Nigeria Governors’ Forum: Dawn of new vision
THE election of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, the indisputable dean of the intellectual conclave of Nigerian politics, did not come to those that have their hears to the ground as a surprise. It is an idea well foreboded by his character and conduct as an emerging charismatic political icon. His rising profile as the unifying and ambidextrous political diplomat who has been able to navigate intricate political landmines and manage complex bi-partisan negotiations within the very hazy and ever fluid Nigerian political climate, readily recommended him for this new role. Indeed, contrary to some fortuitous media frenzies of an impending intense contestation, Governor Kayode Fayemi, was in actual material fact, the consensus candidate of his progressive brothers. His candidature received an overwhelming support of the opposition PDP and APGA governors who see him as an embodiment of good breeding. To prove the cynical pundits wrong, Mal. Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna who was supposed to be his ‘hot’ challenger was the one who nominated him, while Dr Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State seconded. His nomination was unopposed and was greeted with a thunderous applause by all.
Since coming to political limelight, especially at the national level, Dr Fayemi has continued to represent the best of the nation’s centripetal tendencies. He not only has an absorbent nature that can tolerate a heterogeneous composition, his sagely pontification, visionary abstraction and generous broadmindedness have all positioned him for a time like this. It was therefore a matter of time that Dr Fayemi would continue to enjoy the confidence of all wherever he finds himself. During the JKF1.0, he was the choice of the Governors for any critical engagement with the federal government. Despite being in opposition ACN which morphed into APC, he often represented the Forum in major policy and power negotiations with the federal government. Within the APC family, Fayemi gets the task done when high-wire political negotiation becomes expedient and a logjam had to be broken. Trust him to do a clinical job with a resounding outcome when a task is given to him. This is therefore, another of many challenges that have been thrown at him.
The truth of the matter is that many are cynical about the NGF. Many had even angrily but ignorantly canvased for its abolition. The body has often been negatively framed in the media and has developed a negative frame of reference as a body of “greedy”, “corrupt”, “insensitive”, “selfish” “domineering” and “power mongering” individuals. This perception is however misplaced and largely borne out of malice or ignorance or both. Even though the body has done a lot in peer review, policy cooperation and resource sharing that have benefited the states, they are only heard when there is a major controversial issue in the polity. With Dr Fayemi in the saddle, one does not need to be told that the imbalance in perception of the Forum will soon fizzle out. His Midas’s Touch which turned around the Ministry of Mines and Solid Minerals from being an unattractive posting to an enviable one, will soon rob off on the Forum.
To start with, the JKF intellectual finesse will immediately reflect in the public image of the Forum. The forum will provide a wider avenue to engage critical stakeholders in policy debates and advocacy. You would also expect that the NGF will set machinery in motion for greater peer review in the actualisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). You would see study groups, panels and round-tables to discuss issues of national concerns in the area of socio-economic and human development matters. You would see JKF leading his peers to adopt innovative ideas in governance. You would see him promoting and leveraging resource management and governance infrastructure. You will see JKF leading in encouraging his peer to undertake palliative social investment, gender and child rights and inclusive growth. As a democrat, he would encourage the deepening of consensus building and democratic practice across political spectrum. One would expect a more dynamic power-relation system between the FGN and NGF in terms of major power sharing (re)negotiation in furthering the agitation for devolution of power to the constituent states that made up the federation. Issues of the best way to localise policing and domesticate strategy would be strategically pushed to the point of constitutional amendment that could be a turning point for the nation’s internal security system. This is more so that the president has indicated readiness to deepen the nation’s federal system through power devolution.
The NGF under Fayemi would definitely exploit the cordial relationship that exists between the president and himself for the benefit of the Forum. There is no doubt that the president respects the high intellect and intelligence of the chair of the NGF. He is one man that the president readily defers to because of his undoubted honesty and demonstrated competence. One therefore is doubly convinced that the Governors’ numero uno will be able to persuade the president in certain areas of common interest. There are two burning issues that the Fayemi’s NGF will immediately be confronted with. Namely, the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit’s (NFIU) recent guidelines on the operation of local government financial system and the minimum wage issue. In the case of the former, and because of the strongly held opinion that governors stifle the local governments from utilising their monthly allocation directly, the NFIU’s directive, though illegal, is seen by many as necessary. The truth is that it is actually injurious to the health of local government itself but there is general misconception which must be immediately addressed. The second issue of wage increase and the financial support to actualise it will need to be sorted out with FGN, while the necessary agencies in charge of salaries and wages be encouraged to expedite efforts on the matter so as not to precipitate another rounds of agitations which are often targeted at the governors.
There is no doubt that with the election of Dr Fayemi, the narrative, perception, focus and practice of the forum will witness a new dynamic. For the NGF, it is a dawn of a new vision. For us in Ekiti, it is another opportunity to show class, intellect, creativity and character yet again.
- Dr. Aniyi is Senior Special Assistant to the Ekiti State governor on Special Projects.