ALL the Southern governors must be congratulated for reviving the Southern Governors Forum (SGF) which has been in limbo for 12 years, when the last meeting was held in Lagos. It is a sign of good things to come that the governors of the 17 Southern states of Nigeria under the aegis of SGF held a far-reaching meeting on Monday in Lagos to chart a new course for the region.
The governors must be commended for jettisoning their political differences and meeting under one roof to discuss their future. This is the way to the future of the South and Nigeria. It is indeed a welcome development that should be encouraged by all Southerners. During the parley which took place in Lagos House, Ikeja, the governors agreed to collaborate with one another to develop and grow their economies.
They vowed to give priority attention to security of lives and property. They also intend to build effective linkage infrastructure across the states in the region. Highlights of the meeting include the appointment of Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, as the Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum (SGF), while Governors Seriaki Dickson (Bayelsa) and David Umahi (Ebonyi) were appointed as co-Chairmen.
The governors made strong case for the devolution of powers and true federalism in the country. The governors must walk their talk. It must be talks backed by concrete actions. This meeting came 12 years after the last one was held in 2005 in Lagos. The maiden edition of the forum which was at the instance of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, was held in 2001.
The gap between the last meeting and the latest one is not good for the politics and development of the region and should not be allowed to happen again. In a bid to bridge this hiatus, the next meeting of the forum has been scheduled to hold next month in Port Harcourt, Rivers State. With the Lagos parley and the planned Port Harcourt one coming soon, the SGF will likely grow from strength to strength.
The Southern governors should be commended for resurrecting the forum. Apart from providing an avenue to rub minds on burning national issues, it offers them enough room to compare notes and network with one another. This forum is significant in other ways as well. Beyond its symbolism, the forum is without doubt a strong counterpoise to the Northern Governors Forum (NGF) that usually meets regularly and deliberates on many national issues before coming to the centre with their own position. The coming into being of SGF and NGF will be healthy for Nigerian politics and economic development. On any issue, they will be able to meet each other midway through negotiation and consensus. Such balance of powers is needed in a federation like Nigeria for its future growth and progress. It is equally good for Nigerian politics which has always been played along North versus the South and vice versa axis.
It is also good for the unity of the country and for having a balanced and true federation. This is why those behind the SGF must ensure that there is unity among the Southern states. The idea of infrastructural linkages across the 17 Southern states by the governors will go a long way to cement the desired unity in the region.
Already, there is movement of goods and services among the states of the region. The coming together of the governors, irrespective of party affiliations, will accelerate the growth of the region if sincerely pursued.
The idea of unity and economic growth espoused by the forum is noble and good in intent. It is one thing to conceive an idea; it is also another thing to bring the idea into fruition.
What the SGF deliberated at the Lagos parley is fine and good. What they should seriously work at is its full implementation. Most southerners believe that the bane of politics in the South is the seeming lack of unity among the blocs that make up Southern Nigeria as opposed to the North that despite the states configurations still speak from the prism of one North.
Are the Southern states ready to speak from the angle and vision of one South in future? The answer to this germane question will determine how far the SGF can go. If the Southern states can sink their seeming differences and come together, the sky will be their limit. They can achieve whatever they believe they can achieve.
Together, they can change their world for better and achieve economic development faster. The SGF offers the South a stronger voice and force to negotiate on burning national issues now and in future. The SGF will give the South a strong bargaining power on the nation’s politics. It is particularly good that the forum is being revived at a time the nation is at the crossroads.
It came at a time the restructuring debate is assuming so many dimensions. It also came at a time some interest groups are strategizing for the 2019 political contest. The forum should not go to sleep again after this rejuvenation. The SGF can also promote the cultures of the people of the region through joint cultural fiesta and exchanges. Linking all the 17 states capitals of the region with roads and railways is a possibility.
Linking the coastal states among them with waterways is equally a grand idea. The infrastructural linkage of the states in the region will boost commerce and industry and create employment. It will open up new towns and businesses. The plan by the governors to give priority attention to security of lives and property is very critical. The governors should work in concert to curb kidnapping, armed robbery and other crimes in the region.
One of the practical ways to fight rising criminality in the region is to create jobs for the teeming army of unemployed youths who are forced to crime because of lack of jobs. This meeting must be sustained by all means possible. Anything that tries to vitiate against this noble idea and movement must be strongly resisted. The initiators of the laudable initiative and those behind its resuscitation deserve accolades.