South-East Governors and the challenge of governance

Posted by News Express | 24 February 2021 | 887 times

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“The policy of overt and covert exclusion and discrimination beginning with Awolowo’s banking regulations at the end of the Civil War and pursued relentlessly by the Mohammed/Obasanjo administration has had its day and must now end in the interest of stability and progress.

“In a famous motion which was disallowed for mysterious reasons by the president of the Nigerian Senate and subsequently published by its author after resigning his Senate seat, Mr FJ Ellah has drawn attention to what can only be called the Mohammed/Obasanjo conspiracy by which four states and a considerable interest in a fifth were given to the Yoruba while their Igbo competitors of about equal population got two. This was done in preparation for a new fiscal arrangement in which states would determine what share of Federal allocations went to whom. The gross inequity here must be apparent to anyone who is not blinded by prejudice or self-interest.

“Arguments about siting major Federal industries, huge irrigation schemes and agricultural projects of revolutionary dimensions may seem tiresome to Federal Ministers visiting Anambra and Imo states and having to explain away so, any one with the slightest interest in fairness can begin to excuse the transparent discrimination of past and present Federal Governments in this regard.

“Many have tried but nobody has quite succeeded in explaining away the siting of five steel mills worth N4.5 billion on final completion, with estimated employment capacity of 100,000 by 1990, only in the North and West of the country. The hypocrisy and guilt attendant upon such a gigantic abuse of elementary fair-play was ‘beautifully’ demonstrated in a November 9, 1982 National Concord report: ‘No question was considered too preposterous for the Minister. He was called upon to explain why the spread of mills left out the eastern south of Nigeria.’

“Malam Ali Makele said it was not fair to reach such a dangerous conclusion. He said there was a mill affiliated to Aladja meant to sell steel products to Bendel, Cross River, Rivers, Imo and Anambra states.” (The Trouble With Nigeria, by Chinua Achebe).

This ugly situation painted graphically in this book authored by Prof Chinua Achebe in the 1980’s is still as relevant as it was when it was published.  The South-East of Nigeria till date has continued to face marginalisation in terms of the distorted and disproportionate allocation of national assets by the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.  The state of marginalisation, exclusion and alienation of the South-east people by the central government, especially Muhammadu’s administration, which has failed to appoint any South-east officer of the military as service chief, has created a general climate of alienation from happenings within the confines of political system in operation in South-eastern Nigeria.

Last month, as head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), I coordinated a capacity-building programme to bridge the gap between the civilian populace of South-eastern Nigeria and the Nigerian military institutions.

The dialogue session, which happened symbolically in Enugu, capital of the defunct Eastern Region, was inspired by the decision of the then Chief of Army Staff Lt-Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, to mainstream the institutional dialogues platform between civilians and the military stylishly named Department for Civil-Military Relations. To underscore the strategic place of this department, the then Army chief appointed a major-general to head the office which runs the human rights desk.

During that capacity-building workshop which took place few steps away from the magnificent Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, Enugu. I was able to tap some intelligence from the over 100 youngsters drawn from some federal tertiary institutions in the South-east. The central theme of the information gleaned from these students is the apparent chasms between the governments of the South-East and the governed. I found out that there are a lot of credibility issues around the kind of view that most young people have about both elected and appointed public office-holders in all of the South-East.

I also found out that the streets of the region are now populated by less-privileged and hungry children.

Sadly, it does not seem that the political leaders of the South-East of Nigeria have really fully grasped the implications of the existence of the gulf between the governors and the governed. For instance, our finding regarding the large numbers of children on the streets begging rather than be in schools, made me to call about ten leading senators from the South-east of Nigeria.

The vigorous conversations I initiated on what needs to be done at the policy formulation and implementation level to end child-poverty in the South-East, rather became a rude awakening to the absence of trust between politicians of the South-east of Nigeria and the people of the region.

I then put it to one of the senior ranking senators of Igbo extraction that it is obligatory that the political class put out measures and strategies to bridge the gaps between them and those they govern and also address the absence of sustainable capacity development programmes for the citizens of the South-east.

These senators have till date, going to a month, refused to even give us a date for us to meet and brainstorm on some of these measures to bring about good and qualitative governance. One of the senators who was a governor for eight years in Abia State did not even know that street children are all over the place in Abia State.

The Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, to be fair, has done a positive thing in the area of human skill and capacity-building and development initiative through the promotion of the made-in-Aba brand.

To this extent, we think the Abia State Governor’s approach needs to be extended to other critical areas such as improving the dialogues between the citizens of the South-East and their political office-holders.

The place of the governors in effectively jump-starting the aggressive personal development of their people cannot be over-emphasised and, indeed, even the United Nations has said so unambiguously.

