The Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) secretariat On Monday organised an induction programme for new and returning governors where issues of national interest were raised and addressed. JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH, in this report, captures the high points of the event.
Although the general elections has come and gone but not without its attendant surprises. It was one general polls Nigerians will not forget in a hurry.
Political empires were crumbled and godfathers dymistified, hence after the electoral victories, the time has come for the governors-elect to work towards effective governance.
On May 29, the fresh and the re-elected governors will be sworn-in and to prepare them for the ardous task of governance ahead, the secretariat of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) organised a two-day induction programme for them in order to equip them.
The initiative is aimed at supporting incoming governors to develop key governance and management skills that will enable them transit from campaigning to managing the processes of governance.
The induction was divided into different sessions comprising of sessions on the art of governance and experience sharing which was broken down into subtitles, including making the most of your transition; recruiting your team, setting priorities, managing programmes and performance expectations and the role of development partners in subnational development.
The second day’s topic was titled governing for impact which involves managing the process of governance, economic management, development financing, human capital development, social investment, education, universal health care, imperative for a digital Nigeria, strategic communication and press/public relations, managing security in the states and imperatives of fighting corruption/terrorist financing in Nigeria.
Zamfara State governor and chairman of the NGF, Abdulaziz Yari, gave arguably his most engaging speech in all his days as chairman of the governors’ forum. He touched on basically all aspects of governance. He declared that borrowing is never a reliable alternative to solving the country’s economic problems.
The NGF chairman called on his colleagues to work hard to multiply their revenue generation bases in order to change the course of doing government business for the betterment of the Nigerian people.
He noted that for most of the states, IGR is nothing to write home about, adding that the governors must look inwards by boosting their revenue generation base and also utilise them effectively for execution of projects that would touch the lives of the people. He, however, pointed out that even though many states have fared well by executing projects, there is still the need for states to work harder to boost their IGR.
Yari said if the federal and state governments are to put the economy on the right track and insulate it from frequent crisis stemming from absolute reliance on oil, they must look seriously into the need to diversify the economy by investing enormous resources in agriculture and mining.
He also stressed the need to slam high import tariff on agricultural products such as maize and wheat in order to boost their production and provide raw materials for local industries. From records, the NGF chairman noted that government spends about N2 trillion on oil development yearly, adding that if one third of the amount is dedicated to agriculture and mining, the state of the economy would have been different by now.
He further stated that there is no better time for the federal government to pay more serious attention to the issue of diversification than now when the world is moving away from carbon fuel to biofuel and electric vehicles.
He also stated that despite Nigeria’s 59 years of independence, the country only has a 20-year history of uninterrupted democratic experience. “Nigeria still has a relatively nascent democracy that requires more nourishment and gradual process to develop.”
He said the political leaders need to be supported to act within their powers rather than being pushed to run faster than their feet. He also called on the federal government to revisit their approach to fighting corruption, saying there is need for proactiveness in their approach.
“We must fight all incentives to corruption by waging the war through a bottom up approach. Attention should equally be focused on all strata of the society if we are to win the war against this scourge,” he noted.
Different developmental partners had one thing or two say to the governors-elect.
Chairman of First Bank, Mrs Ibukun Awosika, admonished the governors to have some moments of quiet introspection and deliver governance to the people. According to her, the federal government can have the best, greatest plans in the world but the people who touch the life of every Nigerian every day are the governors of the state.
She said, “I therefore have decided to deal with an issue that is personal to you as governors, issues you have control of and that it is not about what anybody does but it is about what you do. And in doing that I have chosen to ask few questions.
“I will start with the question of you asking yourself, who am I, why did I chose to take on this assignment. If you know who you are and you have now decided to be the governor of the state by choice, then you need to ask yourself where am I going, what is the goal for which I chose this assignment and in choosing to do this, what is the value that I set out to deliver to my people.
