Less than two weeks ago, the 19 Northern governors under the aegis of Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) met in Abuja. The two top issues on their agenda were the security, or lack of it, in the north, and two, issue of state Police. At that meeting, they inaugurated the 41-man security committee to deliberate on the issue of Boko Haram. The Committee should submit its report in 90 days from when it was set up. Earlier, the NSGF had asked for the review of the sharing formulae of the federation account, demanding specifically that the accruals from the onshore off shore dichotomy which littoral states enjoy, be abolished. Their argument is that if the amount usually netted off to service the dichotomy is pooled back into the federation account, the various states will go home with much more money that will enable them fulfill their financial obligations to their people. It sounds convincing , if not logical. And already, that issue has formed the crux of the demand of the northern governors, in such a way that it has become a volatile subject, bound to heat up the polity to a boiling point.
But first, let me make a few remarks on the issue of security. It is amazing that the northern governors, who are indeed the elite leaders of the region, only saw the need to respond to the Boko Haram menace at this eleventh hour. Where have they been all along? The governors are suddenly realizing that Boko Haram has killed the economy of the north, after the deadly sect has killed over 2,000 people in the last three years. What a latter day apocalypse! Imagine the high-profile attacks launched by the sect in the last one year, yet the northern governors never deemed it fit to rise in one voice and action to tame the scourge. They have rather busied themselves far more with 2015 calculations and concerns. All we have seen are nuggets of weightless commentaries by Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), which have neither tamed nor cautioned the assailants. It is amazing that the northern governor are just realising that their economy is on its knees? Don’t they know, for instance, that almost all the hotels in major cities up north are gasping for breathe? How many flights still go to the north, and how many passengers dare fly to the north? How many tourists dare the north now? Were Durbar ceremonies marking the end of Ramadan not cancelled in many cities of north? How can an economy flourish under such apprehension?
Yet, they are the same elite who inadvertently provide the nursery bed that breeds the Boko Haram terrorists, through the sustenance of the Almajiri culture because it is profitable for political reasons. I dare say that many of the Boko Haram activists are products of the Almajiri system, like their murdered leader, Yusuf Ali. Many have believed that the Boko Haram flame is fuelled by the oppressive socio-political system in the north. The north had held political/military power for 40, out of the nation’s 52 years of independence . What have they been able to do with it for Nigerians in the north? The north yet remains straddled in poverty and lack, but most of their leaders swim in affluence of Arabian splendour. More than half of the street beggars in southern states are from the northern states of the country.
A particular tribe in one of the South south states, used to service most of the houseboy/housegirl needs in major cities of the country. Not anymore. Their state governments have upped the governance notch and their citizens are heading back home to do more profitable things. How have the northern governors responded to the changing times/needs of their people? They cannot continually throttle down the campaign for re-capturing political power for its sake. Power for what essence?
Gov Aliyu Muazu Babangida of Niger State and Chairman of NSGF, bemoan the fact that most northern states are not able to conveniently pay salaries to state’s civil servants. Therefore revenue sharing formulae must be reviewed so there will be more for everybody to share. How simplistic! He has forgotten the administrative acumen that produced the dichotomy arrangement under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He has forgotten all the talks about derivation formulae. He has forgotten all that the people of the littoral states suffer as a result of oil exploration. He has forgotten how revenue was appropriated in the first republic. The apple cart must now be upset so northern states can fulfill their obligations. The cheap and easy Oil money has made everybody lazy. None of them looks inward anymore. The Abuja harvest every 30 days is all they look forward to. How to drive up their IGR takings is hardly looked at, because the Abuja fat cow must yield milk, no matter how bad. Why have they not, for instance, synergized efforts to revive the Kaduna Textile Ltd (KTL) which was a major economic pillar to the economy of the north? It is such failures that convinces me that many states in the country (some southern states inclusive) are not viable and ought not to have been created.
Even then, how the Northern governors manage their funds is another issue. Is it not these same complaining governors that vote Billions of Naira every year to sponsor pilgrims to Hajj and perhaps Jerusalem/Rome? They vote huge sums marrying wives to rather idle persons, furnish their apartments amidst other curious perks. What’s more, huge sums are voted to cook and fete persons during Ramadan fast? How economically wise are those expenditures? They are often driven more by political considerations than as acts of humanitarian gesture
All the talk therefore about review of revenue sharing formulae, abolishment of onshore.offshore dichotomy etc, are all aimed at the 2015 goal post. They will serve as the articles of bargain by the north in the months ahead. They are the waited rhapsodies of the north.