As 10 Northern governors, on Tuesday, began a 3-day symposium organised by the United States Institute of Peace, an agency established and funded by the Government of the United States of America, Governor of Borno State and chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, Kashim Shettima, has stressed the need for practical benefits of the symposium that will impact the majority of citizens across the 19 northern states.
Governor Shettima’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, said in a statement emailed from Washington, that the symposium was a follow up on an earlier one hosted in March, 2014 under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, when the United States invited Northern Governors for a security symposium which dwelt on finding solutions to the Boko Haram insurgency and its spread from the northeast to other parts of Northern Nigeria.
Delivering his address on behalf of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Shettima said travelling down to Washington, at a time of economic recession, was likely to attract condemnation for the governors, but noted that they defied the anticipated criticisms as a result of the benefits for their citizens.
“We believe that our hosts, USIP and officials of the US Government will work with us with the utmost sincerity of purpose to guarantee quick benefits that will improve the living conditions of our people. As Governors of the 19 Northern States, we hope to secure tangible benefits that we can point to our people as proof, that our visit here is not a jamboree as they would assume.
“By the time we wake up tomorrow, print, online and broadcast media houses in Nigeria would have screaming headlines, that “Twelve Northern Governors storm Washington” in the midst of economic recession, when our national currency, the Naira, has sharply depreciated against the US Dollar. Majority of our citizens will quickly conclude that we are here on a jamboree. Well, leadership isn’t only about popular decisions, leadership is about doing what is right at a time that is right.
“Our visit to Washington is an opportunity to re-engage with our American partners on the most vital issues that can help us to quickly make transition from volatility to a phase of peace and development in the Northern States of Nigeria. Over the past few years, we have realised that the indices of development in our region have not only been some of the most damning in our country, they have also been the background against which the problems in our region have manifested.
“These range from the deepening problems of Boko Haram, rural banditry, spontaneous religious and inter-tribal violence, deadly clashes between pastoralists and farmers, cattle rustling as well as the Mother of them all, which is pervasive poverty that gives birth to the many forms of crime. “We have the greatest respect and admiration for the American Government and we hold the United States Institute of Peace in very high esteem due to its track record. It is for these reasons that even though we anticipate criticism at home for this visit, we came here with high expectations,” Shettima said.
The Governor explained that the north had benefited strategically from the 2014 symposium, through deepening cooperation between Nigeria and institutions in the US which not only strengthened the fight against insurgency but also increased humanitarian support from the US Government through the United States Agency for International Development which has been so much for victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast and some parts of the northwest.
The US Deputy Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, who delivered a keynote address at the opening event, said the US Government was keenly interested in working with the Northern Governors to address conflicts and factors responsible top of which is poverty that is pervasive in northern Nigeria.
The symposium which is expected to end on Wednesday, has Governors Kashim Shettima of Borno, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal of Sokoto, Darius Ishaku of Taraba, Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara, AbdulAziz Yari of Zamfara, Bindo Jibrilla of Adamawa, Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar of Bauchi, Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger and the Deputy Governor of Kano State, Professor Hafiz Abubakar, who is representing Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State.