Unfortunately I cannot qualify this headline with the word “loving” as I am not confident that many Nigerians would to testify to anything really memorably “loving” about the NGF.
Of course, if we strive to cast our minds back, we should remember that the NGF once played a role in the settlement of the crisis between the Nigerian Union of Teachers and the Federal Government in 2008. We should also remember that the Forum played a significant role in the resolution of the unfortunate drama which engulfed Nigeria in the weeks before the passing on of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2010. We also remember the battle of the NGF to protect federalism on the issue of the Sovereign Wealth Fund. But all that is ancient history, time has eroded on these achievements and cannot recollect any use that the NGF has been to Nigerians recently but for their connivance with the President to foist a fuel price increase on us in January 2011. Well, that is my own recollection; I don’t know how many people agree.
I am also not sure that everyone would agree that the end has come for the NGF but that is how I see it. I do not know how anyone wants to claim victory in the scenario that unfolded this last weekend. Neither Governor Rotimi Ameachi nor Governor Jonah Jang has the full complement of the 36 Governors in Nigeria, which was the basis for the NGF, so my point is that the NGF as we knew it before the elections of Friday may 24, 2013 does not exists again. And it may never exist again unless reason prevails.
But things did not have to have gone in any of the ways I described above. The NGF has every opportunity to have made itself not just politically relavant (in such a way that it becomes a fright to Presidents and political parties) It could also have courted the love of Nigerians. One of the major reasons why this group should be in existence is what they call peer review. My lay man understanding of this is that Governors would compare notes, and replicate what works in certain states in other states after establishing best practices. If this had been the case, I am confident that more states in Nigeria would have more happy people that we currently have. Let us look at a few examples of possibilities
Kwara State is said to be the innovator of commercial agriculture in the current political dispensation, how many states have looked at the Kwara State model and started such ventures in relation to the resources in their states?. Rivers State is said to have achieved a revolution in its educational sector, how many states have take examples from that. Ondo State is said to be leader in a revolution in the Health Sector, especially Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, how many states have studied the initiative taken it back home. Lagos and Akwa Ibom States are said to have done well in the development of infrastructure, has any state studied their models with a view to seeing how they can work? So what is this peer review talk about?
Oh well, I should point out that peer review has worked in their collective decision to castrate local government administration all over the country, which in my opinion, is totally against the people. People can no longer choose their representatives at the local levels. The governors just impose! States like Osun, Delta, Oyo, Abia and Ekiti, (and many others that I can’t really recall) have even refused to conduct elections into the councils, that is what they do when they fear that they might lose elections. Those who conduct elections do so with the determination to win at all cost, all of it followed by serious acrimony as we have recently seen in Kogi, Edo and Lagos States. This is one of the reasons why primary education, primary healthcare and such have suffered greatly in Nigeria. But this is a matter of another day.
I also do not think that we would have needed to bury the NGF at this moment if the members were not just egoistic and undemocratic. How come some of the most important men in Nigeria, 36 of them find it difficult to reach an amicable agreement on how to ensure the survival of an organisation that I assume they all love. What is the pride of Jang or Amaechi in leading a divided forum? Oh, the joy of working for the presidency and defeating the presidency respectively, I guess. How does that help the common man please?
A sitting chairman’s refusal to dissolve the house before conducting an election is inappropriate in my opinion. And it is wrong to compare this to Governors not stepping down before participating in general elections because governors do not preside over such elections, it is in the hands of an independent body know as the Independent Electoral Commission and established by Nigerian constitution, the NGF elections is not the same. It is conducted by the secretariat which the incumbent has supervised for at least two years, come on! But on the flip side, how do people submit themselves to a process and then cry foul when the process does not pay them? What the two parties have shown us very clearly is their lack of respect for democratic ideals.
If 36 people, who are leaders of their respective states and upon whom the survival of our democracy revolves, can conduct an election and come out with two different results, if these men can say one thing in the morning and deny that position in the evening, then we should be afraid for the future of democracy in Nigeria. I agree that this may be in the character of Nigerian politics, but it is evident of leadership without responsibility. In any case where is the communiqué from the NGF after the elections?
It is equally shocking that the presidency or its apologists would get caught up in issues of a body which is not known to the Nigerian constitution. To my mind, events like what we have witnessed in the past few weeks, diminish the office of the President to the detriment of our democratic growth.
I also do not think the media has helped matters and I say that with a broken heart. I do not see how headlines about anyone flooring anyone as answer to the demand of objectivity placed on the media. Such headlines and so many others take the media into the arena and erode credibility. My knowledge of the operation of the media tells me that speculations are allowed but I am sorry, we very often take speculation into the realm of reality, colouring the minds of not just the parties but the electorate!
Ironically, the presidency and the Peoples’ Democratic Party which we all want to spite might be the beneficiaries of this confusion, even though our emotions might deny us the sight of that fact at the moment. If the media is correct in the suggestion that these two bodies are interested in controlling the NGF, I opine that splitting the group would be as beneficial as having their stooge on the chairman’s seat. All they would want is that Ameachi has no control over the governors and that has happened now. And for 2015, that is still in the womb of time.
When events like this happen, I remember the fear expressed by late statesman and politician, Chief Obafemi Awolowo that a certain generation may not witness democracy in their life time and fear takes me over. That generation has definitely not seen democracy but would their generations after them? I say this with every sense of respect, but I do not think that anyone of us is helping the democratic cause. This is what putting the gun on the NGF’s head by its own very members has shown me.
Adedokun, a Lagos based PR consultant, wrote in via [email protected] You can follow him on twitter @niranadedokun