President Muhammadu Buhari departed Nigeria to France to attend African Economic Summit which is being addressed by the French President, Emmanuel Macron some days ago! Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu said the four-day official visit will focus on reviewing African economy, following shocks from Covid-19 pandemic and getting relief, especially from increased debt burden on African countries.
Under normal circumstances, the President’s visit to France would have been applauded as a way forward towards rebuilding the battered economy and straightening issues on debt relief since the summit will also draw major stakeholders in the financial institutions to a heart-to-heart tête-à-têtes with Presidents and Heads of Government in Africa.
But the President had taken the normal step at the wrong time. At a time the country is fixated and tormented by the vicious and destructive activities of terrorists such as Boko Haram, bandits, killer Fulani herdsmen etc, President Buhari would have shaved the trip and ask his deputy to register a presence there. His stay at home will prove a point: that he is still keen in finding a solution to the myriads of security challenges fronting the nation. With the killings around the country, the President, leaving the shores of Nigeria at this time is akin to abandoning his constitutional responsibilities which mainly is the protection of lives and property.
Curiously, insecurity in Nigeria has risen to a dangerous crescendo that everyone and group, including former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Heads of State have expressed concern on and asked for a realistic and genuine approach to tackle it head on. Let Nigeria be rescued; God forbid that foreign that foreigners would destroy a country whose founding fathers had toiled to make great despite their short comings.
Just last week, the 17 Governors of Southern Nigeria in a historic and landmark move in Asaba, Delta State on May 11, 2021 asked for the correction of certain anomalies in the Nigerian federation. Amongst them are: the security situation in Nigeria, focusing on the agitations in the South; restructuring, prospects for inter-states collaboration and partnerships including the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the 17 Southern Governors, the Southern Nigeria remains committed to unity of Nigeria on the basis of justice, fairness, equity and oneness, including the peaceful existence among the peoples of Southern Nigeria.
The communiqué which was read by their spokesperson and Governor of Ondo State, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu SAN banned Open Grazing in Southern Nigeria. The meeting, it will be recalled, was hosted by the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Akowa. Apart from the ban on Open Grazing of cattle across the Southern Nigeria, the Governors also had in that meeting, observed as dangerous, the incursion of armed herders, criminals and bandits into the Southern part of the country, saying that the issue has presented a severe security challenge such that their citizens are not able to live their normal lives.
For them, the best way out of the current crisis bedeviling the country is to restructure the Nigerian Federation by ensuring the evolution of State Police; review of Revenue Allocation formal in favour of sub-national government and creation of other institutions which legitimately advanced their commitments to and practice of true federalism. It was also their view that the convocation of the National Dialogue with immediate effect has become necessary; maintaining that in difference to the sensitivities of the various peoples of Nigeria, there is the need to review the appointments into Federal Government Agencies, including security agencies to reflect federal character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogeneous.
This is indeed a statesmanship declaration. The Governors will go down in history as leaders that have risen at a critical time in our national life to defend their people against all odds. Time and time again, the northern political class has carried out as if the far north is the only legitimate trustees of this landscape called Nigeria. In terms of appointments, promotions into the public and civil service and so forth, the Presidents from the Northwest had initiated policies that had undermined the interest of the Southern Nigeria with the belief that the South cannot come together politically.
Therefore, the assemblage of the Southern Governors not minding their political differences and leanings have served as a big blow and warning signal that the South is now prepared to make a statement politically and economically in one voice. Certainly, the meeting of Southern Governors will go down in the annals of history as a remarkable congregation of political leaders who are no longer ready to play the role of an underdog.
For instance, the clamour for restructuring has become an issue which the Nigerian government has continued to ignore. The 1999 Constitution foisted on Nigerians by the Gen Abdusalami Abubakar military government favoured the core north, just as the creation of states by the Gen Sani Abacha military government carved out 19 states for the North leaving Southern Nigeria with 17. The 1999 Constitution, itself was skewed to the advantage of North and a particular religion. Vital items were put in the Exclusive List leaving few important items to the Concurrent and Residual lists.
That indeed makes the government at the centre a super government. States and local government are subserviently subordinate to it. It therefore stands to reason that when the government at the centre sneezes, states and local government catch cold. The Army, Navy, Air Force, Security Service, Police, Customs, Immigration, Prisons etc are all under the control of the central government. This is why when a governor gives a directive to the Commissioner of Police or any other head of security agency in his state; the order is flouted with impunity unless it is in conformity with that of Abuja. Sorrowfully, the reference to governors as state chief executives of their states is only on paper; hence the current insecurity in the land.
To this end, the Southern and Middle Belt Governors have been at the receiving end of their people’s angst. They want action against the invasion of their farm lands, raping of their women, kidnapping and killing by herders. The security agencies, because of some obvious reasons, are incapacitated to effect arrest. For example, despite the ban on Open Grazing in some states, the herders have continued to shepherd their herds to farmlands of the natives’ farmers, destroying crops and damaging other valuables in them.
The Southern Governors’ call that the Federal Character Principle should be reflected in all appointments and promotions in the Public and Civil should be seen as patriotic and reassuring. Sadly, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government only sees his ethnic group as the group fit enough to assume the plum positions. This is unacceptable in a heterotopous society. The standard set today by his administration might be visited on his people when he is out of office. Does it encourage unity, peace and oneness? Nigerians should stand by this declaration that “there is need to review appointments into federal government agencies, including security agencies, they reflect Federal Character as Nigeria’s overall population is heterogeneous is also a landmark one” because of the future.
Therefore, the federal government should do well and as a matter of urgency heed to the Southern Governors call, particularly the Convocation of a National Dialogue and others. The retrograde group that likened the Asaba Declaration as an act of war should be dismissed as unpatriotic and feudalist who think the modern day world still accommodates slave drivers, bigots and bloodsuckers.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.