President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, finally threw his weight behind the call for the adoption of true federalism in Nigeria.
Although his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), last year supported the idea with the inauguration of a committee, chaired by Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Buhari has been silent on the matter.
Specifically, the committee submitted a report last year and made some recommendations, including devolution of power to states, resource management, internal security and merger of states, among others.
At an award ceremony organised by the Progressives Governors Forum at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the President spoke on the need for true federalism, especially at this time of the country’s democratic development.
Buhari, who also received an award of appreciation at the occasion, noted that true federalism was necessary to build bridges across the divide for the sake of an indivisible country.
He stated: “We remain committed to improving the welfare of the Nigerian people. Your Excellencies, it will be belabouring the point to say that true federalism is necessary at this juncture of our political and democratic evolution.
“At a time when some few privileged individuals and groups have chosen to exploit and manipulate the ethnic and religious faults for seeking personal and partisan advantage, we need to build bridges across the different divides and instil faith in the unity and indivisibility of one Nigeria.”
While thanking the governors for the gesture in conferring the award on him, the President described it as a reflection of the collective commitment of the state and federal governments to work harmoniously to find solutions to the developmental challenges facing the country.
He acknowledged the APC governors’ contributions to the political, economic, social and cultural development of Nigeria, saying economic growth and competitiveness of nations depended on the harmonious collaboration of all the tiers of government, particularly in a federal system, like Nigeria, adding: “Hence, against the backdrop of the challenges we have been passing through as a nation arising from past economic and political mismanagement, we must feel justifiably proud to have contributed actively in getting Nigeria back on track in the last four years in human and infrastructure development,” Buhari stated.
The President called on the state governments to join and support his administration’s anti-corruption agenda, as well as its programmes of social protection, school feeding programme and other policies geared towards human capital development.
He stated that they must all work together towards building a socially cohesive society in which the resources of the country work for all, adding: “We will continue to apply public funds in such a way that no section of the country or segment of the population suffers social exclusion.
“You are all quite aware that insecurity has remained a big challenge for us all. We are determined to face this challenge and secure the country more than ever before. While the protection of lives and property is a primary responsibility of government, it is also incumbent on the citizens to share in this responsibility, as security is a collective responsibility.”
Buhari, who told the APC governors that Nigeria was on a renewed growth trajectory, called on all Nigerians to continue to have faith in the country, saying: “We will do everything within our powers to sustain the current economic recovery efforts.
“We will continue to reinforce our macro-economic policies to achieve sustainable economic stability and growth.
“We will also continue to ensure the growth comes along with more jobs and a fair and just distribution of the national wealth. Your continued cooperation in this regard is very vital.”
The President wondered what would have happened to the country if the opposition did not come together to seize power from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he accused of frittering away the country’s wealth, explaining that the then opposition party came to power, displacing the PDP, to save the country.
Buhari said he was humbled by the award, noting: “It is a further reminder for me to continue to dedicate my life and my time to serving the Nigerian people. Thank you all for your attention.”
Chairman of the Forum and Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, told the guests that the award to Buhari was in recognition of his “visionary leadership,” adding: “Mr President, let me be personal with you, the truth is and you may not know that you are a God-given asset to this nation. I am not saying so for purpose of flattery or praise singing.
“I have observed all categories of leaders in this country, but you seem to have distinguished yourself for this onerous reason. Most of the leaders in this country are those who either buy their love, fame or political position, but in your own case, you don’t spend one naira and you have love come your way, you have leadership come your way. That is the only judgment I have to say that you are destined by God to govern this country.”
Eight founding governors of the forum also received awards, namely Kashim Shettima (Borno), Okorocha (Imo), Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ibrahim Gaidam (Yobe) and Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara).