As a northerner, I detest the present crop of northern governors. Most of them are greedy and corrupt – this has become an essential ingredient of governance in Nigeria anyway. But I detest them the more because they have formed the un-Godly proclivity of exercising power without the inconvenience of responsibility.
For effect, they have elected one of them, Dr Aliyu Babangida of Niger State as their leader. A Phd holder and street orator, this man pretends to be an authority on every topic in the world. Everyday on TV, I see him delivering lectures in different, far flung cities in Nigeria on every conceivable topic, ranging from rocket science in America to rat hunting in Tivland. But when you go to Niger state of today as I frequently do, what you see on the ground is a comprehensive report card on what good governance is not. This itinerant pedagogue spends so much time and energy on his lectures that there is none left for the job he was elected in 2007 to do.
As a northerner educated in the South West, I do not hide my admiration for what the South West governors are doing in their individual states and for their geo-political zone. Just go round their states from Lagos to Osun and you will see evidence of good governance everywhere. I cannot swear that these governors are not pilfering their state’s treasuries since this is an accepted National culture. They have however won me over with their attitude to the welfare of their people and state duties.
We are back to the good old days when the South West claimed and was in fact the ‘first’ in everything in Nigeria. The governors there are not asking for cheap oil money, as our own Babangida Aliyu is always doing. Lagos state has demonstrated that oil is not the only source of wealth. They look back with nostalgia to the days of Awolowo and they want to integrate the old West so that it becomes more viable for the economic, social and political challenges ahead.
The greatest injury state creation has done to federalism is that we now have a multitude of states, few of which can raise the revenue to finance their budgets. They depend on federal allocations for almost everything. This type of federalism is found only inNigeria.
As a northerner from the North East, I have my reservations about the performances of some of our six state governments. Last week I was happy to be an observer of the 2nd North East Economic Summit. The first Summit which was held in Bauchi last year was poorly attended.
This year, my zone – the North East, took me closer to South West, the zone that educated and still gives me pride. Held in Gombe, the conference attracted who is who in the North east and beyond: Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, PDP national Chairman, Malam Adamu Ciroma, former Minister, Hajia Amina J Mohammed, Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on post 2015 Development Planning, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of Central Bank, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man and man others.
If the success of any such summit is to be judged by attendance, there couldn’t be a greater one than the Gombe summit. The President, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was there on hand to give an address. Amazingly even after his departure on the first day, the conference hall in the governor’s office, venue of the summit witnessed a full capacity turn out for the two days it lasted.
But the real value of this year’s summit goes beyond mere attendance. There was deep substance in the contributions, sometimes beautifully laced with majestic humour. For instance there was the debate, even competition between participants from the North West and the North East as to which was the most wretched zone in Nigeria. Speaker after speaker from the Norwest, led by the former Minister of National Planning, Dr Samshudeen Usman stood up to proudly declare their zone as the poorest while the Wazirin Bauchi Alhaji…led the North East contingent in the race to wrestle the trophy of poverty for the Nortwest zone. The debate got so animated that President Jonathan had to intervene.
The summit, a well organized event spoke not only of poverty; it also provided a platform for advertising the potential prosperity of the North East zone. One by one the six governors stepped out to give details of the unexploited resources in their turfs.
There was Murtala Nyako of Adamawa telling the world that his state is a land of limitless investment opportunities in agriculture, (crop production; animal production, agriculture); mineral resources and commerce. Mal. Isa Yuguda proclaimed his Bauchi state as the “pearl of tourism” because of such tourist attractions as the Yankari National Park, Tafawa Balewa Tomb etc.
Mal Kashim Shettima, governor of Borno said his state is a “haven of tourism and investment” even in the face of the Boko Haram scourge. The host Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo declared Gombe his state as an investor’s real destination. To Garba Umar, Taraba, the state where he acts as Governor is nature’s gift of investment potentials, just like Ibrahim Gaidam said Yobe, the state he governs is a place where investment opportunities abound.
Explaining the focus of this years summit, Muhammad Kabir Ahmed, Chairman of the organizing committee said “This second North Eastern Economic Summit was elected to be with a difference in many ways than one, among which are hosting Pre-Summit conferences on at least two of the three issues it intends to address in the event proper. This turned out to be true. For two days running, we were treated to informed discourse with experts mesmerizing us with information on investor’s forum, agriculture, education, infrastructure and framework for regional cooperation.
The conference has come and its resolutions have been put before the public domain. What is left is the implementation of these solemn and pious proclamations. Fortunately both President Jonathan and Dr. Samshudeen promised to help with the way forward. The future does look bright for the zone.
But the governors of the North East must take one more step. The South West governors are way ahead in this business of regional integration. Nothing stops the North East governors from going to the South West to learn. About forty years ago, I enrolled into a university in the South West to learn and I am not regretting that move.