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Benue, Taraba, others abandoning Northern Governors’ Forum?

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF), the highest decision making organ of leaders of 19th northern region, is known as an unbiased regional body. The ownership of the popular New Nigerian Development Company (NNDC) and properties, and other assets that spread across the length and breadth of Nigeria may be dwindling.

Over decades, the NSGF survived successive regimes rancho-freed, internally and externally.  The forum, which served as centre of unity and peace has always almost had full membership attendant over the years with little or no excuses for absenteeism. Its ideas from longtime decisions were invariably uncontestable by member states in time past.

However, recent events and developments have demonstrated that the forum is no longer what it used to be in terms of representation, oneness, uniformity and people-oriented resolutions.

The question, therefore, consistently being asked without corresponding answers has to do with where the 19th Northern States Governors Forum, known for unbeatable consistent representation, unison and robust resolutions, has gotten it wrong? And indeed, why some governors are suddenly becoming inconsistent and in the habit of all times absent from the forum without people demanding to know by way of questions and answers.

Recent investigation by our correspondent uncovered that many governors, conspicuously absent from the last forum held in Kaduna state, the defunct capital of old northern region, have long time records and history of absenteeism from the forum.

In fact, for well over a year, the governor of Benue State has been absented from the forum. His Taraba state counterpart, Kano, Kogi and a few others have joined the wagon of absenteeism for not attending the forum over times consecutively.

Although, no official statement has been advanced for the causes of their perpetual, habitual absenteeism, our correspondent, however, gathered that some governors deliberately ignored the forum, the highest decision making body after ACF, Northern Elders Forum (NEF) and Northern Elders Council (NEC).

Findings revealed the affected governors continuous absenteeism from the forum’s meetings in Kaduna for a long time were due to reasons that are so obvious, some of which observers majorly attributed partly to insecurity, political and, to some extent, personal.

For instance, more often than not, the forum had not been attended by the governors of Benue, Taraba, and Kano, among others. 

Indeed, the last forum of the governors, which took place on Monday, 2nd November, 2020, at Sir Kashim Ibrahim House Kaduna, was poor and attended by the familiar governors of Kaduna, Kebbi, Kwara, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Plateau, Borno, Gombe and, most likely, Nasarawa and Niger states. 

It’s also obvious that in some instances, no representations were seen from Benue as the case had been in the last forum of the governors, whose resolutions had been a source of serious contentions by northerners, especially Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) led by Abdulazeez Suleiman.

Other findings also revealed that, the acrimony has nothing to do with political party affiliation in terms of APC or PDP factor, as speculated by people in some quarters.

However, the continuous ignominy among some governors may not be unconnected with differences arising from unfair treatment and inactions of the forum towards some states in parts of the northern region, particularly the “Benue/Taraba age-long farmers/herders clashes” and lives and properties lost.

The crises in these states of Benue and Taraba province involving the tribes of Jukuns, Tivs and Idomas and their Fulani herdsmen, no doubt, created the bad blood and largely contributed to the division in NSGF.

Similar situation had made manifestation in similar incidents in southern part of Kaduna state where the natives, predominantly Christians, have complained bitterly of being abandoned to their faith by the state government under Mall Nasiru el-Rufai, who is the forum’s Host Governor.

In fact, Benue state governor, Mr. Samuel Ortom, downed the consequences and stopped attending the Governors’ Forum long before his second tenure, apparently owing to the impasse.

He has even stopped sending representatives, as no known Deputy Governor or SSG represented the state in the last Northern Governors’ Forum held in Kaduna. This is also applicable to some other state governors of the Middle-Belt region as currently observed.

On the part of Kano state governor’s continuous absenteeism, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and his Kaduna counterpart, Mail Nasir el-Rufai, may be political/personal differences. The duos have stopped seen eye-to-eye right from the time former Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, was deposed and sent to Nasarawa state for exile.

While in the exile, the governor of Kaduna state handed him two appointments and fought for Sanusi’s exit from exile in Nasarawa state and escorted him to Lagos state, to Ganduje’s utmost surprise.

However, after an extensive deliberation at the last meeting of NSGF with Emirs and Chiefs, the forum resolved, among other things, that major control mechanism and censorship of social media practice in Nigeria be put in place.

The forum, in a communiqué presented by its Chairman and governor of Plateau state, Mr. Simon Lalong, also resolved that traditional rulers be given formal roles in the governance architecture of the country – the decisions that were, however, contested by CNG and others.

The forum appreciated the roles of Traditional Rulers in containing the menace of #EndSARS protests in the north and collectively agreed that traditional rulers be given formal roles in the governance architecture of the country.

The forum’s meeting rejected and condemned what it described as the “subversive actions” of the #EndSARS ‘change’ protests. “The superlative agitations and other change-regime actions outside the Ballot Box soon take advantage of the peaceful protests to push for their separative agenda.

The forum also endorsed the “indivisibility, indissolubility and oneness of the nation,” adding that it took note of the devastating effect of the uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news. 

The meeting, therefore, called for major control mechanism and censorship of the social media practice in Nigeria

Meeting raises attention on the need to keep strict watch on the Federal Capital Territory to guide against unwarranted and destructives protests to safeguard critical assets of the nation.

Meeting commends the National Assembly and the Presidency in being proactive in addressing the issues of #EndSARS protests across the country and stressed the need to further push for amicable resolutions of ASSU strikes to enable students resume their studies.

Meeting resolved that there is the need for regular meetings of this nature, while it called for further engagement with other critical stakeholders such as Religious Leaders, Business community, Youth leaders, among others. 

“Accordingly, the meeting approved the setting-up of two major engagement committees on roles of Traditional Rulers Membership, to be chaired by Emir of Lafiya as Chairman, while the Committee on Youth and Civil Societies will be chaired by Emir of Zazzau as Chairman.

They called for collective efforts in addressing the lingering challenges of the north, especially Almajiri system, insecurity, illiteracy and poverty. The meeting was also attended by Senate President, IGP, among the northern personalities.

The solutions to all the acrimonies lies in the ability, willingness and courage to mend the fends through fair reconciliation of aggrieved state governors through a committee by the chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum Mr. Simon Lalong.  

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