In what has become a perennial tradition, Governors of 19 Northern States met in Kaduna between Monday and Tuesday to again moan what they have repeatedly lamented as the worsening fortunes of the North.
By Luka Binniyat
What was a periodic meeting of the governors was lifted with the presence of traditional rulers from the region. Against the background of what they have repeatedly bemoaned as the harrowing situation of the region, the aura radiated by the governors and traditional rulers tended to show glamour, affluence and wellbeing.
Indeed, as the meeting opened that Monday morning in the Council Chambers of Sir Ibrahim Kashim House, the paradox of the North: Men of power who paddle the destiny of a seemingly benighted people was all evident.
As the meeting opened, the Governor of Borno State and Chairman of the Northern States’ Governors’ Forum, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, drew the attention of his audience to the “educational backwardness, pervasive poverty, underdevelopment as well as persistent insecurity in Northern Nigeria.” That scenario, he said, made the meeting of the northern governors a necessity.
“Like all the Northern Governors acknowledge, development is not just about building roads, bridges, houses or what we refer to as infrastructure and the provision of social services. Yes, these are very important, but then, there are pro-social livelihoods, peace and good life which are the fundamental attributes of meaningful existence,” he said.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, spoke on behalf of other Emirs and Chiefs.
He said : “We at the Northern Traditional Rulers Council are very worried and sad with the situation of insecurity in the north, especially the happenings in Southern Kaduna, kidnapping, cattle rustling, the state of IDPs in the North East in particular and other parts of the country.
“We are more worried about the usage of places of religious worship to preach hatred, violence and other issues that tend to divide us, rather than strengthen our unity as a people created by one God,” he complained.
After the opening ceremony, the meeting went into a closed-door session until the following day when the forum issued a Communiqué signed by Governor Kashim Shettima.
In the communiqué, the Forum came up with some resolutions. “The meeting resolved to accept the recommendations of the Body of the Attorneys General of the 19 Northern States to domesticate the model penal code, the model Fiscal Responsibility Law and the model Administration of Criminal Justice Law through the necessary legislative actions and subject to the individual peculiarities of the State in order to ensure transparency, prudent management of public funds as well as smooth dispensation of criminal justice in the region.
“The management of NNDC presented the progress report of its activities with a detailed report on the 5-year Development Plan which seeks to transform the Company’s fortunes.
“The Forum considered the progress report presented by the management of NNDC, noted the company’s achievements in the Oil and Gas Sectors, its partnership with Savannah Petroleum in the exploration of Oil at the Chad Basin, the effort of the company towards resuscitation of Kaduna Textiles Limited, establishment of a financial institution, exploration of solar power as an alternative source of energy, as well as solid minerals.
“The Forum resolved that: – The management of NNDC should evolve a comprehensive Business Plan and present to the Forum at the April 2017 meeting.
“The Governors of Kaduna and Sokoto states should lead in the discussion on power and financial institution respectively and report progress at the next meeting; “The Committee that undertook the Study of New Nigeria Newspapers Company Limited (NNNC) made their submission, and the Forum resolved to restructure the company to a modern media outfit.
“The Forum was briefed on the achievements of the Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation which includes, Free Medical and Scholarship Programmes, Vocational Training of about 2,700 youths in the North. The meeting expressed appreciation to the Foundation and noted the need to synergize the activities of similar organizations of Northern origin like Arewa Consultative Forum/Northern Elders Forum with the Foundation in order to achieve a common purpose.
Security and social well-being
“The meeting also accepted the far-reaching recommendations of the Chairmen, Northern States Council of Emirs/Chiefs on the current security challenges and the socio-economic problems bedeviling the region. It expressed its appreciation to the Council for their support, insight, and bringing to bear their vast experience on the issue of security and social well-being of the people. “Therefore, the Forum resolved to collectively tackle the issue of insecurity as one entity.”
Youth protest: Before the communiqué was made available to the press on Tuesday evening, the Northern Youth Council of Nigeria, NYCN, had gathered a group of youths mobilised for a protest, staging a peaceful procession from UTC roundabout towards the venue of the meeting. Speaking to newsmen shortly before takeoff, the President of NYCN, Comrade Isa Abubakar, conveyed the ill-feeling of the youths towards the Northern leaders who met just about a kilometre away;
He said: “We’re here this morning to protest activities of Northern States Governors’ Forum because as youth organizations, leaders and activists, we feel these governors have not lived up to expectations. There has been this kind of meetings severally, but no impact especially in securing lives and property of citizens.
“There’s not going to be an end to insecurity in the north, as long as the almajiri child roams the streets of the north. There’s a need for the governors to holistically look at the almajiri system of education, and device a means of impacting Islamic knowledge on the young ones without rendering urchins.
“Investors are not interested investing in the north due to insecurity. Youths of the region are jobless; there are lots of misconduct among them. Yet these governors keep telling them stories that there’s going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Which light?
Light at the end of the tunnel
“These same governors travel out on exotic SUV Jeeps, while the numbers of tractor on our farms are few on our farms. One of their cars in their fleets can buy a few tractors for our farmers. No fertilizers for local farmers to use. Food in our region which feeds Nigeria is now very expensive for us to afford. People are starving. This is totally unacceptable. People can’t afford to buy kerosene; firewood is not available, gas is not available.
“Workers are not being paid as at when due. Teachers are not well taken care of. But these leaders go abroad investing in Dubai, Paris and so on but refusing to build the north. The youths are saying they’re not going to stomach it again. And as we approach 2019 general elections, we would also find means to change this crop of governors as we did to the last ones. We will vehemently keep on condemning the bad attitude of these governors. They use the youth while not doing what is expected of them,” he said.
Less than five minutes after the procession started, four trucks of heavily armed policemen arrived.
They told the youths that they couldn’t continue with the protest, saying they had no police permit. And thus, the protest was stamped out. And the Governors of the North and the Traditional leaders of the North were spared the embarrassment. The next meeting is to be held in April.