The governors’ call for the convocation of an “urgent national dialogue”, “bold steps to restructure the country”, “total ban on open grazing” and for President Muhammadu Buhari “to address the nation”, was faulted by Senate President Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
This is contrary to the backing the call got on Wednesday from senators from the South and members of the House of Representatives from the South.
Lawan accused the governors of retreating to regionalism to address a national issue that should be collectively decided upon.
Gbajabiamila, in the same vein, said to end the security challenge, all must ‘imbibe the spirit of oneness, togetherness, unity and love.”
Former Nasarawa State Governor Abdulahi Adamu, a senator representing Nasarawa West, accused the governors of “betraying the trust.”
But a former Oyo State Governor Rashidi Ladoja, Igbo youths and Minority party members of the House of Representatives from the North gave their backing to the governors’ call.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila spoke at the Presidential Villa in Abuja after the prayer along with President Buhari. Senator Adamu spoke in Keffi, Nasarawa State, also after observing the prayers.
Lawan said: “I believe that, as leaders, especially those of us who are elected, should not be at the forefront of calling for this kind of thing because, even if you are a governor, you are supposed to be working hard in your state to ensure that this restructuring you are calling for at the federal level, you have done it in your state as well.
“What you may accuse the Federal Government of, whatever it is, you may also be accused of the same thing in your state. So, we are supposed to ensure that we have a complete and total way of ensuring that our systems at the federal, state and even local government levels work for the people.
“We should avoid regionalism. We are all leaders and we are in this together. The solutions to our challenges must come from us regardless of what level of government we are, whether at the federal, state or the local government level. I believe that Nigeria is going to come out of these challenges stronger”.
Lawan added: “I also want to take this opportunity to say that we have diminished the local government system. I think we can attribute the security issues to the absence of a functional local government system.
“I think the time has come for us to take up the challenge and ensure that the local government system functions. This is as we look for ways to curb the security challenge. We must never neglect the local government system. We must go back to our local government system to ensure they are autonomous and functional”.
Gbajabiamila said: “If truth be told, we all have equal shares in the blame for what is happening today.
“Whatever challenges we have, we must all come together to make sure that we resolve these issues we’re facing. We must imbibe that spirit of oneness, togetherness, unity and love that would take us through this.”
Senator Adamu slammed the governors, saying: “The recent meeting of the Southern Governors Forum is an act of betrayal of trust. Each governor swore to an oath and they emphasised loyalty to the sovereignty of this country. They pledged their loyalty to the President of the country. That’s their oath of office.
“While we accept the fact that we have various forms of association and freedom of expression as citizens, they have failed to express their views through the right channel.
“They are members of the Council of State. There is no better forum at their level to take a joint decision than such forum. The fact that they have taken a decision as a divisive move, does not speak well of their intention.
“I think they are just playing to the gallery. What they are saying is not new. They are like broken record, saying the same thing over and over again.
“Why can’t they come to the appropriate body which is the National Assembly to project their ideas?
“They have members in the National Assembly who are representing them. If they have an issue that is so important as that, which borders on the Constitution of the country, they should go there and express their grievances.
“We would sit, debate it and see how best we can come out of it. There can’t be Nigeria if every one wants to have things happen in his or her own way.
“There is a Constitution and there is a framework that we are supposed to operate as governors. To go outside it is a betrayal of their oath of office.
“Each of them talking there, if you take a look at what is happening in their individual states, they cannot in all honesty and good conscience, challenge Buhari.
“Just take them one by one and see what they are doing in their states and what the people who voted for them are undergoing.
“Is it Buhari that caused it? Did Buhari withhold their federation account allocation? Did Buhari collect their internal revenue? It is just enough of this nonsense.
“Anybody who wants restructuring should bring his proposal to the National Assembly as a private member bill.
“They have members who would bring it up. I wonder why educated people, some of whom are lawyers, would just want to make noise to divert attention.
“Our eyes are on the ball and they would remain on the ball. They can go on talking, Nigeria will remain a united country.”
On agitations by some groups to secede from Nigeria, Adamu said those clamouring for, would fail.
He said: “I’m a bit disappointed in those subversive elements calling for separation from Nigeria at a time when everybody should bow before their creator and pray for peace to reign in our land.
“Those clamouring for separation and secession in this country will fail by the grace of God because they do know as a matter of reality that their peace and prosperity is dependent on the stability and continued existence of Nigeria as a nation.
“We can’t succeed as smaller nations. We have to find a way of understanding ourselves as citizens so that we can work together.”
Lagos lawyer Mike Ozekhome said the call for a national dialogue by the Southern governors was unnecessary.
He argued that the recommendations of the last National Conference had not been implemented.
Delivering a paper as a keynote speaker at the 25th Law week of the Awka branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Ozekhome argued that another national conference would amount to a waste of time and resources.
The rights activist, who spoke on “Legal profession in a lawless society”, said if the southern governors wanted to get it right, they should have referred to the 2014 recommendations which he was part of.
He said: “I was at the 2014 National Conference headed by the late Justice Idris Kutigi, and the over 200 recommendations we made at that conference were yet to be touched.
“So, when I heard the 17 southern governors talking about another conference… I know they mean well for the country, but we do not need another dialogue.
“Let them go to the 2014 recommendations, they will see that we recommended state police, we recommended part-time legislature.”
Also, VON DG Okechukwu advised Nigerians not to see the socio-economic and security challenges facing the country as a reason to give more powers to state governors who are already mismanaging their powers.
He warned that conceding more powers to the governors, whom he described as “emperors” would put the country’s democracy in grave danger.
“It will be paradoxical for us to expect good governance at the sub-national level when the governors have locked up democratic institutions,” Okechukwu said in a statement yesterday.
The VON boss, who is also a founding member of All Progressives Congress (APC) called on Nigerians to look beyond the frenzy of restructuring as canvassed by the Southern governors.
He argued that giving more powers to governors will by omission or commission create Frankenstein monsters which will put our democracy in harm’s way.