S’East governors’ quest for collaboration
Governors from the South-East zone of the country have unveiled a number of initiatives aimed at addressing some critical challenges facing the zone. JUDE OSSAI examines the initiatives against the background of the people’s expectations.
THE idea behind the formation of the South-East Governors Forum (SGF) in 1999 was to reposition the Igbo land in all fronts through a multifaceted agenda on integration. According to the initiators, it was by achieving the lofty goal that the Igbo could fully derive maximum benefit from the mainstream politics at the national level. It is no surprise that since the inception of the platform, Enugu, the administrative headquarters of the defunct Eastern Region, remains central in galvanising all the five states in the zone. The governors do not allow political affiliations to constitute a cog in the wheel of progress, as they demonstrate unanimity of purpose on national issues when the need arises.
Before their recent meeting in Enugu, many people had begun to ask if the governors were doing enough on the economic blue print of the SGF. The public concern followed the perceived slow pace of physical development of the South-East despite its huge human and material potential. Investigations showed that after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost the presidential election in 2019, the governors apparently put their hitherto regular on hold until recently. The meetings had always provided the veritable avenue for them to examine how they could collaborate towards boosting the revenue base of the zone and generate more employment opportunities for the rising number of unemployed youths.
In a communiqué issued after their meeting in Enugu, the governors tried to address some of the posers agitating the minds of the people, one of which was the level of commitment of the governors to primary objective of the forum, which is regional integration towards achieving the overall wellbeing of the citizens. Their resolutions majorly centred on burning national issues, which some individuals and groups in the zone had misconstrued the collective stand of the governors. Of utmost concern of the people were the general insecurity in the South-East, which had led to killings and abduction of persons, as well as the controversial national cattle grazing initiative. The other germane item in the communique was the economic potential of the South-East; condition of federal roads and other infrastructure, worsening state of the Akanu Ibiam International airport in Enugu and how the governors could synergise towards revamping the agricultural sector.
Accordingly, the governors enunciated a number of proactive measures, especially on how to improve the security of lives and property in the zone. Part of the communique read: that the Forum would key into the Federal Government’s community policing programme and that forest guards would be established in each state and roads cleared up to 50 meters into the bush to have a clear view of the roads ahead; that the South-East governors reviewed the Security situation in the zone and in response to emerging security challenges decided to set up both a committee and a center for the South-East Integrated Security Monitoring/Intelligence Gathering to be centrally located in Enugu.” The governors said the security committee would also address the safety of fuel pipeline routes to the Enugu depot to ensure that pumping of petroleum products in the depot resumed in the shortest possible time.
On the contentious cattle grazing initiative of the Federal Government, the governors maintained that their “earlier decision that there is no land in the South East for the programme.” In what looked like an alternative to the rejected Greek gift,’ the governors unfolded their plan to provide a contingency fund that their people interested in going into animal husbandry can access. “The South-East Governors Forum discussed extensively the comparative advantage of agriculture and the attendant benefits in the South-East. The Forum therefore resolved to put funds together to fund our people who are interested in rice, cassava, cow rearing, piggery, goat rearing, Poultry, Fishery, and some other cash crops permitted by our soil. The forum advised the South-East people, who are interested in going into these areas to contact their states for further engagement.”
The meeting presided over by Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State and attended by his colleagues from Abia and Enugu: Okezie Ikpeazu and Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi respectively, with Imo and Anambra states represented by their deputy governors: Gerald Irona and Dr Nkem Okeke, respectively. On the economic front, they reviewed the progress of the South-East Development Commission, urging all the stakeholders to expedite action to bring the commission to a reality.
However, the leaders declared that it was time the zone took its destiny in its own hands, contending that the South-West was endowed with huge resources that could take it to greater heights. They explained that it was because of this realization that they set up an agency to drive the process of accelerating the pace of development in the zone, adding: “The Forum received update from the SEREDEC, represented by Professor Barth Nnaji on infrastructure developments in the South-East, especially in medical tourism.” On the comparative economic advantage of the zone, the governors stated that, “Enugu, Anambra and Ebonyi states have abundant oil and gas reserves which have not been fully explored. Therefore, we call on the Federal Government to show more commitment and commence intensive exploration and development of oil and gas resources in these states of the South East.”
No doubt, the key resolutions of the governors have continued to elicit interest from a broad spectrum of the stakeholders from the South-East. While some persons have lauded the governors for their action so far, others are maintaining a lukewarm attitude, having been disappointed by public officers that made brilliant pre-election campaign promises.
Chief Jonah Nweke, a retired civil servant based in Enugu noted that the zone was battling with a lot challenges because of failure of the various authorities to act decisively. ”If there was the determination to address the problems of the area since the war ended, we would be blaming the Federal Government. The quantum of money that has come to the East since the war ended could have transformed the area,” he stated.
Will the governors make a difference this time? Time will tell.