Pro-Jonathan governors move against Bukola Saraki

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L-R: President Jonathan, Chairman of the Governors Forum, Bukola Saraki

There were indications in Abuja on Sunday that some members of the Nigerian Governors Forum were plotting to oust their chairman, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

These members, who are in support of President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential ambition, were no longer comfortable with Saraki’s leadership, a very reliable source said on Sunday.

Some of the governors have had informal meetings where a decision has been taken to unseat Saraki anytime he declares his presidential ambition.

Saraki, who is also Kwara State Governor and the Chairman of the governors elected on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, met on Sunday with two former Heads of State—General Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar — as well as his Niger State counterpart, Dr. Babangida Aliyu.

Babangida, a PDP presidential aspirant, is believed to enjoy the tacit support of Aliyu, who chairs the Northern Governors Forum.

The Northern Governors Forum is divided on zoning and on who to endorse for the 2011 presidential election.

Among governors, Saraki is widely believed to be the arrowhead of the opposition against Jonathan’s presidential ambition.

The campaign posters of Saraki, who has been the chairman of the NGF since 2007, and those of other presidential aspirants are pasted in conspicuous places in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.

A governor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Saraki had been trying to “politicise the NGF with his attitude.”

The governor was among some PDP governors that met in Kaduna recently under the aegis of the Northern Governors Forum.

At an enlarged PDP governors meeting in Abuja, the opposition against Saraki boiled over and he was said to have been asked whether he would contest the presidency due to his opposition to the aspiration of Jonathan. He reportedly declined to respond to the question.

His ambition and his opposition to Jonathan are said to have polarised the PDP Governors Forum.

Our source said, “You will recall that it was at one of the forum’s meetings that our chairman said that Jonathan and the two principal officers of the National Assembly had spoken with the late President, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua, when he was in hospital in Saudi Arabia. It was not true.

“During the constitutional crisis, he led some of our colleagues, who did not want the President (Jonathan) to take over power, until it became evident that the security situation in the country was not favourable (to that position). It was then that he agreed to align with us.

“Again, while some of us expected him to only moderate events at our meetings without showing preference for any candidate or aspirant, our chairman has not cooperated with us as regards the President’s aspiration.

“Now that his posters are everywhere, let us see if he would tell us that he would be running and then we will see what would follow.”

The governors are Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), Adebayo Alao-Akala (Oyo), Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo), Elechi, Theodore Orji (Abia), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Aliyu. Others are Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Saidu Dakingari (Kebbi), Aliyu Shinkafi (Zamfara), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Danbaba Suntai (Taraba), Gabriel Suswan (Benue), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Danguma Goje (Gombe) and Segun Oni (Ekiti).

Efforts by one of our correspondents to speak with the Kwara State Governor failed. But his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Mas-Ud Adebimpe, said he was not aware that the posters of his boss had been pasted in Abuja.

On the likely removal of Saraki as the NGF chairman, Adebimpe said he would have to speak first with his principal before giving a definite response.

Saraki was however in Minna, Niger State, where he visited the Hilltop residences of Babangida and Abubakar and spent hours with the former military rulers on Sunday.

Though the details of his discussions with the ex-military leaders were kept under wraps, our correspondent in Minna learnt that they were in connection with the timetable for the 2011 poll.

The governor, who arrived Minna at about 11am on a chartered aircraft in company with three aides, later headed for the residence of Aliyu at Talba Close, Minna. Aliyu is the head of the Northern Governors’ Forum.

When he emerged from the closed door meeting, he told journalists, who had waited for him, that he had “no comment.”

Also, Aliyu, who referred to the meeting as a “neighbourly talk,” failed to disclose its agenda and why Saraki chose to visit him few days after INEC released the 2011 timetable and three days before IBB‘s declaration of presidential interest.

A source, privy to the goings on at the meeting, said the meeting discussed matters relating to the next meeting, of the Northern Governors‘ Forum, which has been rescheduled to hold on a yet-to-be- announced date. The meeting which was supposed to hold in Kaduna on Tuesday last week, was put off for undisclosed reasons.

The source, who pleaded anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the disclosures, said the duo also discussed how to leverage their influences in their zones during the PDP primaries, even as they were said to have agreed that the time left for the PDP primaries might not be enough to strategise.

Meanwhile, the six governors appointed as Jonathan’s coordinators are to meet in Abuja on Monday (today).

The governors are Ibrahim Shema (North-West); Isa Yuguda (North-East); Gabriel Suswam (North-Central); Gbenga Daniel (South-West); Elechi (South-East); and Imoke (South-South).