by Stanley Azuakola
If you listen to a speech made by the Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi, you would think he read Babatope Falade’s Scoopinion piece yesterday and was giving a rebuttal. He probably didn’t read it though, because he’d already given the speech before the Falade’s Scoopinion was shared on this platform.
But we can summarise what Fayemi said in one sentence: Stop demonising governors, we are the victims here for goodness sake!
In Fayemi’s opinion, it isn’t the state governors who are trying to strangulate the Federal Government, but the other way around.
He expressed sadness that that wrong perception of the governors and the Nigeria Governors Forum was now ingrained in the public’s consciousness. He said the governors were unhappy with the way the country is being run. For instance, none of them can say for certain how much the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) realises as revenue. That, according to him, is a top FG-held secret.
Read excerpts of Fayemi’s statement below:
“To the best of my knowledge, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) is not written into the constitution of this country; it is a voluntary body, funded voluntarily and meetings are attended voluntarily by its members.
“Its decisions are not binding on the country; its resolutions are shared with the press from time to time and to the best of my knowledge, it is not because I belong to that forum.
“It is almost always driven not by politics and I would not be saying this. I am not a member of the political party that is in the majority in the governors’ forum. It is only things that we agree on that we push collectively.
“There are a lot of things that governors do that they don’t do together. So I don’t know how anyone would come to the conclusion that we are frustrating the country, oppressing the president and not allowing the constitution reform process to progress. It is not evidenced by facts.
“This is a federation and in a federation, we have two federating units. When you have two federating units, they are not subordinate units; they are the coordinate units. That is the language we use in political science.
“You cannot hijack the powers of a coordinate federating unit but that is what happens here. And because governors are not the most popular public office holders, people conflict logic with illogicality and that is how I see it.
“Another thing is our interpretation of Section 162 of the constitution. We have a religious interpretation of it in the governors’ forum, which is why we are in court in about four cases.
“Section 162 (2) of the constitution is very clear that every penny that comes into the coffers of the Nigerian state goes into one and one account only – the Federation Account. Not JP Morgan, not Citi Bank. But over and over again, we run this federalism as if it is a unitary state and our authoritarian military past is affecting us.
“People do not pay fidelity to this critical issue. Monies are collected by the NNPC, we do not know the amount; no governor in this country can tell you how much this country earns on a daily basis.
“Shouldn’t I be whipped at home that I am supposed to be part of an entity and there is accountability and transparency, yet nobody gives me a full picture of what is earned? Time and again governors have raised this issue at all sorts of forums and we have four cases on this at the Supreme Court.
“We like what Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance) has been doing by publishing what goes to us, that is fine. Our people should know what goes to us so that they can monitor us.
“But we too want to know the actual money earned by the Nigerian state to which we belong so that we can also challenge with our own independent analysis. People should support that instead of haranguing us.
“I don’t believe that governors are the devils that they are painted by a variety of people who cannot even stand up to scrutinise themselves.
“We have just become the football that everybody wants to kick. If you are a governor, you are a rogue; if you are a governor, you are a criminal and yet, nobody can come around and give specifics on what you have done.
“Yes, there are governors who have misbehaved, but what I have noticed as a detached observer is that we have seen progressive improvement from those who got into governors’ offices from what used to obtain previously, and accountability has also increased because our people are more conscious of their rights and of the questions to ask.”