The Southern Governors’ Forum is building on the foundation laid by their distant predecessors. Twelve years ago, they were bubbling with patriotic passion and drive for development. They were hosted by the former governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Then, critical issues germane to the sustenance of nationhood were on the front burner during the inaugural meeting. The issues are not different from the ones the 17 chief executives are frantically seeking solution in their time. What is striking is not what has changed in Nigeria, but what has remained the same.
True federalism, fiscal federalism and devolution of powers were the ideas espoused by Tinubu, right from his first term in office. The former governor of Lagos has not changed his gear. The fundamental question he raised brought him into collision with the federal might. Then, the hand of the Federal Government was heavy on the Centre of Excellence, leading to the seizure of its allocation for 14 months. Tinubu’s colleagues who were vociferous in the crusade for the enthronement of a true federal principle included Aremo Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State and Obong Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom, who could be described as the hero of modern resource control struggle. Their ideas, positions and dispositions will reverberate at the brainstorming session.
Tinubu has sustained the debate, although he left office 10 years ago. His message is clear: unity in diversity is possible when there is a sense of belonging. Indisputably, the spirit behind the formation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and its ability to sustain public affection during the 2015 electioneering, had their root in the robust articulation and convincing argument that the restoration of true federalism will foster equity, fairness and justice in the plural society. Tinubu’s recent exposition on the value of federalism has a wider appeal beyond the ‘Forum 17.’ It is a blue print that has set the tone for debate on the repositioning of the heterogeneous society through a sort of re-designing, reconfiguration, revatalisation, review and re-invention of its federal essence.
. Early in the life of this dispensation, the late eminent politician, Chief Bola Ige, urged Southern leaders to cooperate and survive or sink together.
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