“And when you are done trying to answer those questions honestly, I always say, to thyself be true. Because, no matter what we say to other people, when it is just you and the mirror, you can look at yourself and be truthful to yourself.
“But it is important that we have a sense of who we are because in the journey of leadership especially in Nigeria, sycophancy is very real. The pressure of the society and the people are around you can change the fundamentals of who you are if you not continue to remind yourself of who you are and why you took the job in the first place. And soon enough you become something else other than you who are when you first started.
“So, it is important for you to write it down, stick down your desk and remind yourself often that this is who I am, this is why I took this job and there are people whose lives depend on me. Because, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what job somebody else’s gives us.
“The federal government can have the best, greatest plans in the world but the guys who touch my life and the life of every Nigerian every day are the governors of our state. I am an Ibadan girl that means have my governors seating before me, I am married to an Ondo man, my Ondo Governor is seated there but the most important Governor to me in this room is the governor of Lagos State, because l I live in Lagos, all my business are in Lagos, my life is affected every minute by what he does or what he does not do.
“In reality, when we talk of equity of trust you can only get that trust from people who trust what you do by you affect and impact their lives every day. So, what I am doing on behalf of my fellow citizens, I am pleading that now that you have the power, elections are over, now you are in office, you have the power and resources of the state and if gain the trust of the people, they will pay more tax”.
On his part, Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Father Mathew Hassan Kukah, advised the governors to form their team with the best hands available and not neccesarily with people of the same faith or tribe. He cited the example of former US President, Lyndon B. Johnson, who nominated distinguished civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall to be the first black justice to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, which was an anomaly at the time.
“Nation building is a project and it is not only for politicians,learn to bring in outsiders, non politicians, learn to embrace your opponents, managing diversity,leaders must point the way,if you want only Muslims, men, women, Christians, or other figments of your prejudices,you will fail because, Joseph’s coat was beautiful because it was coat of many colors,” he stated.
Debbie Palmer, who spoke on behalf of Department for International Development (DFID), said the UK government is committed to working with the government of Nigeria to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity for all.
She said, “Nigeria is our second biggest investment globally.Together,we have made a real difference for real people.Thanks to DFID efforts,since 2015,over 3.5 million people have access to clean water or sanitation. We are changing lives for the better and wether we are helping to stabilise the conflict in the north east or supporting innovations in agriculture, we have delivered this as Nigeria’s partner and friend. Our missions are entirely aligned. Together we can transform Nigeria”.
In his address, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian coordinator, United Nations system in Nigeria, Edward Kallon told the new and returning governors that without peace, security and strong institutions there is no development. He said after elections, as it is the case with most democracies, there are political wounds that need to be healed, cracks that need to be refilled, hangovers of hate speech and divisive rhetoric that are still a cause for concern.
He also said, while these may seem to be daunting challenges, they are in essence opportunities for true leadership to emerge and manifest itself. He also lamented the absence of women in the governors forum saying it is just not sustainable and an indicator of a major gender vacuum and the forum may run itself to extinction.
He stated: “The United Nations systems in Nigeria is gladdened and encouraged by the pronouncements both at the federal level, but particularly by some members of this forum here present that speaks of unity, reconciliation, inclusivity and peaceful coexistence.
“I am happy that some states have gone ahead to create state peace architectures to move conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peace building from adhoc interventions to institutionalized processes.This is the path to follow and I want to pledge here before you that my office and indeed the United Nations will accompany you along this path with all the resources at its disposal. It is only through this path of peace and reconciliation that real development and collective growth can be realised, leaving no one behind”.
On her part, Country Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Paulin Basinga, said governors play a critical role in realising the development outcomes of the foundatio, noting that the NGF is a fantastic plaform to achieve this.
In this same room, she said last December, the vision for the Human capital development was launched calling on the governors to implement this vision in their states by for example putting in place a strong primary health care.
