President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan has given his thoughts on the just concluded Southern Governors Summit. While berating the call for restructuring by southern governors in an interview with State House correspondents in Abuja, on 13 May 2021, the senate president asked the southern governors to lead by example. He is demanding that the governors should work first towards restructuring their states before asking the Federal Government to do so.
In his words:
“We must allow people to participate in governance so that whoever feels he has something to offer to make Nigeria better does so freely without any let or hindrance.”
The Senate president added that “as leaders, particularly those of us who were elected at all levels of government, we should avoid partisanship. We should avoid regionalism. We are all leaders and we are in this together.
“The solutions to our challenges must come from us regardless of what level of the government we are; whether at the federal, state or local government level.”
In light of Ahmed Lawan’s reservations, there have been questions ranging from why the southern governors should even meet exclusively to deliberate on such matters of national importance. While some have queried that it smacks of regional chauvinism, others aver that if Southern Governors are holding such meeting without their northern counterparts, where does it leave the idea of One Nigeria or the unity the country so badly needs now?
Some of the concerns may be tenable, but they look unnecessarily vindictive and shouldn’t be misconstrued or blown out of proportion. If the southern governors deem it fit to converge and deliberate on issues that touch them fundamentally, why should anybody raise dust over them?
Besides, Northern leaders and governors have been known to hold such meetings. They deliberate on issues that affect them and the people they represent. A two-day Northern Summit was held recently. The Summit, which ended on 9 April 2021, was organised by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and other leaders of the region to address the socio-economic and political malice that have plagued the north and Nigeria in general.
In supporting the restructuring agenda for the nation, it was agreed that northern elites and political leadership should improve “their levels of sensitivity to inclusiveness and management of the North’s pluralism.”
A communiqué that preceded the summit states that “The North invites the attention of President Muhammadu Buhari, northern governors, and legislators to the fact that under their watch, the North has sunk lower in all indices of human existence.”
Moreover, this is not a regional meeting intended to serve the interests of the South alone as some actors are making it appear. Some of the resolutions might be off tangent but they do not obliterate the place of such gathering.
However, some observers feel it would have made a lot of sense if the Southern Governors Forum, having come up with their 12-point communiqué, reached out to their Northern counterparts for collective assessment and rubbing of minds before final presentation to the Federal Government. This, they believe, would not only have cast the summit in a proper light, but it would also make the needed statement that it was an all-inclusive decision.
Besides, why can’t the North and South hold meetings on such issues of national importance and address them to the Federal Government in the spirit of togetherness? Why do they have to hold separate regional meetings, thereby making it appear as though each region is pursuing its own selfish agenda?
The issues plaguing Nigeria are diverse and cut across all regions. For instance, both the North and the South are victims of the contemporaneous security backdraught. Inflation has risen to a whole new level. Instead of reaching a common front in addressing these issues headlong, we often find ourselves playing the game of ethno-religious politics.
Similarly, there are records of many Northern leaders calling for restructuring. In the earlier cited communiqué issued by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), the Arewa leaders said, “the North believes that restructuring the country is now a vital necessity for Nigeria’s survival as one united entity.”
Although they noted that “The North will not be stampeded or blackmailed into taking major decisions around rotating the Presidency”, major stakeholders from the North like Yakubu Gowon has pushed for rotational presidency which is one of the hallmarks of calls for restructuring. Many of them have even backed southern presidency come 2023.
The point is, resolutions like the one presented by southern governors would be more resonating if the different regions engaged each other on such issues of national importance.
There could also be some sense in Senator Ahmed Lawan’s reservations. Most of the governors from the Southern region are being sanctimonious, especially those from oil-producing states who “rob” oil-producing communities of the monies meant for their direct interventions.
Is it not rather apprehensive that Imo, Delta, Rivers, and Akwa Ibom are the states with the highest unemployment rate in the country in spite of all the monies they receive as oil derivation funds? Akwa Ibom is the largest oil producer with 504,000 BPD in the country yet her unemployment rate peaks at 51% according to Statista.
Delta and Rivers States which follow at second and third position with 346,000 BPD and 344,000 BPD respectively have their unemployment rate at both 31.14% and 41.59%. Imo State is even worse with 56.64%. Do we blame that on the Federal Government failure to restructure as well?
In addition, a good number of these states still run governance from their state capitals and focus development almost entirely on the state capitals, leaving out other places. They cannot even stand their LGAs, yet they want to collectively intimidate the federal government. Do other parts of the same state not need development? As Ahmed Lawan noted, let them show the capacity that they can restructure before they begin to sound the horn.
More so, it would not be out of place if there could be laws to compel even development at state levels. As one political observer recommended, governors should build functional offices in each of the Senatorial districts and physically rotate their shifts and duties quarterly among the 3 senatorial districts to promote even development at the state levels. Although this proposal might come across as a joke or comic relief, it strongly underlines the need for the governors to tidy up the home front before they can effectively team up to change things at the centre.