Unijos students evacuation, FG’s failures and governors’ effort

It is globally believed that, to lower the risk of democratic backsliding and improve lives, leaders must, among other demands, stress and promote values that are essential to good governance, especially transparency and accountability, and to support civil society, independent media, and the free flow of information.  Certainly, but, despite this admirable age long declarations, the global community, particularly the development professionals, do not think that the present Federal Government in Nigeria is living up to the above guiding rules.

This partly explains the inertia and torrent of negative reports against the nation Nigeria as it lends credence to why the country’s economy has in the past six years shown its inability to sustain any kind of meaningful growth that promotes the social welfare of the people. The result can be seen in the grinding poverty in the land.

However, in spite of these gloomy and depressing state of affairs, there exist lately on the part of state governors some deviations, meaningful successes and hopeful signs that some state governors are becoming conscious of and demonstrated willingness to keep faith with the above detects particularly the needs to have greater confidence in, invest on, and protect  human capital of their states while providing good governance .

The above assertion is predicated on recent media reports that prompted by the current security situation in Plateau State, Governors of Delta, Kaduna  ordered immediate evacuation of their students studying at the University of Jos (UNIJOS) and other tertiary institutions within the neighboring state.  This development came a few days after the Kogi state Governor, Alhaji Yahay Bello, in a similar style evacuated from the troubled spot students of Kogi state origin. 

Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa according to report ordered the immediate evacuation of students of Delta origin from crisis troubled Jos following renewed crisis and security concerns in Plateau State. According to the statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Student’s Affairs, Jerry Ehiwario, the government dispatched three buses with police escorts to move Delta students from the troubled zone.  Meanwhile, the Executive Secretary of the Kaduna State Scholarship and Loans Board, Rilwan Hassan, in a similar statement, stated that the move was to ensure that all students of Kaduna State are not trapped or cut in crossfire, even as the situation tends to be further degenerating. He explained that 87 students were evacuated by security agencies under the supervision of the board and have since been reunited with their families. 

Essentially, separate from the fact that the state governments have by this demonstration of proactive leadership, finally portrayed our nation before the watching world as a people that appreciates, and have plans for the youths, who will provide the future leadership need of the country, the latest prompt response has in more than anything else portrayed these state Governors as leaders that are mindful of the fact that provision of security and pursuit of economic welfare of the citizens are the only two constitutional responsibilities which all leaders in Nigeria must achieve.

These governors have in the opinion of this piece established modern public leadership demand of being proactive as against the primordial culture of reactivity. 

However, while this new perception about leadership by these governors is celebrated, it is important to add that, it is a barefaced truth that if we look honestly at the realities of our national life, it is clear that we are not marching forward but groping and stumbling.

The reason is not far-fetched. 

In June/July 2018, there was a similar mindless sack/destruction of a sleepy village in Barkin-Ladi local government Area of Plateau State, leaving the villagers decimated with dozens killed by the herdsmen.  Irked by the unpleasant realities, the relationship between the community and the Federal government suffered difficulty. It was so bad that while reacting during the President’s visit to Plateau State those years, the people going by media reports lamented that what they needed is protection and not visit from Mr. President.

Despite this reaction from the people, the Federal Government has within the past three years failed to offer a road for restoring the health and vitality of the people’s co-existence nor proposed a strategy for the re-introduction of peace and security to its proper role at the heart of the people in the state. And because of this leadership and inability to resolve other nagging security challenges by the Federal Government, and most especially the FG’s inability to secure the UNIJOS students despite being a Federal University,  it is the writer’s views that our nation is in the process of quietly making what future historians will certainly describe as a disastrously mistaken decision on the issue of the National  Security.

Looking ahead, it is important to ask at this point; in the face of these sad realities/developments, is it still possible for this administration to secure this nation? 

The answer in my view is yes. 

All that President Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government needs to recognize is that globally, “a country’s defence capability has to continually upgrade as new technology, especially information technology, is incorporated into the weapon system. This requires a sound economy that can afford to pay for new weaponry and highly educated and trained people who can integrate the various arms into one system and operate them efficiently and effectively”.

Very gamine, as a nation, we must use this global guide and latest examples by these governors as a dashboard to correcting our leadership challenge which is gravitating towards becoming a culture, it will be important   for us as a nation to openly admit and adopt both structural and managerial changes if achieving this agenda is at the centre of our goal.  This to my mind will necessitate our leaders welcoming approaches that impose more leadership discipline than conventional, and creating government institutions that are less extractive but more innovative  in operation.

This shift in action is important as we cannot solve our socio-economic challenges with the same thinking we used when we created it. And this time is auspicious for Federal Government to borrow a leaf from the exemplary leadership demonstrated by these state governors. We need to bring a change in leadership paradigm by switching over to a leadership style that is capable of making successful decisions built on a higher quality of information while dropping the age-long mentality which presents execution as more important than idea incubation.

Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via j[email protected]/08032725374.