After heavily disputed elections at the Nigeria Governors' Forum in May, divisions are growing within President Jonathan's party.
On Friday 24 May, governors from 35 of Nigeria's 36 states met in Abuja to elect the new chairman of the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF). Incumbent chairman and governor of oil-rich Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, defeated the president's preferred candidate, Jonah Jang, by 19 votes to 16.
The result has left the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in disarray: Amaechi has subsequently been suspended by the party, some have belatedly declared Jang the rightful winner. Both men presently claim to be chairman of the forum.
Hudu Abdullahi, a senior lecturer in political science at Ahmadu Bello University, told Think Africa Press: "The political situation that is following the NGF elections is rooted in the ambition of Jonathan to stand again in 2015."
With PDP fractures visibly deepening, many have argued that this is the clearest sign yet that Goodluck Jonathan's ability to unite the party is fading. With the 2015 election looming ever closer, is Jonathan losing his grip on power?
Preventing Democratic Pressures
Ever since its establishment in 1999, the National Governors' Forum has been a PDP stronghold. It has been chaired by five different men, all from the ruling PDP: Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa Sate (1999-2004), Victor Attah, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State(2004-2006), Lucky Igbinedion of Edo State (2006-2007), Bukola Saraki of Kwara state (2007-2011) and most recently Amaechi from 2011-2013.
Although it is not formally enshrined in the Constitution, the forum has played an influential role in Nigerian politics - most recently in the removal and partial reinstatement of the fuel subsidy in January 2012. And the author Michael Nnebe last week warned against underestimating the NGF:
"To think that the NGF is not powerful would be a costly mistake. As powerful as Obasanjo appeared to be while in office, he had to get the approval of governors forum before he could successfully present Yar'Adua's name at the PDP primaries in 2007."
However, under the stewardship of Amaechi things have changed. A move towards a more independent stance has not been well received. The presidency and pro-government political observers have accused the NGF of strong-arming the political centre on various national issues and transforming itself in a pressure group, whose authority rivals the executive.