The Southern Nigeria Governors’ Forum, made up of 17 governors in charge of governments of states in Southern Nigeria, recently woke the country, nay the Federal Government, from inertia. Worried and not satisfied with happenings in the country, the governors met in Asaba, Delta State capital, and made a declaration, proffering in the process ways to save Nigeria from the crises that have engulfed it.
The governors, although from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), shunned political party affiliations and came together in a bid to solve national crises that have festered and increased in intensity. To show how serious they were about the meeting and issues on the table, 15 southern governors were present personally, while two deputy governors represented their bosses.
The governors had declared that “the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity, oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.”
They observed that the “incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives, including pursuing various productive activities, leading to a threat to food supply and general security.”
The governors resolved that “open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria; noted that development and population growth have put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South.”
They agreed that the “progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions, which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.”
The governors recommended that “in view of widespread agitations among our various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the Federal Government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.”
They recommended that “in deference to the sensitivities of our various peoples, there is need to review appointments into Federal Government agencies (including security agencies) to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogeneous.”
The governors resolved to “foster cooperation among the southern states and the nation at large; expressed concern on the continued gridlock on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and the chokehold it has exerted on the nation’s economy, being the sole outlet from Apapa Wharf. The meeting, therefore, recommended the activation and establishment of ports in other states of the federation to create new jobs and promote socio-economic activities in the country.”
They “expressed very grave concern on the security challenge currently plaguing the nation and strongly urged that Mr. President should address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of our people.”
The meeting of the Southern Nigeria governors could not have come at a better time. At a time when the country is on the precipice owing to problems of insecurity, economic meltdown, mutual suspicion and division caused by politics and ethnicity, the Asaba meeting is one of the things needed to ginger the nation to action. The Southern Nigeria governors did address the issues and made far-reaching recommendations, which, if perfected and acted upon, would solve some of the problems plaguing Nigeria.
However, the southern governors’ action should go beyond rhetoric and declaration. The governors should mean what they said. Their declaration should be backed by action. One of the actions needed is for the governors to reassure the other parts of Nigeria that they mean well, as they are proffering solutions to problems. The southern governors should make it clear that their solution is not against any particular group. They should also go further to back their declaration with extant laws, to give it teeth.
Nobody should blame the Southern Nigeria governors for offering a solution to what has affected the peace of the country and, in fact, constitutes a threat to its corporate existence. It could be taken that the governors’ action is borne out of patriotism. They could have kept quiet and allowed things to get out of hand, but they do not want to be like Nero, who “fiddled while Rome burned,” hence their move. They should be commended, instead of being castigated.
Good a thing, ever since the southern governors spoke, many Nigerians, speaking as individuals or groups, have been expressing their views on the issues raised. While some people have commended the governors for having the courage to not only speak up but also address the country’s problems succinctly, others have viewed it as unwarranted audacity. One of the views one found interesting was that by a group called Voice of Northern Nigerian Vanguard, which, in a paid advertorial, dismissed insinuations that governors from Northern Nigeria were angry that their southern counterparts met and made the Asaba declaration. The group said Northern Nigeria governors had, in the past, taken the same positions as the southern governors, and, therefore, could not have been miffed. It said: “For the avoidance of doubt, most of the issues raised by the southern governors have since been dealt with by the northern governors variously through communiqués and actions.”
The group said governors from the North had spoken on “Nigeria’s unity on the basis of justice, equity, fairness and peaceful coexistence.” It said northern governors spoke in support of ban on open grazing and the enforcement of the ban. It said northern governors are not against restructuring, true federalism and review of revenue allocation formula. The group said northern governors support state police but want it to evolve gradually. It said, although the governors had not taken a common position on the convocation of a national dialogue, they believe that dialogue is necessary. It said the governors support review of appointments to reflect Federal Character. The group said northern governors want to foster cooperation between the southern and northern states and the nation. It said the governors are worried about security challenges in the country.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that governors from the South and North share a common view and sentiment on Nigeria’s problems. Therefore, since the 36 governors have nothing against state police, unity anchored on justice, equity and peaceful coexistence, convocation of national conference, true federalism, ban on open grazing, restructuring and others, they need to work together to solve a common problem. The task, therefore, is for the governors, collectively, to persuade the executive, represented by President Muhammadu Buhari, and the legislature, led by Senate President Ahmad Lawan, to take actions that would satisfy the people, as expressed by the governors.
It may not be wrong to say that the salvation of the country lies with the governors, if really they want to live the true meaning of their offices. With a Federal Government that is increasingly lethargic, Nigerians look up to the governors to show the light for the people to find their way. It is not an act of rebellion or mischief for governors to press for things that will save Nigeria from disintegration or make it better. Proffering solutions to problems is not, in any way, a plot against President Buhari. It is an unalloyed support for the nation, Nigeria.
The governors should propel the Federal Government into taking actions on things that are expedient. In doing this, they should put the country first, as it is important to save a dying nation. There has to be a country before political offices.