Gov. Mimiko Gives Account of What Transpired At the NGF Election
One of the Governors Loyal to the Jonah Jang led faction of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) whose crisis has continued unabated, Governor Olusegun Mimiko has given his own account of what transpired at meeting that saw Governor Rotimi Amaechi emerging as the Chairman of the Forum.
Mimiko who spoke to Leadership correspondents in Abuja during the media briefing of governors Jonah Jang, Olusegun Mimiko, Peter Obi and Liyel Imoke, recently, explainedthe politics that characterised the entire election process and what he termed the way forward from the crisis.
Below are excerpts:
Politics in the NGF
I must say that not one of us is proud of what has happened, but some of us believe it is necessary to ensure that things be done right in this country. Let me also say that a few of us have received a lot of bashing over this issue. But we believe that we must stand by what is true and just. But the fundamental question that will never go away, no matter how you look at it, is the fact that the Governors’ Forum is a voluntary association of equals who have decided to come together to leverage on synergy and pursue a collective interest. Everybody is there by volition and anyone can pull out without consequence.
Amaechi’s Decision to Pull Out
No matter the amount of propaganda that goes on in the media, a situation where the chairman of a forum of equals decides to contest is one issue we can’t run away from. Whether that is in tandem with the spirit and letter of the constitution is what another governor will talk about.
What Transpired at the Election
This is no ordinary election. There has been a lot of controversies and posturing out there; some real, some fake. But we know that all of these have elements of politics in them, unless we want to deceive ourselves. If anything, that election, to a very large extent, must reflect the standard of election in the polity. I keep saying this even as someone in the opposition. No matter what anybody says, 2011 election was much better than its predecessors. No matter what anybody says, the election that brought me and Oshiomole back were probably the best we have had in this country. For me, the irreducible minimum for ensuring 2015 comes to be is to ensure that the electoral process is improved upon.
I am one of those who believe that the biggest challenge of Nigeria as a nation is the quality of our election. Once we have quality election, I believe that with time credible election will throw up real leaders of the people who will ensure that critical, people-related issues are addressed.
Amaechi’s Refusal to Step Aside Before Election
Some of us argued that as chairman (a position we gave to him willy-nilly) if Amaechi says he wants to re-contest an election, the minimum is for him to align with the globally accepted standard. Immediately the chairman indicated interest to run, I specifically said, ‘even in a village meeting or association, once the tenure has elapsed and the presiding officer – in this case the chairman – has indicated interest, he must first dissolve the house and then we will elect a temporary man who will preside over our affairs until a new chairman emerges.’ I also said that we must agree on the process of that election, especially in a voluntary organisation. I also said that what he claimed was the constitution does not spell this out clearly.
That Friday, immediately the chairman indicated that he was going to run, willy-nilly – I say willy-nilly deliberately, because there has always been a practise in the Forum that the chairman of the Governors’ Forum has always emerged by consensus and that the majority party (in this case, the PDP) always produced the chairman. We also know of a fact that PDP forum had endorsed Governor Jang – we insisted that he vacate the seat, so that we can bring in somebody to conduct the affairs of the house. F
or me, that was fundamental. But if somebody in a meeting of equals planted cameras (probably because it is his house or out of disrespect for us as governors there, decided to start videoing something), we should ask him some questions. We should ask Amaechi. If, indeed, he had to run, common sense demanded that he vacate the seat, but he refused.
Rowdiness at the Meeting
When he insisted that he was not going to vacate the seat, there was a lot of commotion in the house. At a point, one of the governors said those of us who ran for second term did not vacate our seats before election. I pointed out that I ran for re-election and I did not vacate my seat, but I was not the INEC, neither did I print the ballot papers. You cannot be a candidate, be the INEC and at the same time produce the ballot box. You know the number of ballot sheets you produced and the serial numbers on them. We, on the other hand, don’t know the colour and all. For me, that was a point of departure. Some of us felt it would be immoral to go along with it.
At a stage we argued, because we went there to ensure that the Forum emerged with a united front. We said ‘okay, we will give you the opportunity; If you are sitting there to preside, we will not use your ballot box or papers’. We are all governors; we can conduct the election by raising our hands. Any governor who cannot show his conviction is not qualified to be a governor. We were still arguing when he told the DG to start issuing ballot papers. There were two options open to us, and when some people started abusing us, I said it is good to take a bashing in the interest of this country. We were faced with a situation where a man decided to preside over his election: we had to either walk out or boycot it.
Now, there is also an issue that a quorum of 36 is 12. If we had walked out, they would have called the press to witness that the election was free and fair. We felt that would not be a fair representation of opinions. Of course, the other option was the Nigerian way – take the ballot and smash it. But you know that kind of behaviour is beneath a governor.
I must tell you that some governors were tempted to do that, but we felt it was better for them to come out and say ‘we participated’ and keep defending it. We know that time will bear us out. Don’t forget that we were 35 governors and each of us had about five or six security aides, so you are talking about 360 armed people in that place.
At the end of the day, they said they had 19. Let them produce any video in this world which shows me anywhere near their virus-infected ballot box. But they counted 35 of us. I can’t say if those ballot papers were pre-marked, I cannot say that the governors did not vote, but I am sure that what they counted did not represent the opinion of the governors on that day.
Victory – in this case for Amaechi – would have been if everybody endorsed him. Forget about the fact that Amaechi has succeeded in playing the underdog (you journalists like underdogs, but you know if the aggressor is smart he can transform himself to play the underdog).
The following day Governor Jang called a meeting of governors and 18 were physically present and signed. If there was a doubt before, they signed again reiterating their support for him. The 18 governors came out to be counted for Jang the following day as against 19 in some dubious ballot papers designed by the candidate and backed up by video clip.
What we have is an evidence of a flawed video clip and ballot papers without signature and thumb print versus elected governors standing to be counted physically. I would have expected the press to say any governor whose signature has been forged should own up. My position is that Jang represents the choice of the NGF and, hence, is the chairman of the Forum. For me, this is final.
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