by Tonnie Iredia
The Nigerian Governor’s Forum which has been in coma since its controversial chairmanship election in 2013 appears to have resurrected a few days ago with the election of Governor Yari of Zamfara State as its chairman.
Similarly, Governor Shettima of Borno State is taking over the chairmanship of the Northern Governors’ Forum.
While both governors and their admirers can rejoice over the subject, there is doubt if the developments matter to anyone else.
Put differently, of what use is a governors’ forum in Nigeria’s circumstance?
To start with, governors being the greatest oppressors in Nigeria do not need a union to protect them. If so, what are they forming a union for? They cannot in earnest pretend that they are forming an association in furtherance of Section 40 of our constitution which grants right to every Nigerian to associate freely with any other person. This is because; it would be unfair for governors to continue as they did in the past to use tax payers’ money for associating.
However, a spurious Nigerian Governors Forum appears more palatable than the ethnic oriented Northern Governors’ Forum.
First, how can our politicians who pretend daily that they are statesmen evolve a structure like the Northern Governors Forum which can only patronize narrow and sectional interest of ethnic heroes? Even then, what did the forum do for the North in the last 8 years? To be specific what did it do for the war ravaged Borno State whose Governor is now happily taking over as chairman?
If the argument is that the forum is needed to coordinate certain assets of the old Northern region which are jointly owned by its components, the governors have not shown good faith either by action or disposition that the interest of their people is uppermost in their minds. For instance, rather than pull all their resources together to complement the anti-insurgency efforts of the federal government in the north-east geo-political zone, the Northern Governors Forum merely sought to exploit the situation by using it to demand for state police. As one of them-Governor Mukhtar Yero of Kaduna State aptly observed, the problem of the North remains that of ‘leadership failure orchestrated by mutual suspicion and self aggrandisement’
It will be recalled that at the commissioning of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation Office Building in Kaduna in November 2014, Yero had called on his counterparts to reduce restiveness in the north by initiating a harmonised development plan that will ensure rapid economic growth and infrastructural development in the region. Neither was this done nor was anything done to reverse the abandonment of the textile factories in the north which were renowned for the production of a wide array of traditional designs. Instead, thousands of workers of the Kaduna Textile Limited were sent into penury when their factory was without notice closed in January 2003.
Severance benefits were not paid to the workers notwithstanding that they secured orders to that effect by the National Industrial Court since 2005. What does the North desire in a forum that does not obey court judgments?
The Nigerian Governors Forum, an umbrella body of all governors in Nigeria may not wear the same obnoxious toga of an ethnic association as the Northern Governors Forum but it is also of no use to the rest of us. Its past activities particularly the scandal of being made up of undemocratic democrats shown in its sham chairmanship election of 2013 will no doubt remain one of our political milestones for a long time to come. So, what does the forum want again?
Its press conference a few days ago, announcing its revival provides the answer; which is that the governors are re-uniting to fight the federal government for money. Although there is logic in supporting fiscal federalism, we are unable to support the posture of belligerence by the governors on the subject. Nigerians would certainly not want to replace one bogus contraption with another by allowing the governors to overwhelm our collective heterogeneous central government.
In any case, we ought not to listen to our governors, who have not shown enough remorse over their assault on our collective sensibilities in which they redefined mathematics and logic to make 16 larger than 19. The governors should have apologized to the nation on their indiscretion which heavily heated up the polity. They cannot just regroup with a new chorus without cancelling the old song.
Now, Nigerians desire a group of governors that are driven solely by the urge to serve society. People like Nasir el Rufai incoming governor of Kaduna State and his likes with impeccable antecedents must discountenance a forum whose members squander public funds on duplicated pleasure-structures that minister only unto themselves in their state capitals and in Abuja. Now that election is over except in those states were candidates won more votes than were available, politicking ought to be put behind us. Elected governors should begin to operate as statesmen; by leave party management to party executives and devoting all their attention to creating better frameworks for improving society. The old order of cosmetic governance whereby governors in a show of popularity visit victims of flood disasters should be replaced by concrete efforts which can in the first instance prevent flooding. Our governors should note that the building of roads, schools, hospitals and bridges which some of them call uncommon transformation and whose advertisement in the media cost some states more funds than the real value of the projects are taken for granted in other parts of the world.
The rest of us surely have nothing to gain from a forum of publicity seeking political leaders. If they must have one because they have enough powers to foist it on us, let them make it private since the constitution does not recognize such a forum. Having rightly decided not to get involved in the election of leaders for legislators, our President-elect must from day one, similarly distance himself from the governors’ forum.
Otherwise, they can push him into laughable policies like Jonathan’s establishment last week of universities in the villages of out-going political leaders.
Tonnie Iredia is a former Director General of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author