Perhaps, at no other time than now, since the return of Nigeria to civil rule, have the governors on the Nigerian Governors‘ Forum (NGF) taken to the media space to call one another unprintable names.
The Nigeria Governors’ Forum, according to Wikipedia, is a non-partisan platform that was created to enhance collaboration among the executive governors of Nigeria.
The major aims and objectives are for public policy discussions; promotion of inclusive governance, promotion of sustainable development, and collaboration between the governors and society.
Although the Forum has continued to operate within the objectives, the quality of collaboration among members appears doubtful.
In the last few weeks, there has been bitter exchange of words among some of them.
They sharply disagree among themselves on important national issues. For instance, the issue of rising wave of insecurity in the country seems to threaten the once existed camaraderie among them.
Where they should be comparing notes on projects to put in place for the people of their states, they are now busy calling one another names.
Recently, Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State expressed reservation over the handling of the upsurge in banditry in the north, blaming it on lack of synergy among the governors, but he was tongue-lashed by the Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
What that shows is that there is no more a united governors’ forum that sees things from the same perspective. This affects a healthy competition in the Forum.
Rather than emulate a governor who is doing well in his state, it is verbal attack from his colleagues to make nonsense of the exploits. The governors no longer compare notes. Bickering and petty politics have divided the ranks of the governors.
In 2003, during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, the Federal Ministry of Information in order to enthrone good governance, organised tours alongside journalists from various media houses to inspect the progress of work on the projects executed by the different agencies of the federal and the state governments.
The focus of the tour was for the media to evaluate the performance of elected public officials at all the strata of governance. At that time governors competed among themselves and borrowed some good governance styles and strategies from one another in the interest of their states.
Between 1999 and 2007, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the then governor of Lagos State, was leading his colleagues in developmental projects. Then, Lagos was being talked about and was visited by other governors to emulate the developmental strides of the aptly performing governor.
After that era, the likes of Babatunde Fashola, Godswill Akpabio, and Sullivan Chime, the then governors of Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Enugu states, respectively, were competing in infrastructure development in their respective states.
Today, nothing seems to be happening to engender healthy rivalry among the governors, instead infrastructure put in place by past administrations are fast deteriorating.
Today’s governors have millions of excuses to offer for their low performance. From recession, dwindling revenue, especially monthly federal allocation, pandemic and to #EndSARS protests, the excuses abound.
Insecurity however, assumes the major reason most governors are citing for their little or no performance since the inauguration of this administration.
While some people blame it on the high wire politics, and the exit of Akinwunmi Ambode, former governor of Lagos State, who initiated the deal, many insisted that the insecurity in the country is the major reason for the disappearance of Lake Rice.
According to Inua Jega, a rice farmer in Kamba, Kebbi State, the lives of farmers are not safe again, and the government is not making efforts at safeguarding them from bandits and kidnappers.
Inua noted that most commercial rice farm owners in Kebbi State have abandoned the farms because of insecurity.
Apart from Kebbi, the same insecurity, according to Chacha Onwuli, an inspector with SocietyForPeace, an Abuja-based non-governmental organisation (NGO), has affected other rice production zones such as Abakaliki, Ogoni, Jigawa, Taraba and Nasarawa.
Reacting to questions on reasons for bad roads in his state during the election campaign, a certain governor in the middle belt of the country had blamed it on insecurity, citing the harassment of construction workers and kidnapping as excuses.
Since decamping to the ruling party, the Ebonyi State governor has been exchanging words with some governors in the eastern part of the country on insecurity.
Recently, Hope Uzodinma, governor of Imo State, was attacked verbally by Imo indigenes on insecurity in the state, while the governor was busy pointing to other states within the region with worse security situations.
The only thriving thing is the building of airports by governors even when such projects are not viable, like the Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Anambra airports and others.
But the airports are also affected by insecurity.
Emeka Unanka, an aviation expert and airport lounge owner, disclosed that most people are no longer travelling within the country as they used to because of insecurity and that it is affecting the volume of air passengers.
“If bandits can attack trains on the Abuja-Kaduna route, kidnappers cluster along major highways, and security operatives hide from Boko Haram, which carry superior arms, then you must have guts to travel within the country, and even foreigners know that”, Unanka said.
Another area that governors still compete today, according Unanka, is improving internally generated revenue (IGR), following Lagos State year-on-year increment example.
According to him, all the governors have given directives to their boards of internal revenue to double their earnings in line with dwindling federal allocations, but insecurity is also affecting it. “Lagos is still feeling the impact of #EndSARS protest as its revenue target may not be realised this year. Business is on standstill in the whole of the North East region because of insecurity and now the North West is beginning to boil. So, governors cannot compete again, except first to restore full security in their states”, he said.
To estimate the cost of insecurity and what it is denying states across the country, Unanka said that the amount Nyesom Wike governor of Rivers State, have spent on security in the state, is enough to build a new city replica of Abuja in the state.
He thinks that the trend of blaming their poor performance on security will continue as long as the Federal Government keeps playing politics and lacks the will power to address the insecurity challenge.