Pendulum: Time to Encourage Southern Governors, By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me make a quick confession. If you had asked me some ten years ago about the issue of zoning in Nigerian politics, I would have told you pronto that it is not necessary. The reason was simple and straightforward. I didn’t care where the Presidents and others came from as long as they are visionary, competent, fair to all, and so on. Sadly, even at that, Nigerians don’t really expect too much from their leaders. They just want most Nigerians to be provided with the basic necessities of life at a cost affordable to even the poorest people. They want good medical facilities, basic education, stable and constant electricity, potable water and good roads. That is not too much to ask any government or leader in this 21st century. Notwithstanding this short and eminently achievable bucket list, our leaders have woefully failed to meet these lowliest of aspirations of their people. It was mainly for this reason that I felt merit was to be preferred to sectional, tribal or ethnic sentiments in the choice of a veritable, reliable and dutiful, fair-minded leader for our great country.

Ethnicity was not a big issue in 2015 when many voters in Southwest supported Major General Muhammadu Buhari against a Southern President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, a minority in Nigerian parlance. Many people felt that they were tired of the reckless profligacy and incredible corruption that pervaded the land under the Jonathan administration, and it seemed nobody could be worse. We just wanted to try someone else, who incidentally had been packaged in a grandiloquent manner by many frustrated people, including myself.

If you had asked me before 2015 if I would ever think of tolerating those who are now campaigning or agitating for Biafra or Yoruba Nation, my answer would also have been a resounding No. Anyone who knows me well would readily attest to the fact that I’m completely detribalised. I do not care where you come from, your religion or political affiliation. Does this mean I have suddenly changed and now love my country less? The answer again is No.

I love my country dearly. Otherwise, I will not be working so hard to raise money and end up distributing it to the needy from all States of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory. It means I still have my love for humanity intact. However, I can no longer, in good conscience, disparage those who have lost faith in the entity called Nigeria. I believe that they now have good reason to be greatly disillusioned about the continued unity and affiliation for this commonwealth of nationalities called Nigeria Our dear beloved country has changed so drastically in the last six years. Even if we’ve always had our ethnic and religious tension in Nigeria, President Buhari’s government has raised it to intolerable levels, even for unionists like me. The truth is that it has never been so bad in terms of ethnic discontent, even fury in the country. This has been buoyed by the unending spate of insecurity in the country which has become hostage to terrorists and bandits. The lines between insecurity and sectional and tribal interests and conflicts have become so blurred that they have practically fused and morphed into one. The sole reason for this is the manner in which the President has been handling the crisis, both of confidence in his administration and of fairness in the distribution of the nation’s resources across all regions and sections. And every effort on the parts of like-minded nationalists, including myself, to appeal to Buhari to calm down, reassess and revaluate his strategy and change our speed towards perdition has failed so far.

If the President did not believe our warnings and admonition before now, I hope he would seriously consider the recent stance of the Southern governors, most recently articulated in their latest meeting in Ikeja, Lagos State, and turn back from this disastrous and perilous journey. If it was a journey which he was undertaking with a few cronies and lackeys, we would not be bothered or concerned at all. That would be their folly. However, we will not allow him to blindly lead us to doomsday and doom for our country because that is where we are inexorably headed. The Southern Governors have seen the handwriting on the wall. They have risen in unison to demand that the brakes be applied, if they have not totally failed, as now seems to be the case. Some of these Governors, mercifully, are members of the ruling party, APC defectors and all. A good number of them support President Buhari fanatically and unrepentantly. That is their choice. Have they had enough? Must they be pushed to this wall and indeed, into this inelastic wall? If they can append their signatures to the communique issued at the end of their Lagos meeting, the President should no longer be under any illusion that things are all right as they stand now. The President must take heed. Things are dire, and especially so, if his acolytes are willing to break ranks in order to let him know that the end is nigh, and they do not want to be partakers of the evil that will overcome the land if action is not taken soon. The communique is worth reproducing here.

Southern Governors’ Communiqué

The Southern Governors Forum at the end of the meeting held on Monday, 5th July, 2021 reviewed the situation in the Country and focused on the current security situation, constitutional amendment, Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

Rising from the meeting, the Forum agreed on the following:

1. Re-affirmed their commitment to the unity of Nigeria on the pillars of equity, fairness, justice, progress, and peaceful co-existence between and amongst its people.

2. The Forum reiterates its commitment to the politics of equity, fairness and unanimously agrees that the Presidency of Nigeria be rotated between Southern and Northern Nigeria and resolved that the next president of Nigeria should emerge from the Southern Region.

