16 January 2013

Nigeria: Governors' Forum Should Reform or Perish


Senator Jubril Aminu recently accused the Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) of constituting itself into an instrument of oppression coercing the federal government and the good people of Nigeria.

He pointed out that the forum has been given too much power, which also includes the nomination of ambassadors, ministers and even members of the National Assembly. The consequence: anyone that wouldn't grovel at their feet wouldn't be nominated for any political position notwithstanding his competency and patriotism.

The NGF was formed during meetings held at the Federal Capital Territory Abuja from April 26 to 29, 1999, under the stewardship of then governor-elect Abdullahi Adamu of Nasarawa State. The National Democratic Institute had organised a seminar funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The forum was modelled after the National Governors' Association of the United States of America. The present and edited vision of the forum is to be "an effective, proactive, inclusive, non-partisan forum which actively fosters, promotes and sustains democratic values, good governance and sustainable development in Nigeria". Its mission is to "provide a common platform for synergy, collaboration amongst governors, the federating units, while impacting positively on issues of public policy and common interests". Its core purpose is to "make the sum of the parts of the Federal Republic of Nigeria stronger and greater for the benefit of all".

The ideals contained in these statements are lofty and seemingly bogus for the kind of result the forum has churned out over the years. The NGF leaves a lot to be desired. Its activities also make people question its legality or constitutionality, or even what purpose the forum serves for the progress of the country. Is the forum really expedient to productive development, deepening of the democratic spirit and the reinforcement of the thinning thread of unity that is threatening to pop? All these questions re-establish that the supercilious goals that primed the establishment of the forum are doubtful. The NGF has not helped to foster economic development and democratic consolidation. Over the years, it has been more of a lobby group for safeguarding the interests of its members and their cronies rather than a productive synergy towards development.

The Nigerian constitution guarantees freedom of association, but where that association becomes a mechanism constantly subjugating the entire populace without any meaningful progress to the promotion of peace and unity, especially in the face of our present state of insecurity and economic mal-development, then, it should be dissolved. Many actions of the forum have portrayed it as acting insolently against public opinion and its original goal.

We call on the Governors' Forum to look beyond the attractions of public office and the myopic obsession with personal interest and work towards the common good of the states and country. The forum must not degenerate into a power cabal obstructing progress towards democratic consolidation and economic development. It is known that the birth of this group was initiated under Obasanjo's regime in his bid to remain in power.

We support Prof. Aminu's call for internal democracy in the running of the political parties. It is time for Nigeria to learn the professionalism in politics devoid of sentiments. The group should redirect its powers to the sustainability and salvation of the nascent democracy we seek for the greater good of nation building.

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