Govs’ Forum should not be used to play national politics – Dickson

By EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR

Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State has flayed attempts at using the Nigerian Governors Forum as a pressure body against President Goodluck Jonathan just as he differentiated the rested agitation by Niger Delta militants and the Boko Haram insurgency.

Speaking to newsmen on the just concluded African Movie Awards, in Yenogoa, weekend, Governor Dickson said governors should concentrate on governing their states and leave the running of the country to President Jonathan.

The governor also elaborated on the monthly transparency initiative, an exercise during which the governor and his economic team give details on revenue receipts and expenditure within the preceding month.

Noting the differences between the Niger Delta militancy and the Boko Haram insurgency, the governor said: “Whatever is driving them is very different from the factors that gave rise to the situation that we had here in the Niger Delta. Whereas the insurgency in the Niger Delta was founded on economic issues – issues that had to do with deprivation of rights, the one in Boko Haram is religious fundamentalist so there is a clear distinction”.

While commending the president for his courage in declaring the amnesty for the Boko Haram insurgents, the governor, however, acknowledged the fears of skeptics.

He said: “Those who say amnesty should not be extended to Boko Haram members also have a very strong point on account of the mindless and criminal, despicable and wanton destruction of property and lives. And even now, from what we are reading, they seem to say they have not done anything wrong and they are rejecting amnesty but on the part of the leader of a country, I think the President has done well by proposing amnesty.”

Commenting on the recent crisis in the NGF which pitched some governors led by the forum’s chairman, Governor Rotimi Amaechi and President Goodluck Jonathan, Dickson said: “Look, let me also make it clear; governors’ forum is primarily a mechanism for peer review of governors who are equal.

“The Governors’ forum is not and should not be a platform for control of national politics, because we are not elected to run the country.

“We, as governors are elected to manage our states. So the Governors’ Forum cannot be allowed to go on as a trade union. Of course, that is wrong!

“What has happened is that people are taking advantage of the development and discontent in our system to manipulate it to suit their individual whims and caprices. But what is wrong is wrong!

“Look at the United States Governors’ Forum where we even copied it from, you don’t see Governors’ Forum there coming to tell Obama what he should and what he should not do. We are provincial players, because our mandate is to lead our states, not to run the federation.

“Those who have a mandate to run the federation are the President, Vice President, the elected members of our National Assembly and the political leadership of the parties. Those are the people who have a platform. And if as a governor, I have any strong view on things that go on at the federal level, we have avenues; informal, formal – we have the National Economic Council. Over the years, I think what has happened, particularly in the PDP and it is very unfortunate that these focus on the Governors’ Forum is as a result of some developments in the PDP.

“It is unfortunate that it is rubbing off on the governors from the opposition parties. What has happened over the years is that governors of the PDP who became chairmen of the Governors’ Forum, all attempted to use it as a platform for playing national politics – a platform for occupying national political space. It is wrong! It shouldn’t be allowed! That’s why the idea of the PDP Governors’ Forum became necessary.

“But you see, because for now there is manipulation of facts and our institutions are not yet strong enough, including the media – you are doing a very good job but not yet strong enough. You see things being manipulated as if anybody is disturbing anybody, instead of saying no, this thing you guys are doing is wrong. People are saying as if “there is a crisis and somebody does not want somebody, no!

“The Governors’ Forum is simply a peer review mechanism; no more, no less! PDP governors have the right to have their own group because the right to association is a first law in a democracy! ACN governors and others, even councillors have associations.

“There is so much focus on what go on in the PDP; if you are in the PDP you will meet at the structure of the PDP to resolve problems, if you are not in the PDP you concentrate on your party and make strong efforts to defeat the PDP.”

Asked to comment on the reported differences between the president and the NGF chairman, Rotimi Chibuke Amaechi, he said: “You press people should not equate a provincial player with elected President of the Federal Republic. The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot have misunderstanding with a provincial player as a governor of Rivers State or any other governor for that matter.

Dickson said: “As governors, we are elected to run our states, no more – no less. If you want the mandate to run Nigeria, you contest an election for it. Don’t do it through the back door. If you want to be a leader of opposition, you go to the opposition. What is happening is that people are taking advantage of our weak institutions and our fledgling democracy such that sometimes you don’t even know who belongs to where socially.

“So please, I’m not aware of any misunderstanding between the President of Nigeria and a provincial player like myself who is a governor of a state. You are demeaning the President and you shouldn’t do that in this country.”

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