3. Security:

a) The Forum reviewed the security situation in the country and commends security operatives for their relentless efforts in restoring security and safety and commiserates with families and loved ones of those who have fallen in the line of duty;

b) Re-emphasised the need for State Police;

c) Resolved that if for any reason security institutions need to undertake an operation in any State, the Chief Security Officer of the State must be duly informed;

d) The forum frowns at selective criminal administration of Justice and resolved that arrests should be made within the ambit of the Law and fundamental human rights;

e) Set a timeline of Wednesday, 1st September, 2021 for the promulgation of the anti open grazing law in all member States; and

f) Resolved that Funds deducted from the Federation Account for the Nigeria Police Security Trust Fund should be distributed among the States and Federal Government to combat security challenges.

4. Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) Law:

a) The Forum commends the National Assembly for the progress made in the passage of the PIB;

b) The Forum rejects the proposed 3% and support the 5% share of the oil revenue to the host community as recommended by the House of Representatives;

c) The forum also rejects the proposed 30% share of profit for the exploration of oil and gas in the basins;

d) However, the forum rejects the ownership structure of the proposed Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC). The Forum disagrees that the company be vested in the Federal Ministry of Finance but should be held in trust by Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) since all tiers of Government have stakes in that vehicle.

5. In order to consolidate our democracy and strengthen the Electoral process, the Southern Governors’ Forum reject the removal of the Electronic transmission of the election result from the electoral act; and also rejects the confirmation of exclusive jurisdiction in pre-election matters on the Federal High Court.

6. The Forum unanimously chose Lagos State as its permanent secretariat and appreciated the Governor of Lagos State for the wonderful hosting of this meeting while commending him for his good work in the State.

It is the President who has made it practically necessary for the Southern Governors to insist on Zoning and Rotation for the Presidency. This was a tacit understanding by all concerned. That it has become something to be openly stated and established in a Communique such as this tells us that nothing is well with the present state of the Union. I am beginning to tilt heavily towards such zoning if only because I believe it is a probable panacea to dousing the tremendous tensions and fear which now pervades the country. I am inclined to believe, as some do, that this is the only way to restore parity and fairness in the polity between the North and South, even if it is only in the short term. As our youths develop and progress, I have no doubt that they will extricate themselves from the pitfalls and morass of depression and disaster that we their parents and grandfathers have led them into and jeopardised their future with.

To be very honest, the President has not been very fair to his cult of supporters in the South. He has seriously turned them into an endangered species. The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for example, has virtually become a punchbag of some youths on social media because of his unswerving loyalty to the President, even in the face of daunting challenges. I personally see nothing wrong in this approach. He is part of a Team and as a man of integrity he cannot openly disavow the team leader even if privately he voices his concerns and shares his dissatisfaction and disaffection with the direction of the team. Those who know the Vice President well appreciate that he is a loyal and faithful person. He is however not a stupid or witless person either. He has a strong will and presence of character. Similarly, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is being savagely attacked for bringing Buhari back to power. He had his reasons then, and they seemed sound at the time. If Buhari has been transformed into some sort of monster today, it is certainly not Tinubu’s doing. Members of the National Assembly and even Ministers have not been spared at all. Royal fathers are also under attack. How can the President be seen to be marginalizing the South while over pampering members of his own tribe is the question on every tongue? The situation of Governors who are supporting Buhari in the South is much worse. They have become the butts of jokes amongst their people who see them as being too squeamishly docile to protect their people. It is for this reason that the Southern Governors appear to have decided to take a stand and demonstrate that insisting on fairness and justice does not equate to perfidy or treachery.

I know of so many people who were vehemently opposed to the agitation of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and Chief Sunday Igboho Adeyemo but who have suddenly become their fans. Some are saying Kanu would not have jumped bail if his life was not threatened by the overzealous military that unlawfully invaded his homestead and wasted many lives in cold blood. The jury is still out about the legality or otherwise of his forced return to Nigeria, but what is clear is that his cult and legendary status has increased stratospherically! Had the government followed the normal process of rule of Law, the matter would have been sorted and settled. Same goes for Sunday Igboho who has never been seen with firearms and who is doing no more than seeking protection for his people. But for God, he may have died two weeks ago during the dastardly, illegal attack on his home by those who used the guise of being law enforcement agents to carry out their cowardly, nefarious activities.

Why is the Federal Government going all out to annihilate these two men without going after the bandits and terrorists assaulting and attacking the length and breadth of our country with the same velocity and ferocity?

I believe the inherent injustice of the treatment meted to these two freedom fighters compared to the marauders from the North is what has now emboldened the Governors to react like freeborn men. No one likes to be called or treated as a slave.

The meeting of the Southern Governors, and the fighting words and belligerent tone of their communique, is a serious warning to an overbearing presidency, and a usually condescending North that the much-touted restructuring has come on its own and has come with full force. If the North reacts with the usual braggadocio, it may lose many key allies and thus shoot itself in the foot.

The North knows its grip on power is as a result of having willing allies in the South and Middlebelt. This is why Buhari could not win elections until he secured the support of some States in the South. Those days of bullying the South into submission by a presumed and false assertion of numerical strength may have finally expired… The end of the tunnel is approaching fast and we are moving away from darkness as a new dawn approaches. The light is about to be lit!

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