- Tobiloba Kolawole
Governors of the 36 states of Nigeria have been tasked on the need to justify the existence of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) and the about N360 million expended annually to run its secretariat.
A legal practitioner, Adedayo Edun made this demand today in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital when he spoke to frontpage.ng on what is expected of governors.
Edun lamented that the NGF, which ought to be a rallying point for cross fertilization of ideas bothering on development and good governance aimed at uplifting the lives of Nigerians, has been reduced to a mere political machinery.
He said: “It’s all about politics, how do we win this and that, which is of no concern to the electorate. The electorate wants something that will impact on their lives.”
The legal practitioner emphasized that Nigeria is in critical need of good governance for any meaningful development. He stressed that the current make up of the NGF is more of a merry making platform for the governors since the impact of such entity have not been seen on the masses.
He stated further that: “If they are converging at all, it is precisely to create a synergy. And what is the synergy? To answer this question is to say it is to make positive impact on the citizenry, that’s the purpose of that convergence.
Unfortunately, they have missed the purpose for which they are in office. They tend to see their position as an opportunity to amass wealth, to exercise authority, particularly arbitrarily.”
Their objective for me should be how we make positive impact on the people we are governing. So each governor will share experiences on how to make the people happy. How do we create purposeful governance in our respective states? And what is the opinion of those citizens in relation to their governance” he said.
Although, Edun believes that the N360million naira expended out of the billions they receive from the Federal Government annually would have been insignificant if it was used to better the lives of citizens in their states.
“If they are attaining positive ends with that amount, and what I mean by positive ends is what really concerns and affects the populace in their respective states; maybe we may say that it is justified. This is because we would see prompt actions and outcomes from their forum that clearly deals with how to make citizens in their states happy”, he said.
Edun added that: “If you have spent 360million in a year in 36 states, well, that is still reasonable to make your people happy. What they collect in a year put together is over N40 billion. So N360 million in itself would be insignificant if what they have been able to achieve is to make their people happy.”
He lamented that nobody is happy: “Look at electricity; they can do it in their respective states. If they are so determined to give their people electricity they can do independent power projects and the citizenry will know that these governors are working.
But unfortunately, they are all on a frolic of their own. They determine what is good for the citizenry by their own opinion and that’s not the thing. It is not your own opinion that matters. You must determine where the shoe pinches the citizenry to understand their needs and decide to address the problem”, Edun said.
The Nigeria Governors Forum had come under severe criticism. It had been referred to as a boys club especially because of its heavy politicking over leadership and the tendency to become machinery for divisive politics as experienced during the Jonathan administration.
However, in his reaction, the Head, Media and Public Affairs, Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulrazaq Bello-Barkindo refuted claims that the forum is merely a boys club.
He disclosed that as part of the induction ceremony that was held in the week for governors-elect, there was a spouses day aimed at bringing together for the purpose of training male or female spouses of elected governors.
Barkindo noted that: “The reason for which the Nigeria Governors Forum was set up is imperative.”
He explained that: “We can’t have governors come together as individuals just fighting for different things at the same time. So the governors in 1999 thought they needed to come together.”
We took a cue from the National Governors Association in the United State where governors come together, rub minds and put together a certain front that will emancipate their people from their own problems”, Barkindo Said.
He said further that the NGF is concerned about eradicating poverty, mis-governance, hunger and starvation, which is why it has 6 key mandate areas that include infrastructure, policy, economy, environment and security.
He stated that it is “preposterous” for Nigerians to say the NGF has not had positive impact on the lives of the people across the nation.
He said: “Over time we have seen improvement in how governors relate to each other. Today there is no bickering among governors, they are all together and they approach matters in a uniformed solution seeking way.”
One of the arguments against the forum is that the peer review function that it tries to sell to Nigerians has not changed the way governors deliver governance in their respective states. This has fueled questions as to what role the NGF plays in the running of states.
Barkindo however disclosed that: “We are a service intuition that serves from a consultancy point of view. We serve every governor according to his specific needs. What we try to do is to provide tailor made services that governors need at a particular time.”
The NGF official also revealed how the forum is funded.
“The NGF is funded by dues from the governors; dues of only N10 million per annum. That will surprise you, that there is not a lot of money that comes into the services of the NGF”, Barkindo noted.
In order to prepare incoming and returning governors for the task of delivering purposeful and effective governance, the NGF organized a 3day induction event which started last Monday and ended on Wednesday.
Speakers at the event include the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; Chairman, First Bank of Nigeria, Ibukun Awosika and other notable local and global leaders.