Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
State governors elected on the platform of the All Progressives Congress on Monday expressed their displeasure on how they were being sidelined in the choice of those being given federal appointments in their states by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The governors protested to Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at a meeting they had at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Our correspondent, however, learnt that the complaints were not presented to Buhari at the larger meeting attended by the APC governors and some deputy governors.
A source, who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said the larger meeting was only devoted to encouraging the President on the 21 Chibok girls recently released by Boko Haram, agriculture, the ongoing anti-corruption war and the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.
The source stated that the larger meeting, which also had in attendance political appointees like the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and some presidential aides, lasted for a few minutes.
“During the larger meeting, the governors said they would like six of them to meet with the President and the Vice-President alone, but they did not disclose the agenda of the meeting then,” the source added.
At the second meeting, our correspondent learnt, the governors expressed their displeasure with the way they were being sidelined while deciding who would benefit from federal appointments in their states.
The source gave the names of the six governors, who attended the meeting with the President and Vice-President as Rochas Okorocha (Imo); Adams Oshiomhole (Edo); Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara); Simon Lalong (Plateau); Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) and Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna).
“The meeting was held right inside the President’s office. Presidential aides, including the SGF, were not part of that meeting. It was just between the President and the Vice-President on one hand and the six governors on the other hand.
“They told the President clearly that they wanted to discuss issues of national importance with him and that the six governors would represent them,” the source told The PUNCH.
The Plateau State Governor, Lalong, confirmed this development to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.
Lalung said the President had asked that state governors, who had complaints to put them in writing while promising to look into them.
“So, all the states that have complaints are going to put them into writing and the President promised that he is going to look into it,” he said.
Specifically on the ambassadorial nominee from his state, Paulen Tallen, who has rejected her nomination, Lalong said the rejection was not only about her husband’s ill-health as she claimed.
He said the rejection had more to do on the need for all zones in the state to be treated fairly in terms of federal appointments.
The governor added, “The rejection is not only about her (Tallen’s) husband. I think it is the dimension of Plateau politics, because I had already made complaints to Mr. President that appointments should not be concentrated in one zone.
“All these appointments came again from that particular zone.
“The complaints that are coming from our state are not about her own personal interest; it is the fact that two ambassadorial appointments are coming from the same zone that we had complained about. That is my zone.
“We had said that the next appointment should go to the other zones, the central and the northern zones. So, when that appointment came, the kind of uproar that followed that appointment also necessitated an intervention.”
Meanwhile, a meeting of the National Economic Council, comprising all state governors, will hold inside the Presidential Villa on Tuesday (today).
The Vice-President will preside over the meeting which will hold inside the Council Chambers.
Ahead of the meeting, state governors, on Monday evening, met under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.
The meeting, presided over by the forum’s chairman, Yari, was held inside the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa.
It was called to give the governors the opportunity of taking a common position on issues to be discussed at the NEC meeting.
We take responsibility for economic downturn – Okorocha
The Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum and governor of Imo State, Chief Rochas Okorocha, on Monday, said the APC had taken responsibility for Nigeria’s economic downturn.
He said although some of the problems predated the present administration, the party must take responsibility without shifting blame.
Okorocha spoke with State House correspondents shortly after leading the APC governors to a closed-door meeting with Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The governor said, “This was not a problem brought by APC government; it is a problem that has existed long before APC came to government and we are only trying to clear the mess of the past.
“But we must take responsibility and we must never shift the responsibility to anybody.
“As APC, we are responsible for everything happening in Nigeria. We are responsible for the good, the bad, the ugly, but we are promising Nigerians that we shall fix it.”
While admitting that Nigerians were passing through difficult times, Okorocha said there was no surgery that was not painful.
He said Nigerians were experiencing pains because the country was going through what he called “a very serious economic surgery.”
The governor asked Nigerians to be more patient with the present administration.
He said, “We share the pains of Nigerians, every human being must feel it. We also feel what they are going through but we are asking for a little patience.
“Let us do things the right way and do it once and for all. I am sure that by next year, you will begin to see changes; the price of rice will drop, prices of dollars will begin to stabilise and we will see a lot of changes.
“But at this painful moment, nobody likes it. It is like a woman in the labour room. When she is in the labour room, there is no joy, but she has to pass through that moment and that moment, she does not wear her high heel shoes, no makeup, no champagne, no party.”
On the meeting with Buhari, Okorocha stated, “We came particularly to encourage him and congratulate him on the release of the 21 Chibok girls and we say whatever was done to bring back these girls, let the action be repeated so that the rest of the girls can be freed. This will help because this is a very big achievement in the history of this government.
“Again, we came to report to Mr. President that his agriculture policy is producing result. This time round, we have bumper harvest in most parts of the country in rice production and other things. So, that policy should be sustained.
“On the funding policy by the CBN, the anchor borrowers should be encouraged because it is yielding results. In the next couple of years, Nigeria would be self-sufficient in agriculture and will not need to import food products into this country.
“We also encouraged him on the fight against corruption; that he should continue. We know that in the pursuit of good programmes, certain lapses will be noticed and there is nothing wrong in pursuing a good cause.
“We also looked at the issue of the Ondo election and said we are happy that we have delivered the first state under his administration, which is Edo, but in Ondo, the governors have decided to show support for that election so that APC will take over the government of Ondo State.”
Okorocha agreed that the crisis in the APC was capable of affecting the party but expressed the hope that the controversy would be resolved before the elections.