The UN chief travelled recently to Abuja, Nigeria, where he met state governors, who can play a “fundamental role” in shaping the future of their country by implementing the sustainable development agenda members states will adopt in a month’s time in New York.

“You have the resources and the power to help the people of Nigeria realise the tremendous promise of this great country – on education, on health care, on women’s empowerment, on climate change, on governance, institution-building, security and on rights across the board,” stated Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Reminding governors that, over the past few weeks, UN member states agreed on a new financing for development plan and on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he pointed out that the latter would be formally adopted by world leaders in New York in September, while governments will meet in Paris in December to agree on a new far-reaching climate change agreement.

“Together, these three processes provide an opportunity to put the world on a sustainable pathway fostering human prosperity while protecting our planet,” the Secretary-General said.

“In that regard, local governments have an important role to play in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added, emphasising five essential ways for Nigeria to “build on your advances and sustain that momentum.”

First, the universal framework will have to be tailored to national circumstances to live up to its promise to be an agenda “of the people, for the people, and by the people” that leaves no one behind. Sub-national and local governments, he assured, will play a major role in the national tailoring process and in ensuring that this process is participatory and inclusive.

“Second, we need to work together to establish a revitalised global partnership for development. Each of you is crucial for engaging local civil society organisations and the private sector in the implementation of the goals at local level.”

Third, the UN top official explained, sub-national and local governments can help ensure that the limited available funds are targeted at the most vulnerable and marginalised who are often hard to reach, in particular ensuring health, education, empowerment and equality for women and girls.

That leads to my fourth point – institutionalising gender mainstreaming across all government ministries and bodies responsible for implementing agenda 2030, with effective means of implementation and capacities for monitoring progress.

Fifth, he noted, governors can support the follow-up and review process by “feeding inputs” directly into the review and by helping to ensure the quality of data by investing in institutions and using big data to inform better planning and decision-making.

“Accurate data will also allow us to better respond to new and unforeseen challenges,” Mr Ban observed.

“This is a crucial moment for Nigeria. You face many serious challenges, but you have also taken a hugely important step to move forward in a way that can respond to the aspirations of the country's people. I am eager to hear your views on how you think you can best achieve this universal and ambitious agenda,” he concluded.

I repeat, the political leaders of the South-east needs to make commitments to begin the transparent and accountable process of dialogues of the governed and the governors, with a view to governing in line with the modalities that would be targeted at Human capital development just as the Abia State Governor has tried to so do with his Proudly Made In Aba Brand Promotion Globally. All the South-East states must carry along the leaders of the Civil Rights Communities in The Region, so the interests of the people, including the obligations to protect their lives and properties from violence must be mainstreamed in the process of governance.

Without the promotion and protection of the welfare and wellbeing of the people of the South-East, then the essence and primary duties of civil leaders in all the political offices are defeated. We will very shortly learn from a new book on Human Rights ABD Global Politics in which a chapter dealt with the primacy of the people in the governance process of the Sovereignty.

That chapter of the book states as follows: “We may distinguish two main kinds of institution, representative and functional. On the one hand, there are institutions which represent particular groups and interests in both practical and ideological senses; on the other, there are those which have functions in organising general ideological diffusion, apparently on behalf of society as a whole. Examples of the former are the traditional representative institutions of civil society, churches, parties, trade unions, the press and the intelligentsia. Major functional institutions include schools and universities, television and radio.”

It affirmed further: “Both sets of institutions have had strongly national forms. Indeed, both can be seen as the ‘organic civil institutions’, to use Gramsci’s language, not so much of modern, capitalist society in general, as he believed, as of the modern nation-state. Representative institutions have represented society above all in the context of the nation-state. I discussed above how their most universalistic pretensions conceal adaptations to the nation-state and its ideology. Functional institutions have educated and informed within and on behalf of nation-states, performing essential roles in national socialisation and mobilisation, although often proclaiming universal notions of knowledge and truth.”

And concluded: “In both kinds of institution, there have been tensions between the universalistic values and norms around which their ideologies revolve, and the national context in which they have been inserted.” (Human Rights in Global Politics, edited by Tim Dunne and Nicholas J. Wheeler).

All said, what is undeniable and consistent is that the society cannot possibly experience peace, growth in the economic, political, environmental thematic areas, if the wellbeing, welfare and security of the citizens do not become the Normative Culture of Governance Models. South-East is in need of leaders that will think and work to advance the public good and general interests of the people, and not those who seek only their own political means of wealth acquisition. Those who have ears should hear. The clock is ticking fast and we are sitting precariously on top of the barrel of the gun and sleeping on top of the gathered gunpowder amid agitations by the marginalised, the alienated, the abandoned and the wretched of the South-east of Nigeria. This is dangerous as these Moral, Human and Emotional explosives may implode with devastating consequences. 

•Comrade Onwubiko, Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA),,

Source: News Express

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