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NGF’s unfinished business as Tambuwal takes over from Fayemi

There is a change of baton in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), with Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, taking over its chairmanship.  Tambuwal, a…

There is a change of baton in the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), with Sokoto State governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, taking over its chairmanship. 

Tambuwal, a second-term governor from the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Thursday took over from the Ekiti State governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who has been in the saddle for nearly four years. 

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This development is sequel to the fact that Fayemi would be rounding off his tenure as governor of Ekiti State in October, 2022. 

Fayemi was recently elected as the president of the Forum of Regional and State Governments in Saidia in the state of Casablanca in Morrocco.

Consequently, Governor Atiku Bagudu has been appointed to deputise Tambuwal in the interim, spanning between October 2022 and May, 2023 when their tenure would have elapsed and a fresh election would be held for the emergence of the forum’s new executive. 

Tambuwal, before his appointment, was the forum’s vice chairman and chairman of the PDP Governors Forum. He is also the director-general of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Presidential Campaign Council. 

Before the official handover on Thursday, the forum had announced Tambuwal’s emergence during the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting in Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on September 22.

Tambuwal’s emergence from the opposition has triggered tongues to wag from both the ruling and opposition parties.

Statistically, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has 22 governors, PDP has 13 and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) one governor. 

How Bagudu emerged as deputy 

The announcement of Bagudu as the interim deputy chairman of the forum took many by surprise, leading to an insinuation that the 22 APC governors wanted Tambuwal’s role from the opposition party to be complemented by a governor from the ruling party.  

Bagudu’s name was not mentioned during the National Economic Council meeting in the Villa.

But Fayemi said, “The truth of the matter is that we don’t do party here. We work together collaboratively. That was Tambuwal’s suggestion. He wanted complementality, it wasn’t imposition by the forum. It is a period we require all hands to be on deck.

“If we can put everybody together, it would be better for us. That is the simple reason for that. The NGF is a credible, non-partisan body respected both nationally and internationally for sub-national governance and development, and does not take political party differences into account. 

“The forum collectively took a decision at the end of the meeting today (Thursday) on the vice chairman, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal to act as the interim chairman of the forum pending the time the full election of the forum would take place in May 2023. 

“He will be complemented in that role by the governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Bagudu. That is the decision the forum has taken because in the next two weeks I shall cease to be a governor and this position will go to a serving governor.  

“I thank my colleagues for the cooperation I have received from them for the three and half years I have been in this position. We have worked together. 

“This body has served Nigeria as a non-partisan forum, where issues are debated and decisions reached without any bias for partisan concern or interest.  It is my hope that we shall continue in this tradition and work in the overall interest of Nigerians who elected us.”

Mixed reactions trail choice 

Some political actors who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday expressed surprise at the emergence of the Sokoto State governor as the chairman of the NGF, while others described it as democracy in action.

A former chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Peter Ameh, said Tambuwal would find it cumbersome to navigate the terrain where far-reaching decisions are to be taken against the APC- led government.

He said, “The possibility of taking very far-reaching decisions that will be binding on all, especially when it affects a sitting government, is almost non-existent. And the fact that he is deep into the presidential campaign of the opposition PDP will also cause some level of suspicion because whatever decision he takes, they might think he is trying to use it to favour his candidate. 

“If the NGF really wanted to do something workable, choosing from the minority to become the leader of the majority is really not something that happens in a democracy, which is government of the majority with the interest to protect the interest of the minority.

“These are the factors you should look around for when you are discussing these issues. I don’t see it as a very good decision. The essence will not be achieved with Tambuwal being the campaign director-general of Atiku Abubakar.”

A founding member of the PDP, Alhaji Aminu Yakudima, also said, “He may not have the support of his colleagues from the other side of the divide on certain critical issues to be able to run the activities of the orgamisarion as effective as expected. I think it would be better for him to allow someone else to take it. 

“As the director-general of a presidential campaign for a candidate who is very strong in the contest, I can’t see him being effective.”

A former deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, Prince Diran Odeyemi said, “He became the chairman by default. Simply because he is in the opposition, he was the vice chairman. However, I don’t believe the NGF plays the politics of opposition. I think they run their affairs irrespective of political party. That is why you see the likes of Fayemi commissioning projects in Rivers State. 

“And for the mere fact that Tambuwal is the chairman of the campaign committee and chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, I think it is a responsibility that luck has bestowed on him. 

“I am sure the roles he has to play in all the assignments are not too much for him. If they were too much, I am sure he would have prioritised his workload to ensure that he is not found wanting in any of the assignments.”

But a member of the APC National Caucus, Chief Sam Nkire said, “He is most likely to be partisan. It is impossible for him to be objective holding the two positions. He should choose one and drop one. There are many governors who can be chairman of the forum. 

“We are running a democracy, so the majority must carry the votes. I do not see how a governor from the minority can be the chairman of the NGF. I have not seen why a party that has 13 governors should rule over the one with 22 governors; that is not democratic.”

A former presidential candidate, Chief Martins Onovo however said, “This has no national weight because the NGF is not a constitutional body; it’s just a coordination body to create some opportunities for different states, which is good.  But ever since Fayemi has been doing it, what do you think are the achievements? 

“The partisan issue will always be there. Democracy is not the word of God, it is the concept of man. Because it is the concept of man it has its own limitations. He must consistently apply the rules, if he doesn’t, they will remove him because he is in the minority.”

But an elder statesman, Chief Chekwas Okorie said, “Tambuwal is like the first among equals. And now that campaign has started, that body will exist on lesser activities. And he has a campaign to direct and manage. So I don’t think anybody should be bothered about that. He cannot use it to the advantage of Abubakar; I have not seen how. 

“The other governors will also be engaged in campaigns. Some of them are going for second term, some will be campaigning for their parties. This is a very active period for Nigerian politics. Little will be heard of the NGF until elections are over. So I can assure you that not even many will know that he is the chairman of the NGF.”

I’ll deliver on mandate – Tambuwal

In his acceptance speech on Thursday, Tambuwal promised to effectively deliver on his mandate and take the forum to greater heights.

“Sincerely, I am humbled by this call to duty. First and foremost, let me, on behalf of all of us, thank you (Fayemi) for the way and manner you conducted the affairs of the forum. You have done exceedingly well in very many ways, even in promoting inter-personal relationships among the governors. Indeed, you have raised the bar of the leadership of this forum. We can’t thank you enough.

“To my colleagues, be rest assured that I will do my best to ensure we continue to work and maintain this very important platform,” he said.

Why NGF was formed 

The forum was formed in 1999 for public policy discussions, promotion of inclusive governance, sustainable development, collaboration among governors and the society, among other objectives.

The formation of the NGF was not only expedient but imperative for states to assert themselves and 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 required in 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 manifest distortion that militates against the realisation of true federalism.

Former chairmen of the forum are Lucky Igbinedion (Edo), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti). 

 

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