepen democracy and collaborate with the federal government on challenges of development, challenges of national security and so on.
“Well, the problem didn’t start now. PDP governors who became chairmen of the Forum over the years turned it to a campaign platform. It didn’t start now; it didn’t start with Governor Rotimi Amaechi. Even before him, that was the tradition. So there was the urge of the Chairman of NGF to want to become the President or Vice-President. Once an organisation of equals, a voluntary organisation of equals starts on that note, things could fall apart and the centre may not be strong enough to hold. I think that was what happened basically. But, like I said, we are all not happy about what happened. We are all friends and colleagues and men of honour. We agree and disagree and I think very soon we will all come back to do the things we are supposed to do.”
Dickson said all the governors were unhappy about the on going crisis and how it has metamorphosed and that many felt it could have been handled well: “Quite frankly, there is no governor who would say he is not touched or he is not sad by the development in the NGF. We are as outraged and saddened as any other Nigerian. I think that Nigerian governors are responsible people and not irresponsible as the outcome may have suggested.
”We are putting our heads together, consulting across divides and very soon, with the feelers that I have, the misunderstanding will be resolved and NGF will be back. But the NGF that will be back, I’m sure it’s an NGF that would have learnt its lessons; an NGF that would have learnt to stick to the founding principles of the organisation.”
The Bayelsa governor said he would never accept the chairmanship of the forum, even if offered free because it is an unnecessary stress: “Quite frankly, for some of us, even if you dash me the chairmanship of the NGF, I won’t take it because it is additional trouble and stress. It is basically additional responsibility. The responsibilities we have in our state are enough challenges. Quite frankly, that is why I think the whole thing was blown out of proportion because some people wanted to use it to achieve other ends, other ulterior motives, even when there was no need for it.
“In the United States, people don’t even know who the chairman of the American Governor’s Forum is, because it’s not important. The chairman is just there to preside over the meetings of equals. It doesn’t make him a super governor. But you know everything Nigerian, people want to distort and then make something out of nothing. You don’t need NGF to discuss with your party. If you want to become anything, you set up your campaign platform and you battle for the ticket of your party and you talk to Nigerians. You don’t need an NGF.
“But I think there is this unfortunate misconception of NGF as platform that could be used for national political space. I think heavy investment was also made to project it that way. For me, it’s nothing I am prepared to accept right now because the challenges of governing my state are serious enough. As governors, the mandate we have is to govern our state.”
The governor also spoke on why his administration has been spending so much money on road construction across the state: “There is construction everywhere because that is what I promised the people of the state and also that is what they deserve. We are preparing our state for industrialisation. We are preparing our state to be a foremost tourism and investment haven. We are preparing our state to join the league of developed states. I am in a hurry to see development."