Friday, 7 June 2013

Yuguda, Shema, Geidam Shun Northern Govs' Meeting

The reported crack in the ranks of the Northern Governors’ Forum became obvious on Thursday as three state governors shunned the forum’s crucial meeting in Kaduna.
Governor Issa Yuguda of Bauchi; his Katsina State counterpart, Ibrahim Shema and Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State failed to attend the meeting and did not send any of the states’ officials to represent them.
In all, only five of the 19-member body were present at the meeting held at the Gen. Hassan Katsina House, Kaduna, while 11 of the governors sent either their deputies or their secretaries to the state governments.
Yuguda and Shema had played prominent roles in the Nigeria Governors’ Forum election penultimate Friday, where Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, defeated Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang by 19 to 16 votes.
It was reported that the failure of either Yuguda or Shema to step down for each other led to the choice of Jang as the northern governors’ consensus candidate.
However, the chairman of the Forum, and Governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, defended the turnout, explaining that the fact that most of the governors sent their deputies showed that they were adequately represented. He said most of them gave reasons why they could not attend.
He said, “If I send my deputy to a place whether I like it or not whatever decision is taken there is part of my decision and I have been saying it loud and clear that if I die today before I am even buried, my deputy will be sworn in. “We have had an example in Kaduna State. So sending a deputy did not reduce the level or the importance of any decision taken there.”
The governors, according to Aliyu, kicked against the proposed banning of the Almajiri system of education in the region where children of school age roam the streets in quest of Islamic education.
Urging political leaders to focus on issues that would engender national development and the consolidation of the democratic gains, the governors condemned the killing of security operatives in Nasarawa State by the Ombaste group.
“The forum further expressed concern over the economic problems facing the nation, especially the North and resolved to have an economic plan that would form the basis for the economic development of the North.
Also, speaking on the controversial Nigeria Governors’ Forum election, Aliyu said, “I am speaking to you as the chairman of the NSGF (Northern State Governors Forum) and if you want my view, I will tell you we had an election.” Aliyu, who also dismissed the threat by Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda never to attend the meeting of the NSGF , said it was unfortunate that “we seem to be developing a culture where when you are preparing for an election , you must also prepare to contest in the court.”
But Yuguda also on Thursday accused NSGF of being responsible for the crisis which caused the factionalisation of the hitherto strong NGF.
One of the factions is led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, who reportedly won the May 24 election. Jonah Jang of Plateau State lays claim to the leadership of the second group.
Yuguda had on Sunday withdrawn his membership of the NSGF, citing what he called failure by his colleagues in the North to honour an agreement to support Jang during the controversial NGF poll.
However, Aliyu after reading the communique of the Forum on Thursday at the General Hassan Katsina House, Kaduna,told journalists that the brouhaha over the NGF election was not unexpected.
The governor, who said he was not prepared to open up on what led to the problem trailing the NGF poll, added that in every election, there must be crisis which the participants must resolve among themselves.
He said, “If I am to tell you what led to the problem in the NGF, we will stay here till tomorrow; so I have no intention of doing that. I will only tell you that in whatever process of election or whatever, there may be one person or two that will be aggrieved.
“We seem to be developing a culture where when you prepare for an election, you must also prepare to contest in court. As I am speaking to you as the chairman of NSGF, if you want my view, I will tell you we had an election; we have a problem and we will solve it.”
On Yuguda’s threat never to attend the meeting of the NSGF meetings, Aliyu said he (Yuguda) was free to do so since the forum was a voluntary group.
He said, “The situation is that when people feel aggrieved, you don’t go back retaliating on what they have said. He (Yuguda) did not write to this meeting and it is a voluntary organisation and we have resolved as a group to follow this informally. You (journalists) did not hear any one of us replying him the way you heard him.”
Meanwhile, Yuguda has said he has yet to understand why Aliyu did not stand up for the integrity of the Northern Governors’ Forum after he and the other Northern governors resolved to endorse Jang as their consensus candidate for the NGF election.
The governor however said despite the crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party leading to the suspension of two state governors, no party was capable of dislodging it.
Yuguda spoke with State House corespondents shortly after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said where there was integrity, if 19 governors presented a consensus candidate in a 35-member association as the Northern governors did, the game should have been over.
He added that the NGF had never been known to be conducting elections as its leaders were always chosen by consensus.
He said, “My words should be my bond. If I had sat down with 19 of my colleagues and we agreed on something, I should not see the chairman of that forum not coming to protect the integrity of the Northern State Governors Forum and by extension the NGF and that is why I say all the crisis and all the unfortunate comments made about the governors today, the fault should be traced to the NSGF because we are the culprits.
“That is why I say on his honour, let the chairman of the NSGF come out and tell Nigerians that either we in the forum did not come out with Jang as our consensus candidate or we, 19 governors, picked Jang as our consensus candidate.
“If that had been done, all these things will not happen and that is why I say if I will sit with my colleagues and we take a decision and you go and do a different thing, I am not part of that. Me as a person, I don’t want to attend their (Northern governors’) meeting but my deputy can attend on behalf of the people and government of Bauchi State. But as a person, I will not. That has always been my position.”