With May 29 now history, it is time for the serious business of governance at all levels to begin. Nigeria is expectant as President Jonathan’s cabinet begins to take shape. The extreme level of attention directed to his every decision might mean that the actions of other elected officials don’t make the headlines. In a country with the scale of challenges Nigeria faces, placing the burden of ‘delivering’ on the President alone is unrealistic.
By virtue of their position, governors have enormous leverage and resources to transform their states. If the states are transformed, Nigeria will be transformed. For example, 72% of all children living in Northern Nigeria have never been to school. The 3 states with the highest unemployment in the land: Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Rivers are in the South-South. These are some of the indices that must improve if we are to make genuine strides. The governors must ensure the implementation of policies which come from the centre, and adapt it to their respective states for maximum results. They must also work with federal lawmakers from their states to bring progress closer to the people, faster.
Initial developments in the South West offer reasons for optimism. Soon after their landslide victories in April, the ACN governors have begun plans for regional integration to turn 7 states into an economic powerhouse, led by $43 billion GDP Lagos. Named the South-West Regional Development Commission (SWERDCO), it will focus on infrastructure, agriculture and social services. If it has the expected impact, SWERDCO could very well be a template that is copied by the other five zones, especially in the North where the evidence of state failure is dramatic. Pushing for accountability at the centre, though desirable and necessary, is not more rewarding than pushing for it at the state level. There is a need to monitor the performance of as many governors as possible.
The incentive to do well is obvious, as Babatunde Fashola and others will testify. The electorate displayed little patience with poor governors in their states in the April elections, will be even more impatient in four years. The emergence of the Governors’ Forum as a key power bloc in Nigerian politics since 2007 is seen by many as unnecessary and yet another avenue for a power grab, but it can become a vehicle for peer review, where fellow governors can share ideas and take each other to task over their performance, because that is what Nigeria needs now. This country needs to get moving in a hurry, but that cannot happen unless state governments in all parts of the country begin to do their fair share of bringing progress to the citizens. Or else, this journey will take far longer.Follow @je_mc2