As 10 northern governors yesterday began a three-day symposium organised by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) which is an agency established and funded by the US Government, Governor of Borno State and Chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, Kashim Shettima, has demanded practical benefits of the symposium that will make impacts on the vast majority of citizens across the 19 northern states.
Shettima’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, said in a statement e-mailed from Washington that the symposium is a follow up on an earlier one hosted in March 2014 during the President Goodluck Jonathan administration when the US invited northern governors for a security symposium which dwelt on finding solutions to the Boko Haram insurgency and it’s spread from the Northeast to other parts of northern Nigeria.
Delivering his address on behalf of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Shettima said travelling to Washington at a time of economic recession was likely to attract condemnation for the governors but they defied the anticipated criticisms with expectation of benefits for their citizens.
“We believe that our hosts, USIP and officials of the US government will work with us with the utmost sincerity of purpose to guarantee quick benefits that will improve the living conditions of our people. As governors of the 19 northern states, we hope to secure tangible benefits that we can point to our people as proof, that our visit here is not a jamboree as they would assume.
By the time we wake up tomorrow, print, online and broadcast media houses in Nigeria would have screaming headlines, that ‘Twelve northern governors storm Washington’ amid economic recession, when our national currency, the naira, has sharply depreciated against the US dollar. Majority of our citizens will quickly conclude that we are here on a jamboree. Well, leadership isn’t only about popular decisions; leadership is about doing what is right at a right time.
“Our visit to Washington is an opportunity to re-engage with our American partners on the most vital issues that can help us to quickly make transition from volatility to a phase of peace and development in the northern states of Nigeria. Over the past few years, we have realised that the indices of development in our region have not only been some of the most damning in our country, they have also been the background against which the problems in our region have manifested.
“These range from the deepening problems of Boko Haram, rural banditry, spontaneous religious and inter-tribal violence, deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers, cattle rustling as well as the mother of them all which is pervasive poverty that gives birth to the many forms of crime.
The emergence or of insurgencies is not episodic events. They manifest through lingering processes which eventually symptomatised into Boko Haram and ISIS.s We have the greatest respect and admiration for the American government and we hold the United States Institute of Peace in very high esteem due to its track record. It is for these reasons that even though we anticipate criticism at home for this visit, we came here with high expectations.”
US Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, who delivered a keynote address at the opening ceremony, said the US government was keenly interested in working with the northern governors to address conflicts and factors responsible for pervasive poverty in northern Nigeria.