She also said the NGF has played a critical role to accelerate polio eradication efforts. “Now that we are close to the end,as you know Nigeria is on the verge of an historic breakthrough against Polio. By September,the country will have gone three years without a case of Polio virus. If it keeps up this great effort, by this time next year, Nigeria and the rest of Africa will be declared polio free. It will be the biggest public health breakthrough since the eradication of small pox.
“But before we can celebrate the end of polio, we have a significant challenge, a new form of polio can break out in areas with low routine immunization. A massive campaign is underway and continuing till May. We will have the support of governors, to ensure that their LGA chairman are fully involved and managing the campaign in their areas”.
For the Children Investments Fund Foundation UK, Senior Fellow, Dr Mairo Mandara, told the governors that the key to reducing children dying from severe acute malnutrition and many other preventable diseases, thus taking Nigeria off the list of countries with highest number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, is simple.
She said it involves ensuring both treatment and prevention are included and funded as routine in the Nigeria’s and states primary health care systems and encouraging establishment of local RUTF production.
In his address, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo also stated that one of the very critical things that the National Economic Council will have to do in its next meetings is to look at how to more effectively fund security. According to him, this has to be collaboration between states, the federal government and the private sector.
He told the governors that several private sector organisations and individuals are keen to contribute in one way or the other to funding law and order and security infrastructure in the country. Stating that security remains top of the administration agenda, Osinbajo said the law and order challenges in parts of the country, for example, the opportunistic attacks of Boko Haram in the Northeast; incidents of attacks by herders and frequent clashes between herders and farmers, similar incidents now occurring in parts of the Northwest, have stretched the capacity of the law enforcement agencies considerably.
He restated the commitment of the administration to recruiting more men and women into all the security agencies and improving their capabilities to maintain law and order.
He said, “At our discussions at NEC, we have recommended more effective collaboration with State governments; a major plank in that collaboration is Community Policing. This involves more practical collaboration between the citizens, civic groups, traditional institutions and the Police. As Mr. President has said, maintaining security is the first order of business for us as Chief Security Officers at the Federal and State levels. We must work together and seek even more creative ways of making our country completely safe for its citizens.
“I must commend the excellent support that Governors have been giving the Police and Armed Forces posted to your various States. I know that large amounts of money are voted practically every month in support of law enforcement and security”.
The vice president said the challenges that confront Nigerians in the next few years, especially in the areas of human capacity development notably education, healthcare and jobs for young people, are monumental and historic. He however added: “But we are more than able to surmount them. To do so, all the states of this federation and the federal government, must see ourselves as one government.
“Our people in every state want the same things and suffer the same deprivations; they really don’t care who puts food on the table, just put the food on the table”.
In the next four years, Osinbajo said President Buhari has made it clear that his administration will be focusing attention on human capital development and physical infrastructure. He lamented that the number of out- of- school children is an embarrassment stating that the federal government will, as is usual, possibly be blamed for the number of out-of-school children. He stated that the primary responsibility for education and healthcare lies with the States.
The VP continued: “Large numbers are unable to afford good healthcare and malnutrition remains a major problem. Children in many of our states run the risk of being permanently mentally stunted because they are malnourished. Illiteracy is still significantly high and the number of out of school children is an embarrassment.
“Yet in all these, our population continues to grow at over 3% per annum. We will by current projections, move from 200 million to 400 million people in the next three decades. And then we will become the third most populous nation in the world.
“Most of that population will be young people under the age of 25 looking for jobs. Every one of these people, except a few living in Abuja will live in the States, your States, where you govern. They will seek schools in your States, health services in your States, food in your States and jobs in your States.
“The Federal Government will, as is usual, possibly be blamed for the number of out-of-school children and for not investing enough in healthcare. But you and I know that the primary responsibility for education and healthcare lies with the states.
“The burdens of the citizens of our states, the pains and deprivations of their poverty is what they hope would be alleviated by electing us. No matter how we slice it, we are responsible for the quality of lives and livelihoods of the millions who live within our states and National borders”