By Emmanuel Aziken
After nearly 20 years of existence, the Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF has not shed its uncanny reputation as Nigeria’s most exclusive all-male club.
The macho casing had been breached by a woman once, albeit accidentally, by Lady Virgy Etiaba, who became governor of Anambra State through the intrigues framed by the political enemies of Mr. Peter Obi.
The setting for the NGF remaining an all-male club in the immediate future remarkably remains in place. It is set in myth, muscle, and money.
When in 1998, Mrs. Joy Emodi made the first decisive move to break that ceiling, the myth was that Anambra men would not allow her as governor to break kola-nut. She had retorted that she would designate a male commissioner to be breaking kola-nuts.
Since Mrs. Emodi’s resonating campaign of 1998, a handful of other women have made equally bold attempts at mobilising the money and mustering the muscle to break that ceiling.
Among the most formidable were Mrs. Uche Ekwunife, (Anambra), Mrs. Paullen Tallen and Senator Aisha Alhassan (Taraba).
But their efforts and those of several other wannabes have remained unfruitful.
Hence, the 36 member NGF, has remained an exclusive preserve of the menfolk.
So, after nearly 20 years of the men having exclusive preserve of the NGF, how far they have been able to advance the country and its democracy is visible to all.
The indicators of development have deteriorated over the period with the basic settings of a failed state starring Nigeria in the face.
There was indeed a time in the recent past when during the Bukola Saraki and Rotimi Amaechi chairmanship of the NGF when efforts were made to use the forum as a platform for development.
In that period, the group was especially used for peer review, and it was pleasing that governors would visit one another to take development tips.
The model school projects conceptualized by Amaechi in Rivers State was a special attraction for governors who went there to draw inspiration.
But after the struggle for preeminence among the men split the NGF down to the roots in 2013, it seemed as if the club members lost focus.
Last Wednesday, as a new leadership of the NGF, was elevated, there appeared a glimpse of hope that the club could again redirect itself towards the collective good.
The emergence of Dr. Kayode Fayemi as chairman of the NGF and Alhaji Aminu Waziri Tambuwal as his deputy is expected to give the body a new motif beyond the present money, money, money mutterings and moans that have lately characterized its activities.
In recent times NGF meetings have been held almost with the single agenda of the Paris Club refunds with financially distraught governors strategizing how best to get money from the Federal Government.
In the face of the most severe challenges to the country’s territorial integrity, the response of the governors had until now been at most perfunctory. Indeed, even the immediate past chairman of the NGF, Abdulaziz Yari, in the face of the rapacious assaults on the people of Zamfara bemoaned his fate with his readiness to surrender his role as a chief security officer of his state.
Fayemi and Tambuwal are about the best choices that the NGF could have produced at this time to lead the body.
The expectation is that the body would take its proper position in the polity through equipping its 36 members with the right quotient to properly steer the affairs of their states through peer review sessions and outings that would direct them towards the felt needs of their people.
Indeed, it would be helpful if instead of the regular meetings in Abuja, that the governors take their meetings to their respective states and to wit, let the laggards among the club members be exposed to their colleagues and the media.
Fayemi in particular with his background in security, democratic struggles, journalism, and development activities among others should be able to bring some advantages as chair of the NGF.
Even more, Governor Fayemi was known to have inspired the first welfare scheme for the aged in Ekiti State during his first term.
But more than any other thing, opening up the club to the other sex could be a legacy that Dr. Fayemi could inspire. But not directly. Through egalitarian policies that he throws to fellow club members, one way or the other, it could even become possible that in four years what was known as a male club would turn into a unisex club! Indeed this is Fayemi’s chance to change the narrative.