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Nigerian Governors and Their Forum

26 May 2013

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Bukola Saraki


By Tony Amadi

I have followed the activities of the ‘Nigeria Governors Forum’ with great interest since the former Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki now Senate Chairman on Environment called the shots at the headship of the organisation. He played his game and made great impact and I am sure that he is missed by his colleagues during the 2007 dispensation. I believe that President Yar’Adua worked very closely with him and both enjoyed a synergistic relationship.

Governor Chibuike Amaechi has been a delight as well since he took over and surely, he has made a positive difference since he took over the mantle of leadership. Dr Okauru as the Director General has also provided the crucial managerial back up very well through the two eras, but sadly in recent times something has gone badly wrong in the organisation. There does not seem to be any more love between the group and the presidency, each working at cross purposes. This is a sad situation which requires some redemption because the fate of the entire country is at stake when these elephants engage in endless bouts. The people surely are the losers.

Going back a bit to the days of Obong Atta (Akwa Ibom), Abdullahi Adamu (Nassarawa) and Lucky Ighinedion (Edo) the discharged their duties tothe forum successfully, it is easy to see that a lot has happened. If the management of the forum were to do a survey with the aim of determining the public perception of the Governors Forum in recent times, it is bound to find out that the Nigerian public are no longer interested in the activities of the forum because of its heavily politicised nature these days. Governors are in court with the Federal Government over the excess crude account. They want the President to do just one term so that one of them can move over to Aso Rock. They are fighting to take over at the Senate as soon as their eight year tenure is over and while they are in the Senate, they want David Mark policed closely so that one of them can become the Senate President too.

With so much money in their kitty, governors feel that they can get away with anything, particularly in the PDP controlled states. The APC states are concerned more with showing their unity of purpose in their bid to win the next general election, while the 23 PDP states are rocking their own boat, factionalising their way to ruin. One is therefore bound to ask sooner than later:

What the hell is going on?  During the days of President Olusegun Obasanjo, Governors knew their limits. OBJ used the powers from the EFCC Act to deal with recalcitrant governors. Ask Alams. Ask Dariye or talk to Chimaroke Nnamani who is still embroiled with the questionable fallouts of his tenure in Enugu. Not many governors today can pass the financial management test in their states because they have soiled their hands. They have enormous powers and immunity against prosecution while in office and they think that being governor means they can use the public treasury as their personal bank accounts. The day of reckoning beckons for those of them who are pillaging public funds with impunity. Governors are the reason why poverty reigns supreme in parts of the country and insecurity becomes the direct product of their financial recklessness.

Certainly, some governors are working, and working really hard to make a difference in a sometimes hopeless situation. I have heard many Nigerians say that if the new political grouping – the APC has the good sense of putting Lagos Governor Fashola in their presidential ticket, they will vote for that ticket. Why? Fash has done pretty well, turning the impossible Lagos into a state of possibilities. They also say that if PDP has the good sense of harnessing the array of materials in its political stable, Governor Chibuike Amechi or Governor Akpabio have shown good examples of leadership in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states respectively shich should entitle them to move up the ladder in the PDP presidential high stakes.

But that will mean jettisoning the President, which is the problem. Before writing off a Jonathan ticket in 2015 he must be given unfettered support in his fight against terrorism. He has found a new rhythm since proclaiming the state of emergency in the three northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. You have to give it to the President that he has finally found the strength to give terrorists a fight at last. I quite like his we shall hunt them down speech. He has shown that he has the capacity to lead in dangerous times and if he wins that war on terror and manages to give Nigerians electricity by 2014; his opponents in the presidential elections in 2015 will be in real trouble. If he fails in those tasks, he may well kiss good bye to Aso Rock.

