The two governors who pulled out of the Northern States Governors Forum over alleged betrayal by their colleagues are making the biggest political mistake of their lives and they may not be able to win any election again in the North, Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso has said.
He was referring to his Bauchi and Benue state counterparts, Isa Yuguda and Gabriel Suswam, who had said they would no longer attend meetings of the forum because they were betrayed in the disputed election of the Nigerian Governors Forum chairman.
They had said the northern governors agreed unanimously to support Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang but some of their colleagues voted for Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who won the May 24 election.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja yesterday, Kwankwaso said the two governors “are making the biggest political mistakes of their lives.” “The implication of what they are saying is that they’re not with us (northern governors). What we are saying is (the Nigeria Governors Forum) has nothing to do with the politics of Northern Governors Forum, where we have many assets and liabilities.
Whether military or civilian, governors always attend the meetings because you have to go and present the issues concerning your people there.
“Now, if you opt out of Northern Governors Forum, when governors of Western states are meeting, certainly you cannot be part of them. And I begin to wonder where else they will be. I want to tell you that if they continue with that I don’t see how either they or their candidates would win elections in the North. I think they better start fielding their candidates in elections outside the northern region.
“They don’t know they are making the biggest mistakes. What did the North do to them? Who told them that the North is not supporting Amaechi? If you’re taking a decision, don’t take it when you’re angry. Don’t say because you want to impress someone, so that you could be considered a good governor, you’re getting out of your home, you’re abandoning your people, you’re insulting them...That is a big mistake. I cannot make the mistake of taking Kano out of the North. Those who are making those statements are making mistake. The earlier they reverse themselves, the better for them,” he said.
Emphasising the relevance of the Northern Governors Forum, Kwankwaso said at the Nigerian Governors Forum, all that the governors do is peer review but at northern governors forum issues are tackled at a deeper level. “People have so much sentiment attached to the Northern Governors Forum, and by the time you remove yourself, people may decide to keep quiet and pay you back at the appropriate time,” he said.
On the issue of betrayal raised by the two governors, Kwankwaso explained that even before the elections he had warned both Katsina State Governor Ibrahim Shema and Yuguda that he would not support them. “I told Shema, ‘you are my neighbour, you’re my brother, you’re my friend, but you can’t come and tell me you’re contesting an election and you’re parading yourself as a candidate and behaving like somebody who was sent to us.’
"I made it clear that I would neither vote for him nor ask anybody to vote for him. And that I would make sure he lost the election. I told him this to his face. While I was telling him this, Sule Lamido was there, supporting me, Adamawa and Niger State governors were also there. This made some persons to say Shema did not have the support of the North.
“Isa Yuguda came to me, and I told him, I’m still a villager, and I behave in many ways as a villager. In my village, in Kwankwaso in Kano, if a councillorship candidate goes to the elders and says he wanted to contest for councillorship in the morning and they accepted, if someone else comes in the afternoon and asked for the same support, the villagers would tell him he’s late. We don’t want Shema because we wanted to choose our own chairman. Now, you’re coming through the same route. When he insisted, because it was my house, I didn’t want to be as hard on him as I was to Shema.”
Explaining how Jang became the consensus candidate of the North, Kwankwaso admitted that he nominated Jang for that position, though he supported Amaechi’s candidature, because the “G-16” camp were desperate to field a candidate against Amaechi.
“I gave them Jang and I asked the governor of Benue State to support me. I realised they were very desperate, and that even after the election they would not accept the victory of Amaechi. We gave them who we feel should lead the minority group. When we left the place, they had their meeting and accepted him. At the end of the day they brought him to the general meeting of the Governors Forum. At that meeting we told them we wanted Amaechi to continue to be chairman of the forum. We went into voting because there was no consensus,” he said.
On the issue of the zoning of the forum’s chairmanship to the North, Kwankwaso said, “Let me say this: we’re northerners and I think we need to be consulted on what we need in the North. Some people have decided that we should take chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum. But that is not our choice. We have our choice to our chest. We know what we need in the politics of this country. Even if (the chairman of Governors Forum) is what we want, we’re not expecting anybody to choose for us. We should choose for ourselves.”
Kwankwaso warned that the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) were making a mistake by suspending governors from the party because it is to the detriment of the ruling party. “Those who are leading the party should be careful about what they do, especially when they are using dirty words like suspension, expulsion, dismissal, and impeachment. These are words that people should be cautious about,” he said.
“We want peace, stability, development in this country. People should be cautious...With all these things that are happening, people should not worry too much. In developed countries, the US, Britain, Germany, there are two parties. In Nigeria we have one party now and other small parties. Who knows, we’re in a transition in this country, a transition to two parties. Before we have two parties, some people need to make mistakes.”
Asked if he was in talks with the yet to be registered All Progressives Congress (APC), Kwankwaso said he had been in politics for over 20 years now and that had friends across parties, and therefore free to interact with them.
According to him the situation in the PDP had made it difficult for aggrieved members to voice out their grievances because there is no channel to do so. He referred to the fact that the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party has not held for nearly a year now. “This party belongs to all of us. It doesn’t belong to chairman or to anybody. It belongs to all of us. We have invested so much in this party. But if you’re suspended or dismissed or expelled, it’s unfortunate,” he said. “All of us who voted for Amaechi consider this suspension as the suspension of all of us in his camp. After Amaechi, they went to the Governor of Sokoto. We’re even surprised that it started from there. Some of us are disappointed that it started from there.”