Will Buhari Heed the ‘Asaba Declaration’?

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In the face of palpable existential threats, governors of Southern Nigerian states called out President Muhammadu Buhari. Will the president choose rhetoric or take decisive action? Louis Achi asks

On Monday, 24 hours before embattled governors of Southern Nigeria, meeting in Asaba, Delta State, issued a ‘proclamation’ calling out President Muhammadu Buhari over spiraling national insecurity, the militant Palestinian Hamas group began targeting Ashkelon and Tel Aviv, Israeli cities close to the Gaza Strip, with rockets and claiming lives.

The six administrative districts constituting the State of Israel and equating Nigerian states did not need to issue an “Asaba Declaration” to prod Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demonstrate leadership and take decisive action to fulfil his core mandate of defending Israeli citizens, territory and property.
Netanyahu ordered an immediate military response to Hamas’ suicidal attacks with a barrage of air strikes and covert intel-guided operations, which have killed several top commanders of Hamas, a scenario acknowledged by the militant group itself.

The Israeli Army released a statement on Wednesday, saying it carried out a “complex and first-of-its-kind operation.” Those targeted, it said, were “a key part of the Hamas General Staff” and considered close to the head of the group’s military wing.

Forty-eight hours ago, after dropping leaflets warning civilians to evacuate the area, Netanyahu called up 9,000 reservist troops and massed tanks on the border with Gaza. With a ground offensive to be backed by tanks imminent, the Isareli PM has warned that Israel would never return any inch of Gaza territory it takes if an all-out-offensive ensues. At press time the UN was still scrambling to mediate the crisis.

In Nigeria, almost a week after what many see as the courageous ‘Asaba Declaration’ – nothing. Bandits, rogue herders, ‘unknown gunmen’ kidnappers and Boko Haram terrorists are having a field day. Quirky pronouncements are being issued from some Northern political chieftains with the senate president as cheerleader, to counter the Southern governors’ position. The Aso Rock is presumably still studying the Asaba communique, which contrasts sharply with their traditional quick-fire responses.

Cut to the bone, governors from Southern Nigeria were essentially calling on the Commander-in-Chief to take action to save the Nigerian state. They had last week urged the federal government to convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency to address fundamental issues of statehood.

In a 12-point communique read by the Chairman of Southern Governors Forum, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, the group “affirmed that the peoples of Southern Nigeria remain committed to the unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness and peaceful co-existence between and among its peoples with a focus on the attainment of shared goals for economic development and prosperity.”

Hitting at the core of the security nightmare, they observed that, “The incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country has presented a severe security challenge such that citizens are not able to live their normal lives including pursuing various productive activities leading to a threat to food supply and general security.”

More, the governors resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria, noting that development and population growth has put pressure on available land and increased the prospects of conflict between migrating herders and local populations in the South. Against this backdrop, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot) – they further held.

Putting a finger on the trigger of incipient disintegration, the Southern states’ chief executives held that the progress of the nation requires that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police, review of revenue allocation formula in favour of the sub-national governments and creation of other institutions, which legitimately advance our commitment to and practice of true federalism.

Turning their gun-sights on a subject that creates Northern jitters the most, the governors recommended that in view of widespread agitations among their various peoples for greater inclusiveness in existing governance arrangements, the federal government should convoke a national dialogue as a matter of urgency.

For good measure, they drew attention to the extant extreme lopsidedness in appointments and stressed the need to review appointments into Federal Government Agencies (including Security Agencies) to reflect the federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogeneous.

As Nigeria bleeds out from assault on various fronts, will President Buhari make a turnaround and adopt the decisive Netanyahu model of leading from the front? Will he prefer to stay the current course? On either option, the judgement of history beckons. For the embattled masses, it’s morning yet on creation day.