A president that wins a huge war on terror and has delivered on Nigeria’s most important need which at this time is electricity supply, it will be difficult to deny him re-election. The roads are getting better and the rails are on the brink of bringing back the good old days.
I was breezing through Imo state the other day to Anambra for a social engagement and saw wonders wrought by Rochas Okorocha within just two years. The driver taking me to Oba in Anambra told me that he is a native of Obowo – the homestead of Chief Sam Mbakwe, the late and revered governor of Imo State. He said that he voted for Okorocha and has never paid school fees since he came to power.  Free education is supposed to be an impossible dream in that state, but Okorocha has made it possible simply by cancelling his own security vote and channelling it to free education for Imo people.

The former governor of that state was booted out after his first term because he failed to show any good reason why he should be kept in office because of the series of mismanagement of the states resources. It is believed in the state that by the time Okorocha had finished his revolution in the state, all the ‘419ers’, kidnappers and armed bandits that littered the state and gave it a very bad name would have been flushed out for ever. Surely Rochas Okorocha is not a saint, but he has shown a capacity to work for the people of Imo in so short a time. He is said to be nursing presidential ambition and that is the main reason he is looking into the possibilities of using the APC. Perhaps he could be the one to do it for Ndigbo whom Nigerians are yet to consider capable of leading the nation because of their role in the Nigeria/Biafra civil war.

In Enugu where Chime calls the shots, there is no doubt about the enormous progress made in infrastructural development. His agenda on taking over from Chimaroke Nnamani in 2007 was a strong focus on infrastructure. He has delivered fully. The people of Enugu are in high heavens, enjoying what previous governments failed to deliver and pray regularly for their charming leader who has faced serious health challenges in recent times but which has not deterred him from carrying on with the good works.

Peter Obi is quite close to completing his second term in Anambra and you can say that he came, saw and conquered, but his people are angry that his tight fisted fiscal policy has not given them room to suck blood out of the Igbo flagship state. Peter, the self-styled Rock of Anambra has been asked by Christopher Ngige, the one likely to replace him but for his political party, to account for trillions in revenue picked up from federal sources since he came to power. I doubt if that will fly because there is every certainty that the Rock can give a good account of his stewardship.

Up in the north, I am hooked up by the philosophy of Kwankwasiyya in Kano state. Having learnt his lessons from a disastrous first term, which ended in 2003, but resuscitated in 2011 after the hugely successful Shekarau years, is working harder than ever to return Kano to winning ways. But it is Jigawa that a lot of development has taken place over the nearly 8 year government of Sule Lamido. I have not been to Jigawa to verify the reported achievement of the talakawa chieftain, but the relative peace in the state shows that Lamido has carried his largely impoverished people along and have succeeded to give them a space in the sun.

But there are some noisy neighbours all over the north, governors who make their ‘progress’ on the pages of newspapers and show a strong capacity in media manoeuvring and pretend that there is no problem while poverty continues its total devastation in the midst of plenty. These northern governors are fighting to get the presidency at all costs while their people are ravaged by poverty and hopelessness. They still have time to show mercy on the people by working harder on those areas that give value to governance rather than chasing personal agenda that lead to ruin for   everyone concerned.

In the West, there is every reason to believe that the new crop of ACN governors are focused in their job since the judicial coup that brought most of them to power under that party banner. In Benin, former labour leader Oshiomhole has shown capacity for good governance while in the rest of the South South, real evidence of hard work and dedication has been seen in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa and Delta. But what should prove the special state is in Ondo where Governor Mimiko’s single mindedness in developing the state has paid off not only by his huge election victory but by the evidence on the ground.

The Nigerian Governors Forum could indeed make a difference if they stop confrontation with the Federal administration and concentrate on unleashing good governance to those parts that the Federal Government are not reaching. That is the only way to halt the national bloodbath going on in some terror-gripped states in Northern Nigeria as well as the kidnap havens of the Southern states. History will reserve the darkest corners for some governors who play politics with the forum if they continue to follow the road to ruin and forget delivering good governance. The same fate awaits the other splinter forums like Northern Governors Forum or the awkwardly named PDP Governors Forum if they fail to drag the nation out of poverty.

–– Amadi, an author and publisher based in Abuja, wrote this piece before Friday’s election of NGF chairman.

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