THE 17 southern governors rose from their crucial meeting in Lagos on Monday, July 5, 2021, with what could be described as far reaching resolutions on the current disturbing and highly unpredictable situation in the country.
The meeting which was a follow-up to the historic summit held recently at Asaba, the Delta State capital on May 11, 2021, was attended by governors from 12 states while five states were represented by their deputy governors, according to press report.
The communiqué issued after the one-day meeting was apparently aimed at addressing the alarming insecurity challenges in the country among other thorny issues bedeviling the nation. Some of the highlights in the six points communiqué were, the reaffirmation of their commitment to the unity of Nigeria based on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress and peaceful co-existence between and among it’s people. Again, their commitment to the politics of equity and fairness in the rotation of the presidency between southern and northern Nigeria and that the next president should emerge from the southern region.
They equally condemned issue of selective justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the law and fundamental human rights. They further called for state police and proposed a timeline of September, 1, 2021, for promulgation of the anti-grazing law in all member states.
Also, they commended the National Assembly for the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) but rejected the three per cent share of the oil revenue to the host community and rather supported the five per cent as recommended by the House of Representatives. The forum rejected the removal of the electronic transmission of election results from the Electoral Act among other resolutions in the communiqué.
It is pertinent to observe that the above resolutions were not different from those resolutions previously adopted by the governors in their Asaba declaration even as the insecurity challenges in the country which the governors had earlier highlighted at the Asaba meeting in May, 2021, had worsened to an unprecedented and unacceptable level as the federal government under President Buhari appears helpless in the face of the fast deteriorating insecurity challenges in the country.
It is a matter of deep regret, however, that the governors had failed to address their earlier call for the urgent and bold steps to restructure Nigeria as well as the demand for the review of the lopsided appointments into government departments, security agencies to reflect the diversity of the nation.
Many Nigerians, particularly southern Nigerian citizens had rightly expected the Governors Forum to brief or rather update their people on the current situation regarding the forum’s earlier demand on the federal government for restructuring among other demands pertaining to certain thorny issues in the country. Some of the resolutions in the communiqué included the familiar declaration and commitment to the indissolubility, indivisibility and non-negotiability of one Nigeria, a declaration that had become a sing song and fashionable for our political leaders despite the obvious contradictions and deceptions in the polity as well the current realities on the ground.
Regrettably, Nigeria has never been so disunited and polarised along ethnic, religious and regional divides than under the present Buhari administration, even as her corporate existence today is under serious threat and being undermined by secessionist agitations, social unrest and dislocations across the nation.
The issues canvassed by the Southern Governors Forum such as; that governors, as Chief Security Officers of their respective states must be duly informed before any operation is undertaken or carried out by security institutions is neither here nor there. The governors with their northern counterparts under the Nigerian Governors Forum could adequately handle the issue in their National Council of State meeting which is the constitutionally empowered organ to handle such issues since the rather controversial policy is not peculiar to the southern governors but a national issue which should be addressed collectively at the national level.
On the issue of the much talked about legislation against open grazing, the Southern Governors Forum should however, be commended for their commitment and decisive action by setting a deadline or timeline of September 1, 2021, for the enactment of the anti-grazing law in all member states.
The recent passage into law by the National Assembly of the lingering and highly controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is a welcome development and commendable. However, this writer is of the opinion that the said law was grossly below the expectations of many Nigerians, particularly the hapless people of the Niger Delta region who had the misfortune of bearing the brunt of the devastating environmental degradation for more than five decades since the discovery of oil in their region.
There is no iota of doubt whatsoever, that a case of gross injustice had been meted out to the people of the Niger Delta region whose territory is the proverbial hen that lays the golden egg for the nation. The current clamour for the urgent restructuring of the country which had gained momentum and national acceptability seem to be the only solution that would adequately address the monumental injustice long suffered by the Niger Delta people, even as the discovery of the oil wealth in their domain unfortunately had become a curse rather than a blessing to them.
Nonetheless, as the Nigerian people eagerly await the inevitable restructuring of the country, which would ultimately guarantee full control of oil resources by their rightful owners, it has become imperative therefore, that the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) already passed should be urgently reviewed to grant 10 per cent share of the oil revenue to the impoverished host communities in the region as an interim measure to alleviate their terrible sufferings and deaths consequent upon the oil pollution that daily devastate their farm lands and water channels.
It is universally acceptable norm or ethos that the only way to correct or mitigate an injustice meted out to a people is through restitution and the Niger Delta people rightly deserve this act of restitution or compensation for the monumental losses they have suffered over the years since the discovery of oil, otherwise described as ‘liquid gold’ more than five decades ago. This bold step would obviously stem the activities of the teeming restive youths who had taken to militancy and other anti social vices to vent their anger and frustration over the plight of the downtrodden people of Niger Delta region.
In conclusion, the Southern Governors Forum should arrange to invite the governors of north central or middle-belt region in their future meetings as the destiny of both regions are tied together especially in the gross injustice and marginalisation suffered by the people of the two regions as a result of the perpetual domination of the country by the Hausa-Fulani oligarchy.
It has become desirable and expedient for the southern and middle-belt regions to join forces together and insist that the Nigerian nation, as presently constituted, must be urgently restructured for the benefit of our people and generations yet unborn. The forum should also be expanded to accommodate opinion leaders such as; notable political figures, religious leaders, traditional rulers, members of both the state and National Assemblies as well as captains of industry, among others from the two powerful regions.
Expectedly, swift and mixed reactions had greeted the southern governors’ resolutions from various interest groups across the nation as a barrage of criticisms and vicious attacks and outright condemnations came from some Northern opinion leaders and political gladiators who never hid their disdain and stiff opposition to the southern governors coming together as one block. As was in a similar case or scenario after the historic Asaba Summit, the northern political leaders again mounted vicious attacks on the southern governors whom they accused of ganging up against President Buhari and northern interest. The northern political elites had obviously sensed a great danger and terribly frightened by the coming together of the southern governors who had spoken with one voice on the current socio-political situation in the country that the perpetual domination of the north and its stranglehold on power was about to end and the total eclipse of its political moon was already at hand.
It’s ironical that the northern governors, who had been meeting as a group over the years at their permanent headquarters at Lugard Hall, in Kaduna, where they always discuss their common interest regrettably, had equally mounted vicious attacks and condemnations against their southern counterparts for their patriotic resolutions on how best to douse the escalating tension in the land and move the country forward. It is pertinent to recall that during the Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations, the southern governors had never at any time accused their northern counterparts of conspiracy or gang up to undermine Obasanjo or Jonathan’s administrations even though the northern governors and their political elites were the major critics of the two past administrations.
The misguided northern governors and their collaborators should realise that the long politically subjugated people of southern Nigeria had now woken up from their deep slumber and are determined to call off the bluff and arrogance of the northern oligarchy, who had been under the illusion that the Nigerian State solely belongs to them and their offsprings as an inheritance in perpetuity.
The current mood in the country today demands urgent restructuring of the polity where justice, equity, fairness and inclusiveness would be the guiding principle of state policy. And any attempt to ignore or reject these noble objectives would definitely spell doom for the country that already on the precipice. Apparently, the country dangerously sits on keg of gun powder and if nothing urgent is done may slide into total collapse.
The archaic and offensive slogan or war cry ‘to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done’ mentality must be erased completely from the mindset of the northern oligarchy and their cohorts as time is no longer on their side and the Nigerian people would no longer be forced willy-nilly into an unholy and unworkable union.
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