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Southern Govs Agenda: An initiative for restructuring

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The latest edition of the Southern governors forum held recently seems to have opened the debate for restructuring, as the resolutions adopted at the end of the meeting have continued to generate interest rates n different parts of the country.

Although the forum has been meeting, since the beginning of the on- going political dispensation, which began in 1999, the last meeting was described as very explosive and which addressed the mood of the nation, as it affects their people in the Southern region of Nigeria.

The governors oneness, openness, and the commitments they all put in addressing some major issues expected to move the entire Southern states forward have been commended by the people as laudable, but the workability of the their initiatives, in the context of Nigeria, as presently constituted, is the major concern of the people.

Since independence, the south has never been strongly united or pursue a common goal, but the divide and rule planted by the colonial masters, which had plagued them for long, now seems to be fading. In the past 12 years, when the governors have discovered that they can’t serve the interest of others better than their people and it is not a battle to be fought single handedly or with selfish interests.

Although, it was argued that their political interests may differ, they have found out that if the means and livelihood of their people must improve and be sustained, the constitution of the present day Nigeria, there is the strong need for them to speak with one voice on the future of the country.

Until a few years ago when the late governor of Ondo state became the chairman of the group, they were like a toothless bulldog, which nobody took seriously, as they were usually prone to external manipulation. But under the leadership of Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, at the time it seemed the North wanted to retain power after president Buhari, the group stood as one and made their stand known, about the need to enforce the tradition of North-South rotation, which paved the way for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

It would be recalled that the Asaba declaration of the Southern governors forum, which first showed their seriousness over the presidency, became volatile with the North insisting that there should be no rotation but should be thrown open to all zones after former President Muhammadu Buhari.

It was the reluctance of some Northern elements over the Southern governors stand that eventually led to the grouse, in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where some of the governors from the South in the party, were determined that the party must present a Southern presidential candidate. But it did not work out, as there were sellouts among them, due to personal political ambitions.

The imbroglio over the presidency, led to a sharp division that gave birth to the formation of the G5 that worked against the PDP, which at the end of the day paid dearly for it.

Although, similar thing could have happened in the All Progressives Congress, (APC), the party, which saw the danger and the resolve of the entire South, towed the path of wisdom and allowed a southern presidential candidate with Tinubu and his “Emilokan” slogan emerging as its flag bearer. The party is now better for it.

The Southern Governors, in a communique, advocated that the Federal government should rehabilitate, repair, and reconstruct all Trunk A roads and transfer roads to states that have expressed interest in taking them over.

The Forum in the new agenda for the South planned to commission a regional multimodal transport master plan that prioritizes connectivity by rail, road, air, and water to enhance regional connectivity and facilitate the interstate and intra-region ease of doing business.

Being the economic and industrial hub of the country, the Forum highlighted the need to address the inadequate power supply in the region. To achieve they, they plan to generate 90,000MW of electricity to adequately serve the estimated 90 million people in the Southern Region (using the rule of thumb of 1,000 MW per 1 million population); member states were encouraged to take advantage of the recent constitutional amendment that now allows states to regulate, generate, transmit and distribute electricity whilst also considering renewable sources of energy.

The Forum also noted the pressing need for an alternative power infrastructure grid to reduce the impact of grid collapse in the region.

The Forum recognized the necessity of total PMS (petrol) deregulation and pledged support to the Energy Transition program of Mr. President.

The Forum urged member states to implement a quick transition to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Electric Vehicles (EVs) as a condition precedent to full deregulation to cushion effects on citizens.

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The forum resolved to be more aggressive and intentional about food security. All states were enjoined to intensify their agricultural resurgence/revolution initiatives based on the cash and food crops best suited for each region to achieve food sufficiency, self-reliance, and employment generation.

“States are encouraged to set up special agro-processing zones to extract the most value from the agro-value chain”.The Forum discussed the minimum wage issues demanded by labour and unanimously agreed that the minimum wage should be reflective of the cost of living and that each state should be allowed to negotiate its minimum wage. This led to the forum’s discussion on fiscal federalism and devolution of powers.

“Southern Governors resolved to continue to advocate for the creation of state police against the success of community-based regional security outfits that have significantly helped intelligence gathering. It is believed that this will enable governors to be Chief Security Officers indeed.

The Forum, still on fiscal federalism, discussed the issue of solid mineral exploration and exploitation, which today remains on the exclusive list in the constitution. Member governors expressed concern over current practices, where minerals licenses are issued, and exploitations are undertaken without recourse to state governments.

“These continue to be carried out often attracting criminal activities and attendant negative environmental impact, ecological degradation with no remediation commitments, and no revenue accruing to both States and the Federal Government. The Forum members resolved to remain united and very committed to oneness of purpose noting that the physical boundaries that divide us do not compare to the strong bonds of enterprise, resilience, and culture that we share and unites us. Member States resolved to be deliberate about intra-region trade, partnerships, and investment facilitation and promotion, which was agreed will require a structured and coordinated collaborative approach.

The Southern States Development Agenda (SSDA) will be set up and will comprise a team, whose primary responsibility is to outline a holistic plan to foster trade and investment, sustainable growth and development, economic prosperity, social harmony, and food security for the region. They will work hand in glove with individual states’ Investment Promotion and Facilitation Agencies, the Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), and other multilateral agencies.

Going by the resolutions of the Southern governors, political analysts argued that what was presented would gladden the people in the south if fully implemented. It was also argued that with the crop of people like Governor Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State and Alex Otti of Abia State, from the Eastern part, Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State and others, it would not be difficult to drive the agenda.

They argued that their presentation, forms what some of them have been advocating in their various states, citing the initiative of Governor Otti in Abia over the generation of power to drive the economy of the state without relying on the National power supply for his people.

According to Alhaji Balaji Kareem, a former commissioner for works and Health in Oyo state, and a strong politician in Oke- Ogun, the likes of Alex Otti of Abia Abia State and Chukwuma Soludo of Anambra State, who are both Bankers and vast in financial management, the south would not find it difficult to implement the new agenda initiated by the governors.

He said all they now need to do is to sit down and see how it would work out, arguing that what they have now come up with on fiscal federalism would eventually pave the way and intensify the debate for the restructuring of Nigeria into six geopolitical zones, which people have been clamoring for over the years.

He said that the Southern governors were right that each state should be allowed to pay wages according to the resources available.

This, he pointed out, would be more achievable, if we run a fiscal federalism where the states could come together with a regional structure, with their resources harnessed together and controlled by them, to pay the workers in their respective regions.

He further argued that people would be surprised that some regions would even pay better wages to their workers than what the federal government will offer.

According to Alhaji Kareem, who is a chieftain of the APC in Oyo State, “when we were operating the regional government in the first Republic, the western region under the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was paying workers higher than other regions in Nigeria.

Also speaking in the same vein, a lecturer at the Federal Polytechnic Ede, Mr. Kazeem Atobah, referred to the last Southern governors meeting and concluded that the set of governors in the region are the types needed to drive it to bring the desired hope for the people.

He said that going through the communique of the governors, the new agenda for the South is an indication to let the other parts of Nigeria know that the country is due for restructuring. He said, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu should not be shy at this period to understand that the unity of Nigeria now lies in restructuring.

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He said that the Southern governors were right to demand for autonomy in the mineral resources of their states and which he agreed, should be removed from the armpit of the Federal government, as it is now stipulated in the exclusive, list in the constitution.

The Forum named Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State as their new chairman and Governor Soludo, as his vice

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