By Prof. ‘Femi Olufunmilade
I was elated two days ago (Monday, 11 May 2021) when 17 southern governors were hosted in Asaba, Delta State’s capital, by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, whereupon some important decisions were taken.
The decision extracts read as follows: ban on open grazing, establishment of state police, convocation of a national dialogue, restructuring, observance of federal character in national appointments and recruitments – with emphasis on security agencies.
Of the five items above, only the ban on open grazing is clearly within the purview of the state governors to implement. In this regard, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue state has set the pace. He offers a ready template for emulation.
This ban, if effectively enforced, will put an end to at least 50 percent of the quantum of insecurity in southern Nigeria today.
It will end farmers-herdsmen conflicts and remove the cover under which terrorists on a campaign of terror across our farming communities hide to perpetrate crime.
It will bring a huge relief to farmers who have abandoned their farms for the cities to avoid being killed or incur further loss of their investments to the rampaging killer herdsmen operating with impunity to no consequence!
The other items in the Asaba Declaration, however, are not clearly within the governors’ purview to execute.
A national dialogue, for instance, will be truly national and will hold prospects of restoring trust and harmonious relations amongst Nigeria’s heterogeneous communities, if only it is convened with the imprimatur of the president.
Same goes for establishment of state police, restructuring, and inclusiveness in federal appointments.
On restructuring, we may recall it is the core element of the ruling All Peoples Congress’ manifesto, on the basis of which General Muhammadu Buhari had campaigned and got elected president.
The APC, under its then national chairman, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, set up a committee led by the Kaduna state governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, to tour the country, collate views on the subject, and produce a report.
Mallam El-Rufai, my Chairman of the Renewal Committee of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), characteristically, did a good job of the party assignment. Unfortunately, President Buhari has refused to consider the APC Restructuring Committee Report.
What difference will the renewed call for restructuring by the 17 southern governors now make? Put differently, what can the governors do to push through their demand on restructuring if President Buhari, as often, fails to be the statesman he is expected to be in times such as we are in?
The same strand of questions apply to the demand for state police, convocation of a national dialogue, and inclusive federal appointments.
What can the governors do to give their demands a bite? This is the question begging for answer(s) urgently.
Olufunmilade is Director, Buratai Center for Contemporary Security Affairs , Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State.