Governors from 17 states of the three geopolitical zones of southern Nigeria, cutting across the political parties, rose from a five-hour meeting in Lagos last Monday to make far-reaching pronouncements on trending issues in the nation.
They had earlier met on May 11, 2021 in Asaba, capital of Delta State, under the same auspices as the one held in Lagos, where comments and statements were made on the state of the nation.
At the Asaba meeting, the governors had called for a restructuring of the nation to foster true federalism, a national dialogue, ban on open grazing and for President Muhammadu Buhari to address the nation on the insecurity plaguing the nation.
The communiqué of the Lagos meeting, which was read by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, went beyond the above issues to include the proposed constitutional amendment, the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) recently passed by the National Assembly, Electoral Act, state police, criminal justice administration and national unity.
The highlight of the communique was the call by the governors that the next president of the country, after President Buhari must have completed his two terms ending in 2023, should come from the southern region because that, according to them, would foster equity and fairness.
Among issues they spoke about were; the PIB of which they rejected some sections as passed. They lamented that the bill was hardly adequate to address the demands of the oil producing areas; they also queried the allocation of 30 per cent of the profits from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to the exploration of oil in the North, which was provided for in the bill. The governors further rejected electronic transmission of election results; just as they called for state police.
It is not out of place for governors of states in the country or governors of states in a particular region to meet and deliberate on issues affecting them and the nation at large. However, it is highly condemnable that this meeting did not speak about Sunday Igboho, who for some time now, has under the auspices of acting for the ‘Yoruba nation’ caused tension and in some cases full-blown crisis in the south-western region. Instead, the governors, while passively referring to the raid by operatives of the Department of State Security (DSS) on Igboho’s residence, which happened recently, asked security operatives to seek permission before carrying out operations in their states. It is important that leaders of the country speak with one voice, especially on issues of criminality. What is wrong is wrong no matter who is behind it or the reason for it. Their silence on Igboho could embolden others to act in the same manner.
Also, if the governors had issues with the way security operatives carry out their operations, such should be tackled privately, so that criminals don’t feel encouraged. Leaders should be careful so that they don’t create monsters that will be difficult to tame later.
The governors also rejected some sections of the PIB. Legislators from that region were part of the making of the bill and should have objected to those sections before it was passed. In any case, now that it has been passed, we urge the governors of the southern region to embrace it and seek amendments to address their concerns as implementation progresses. On the call for the presidency to go to the South, we recognise the fact that it is within their right to seek the position. But they should do it by wooing people from other parts of the country, as it cannot be done through coercion or intimidation. This is the time to build bridges and leaders from the South should embark on such to actualise their ambition. We call on the government to also see this as an opportunity to initiate constructive dialogue with stakeholders from all parts of the country in order to begin to close the growing gap of uncertainty enveloping the nation over issues that constitute existential challenges to our nationhood.
Furthermore, we call on all leaders of the country, central or regional to put Nigeria first whenever issues arise, because no matter the ambition of an individual or region, there must be a Nigeria for it to be actualised.