Southern Governors : Solution or a confusion of Agenda? By Issa Aremu




We are living in heady times of indiscriminate criminality and banditry fueled by underlying conditions of official 33.8 per cent unemployment (50 per cent open youth unemployment and underemployment), legacy under-funding of the police charged with the responsibility to ensure internal security.

The point cannot be overstated. More than than before, Nigeria needs all inclusive pan- Nigerian, bi partisan partnership between Federal and states , states and non- states Stakeholders to confront the current challenges of nation- building. Nigeria can certainly do with governors and leaders who murmur in silence but work smarter and harder in public in collaboration with themselves and Federal in halting the drift towards anarchy in their respective domains.

Reading through the communique of the meeting of Southern Governors Forum held on Tuesday , 11th May, 2021, at Asaba on the state of the nation, it’s inexplicable that at this hour some Governors are speaking too much, regrettably loathsome but act little, love themselves and their regions than the nation.

It’s refreshing to read that the “Governors are committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful coexistence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and ”.

But reaffirming abiding faith in a Federation on a regional platform like Southern Governors Forum already begs the issue.

Ben Okri, the great Nigerian novelist, Booker prize award winner, once wrote that; “It sometimes seems to me that days are poisoned with too many words. Words said and not meant…. Words divorced from feeling…. Dead words.”

If the governors truly believe in unity, why would they not find a common ground within the all inclusive Nigeria Governors Forum? What happens to the Nigeria Governors Forum, (NGF) and it’s relevance when insular fora preeminent over national platform?

The web site of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) (www.nggovernorsforum.org) says the Forum “ a policy think tank and coalition of the elected Governors of the country’s 36 States”.

I searched in vain for the objectives of Southern Governors Forum. Nigeria’s fault-lines ( or they false lines?) are already weighing the nation down. Name them: Religious, Ethnic identity divides, Clan/Hometown identity,Political affiliations, Wealth and nepotism!. To further add regional Governors’ fortresses; Southern or Northern Governors Fora would be additional fortifications too unhelpful for a nation under stress. It amounts to fault-line overload! I bet that in reaction to the resolutions of Southern Governors, in fullest of time, there would be insular unhelpful reactions from Northern Governors Forum, PDP governors Forum, APC Governors Forum and Regional contraptions of varying interests. Not to talk of unelected and unelectable non- state xenophobic groups like Northern Elders Forum, Afenifere, Arewa Consultative Forum, Middle Belt forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and their divisive agendas! Inadvertently the Southern Governors Forum may prove a platform cementing unintended divisions even as it mouths “unity” of the Federation. The mentality of divisive narrow “other-ness” must give way to the open plane of “all-ness” among elected Governors. After taking an oath and putting paid to petty political campaigns, its time Governors acted statesmanship and shunned brinkmanship that goes with regional groupings. If we operate separately faceless gunmen would ( God forbids) defeat us collectively.

The call for a national dialogue by the Southern governors might seem legitimate. Certainly Nigeria and Nigerians can make do with more conversations. However there IF. Let it be dialogue NOT diatribes as witnessed in some of the submissions by the Forum’s Chairman, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State. William Isaacs (1999) a pioneering MIT’s scholar did a good work on the subject of dialogue. He aptly defines dialogue as the ‘art of thinking together’. Conversely diatribe a lengthy diversionary arguments against others . The third American, President Thomas Jefferson once observed ( and I agree with him!) that: “I never saw an instance of one or two disputants convincing the other by argument’.

Even at that Nigeria talk fatigue. With the best of organized national dialogue, (2014 national conference was the best! ) the point cannot be overstated that Nigeria NOT a debating society but expectedly a performing Republic which was meant to be one of the leading 20 economies in 2020, year. If you ask me, many conferences had interpreted Nigeria’s problems, additional summit one too many too wasteful, too diversionary. It’s time to walk all the talks. Governors should collaborate across regions, across parties, not divisive regional platform initiate Marshall plan of economic renaissance to lift 100 million out of poverty as envisaged by President Buhari. President Buhari has also made the Police Trust fund a reality. Governors must insist that the commendable Police Trust Fund invest in human capacity building, equipment and infrastructure upgrade of the police. If federal police fails, the so called state police is dead on arrival. Better still the Governors should promote pair reviews on good governance. I bear witness that some states and Governors are commendably preventing and curtailing criminalities. Let them impress on their failing colleagues within the Governors Forum to democratize policing at local levels, turn the states into investment destinations to create jobs and get value adding productive engagements. Every crime is local. Governors should act local and talk global. The Southern Governors reportedly urged Mr President to address “Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of people”. Fine! But many governors have done same at the state levels, to restore hope instead of pointing a finger at Abuja when remaining four fingers are directed at them. The repeated mantra of “restructuring” amounts to sheer hypocrisy and double standard when on the one hand some of the governors unacceptably resisted simple autonomy for the state assemblies, judiciary and local governments, fueling judicial ’ strike ( not mentioned in the communique!) which paradoxically President Buhari commendably championed.

It’s an overkill that the respected governors promoted the same outworn dogma: ban “on open gracing”. Governors are not elected “to oppose” but “to propose and implement” new alternative measures that would ensure food security in an environment in which working farmers and herders would produce in harmony . In any case, many southern states already banned open grazing. In February, Mr Akeredolu had announced the ban on open grazing in Ondo State. Open grazing has also been banned in Oyo State. All south-east governors, during the launch of their Ebube Agu security outfit in April, also banned open grazing and urged the security agencies to enforce the ban in the states. Why then should Southern Governors Forum make fetish of an over-flogged issue of open grazing? Nigeria’s governance menu is already buffeted with unwanted items, the Governors should save breath to cope with the exiting challenges with refreshing all inclusive ideas. Happy Eid-fitr.

Issa Aremu mni