by Gbenga Omotoso
THEY were in an unusually foul mood. Puffy faces. Red eyes. Lips firmly wedged together in a desperate bid to block the anger threatening to tear through their stomachs and the dam of tears battling to burst through their eyes.
Why would governors be in such a mournful mood, like kids whose lollipops have been snatched by a discourteous elder? One of them was facing a battery of reporters, blubbing, blabbing and swearing that their man had been rigged out of the Governors’ Forum election. The others surrounded him. They were like an overrated school soccer team that had just lost a crucial match, lining up behind their captain to get some whacking from a distraught headmaster. Humbled. Hobbled. Humiliated. The governors were outfoxed by their own foxy indiscretion in a simple exercise that required the spirit of sportsmanship and not a do-or-die affair as advocated by their elders.
For this set of governors, it was indeed a time to mourn. But they were not short of ideas. They suborned Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, a honourable man, to humbug the public by insisting that he won the election in which the incumbent, Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, carried the day.
The script was clear. There was to be no election to prevent Amaechi from retaining the seat. But Akwa Ibom Governor Godswill Akpabio, another honourable man, the engine room of the massive anti-Amaechi scheme that turned awry, in his stark naivety, assured the Presidency that all would be well. He was armed with a list of 19 governors whom he said had voted for Jang – sorry, His Excellency Jang. It turned out that the list had been compiled in April when governors were summoned to the Villa to extract from them a commitment to back the President’s candidate. Now, there are claims of forgery to which Akpabio and his gang are yet to reply. A governor who was absent was said to have been part of the process. How? Even if indeed 19 had put pen to that paper, was it in anyway an indication of how they voted?
Like flood victims desperate to salvage their belongings, the losers, with bold faces, presented Jang to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership as the chair of the Governors’ Forum, the winner of the much coveted prize. If you thought the comical road show would tail off, you were wrong, damn wrong. Jang returned home to Jos with his questionable prize, waving excitedly to a small crowd of people who had come to welcome him. He spoke of a national assignment – to use the Governors’ Forum for the benefit of all, and stormed a church to thank God, with the congregation singing high praises for what He had done. Merciful God!
Shouldn’t comedy have its limits and limitations even in a country that has been a long running theatre of the bizarre, where reality is often blurred by the inanities of its leaders? Anyway, not so here. The Amaechi camp warned the “dissenters” to take it easy or face the ignominy of having the election shown on television. Apparently hooked on their mission to self-destruct, they kept fuelling the charade.
And there it was on Tuesday, the counting of the ballots and the announcement of the winner, Amaechi, right on television. It was exciting. Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi had hinted of the contents of the video, saying Delta State Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan – please, feel free to add the prefix His Excellency – was the Returning Officer. Uduaghan, a doctor and a honourable man, denied that he played such a lowly role. It turned out – thanks to the revealing video – that His Excellency was right. He was no Returning Officer. He was the Supervisory Officer. Or better still, the Presiding Officer. His Excellency stood by the Returning Officer, Asissama Okauru, while the counting and sorting of ballots were on. When it was all over, he walked away dejectedly. Poor guy.
Ondo State Governor Segun Mimiko – sorry, I keep forgetting the prefix, His Excellency; you may wish to put it before the name too – and Jang’s running mate let us all into the world of governors running a 36-man election. He said the tension was so high that only providence averted a fisticuff. Oh no; c’mon gents; that’s not good enough; you should have gone all the way. Isn’t it all part of the system? Ever seen a Nigerian election without blood, blows and bullets? Aren’t they the badges of a great election, which you all proudly wear?
That was a great disservice to Nollywood. Imagine an Akpabio – bulgy tummy, cheeks and all – facing an athletic Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, a physical exercise freak, in a no-holds-barred session, with all the other Excellencies by the ring side. Imagine. That would have been an instant box office hit, premiered on Democracy Day. I was told that Akpabio objected to Aregbesola filming the show, but the Osun governor, as inventive as ever, told Akpabio to stay off his camera and found a way of bringing what has been a huge success on YouTube and the local television stations.
The Presidency, apparently seeing that it had backed a misbegotten mission, washed its hands of it, saying President Goodluck Jonathan had no interest whatsoever in the matter. Haba! They can say that a million times, but who will believe them? Who?
Now when governors pray at their meetings, will they find it easy closing their eyes and not feeling that somebody will draw a dagger?
The Villa made no pretence about its objection to Amaechi’s vision for the forum. He insisted on true federalism and fiscal responsibility as well as strict adherence to the rule of law – a much abused concept on which this administration anchored its image, but which has become an irritant sloganeering – and became a thorn in the flesh. He was persecuted. His state’s aircraft has been grounded on questionable excuses. Some Rivers oil wells have gone to Bayelsa on grounds that are still being contested. The PDP leadership in the state has been changed in rancorous circumstances. The House of Assembly has suspended a local government’s officials for alleged fraud, but the PDP has blamed the action on Amaechi. He has been suspended. Is he the Assembly?
It is all part of the growing fratricidal war in the PDP in the run-up to the 2015 election. The self-acclaimed biggest party in Africa is obviously jittery that many of its leading lights may have seen the light and would not want to be on the wrong side of history. So, they are jumping ship to the fledgling All Progressives Congress (APC).
For the PDP, the cycle seems to be closing. Most of the 36 governors belong to the party. They have just shown the world how they have been winning elections, but even the best of magicians, tricksters and pranksters know that no show can last forever. The PDP, by overheating the polity and confusing governance with politics in a country that is so desirous of great leadership, is writing its own obituary.
Nigeria, a country that seems to be perpetually at war – Boko Haram, corruption, hunger, disease and decaying infrastructure, among other ailments – deserves a better leadership, considering its situation.
Many have questioned the rationale behind the formation of a Governors’ Forum. They say it has no constitutional backing and nobody should lose sleep over its leadership. In official circles, it has been derided as a mere trade union, like the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW). Whichever way we look at it, the crisis has elevated it to a big prize, a smashing beauty desperately desired by the Presidency, yet so far from its long reach.
To some, it is all part of the huge joke that our leaders are turning Nigeria into. Consider this sent to me by a friend: “New movie premiere. How three PDP governors ‘ported’ Akpabio. Now showing at Nigeria Governors’ Forum. Action-packed. Don’t miss it. Tickets free, courtesy of Aso Wreck Inc.”
I do not believe the governors should apologise for causing so much embarrassment to us all. Where is our sense of humour? After all, was it not all in the spirit of Children’s Day?
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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.