Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike on Monday slammed the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) for not standing up for embattled Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki.
He said the NGF had become a toothless bulldog as it has lost focus on its role in defending the rule of law.
Wike said the Forum used to be non-partisan and a powerful voice on national issues.
He noted that since the All Progressives Congress (APC) took over the NGF in 2015, governors have been turned to beggars.
The governor spoke at a media parley held at Government House in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
He said: “Before 2015, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum used to be very powerful as symbols of their respective states but APC killed it because they were protecting the interest of the ruling party.
“It is quite unfortunate that I belong to such a forum. Nobody seems to respect the Governors Forum again because we have given ourselves out.
“During one of the rerun elections in this state, my security aides were withdrawn, thus exposing me to danger. The Forum did not say anything because the Chairman was a member of APC.
“I told them then that what they were doing was wrong. Now, they have become a Beggars Forum even when there are constitutional infractions.
“You can see that APC governors say that they are progressive. You can see how progressive they are when they keep quiet when a fellow sitting governor is disqualified from contesting elections.”
Wike said the ongoing discussion on the Infectious Bill before the National Assembly showed that the NGF has lost its bite, relevance and failed to play its role as an integral part of the nation’s democratic process.
The governor faulted Obaseki’s disqualification following the Edo governor’s falling out with the APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole.
“Oshiomole campaigned for Governor Obaseki four years ago. The same man has turned around to say that Obaseki has a defective certificate.
“Obaseki was presented by the APC National Chairman when he (Oshiomhole) was governor. I was watching a video where Oshiomhole described him as a product of Nigeria’s premier university, who went to the U.S. and came back with a Masters degree.
“Has Oshiomole apologised to Nigerians that he supported someone with a defective certificate? Who is saying that a sitting governor has a defective certificate? Is it a man that does not have a certificate?
“Oshiomole should be told to practise what he preaches. APC wants to perpetuate impunity in Edo State the way they unleashed terror in Rivers State in 2019.
“They think because they have the Army, Police and INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) they can do anything and get away with it.
“They tried it in Rivers State but God gave us the will to say no. I hope Edo people will also say no to their impunity,” Wike said..
On Obaseki’s planned defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Wike said he would be happy to receive him.
He, however, said that he would not guarantee an automatic ticket for him because Edo people would decide.
Besides, he said Obaseki did not indicate that he wanted to join PDP.
“Yes, he came to see me yesterday (Sunday); both of us are Southsouth governors. We sat down and discussed issues, sought opinions and compared notes. He has not said he wants to come to PDP; he is meeting with us and holding discussions to determine, but I will be happy if he comes.
“Edo PDP has a role to play. There is nothing like an endorsement. But I must tell you that I am not happy the way he was disqualified by the APC because it will affect his integrity,” the governor said.
The governor warned that the manner of Obaseki’s disqualification, despite the political implications for the APC, indicates that the ruling party was willing to throw caution to the wind and take the state by brute force.
He warned the APC not to use the Police and security agencies to manipulate Edo election, stressing that it could unleash civil disobedience in a magnitude of what is currently happening in the United States.
“They cannot get away with using the security force and INEC to have their way because everybody will be involved. Edo people will be involved. See what is happening in the U.S. with George Floyd’s death, nobody expected that just one death can lead to all that,” he said.
The governor debunked insinuations by the State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Obelebra Adebiyi, about the Rivers’ response to COVID-19.
He said the state gave the Ministry of Health all it requires to fight the pandemic.
According to him, the increasing number of COVID-19 cases results from more testing.
He said Obelebra, who is in charge of the state treatment centre, cannot politicise the response by creating unnecessary panic to score cheap political points.