The inability of governors to rescue one of their colleagues, Godwin Obaseki of Edo State, from being forced out of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has further exposed how powerless, the once-powerful and influential forum in the country has become.
Under different fora, governors in the country until this administration wielded enormous powers, dictating who gets what at both state and national levels; directing party affairs and dictating for the president as the case was under previous administrations.
From pillar to post, governors of the APC under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), chaired by Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, made frantic efforts to save Obaseki. From their respective states, seven governors, on a rescue mission led by Bagudu went to Lagos to seek the intervention of the leader of their party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. From Lagos to Abuja, the governors met Adams Oshiomhole and the mission was crowned with a visit to the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
All efforts by the governors, however, didn’t yield needed result as Obaseki was disqualified from participating in the party’s primary over discrepancies in his certificates. A development that led to the governor’s sojourn to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Obaseki is on the verge of picking his new party’s ticket. Will his colleagues back in the APC support him to actualise his second term bid in another party? Pundits are watching.
Obaseki was not the first to be treated in such manner, former Lagos State Governor Akinwumi Ambode, got the same treatment in 2018. Following his rift with Tinubu, Ambode was edged out of the governorship race when he was defeated by the anointed candidate of his godfather, (Tinubu), Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the party’s governorship primary.
From the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) which was birthed in 1999 with Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa) as pioneer chairman, governors now have many fora to champion and advance their interests including the PGF for governors elected on the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party Governors Forum (PDPGF) for those elected on the platform of PDP. Regional fora of the governors also exist.
During the 16 years reign of the PDP, governors were not only influential in states, their influence was extended to the federal level. Ministerial, board and other federal appointments were decided by the governors. Through the party, the governors nominated those to be considered for appointment by the president.
The trend changed when President Muhammadu Buhari came on board. As president-elect, Buhari jettisoned the tradition which was embedded in the polity by the PDP when he told governors elected on the platform of APC that he would not consider nominees from them for ministerial appointment.
Before Buhari was sworn-in in 2015, the then PGF chairman, Rochas Okorocha, led members of the forum to visit him. During the visit, they reportedly submitted names of their preferred ministerial nominees to Buhari.
He, however, rejected them, and he was quoted to have jocularly asked the governors whether he appointed their commissioners for them. Pundits believe that, by that action, the president laid the foundation for whittling down the governors’ powers.
In March, a gang up of more than half of the APC governors to oust Oshiomhole failed when Tinubu, a former governor came to the rescue of the former labour leader regarded as his stooge.