Refocusing the Nigeria Governors’ Forum

By Valentine Amanze

The focus of the founding fathers of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) in 1999 was development.
With a secretariat, which was merely organizing meetings and collecting annual dues for running the office, the NGF became dynamic during the tenure of Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki as the chairman.
He spearheaded a major restructuring and redefining of the NGF. Saraki’s tenure ended in 2011, when he handed over to his successor, the then Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi.
With the new structure, the office of Vice Chairman was created with Mr. Peter Obi, Governor of Anambra State then, emerging as the pioneer Vice Chairman. Obi’s inspiring leadership style transformed the NGF into a formidable association by reinvigorating the commitment of Governors in pursuing the main thrusts of creating the association. The formation of the NGF was not only expedient but imperative for the states to assert themselves and to collectively influence the nature and course of policies at the national level.
The NGF began to take a new shape in the form of stronger cohesion and a dramatic increase in the level of commitment. The evolution of the Forum from 2009 till date could be attributed to the following:
Increase in attendance at meetings which has gone up significantly from the hitherto 9-12 out of 36 to the present 35-36 out of 36 members. Forum meetings formed the basis for major policy contributions on important national issues such as the debates on Sovereign Wealth Fund, Minimum Wage, and the fuel subsidy. In addition to regular meetings, various working committees (e.g. on Constitutional Review, Revenue Allocation, Security, etc.) are functional. More broadly, the National Executive Council (NEC) monthly meetings usually drive the scheduling of Forum meetings and common positions adopted at these meetings form the crux of the Governors priorities at NEC.
All of the above speak to the emerging unity of purpose and a desire to find common ground on issues with a potential of directly impacting on the wider polity. For instance, in 2012, the Forum developed a collaborative arrangement on polio eradication involving the NGF and the Federal Ministry of Health and the Gates Foundation whereby states that met all the laid down threshold criteria were awarded a 500,000 USD grant the Gates’ Foundation to support their top health priorities.
However, things have changed with the visionlessness of the immediate past leadership of the forum.
In practical terms, since the inception of the immediate past regime of Governor Abdulazeez Yari of Zamfara State, the NGF has become a major link to the rising poverty in the 36 states of the federation.
The members now only meet to drum support for President Muhammadu Buhari, beg for more money from the Presidency to pay their workers and to explain why they will not pay the minimum wage in the midst of untapped resources.
The Yari-led NGF lacked initiative to drive the economy unlike the era of Amaechi and Obi, which brought a blueprint for the growth of the states’ economy.
Critics of Yari, the outgoing governor of Zamfara State, said that the attention he paid to the activities of NGF affected his performance in the state.
Today, they said, bandits have virtually taken over Zamfara State because the governor abandoned his people in their hour of need.
With the emergence of the Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, as the chairman of NGF, one would experience a change in leadership style.
Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has also been chosen as vice-chairman of the group, at a meeting held in Abuja on Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
While one is advising the new leadership to prioritise the interest of their subjects, it should bear in mind that leadership is about sacrifice.
The NGF meeting should not be an avenue to waste state funds but where to bring ideas that will bring development in the 36 states of the federation.
The new leadership should study the template Obi and Amaechi used to attract assistance from international organizations like Gates Foundation, without running to Abuja everytime for assistance.

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