Posted on Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
By Chukwudi Nweje
Assistant Features Editor
Last Monday’s visit by Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano, Sule Lamido of Jigawa, Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto and Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger States to Minna, Niger state has continued to generate mixed reactions. The governors met with former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida and former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar. They had earlier on Saturday, met with former President Olusegun Obasanjo in Abeokuta, Ogun State. The governors behind the “save democracy” initiative are championing peace efforts to end the political crisis in Rivers State and the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), which has generated tension throughout the country.
Many prominent Nigerians have called on the parties in the crisis to show restraint and sheathe their swords, but the impasse persists. In fact, protesters believed to be acting at the instance of Governor Rotimi Amaechi opponents had allegedly pelted the motorcade of Governors Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Aliyu, Lamido and Kwankwaso when they went on a solidarity visit to him, a week earlier.
Incidentally, three of the governors (Aliyu, Kwankwaso and Lamido) were in the team that met with the Generals in Minna. According to them, their mission bordered on the need to save the nation’s democratic process from collapse as a result of the crisis in Rivers, which they feared, may have a wider implication for the nation’s democracy.
Although Babangida described the four governors as “true patriots” for initiating peace moves to end the Rivers State debacle, critics insinuate that there could be more to the visit. Some argue that the visit may have been informed the ambition of some of the governors. They observe for instance, that Lamido and Aliyu have been rumoured to be nursing presidential ambition in 2015.
Lamido and Amaechi posters are still dotting strategic corners of Abuja as 2015 presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate of a yet to be identified political party though both governors have disclaimed the posters. Similarly, Aliyu whose posters have also been sighted, has equally disassociated himself from the engagement.
Incidentally, Aliyu who is also chairman of the Northern Nigeria Governors Forum (NNGF) was quoted recently to have said that the North was not insisting on producing the president at all cost, but would be willing to negotiate with those seeking to be elected as the nation’s president in 2015 in a bid to safeguard and protect the region’s interests.
Debo Adeniran, Executive Director, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) believes that the visit to Minna is all about the 2015 Presidential election. “Their visit portends nothing than the fact that they want to form a coalition against President Jonathan for the party’s presidential ticket. If President Jonathan wins the ticket, as he is likely to do, they might move to another party. That is why they are visiting retired generals ostensibly for them to convince the Army to give democracy a chance no matter how wobbly it is or looks”, he remarked.
However, Joe Igbokwe, Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) argues that Nigeria is a free society stressing that the governors like the rest of the citizenry can visit whom they wish to. He says that Nigerians should not occupy themselves with whether the governors want to use the visit to Minna to further their political interests, but rather concentrate on whether the visit could help resolve the crisis in Rivers State.
“We live in a free society and anybody is free to meet anybody. If the trip to Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar is to genuinely find solutions to the dangerous political crisis going on in Rivers State, please tell it to the East, West, North and South that I support the idea. Anything that can support genuine peace to return to Rivers State, I support it wholeheartedly. The crisis in Rivers State may truncate our hard earned democracy,” Igbokwe stated.