By Godwin Amunde
The Director General of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Lukman has identified the inability of political leaders to address issues of ethnic tensions, including widespread systematic weakening of governance institutions as reasons that have continued to inflame all manner of political crisis in the country.
Lukman, in a statement titled ‘Nigeria’s Volatile Politics and the APC Report on True Federalism’ on Saturday in Abuja, said the purported eviction order on Fulani herders by Ondo State government and the generated ethnic tension in the country, and the poor management of the issue can weaken the capacity of government to resolve important governance problems, which may not necessarily be caused by ethnic factors but could easily be given ethnic interpretation.
He urged political leaders to either initiate active ways of controlling the narratives of how citizens interpret government actions or government accept the distractive accusations of ethnic biases to all government initiatives.
“Recent events in the country especially with the purported eviction order by Ondo State government arising from initiatives to control and prevent instances of kidnapping and banditry by protecting Forest Reserves in the state have generated renewed ethnic tension in the country.
“Consequently, the debate became longer about controlling and preventing crimes of kidnapping and banditry. Everything became about whether or not the Ondo State government should reverse its decision even if that means protecting the criminals.
“By the time Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) facilitated a meeting with the Fulani groups and the resolution was reached whereby the Fulani groups endorsed the decision of the state government and agreed to comply with the decision of the Ondo State government, the interpretation became that Ondo State government has withdrawn its eviction order,” he said.
According to him, the President Muhammadu Buhari – led APC administration should consider the 13 points recommendation of the Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State led committee report on True Federalism to solve the looming ethno – religious tension that pervades the country.
“In discharging its mandate, the Committee identified thirteen (13) issues based on the review of reports of National Conferences, including the 2005 National Political Reform Conference and the 2014 National Conference. The 13 issues identified are – Creation of States, merger of States, Derivation Principle, Devolution of Powers, Federating Units, Fiscal Federalism & Revenue Allocation, Form of Government, Independent Candidacy, Land Tenure System, Local Government Autonomy, Power Sharing & Rotation, Resource Control and Type of Legislature,” he noted.
“The recommended governance reform initiatives contained in the report of the APC Committee on True Federalism present a big window of opportunity for the nation and APC leaders in particular to develop the capacity to manage our volatile politics laden with ethnic and religious influences.
“To be able to manage our volatile politics, we need to strengthen our governance institutions. Inability to proceed to initiate processes of strengthening governance institutions in the country as contained in the recommendations of APC Committee on True Federalism will continue to subject our leaders to often unfair accusations of ethnicity based on wrong perceptions. And if care is not taken, no matter the achievement of our leaders, public recognition of the tenure of our leaders may be dictated by perceptive judgements of poor performance based largely on bad management of ethnic relations.
“Therefore, all APC leaders have a responsibility now to protect the achievements of APC leaders and governments, especially the Federal Government and President Buhari. APC leaders need to overcome the current lethargic attitude against initiatives for true federalism or restructuring.
“Although, no matter what any political leader is able to concede, there will always be the strong presence of political demands by ethnic groups, it is important to appeal to our leaders to consider the bigger picture, which is about responding to national challenges and strengthening the capacity of governance institutions in the country to serve Nigerians.
“The recommendations contained in the report of the APC True Federalism Committee have potentials to strengthen the capacity of government institutions at all levels to respond to most of our security challenges, for instance. Most of the recommendations will elicit wide range of disagreements from many groups and interests across the country, a debate to consider them will raise hopes and almost everyone will most likely find something appealing as much as there will be cases of strong objections to some of the recommendations,” he explained.
He said his position does not represent the view of any APC Governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.