For only the fifth time since the restoration of democratic rule in Nigeria in 1999, the Governors of the 17 states of Southern Nigeria met in Asaba, the Delta State Capital on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. They had previously met in Lagos thrice in 2001, 2005 and 2017 with an Enugu summit in 2006.
While the Governors and leaders of the 19 states of the defunct Northern Region regularly meet to take common stands of socio-political and economic importance, the South meets in their sub-regional blocs of South East, South-South and South West, respectively.
The result is that the historical divisions in the South render it weak and easy to dominate, while the united North has become so strong that some of its ethnic elements, particularly the Fulani, now claim they “own” Nigeria. Their herdsmen have even gone beyond mere rhetorical claims to set up illegal camps in Southern forests in armed grab of indigenous patrimonies.
While we commend their newfound “courage” to sit together and highlight their common concerns, particularly security challenges relating to the menace of armed herdsmen, equity and fairness and the continued unity of the country, we urge them to emulate their Northern counterparts and solidify their unity.
A united South will be difficult to cheat. Nobody will dare to trespass into their farmlands and forests, destroying their farms, killing their indigenes, raping, kidnapping and laying claims to their lands. Their fractured mutual relationship makes Southerners feel like slaves in their own country. The disunity in the South has gone a long way in weakening the Nigerian federation because there are no checks and balances to confront impunity.
It is a disservice not only to the South but the country at large because it discourages merit and inclusion. It is responsible for the fact that apart from the secession agitations, almost all the ten-point issues are headaches that come from outside the region which can only be solved only if the North agrees to cooperate. It is because the current generation of youths from Southern Nigeria are tired of consistent poor governance and being treated as slaves in their own country that secession agitations are on the rise.
The Southern Governors and leaders must meet more frequently, adopt a common front and firmly push their demands and interests as the main custodians of the nation’s economic resources. It is only when a strong North and South meet at the conference table that both sides will be forced to make critical concessions to build a nation we all desire to peacefully cohabit in.
The South needs a stronger voice and representation. It will help to reduce separatist agitations.