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Fayemi and challenges of repositioning NGF

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Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi. PHOTO: NAN


The emergence of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi as the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), by consensus, was not a surprise to those who have kept tabs on his journey so far in politics.

Apart from being a development expert, Fayemi’s intellectual prowess and ability to separate politics from governance has made him acceptable to his peers, even to those in opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who did not object to his emergence.
As minister of Steel and Mineral Resources, he brought the relatively unknown sector to limelight through various reforms that now enable the sector to contribute more to the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the country.

Some had argued that his emergence without rancour was because no governor from the Southwest had occupied that position and that his closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari as a member of his “Kitchen cabinet” counted in his favour.Before the election, many thought it would be a straight contest between Fayemi and Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, also believed to be very close to the President. If there are cleavages in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it could be said that Fayemi and El- Rufai both belong to the same tendency popularly known as ‘Abuja Boys.’

Informed sources say the issue of who became the NGF chairman was amicably resolved between the duo and el-Rufai, apparently sensing his poor visibility and popularity among the governors agreed that it should be zoned to the Southwest where Fayemi was the only ranking governor, having governed Ekiti between 2010 and 2014.

But a governor from the North Central was quoted to have said that: “Many governors are interested in leading the NGF, but the intrigues have left us with two choices el-Rufai and Fayemi.“While some do not want el-Rufai for having his fingers in too many pies, others feel his closeness to President Muhammadu Buhari may add value. Most governors in the opposition parties, especially the PDP are opposed to him.
 
“But Fayemi was rated as a liberal leader who has built bridges across all parties. He is also regarded as a governor who has the ears of Buhari. Since the elite club was created in 1999, Nasarawa State Governor Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu became its pioneer chairman and directed the Forum between 1999 and 2004. Adamu was followed by Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom State, 2004-2006); Chief Lucky Igbinedion (Edo, 2006-2007); Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (Kwara, 2007-2011); Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers, 2011-2015) and Abdulaziz Yari (2015-2019).

Obviously, the Southwest, the Northeast and the Southeast have not chaired the Forum until Fayemi’s emergence.To many Nigerians, the NGF seems to have lost its focus. It has become a pressure group, cap in hand, constantly begging Federal Government for either bailout fund or such easy money, instead of concentrating on its core mandate of Peer Review and doing constant SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) analyses in order to attain new grounds.

How states can deploy comparative and competitive advantage to be self-sufficient has become the least of its considerations, while the central government is constantly harassed or lobbied for easy fund.Many analysts were quick to mention the role of NGF in thwarting the ambition of the Jonathan’s administration to save for the austere days through Sovereign Wealth Fund.  But when economic recession set in, they blamed the Jonathan government, excusing themselves and ran to Abuja for bailout to pay accumulated salaries and allowances.

This beggarly scenario characterized the leadership of the immediate past chairman of the Forum, Abdulaziz Yari. But many governors see his tenure as the best thing to have happened to that Forum because of his ability to to secure bailouts for the states.

A governor from the Northeast said: “The truth is that we have never had a successful NGF chairman like Abdulaziz Yari, who is a goal getter. He bailed us out many times by sourcing for funds from the President.

“Governors across all parties were at home with Yari because he succeeded in persuading President Muhammadu Buhari to approve the release of almost N2trillion to states, including N713.7 0b special intervention funds to states, London-Paris Club refund and other special funds.

“The Zamfara State governor might have security and political problems at home and he is probably in a tinder box in his state but he has offered leadership, which is acceptable to all governors across the parties in the country.”Many analysts look up to Fayemi as a Development expert to reason beyond tokenism and proffer leadership that will return the Forum to where there is healthy competition, which will engender development and self-sufficiency of the states.

The NGF launched his Peer Review Mechanism (SPRIM) in April 2011 to enhance good governance and socioeconomic development in states, through periodic review of the implementation of their policies, plans and programmes.According to its website, “The formation of the NGF was not only expedient but imperative for the states to assert themselves and to collectively influence the nature and course of policies at the national level. Given the state of the polity in the days following the end of many years of military rule, there was a clear need for states to re-assert themselves and exercise the level of independence that is the wont of a true federation.

“It had also become necessary for them to regain their past glory of constituting a credible unit within the wider context of the federation, thereby removing the manifest distortion which militates against the realization of true federalism.” But it did not come near to achieving any of its goals.

As a technocrat who has canvassed vigorously the building of strong institutions as a panacea against myriads of problems confronting the country, Fayemi has the herculean task of redefining and repositioning the NGF. A public analyst, Dr. Segun Ibiyemi, who described Fayemi as “a man of high intellect” said leading other governors at this crucial period will enable Nigerians to assess him and his capacity for higher responsibility. He cited the opposition of the NGF to Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) guidelines, which became effective on June 1 as the first litmus test for Fayemi. He said while many Nigerians see the guideline as a good policy that will stop governors from diverting local government funds, the NGF says the policy as “Illegal,” and are already lobbying the President to reverse it.

He said: “Although Governor Fayemi is first among equals, but he has the capacity to decipher what Nigerians want and what the governors desire for their selfish interests. Surprisingly most of these governors campaigned in favour of council autonomy and promised not to touch council funds but the first legal step to ensure that is already giving them headache.”

Senator Bode Ola Ola expressed optimism that with Fayemi as NGF chairman, the country would experience growth that would foster economic development in no distant future.He noted that Fayemi`s exploits as Governor and Minister, put him in a better stead to draw a major plan that would ensure development of the vast mineral resources in the 774 local government areas of the country.

The ex-lawmaker further noted that Nigeria is richly blessed and that there is no point for states to go begging for monthly “hand-outs’’ from the Federal Government.Ola recalled that during his first tenure as governor of Ekiti, Fayemi resuscitated the moribund Ikogosi Centre and the Ire Burnt Brick Industry in Iri-Ekiti.

A public affairs analyst, Dayo Ogunbowale in setting agenda for the governors’ body said: “NGF is arguably the strongest political click/group in the country owing to the fact that they are united across different party lines. Members are expected to utilise this to foster and entrench good governance nationwide.

“Governors are also expected to exploit their different economic strengths as a viable means of increasing IGR.“Security in the country is currently under threat; the NGF is well poised to facilitate joint security operations across state boundaries to ensure safety of life and property within cities and on the highways connecting states.”

“On his part, Austin Odumu said Nigerians expect Fayemi to lead NGF, “to focus on national integration that will enhance security and economic progress across the country.“To support and promote economic development (agriculture/rural development) as members of the National Economic Council and also workers’ welfare via prompt payment of salaries.“To allow financial autonomy for local government, legislature and the judiciary and task members on proper and democratic local government administration/elections, and avoid the recurrent dissolution of supposedly democratically elected officials.”


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Kayode Fayemi
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