by Governor Seriake Dickson
It has come to my knowledge that my distinguished and respected senior colleagues, the out-going governors, whose tenures will be ending May 29, 2015, have summoned a meeting of the purported Nigeria Governors’ Forum for Monday May 18 2015. Among other things on the card for discussion, I understand, may be the selection of a new leadership of the forum.
Having participated in the activities of the NGF at the period during its crisis with my respected colleagues, most of whom are now ending their respective governorship tenures, and having also known the roles played by most of the key actors of the forum in the orchestration and mismanagement of a needless crisis at such a critical phase in our nation’s political journey, I owe it as a duty to our country and its fledgling democracy to alert the nation and caution my respected colleagues, especially the in-coming governors of the dangers in allowing themselves to be railroaded by the out-going governors, most of whom created the NGF crisis, to foist on our country and political system another NGF contraption (in their own image and likeness) that will in due course threaten the stability of our democracy and be a distraction to citizens and the leadership of our country, as the NGF tussle has done between 2012 till date.
They failed to show leadership by example, when it mattered most. They played politics with everything and put their personal ambitions and egos above national interest. As a democrat, I believe in robust dialogue, disagreement and the need to accommodate a variety of opinions and consensus building where the national interest so dictates. Therefore, as true democrats and nationalists, whether we agree or disagree, it must be in the national interest. These they did not show throughout the crisis, even after the tireless and fatherly intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who held series of late night meetings with us. Most colleagues took the view that both Governors Jonah Jang and Rotimi Amaechi should step down for a neutral candidate to emerge. Again, they disagreed.
The NGF is neither a political party nor a trade union but a voluntary association of governors who are the heads of federating units in our country. I believe that the duties are to provide a mechanism for peer review, a platform to collaborate with the federal government and amongst ourselves on issues of national security, law and order, management of the economy of the federation and strengthening our democratic values and practices. But contrary to these lofty ideals, the forum was used as a trade union and an alternative ‘federal government’ or an opposition platform.
The leaders of the NGF from the majority party have always tried to use it as a stepping stone to seeking higher office, and an instruments of the enforcement of their will on their political parties and the nation. From experience, the seeds of instability in NGF are always sown by out-going governors, foisting their favourite candidates on the in-coming ones. I disagree with this practice. The leadership of NGF has to be consensual, not by a divisive election and I agree that its chairman should come from the majority party with a vice chairman from the minority party and it should respect the principle of rotation between the north and the south for a period that the members may determine, not more than two years and not subject to re-appointment. The process of consultation by the existing PDP Governors’ Forum and the APC Progressive Governors’ Forum should commence regarding the desirability and procedures for bringing about its leadership after May 29, when the new governors would have taken office and therefore become active members.
From inception of the NGF till date, the leadership has always been surreptitiously put in place without the input of all members, especially the in-coming governors as new members, thus short-changing them. This is what the out-going members who have destroyed the forum plan to do. I disagree with this. I believe that the out-going members, most of whom allow themselves to tear the NGF apart, should just let things be.
One may ask, what is the hurry in summoning a moribund and divided NGF under its multiple leaderships, especially in the dying days of its actors whose clash of egos and ambitions brought about the crisis in the NGF in the first place?
Our nation and democracy cannot afford another NGF whose leaders will develop ambitions and use same to undermine the federal government or be a threat to the stability and peace of our country and their political parties. I have shared these views with Governors Amaechi, Jang, Akpabio and others. I have also shared it with some of the in-coming governors. Let all the issues of the NGF be handled by the governors who will be left after May 29. The secretariat should be told to receive the handing over notes from the two leaders and be prepared to give account when the need arises.
I appreciate the contributions and sacrifices made by our out-going governors and indeed, the sacrifices every one of us has made and will continue to make in the building of a prosperous, stable and democratic Nigeria. Happily, a number of the out-going governors will still be around in one form or the other. With their guidance and that of others, let the governors who are left after May 29 rise to the occasion.
Governor Seriake Dickson is the current Governor of Bayelsa State.
The opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the author.