Seven All Progressives Congress (APC) governors were among the 17 southern governors who on Tuesday faulted President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the security situation in the country.
The governors, 15 of whom were personally in attendance and others represented by their deputies, met in Asaba, the Delta State capital to discuss the state of the nation.
The APC governors in attendance were Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), who briefed journalists after the meeting.
Like the governors, Mr Buhari is a member of the APC, under whom he has won two terms in office.
The APC governors were joined by PDP’s Godwin Obaseki (Edo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) Douye Diri (Bayelsa), Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Ben Ayade (Cross River), Seye Makinde (Oyo), Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), who hosted the meeting.
Also in attendance was Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State who belongs to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
The governors, according to the communique issued after the meeting, expressed “very grave concern on the security challenge currently plaguing the nation and strongly urged that Mr. President should address Nigerians on the challenges of insecurity and restore the confidence of our people.”
They also banned open grazing of cattle in the southern region as a solution to the unending cases of farmer-herder clashes and other security threats.
i) (We) 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;
ii) 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. Consequently, the meeting resolved that open grazing of cattle be banned across Southern Nigeria;
III) Noted 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. Given this scenario, it becomes imperative to enforce the ban on open grazing in the South (including cattle movement to the South by foot).
The governors further recommended that the federal government should support willing states to develop alternative and modern livestock management systems.
On restructuring, the governors agreed that the progress of the nation ”required that urgent and bold steps be taken to restructure the Nigerian Federation leading to the evolution of state police”.
They called for a review of the 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.”
The assent of the APC-governed states to the resolutions might be a surprising development to political actors because of their rarity in forums critical of Mr Buhari’s administration.
Only PDP Governors Samuel Ortom of Benue State and Mr Nyesom of Rivers have been considered vocal enough to criticise the president’s moves on the worsening security situation in the country.
And when they do, more often than not, the presidency is always quick to react, attacking the critics vehemently.
Apparently, none of the APC governors opposed the resolutions of the Asaba meeting as Mr Akeredolu, who presided over the meeting told Channels TV on Wednesday morning that the resolutions were collectively agreed upon by the governors.
The position of the southern governors also came a few weeks after the APC interim national leadership, admitted that the current security situation across the country was worrisome.
John Akpanudoedehe, the party’s interim national secretary, said the Buhari administration was achieving a lot in infrastructural development but “only in safety can we enjoy the current infrastructure revolution…”
Earlier in the month, the PDP senators and their APC counterparts disagreed over Mr Buhari’s handling of the security situation. But the APC lawmakers said the administration was doing its best to tackle insecurity.
But while many Nigerians lauded the move by the Southern governors because it reflects the current realities, some have feared that the resolution might end up like many recommendations: not implemented.
‘Resolutions akin to APC panel recommendation’
This newspaper recalled that an All Progressives Congress committee on restructuring led by Kaduna Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, presented its report with several recommendations in 2018.
Some of the key recommendations are resource control, making local government an affair of states, constitutional amendment to allow merger of states, state police, state court of appeal and independent candidacy.
Lamentably, over two years after, the recommendations, formed from opinions of various Nigerians, are yet to be implemented.
Meanwhile, telephone calls and texts seeking the presidency’s reaction to the Southern Governors’ resolutions were not responded to by Mr Buhari’s publicists, Garba Shehu and Femi Adesina, as of press time on Wednesday.
“It is empirically true that the people of Nigeria, not just the citizens in the Southern part, are willing to be in a Nigeria that gives them socio-economic and political justice. But when Governors, most of whom owe workers backlog of salaries, only weep after collecting security votes, come together to discuss justice, one needs to interrogate the sincerity of such meeting,” says Olorunfemi Adeyeye, the publicity Secretary of African Action Congress (AAC), on Wednesday.
Mr Adeyeye considered the intervention of the governors ”later than expected”.
“It is unfortunate that governors would have to congregate to urge a President to address the nation on an issue as important as security at a critical time like this. Here is a President who swore before Nigerians to uphold the constitution of the country, wherein one of the provisions- Section 14(2) makes it clear that the primary responsibility of government shall be the security and welfare of the citizens. Addressing the country would not cushion anything as recent history has shown that many of the addresses of the President end up as colossal as his silence.”
Also, Sani Farouq, a member of the PDP in Lagos, said he is uncertain of any significant improvement from the actions of the governors.
“This is not the first time governors would meet and make resolutions but has anything changed — even in the South-west where you have the noise about Amotekun? They should go beyond making resolutions.”
Amotekun is the security outfit established in the Southwestern states to tackle insecurity in the region.
“They have banned open grazing. Fine. I want to see the first governor out of the 17 to implement this without considering the president’s body language,” Mr Farouq told PREMIUM TIMES.
A social commentator and human rights activist, Festus Ogun, also expressed his worries on implementation.
“While the intentions behind the resolutions are noble, implementation remains a serious challenge. The simple reason is because the political will to drive home the reforms is absent amongst our ruling class. The resolutions appear to be an offshoot of the clamour for restructuring our country. The question is: are the political heavyweights in the country ready to restructure the country? The guess is as good as mine. Our country remains a risk until we find the courage to restructure.”
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