The new chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) may emerge tomorrow.
On May 29, while some governors will be sworn-in for second term, new governors will be inaugurated in others.
Second term Governors will leave their seats for new occupants while first term governors who won re-election will remain on their seats for a fresh four-year term.
It was in the light of this that the NGF conducted an induction programme for governors-elect to give them an insight into what their new office entails.
Returning governors and wives of the governors-elect were also part of the induction course which held in Abuja.
The NGF Chairman, Governor Abdul Azeez Yari of Zamfara State, is expected to leave the seat as he is among the governors completing their second term.
This will give members of the group an opportunity to elect a new Chairman today in Abuja.
The contest has been narrowed down to two prominent members of the group–Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State.
The two renowned politicians are eminently qualified for the position, given their antecedents and pedigrees in public service and political circles.
Fayemi and el-Rufai are also believed to be very close to President Muhammadu Buhari. They are key players in the politics of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
But, the NGF election is quite different from the election to be decided by voters on the register of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Who emerges as the NGF chair will be decided by the 36 state governors.
As the governors go to the poll, some circumstances-both natural and man-made-have thrown up Fayemi as the favourite for the seat.
Among the 36 governors, Fayemi is the “most senior state chief executive” on account of when he was first sworn in.
Fayemi first took the oath of office on 15th October, 2010 while el-Rufai and other governors recently elected for second term were sworn-in on May 29, 2015 as state chief executives for the first time.
This ranking confers an advantage on Fayemi to emerge as the next NGF chair.
Fayemi was one of the speakers at the induction programme where he shared his experience with participants.
The chairmanship of the NGF is rotated between the North and the South. The outgoing occupant, Yari, is from the North and it is widely believed that the chair should go to the South and this also gives Fayemi an edge.
When the APC was formed from the relics of the three legacy parties (ANPP, ACN and CPC) in 2013, Fayemi was a leading light in the establishment of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF).
PGF is an association of APC governors. The body was used to advance the cause of the progressives manifesto and agenda.
The group used its platform to offer better ideas on fiscal federalism, better revenue to the states and push for bailout for states to meet their financial needs in the early days of the Buhari administration, among others.
Although Fayemi was never a chairman of PGF, his roles in the formation, sponsorship and sustenance of the body are well documented.
Many key roles handled by Fayemi underlined his importance in the politics of the ruling APC.
The first was his assignment as the Chairman of the 2015 National Convention that organized the primary that produced President Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the APC.
Fayemi handled the presidential primary with a sense of responsibility. The shadow poll passing the test of integrity as a reference point for future elections.
Another key assignment which has etched Fayemi’s name in the annals of his party was his role as the Director of Policies in the APC Presidential Campaign Council.
The governor used the front row seat he occupied in the APC Presidential Campaign Council to develop some policies which served as manifesto for the 2015 campaigns.
Some of these policies were the ones executed during his first term as the Ekiti State governor between 2010 and 2014 but now being replicated at the federal level.
These include the N-Power programme for the youths which was copied from Ekiti Youth Volunteer Corps scheme, Conditional Cash Transfer to the aged and the vulnerable, built from the Ekiti Social Security scheme for the aged.
During Fayemi’s first term, each of the youths captured by the volunteer scheme was paid N10,000.
Also, each of the 20,000 indigent aged persons not open to any form of pension was paid N5,000 monthly to give them succor.
The impact of the monthly stipends to the aged during Fayemi’s first term was profound. It boosted the economy at the grassroots as many of the beneficiaries used part of it for financial contribution and even purchased domestic animals for rearing.
But, the Conditional Cash Transfer of the APC led Federal Government under the National Cash Transfer Programme now makes available N5,000 to the poorest of the poor and it is grassroots-based.
All these are social safety nets to take care of the poor give them a sense of belonging and reduce poverty in the society.
Fayemi, at critical points, served as an envoy of his party in the heat of the governorship elections in neighbouring Southwest states.
Fayemi gave strategic support to his Ondo State counterpart, Rotimi Akeredolu, in the run-up to the November 2016 governorship election won by his party.
Although he was at the time Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Fayemi shifted base to Akure with his backroom staff and worked with APC stakeholders in Ondo State to ensure victory for Akeredolu.
During the Osun State governorship poll in September last year, Fayemi played a pivotal role in wooing the Social Democratic Party (SDP) candidate, Otunba Iyiola Omiore, to his party.
Omisore’s entry into the broom party was the game changer in Ife zone as the APC won polling units where the rerun was scheduled.
Fayemi also assisted in wooing former Oyo State Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala from the Action Democratic Party (ADP) on the eve of the March 9, governorship election, although the APC eventually lost to the PDP.
Another factor that stands Fayemi out is his pan-Nigeria disposition. He is a leader whose friendship network cut across the geopolitical zones and party divides.
Although he is an APC member, Fayemi maintains friendship with governors from other political parties and this is based on his background as a development figure and civil society activist.
Fayemi, in a bid to protect the sanctity and integrity of the NGF as a body, joined others governors across party lines to reject an attempt by the Jonathan Presidency hijack and cripple the association in 2014.
The setting was the drama that ensued when former President Goodluck Jonathan and the forces loyal to him were bent on stopping former Rivers State Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi from seeking a second term as NGF chair.
During the election, Amaechi polled 19 votes to defeat former Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, Jonathan’s anointed candidate, who garnered 16 votes.
The Jonathan group claimed that Jang defeated Amaechi, but the saving grace was that the election and counting of votes was recorded by one of the governors on his phone.
The footage of the 2014 NGF election put a lie to the claim of the Jonathan Presidency that Jang “won.”
The Ekiti helmsman is also an advocate of regional development. He was also instrumental to the establishment of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN).
The DAWN was established in 2012 by state governments in the Southwest during Fayemi’s first tenure, as the dedicated coordinating agency to ensure the delivery of the composite development aspirations of the region.
He had worked hard to ensure that the region spoke with one voice on key issues of development and used the body as a launching pad to stimulate the nation’s economic recovery.
All these show that Fayemi would be a team player, a consensus builder and a believer in open door policy, if he wins the NGF chairmanship.
Being an expert in peace building and conflict resolution places Fayemi in prime position to use the NGF platform to promote national unity at a critical period the nation’s unity is threatened ethnic tension.
Fayemi’s credentials as a humane, urbane and cosmopolitan politician make him an acceptable candidate for the NGF chairman and this will give him an opportunity to reposition the body for peer review.
Ekiti has witnessed Fayemi’s Midas touch. The Southwest has felt his impact as a champion of regional integration for development. Nigeria stands to gain a lot having him as the next chairman of the Governors’ Forum.