By OLATUNJI OKE
Nigeria’s economic and security challenges have been attracting much concern from the population lately. From the complaints regarding the price of goods and commodities to worries about insecurity, there is now enough to warrant a robust response from the leadership of the country.
With all that has been going on across the country, it is a sensible response for regional leadership to gather to critically assess the situation. Beyond this assessment, however, the people of Nigeria deserve answers to many questions and worries that are wrapped up in one ultimate question, which has received much less attention for far too long – what is the way forward for Nigeria?
Is the current approach yielding the results Nigeria – and Nigerians – anticipated? What does a grand strategy imply for national peace, security, prosperity and unity in the coming years – and, most critically, what are the prospects for an increasingly prominent Nigeria that rises to the challenge of managing our inevitable regional disputes?
It is on the back of all these that the governors of Southern States in Nigeria, under the umbrella of the ‘Southern Governors Forum’, convened in Lagos on Monday, July 5, 2021, to unpack the myriad of challenges the country is facing. The focus of this forum revolved around three key areas: Security, Constitutional Amendment, and the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
Looking at the communique released, the Southern Governors seem to be onto something promising as far as their proposed solutions go. Touching on leadership rotation suggestions, electoral process reforms and more, the overarching ideas and solutions expressed by the forum are in tandem with the collective aspirations of the federal entity of Nigeria, which is to foster favourable conditions to continue as a united nation.
This continuation as a united nation also requires the acknowledgement of the interests and representations of both the northern and southern regions of Nigeria. The Forum drew from this reality to conclude categorically that the next president of Nigeria should come from the southern region. Of course, this is in line with the benefits of politics that promotes fairness and equity, that derives from an uninterrupted rotation of the presidency between the northern and southern regions of Nigeria. To this end, across both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s two major parties, these governors have pledged to ensure their candidates for the 2023 presidential elections are from the south of Nigeria.
Regarding security, the Forum’s faith in State Police as the best way forward, is backed by research and best practices elsewhere in the world. To tackle communal clashes mostly resulting from open grazing in the south, members agreed to a September 1, 2021 deadline for the promulgation of the “Anti-Grazing” Law in their domains. The forum also called for direct access to funds for policing and security from the Federation Account through the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund.
Key conclusions were also reached with regards to Nigeria’s biggest revenue generator and key point of disagreement between the North and the South – Crude Oil Revenue. Much progress in this regard is already captured in the Petroleum Industry Bill, which the Forum agreed on a 5% share of oil revenue to host community instead of 3%, as well as a preference for an ownership structure of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited to be held in trust by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
Whilst we cannot expect all the answers to Nigeria’s emphatic problems to be established and addressed from this one forum, it certainly paves the way for much to be hoped for. If anything at all, this collective message from the Southern governors shows that there is a capacity to build a united front to tackle key concerns, first from a regional perspective, then strategically propagated throughout the nation.
Right now, at this moment, we can say the governors of Southern Nigeria are committed to delivering on the promises of security of lives and property, which they made to Nigerians in their states; while also committing to the tenets of a united, peaceful, indivisible country.
Olatunji Oke is the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Lagos Indicator and Nigeria Indicator.