The Northeast Governors Forum, the latest addition to the league of regional state governors, held its second meeting in the year on August 9 in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. During the meeting they ‘elected’ the host governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum as the forum’s chairman for two years. The following day, Aug. 10, the governors were in Abuja to hold a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking with journalists afterwards, Zulum said the meeting with Buhari was “with a view to highlighting the key challenges in the region, especially issues of security, decaying infrastructure especially rock projects; oil exploration in the region, issues of enhancing river basin development in the region among others. That is the main reason why we met Mr President.”
He said he and his colleagues told “Mr. President that there is a need for the federal government to address the causes of the insurgency, which are not limited to endemic poverty, hunger, among others. One of the root causes is that of lack of access to farmlands; people need to go back to their farmlands; people need to be resettled in their original homes so that they can restart their means of livelihood. This is one of the reasons the insurgents are recruiting more into the sect and, therefore, an enabling environment should be created for people to go about their normal duties. This will, no doubt, reduce the gravity of the insurgency.” They also recommended that the “police be empowered with the “state of the art equipment, armoured personnel carriers and so on with a view to bridging the manpower gap that we are having in the Nigerian military.”
Commenting on a recent Boko Haram attack on his motorcade, Zulum said “We’ve had a series of consultations after the attack and I think security is not only about the federal government; there is a need for the federal, state, and the local governments to come together with a view to proffering solutions that will end this crisis in the region. But most importantly, there is war in the region and I think that is why we are here. So I think the government is taking a bold step with a view to ensuring speedy resolution of some of the gray areas that we have in the region.”
Buhari’s response was the same one he gave during a virtual meeting he had earlier with the Nigerian Governors Forum. He told them his government was expecting to take delivery of military weapons and aircraft from Jordan, China and the United States to reinvigorate its anti-terror war. He, however, urged Nigerians to be patient and not to expect a dramatic change in the ongoing efforts to combat insurgency because fighters and pilots to operate the new weapons and aircraft must first be trained. A forthright answer there from the president. Nothing dramatic was to be expected about this 11-year asymmetric war.
As for the Northeast governor’s meeting, one thing stood out. Two of the three states that, together with Borno, formed the epicentre of the insurgency, did not consider it important to be represented by their governors. Taraba and Yobe instead sent their deputy governors, implying Boko Haram is no longer the number one security challenge it was two years ago. They are right. As it is, all the attacks that the sect had carried out in recent times had been concentrated in Borno. But here is the contradiction. The absent governors hurried along to the meeting with President Buhari in Abuja. Who would like to miss a photo opp with Mr. President and a mention by the world press!
Whatever, the message for the governors is for them to do their part and leave the federal government to handle the bigger security concern. For example, as Zulum rightly said, the states should be able to fight their poverty problem with their resources and not run to the centre for a solution. What have their governors been elected to office to do? Haba!