VICE President Yemi Osinbajo has advised outgoing governors to make good use of the experiences and opportunity they had while in office, and not see their exit from power as an opportunity to run personal businesses or sleep for long hours, in the interest of common people.
Osinbajo, who gave the advice in his remarks at the valedictory session of the National Economic Council, at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday, told the governors to deploy the opportunity of the period to further serve the country in various capacities, using their influence as former governors to contribute to healthcare and education.
According to him, donor agencies will be glad to work with ex-governors, especially those with track records of healthcare provision and other humanitarian needs. He said: “I advise that you should use your influence and reach to the advantage of Nigerian people. You have seen and heard for yourselves the enormity of our national problems.
Very few people have the advantage to see closely as we do on the issues that concern our country, the issues that even concern our different states. “We, here, have that unique advantage. So I think that we can help in one way or the other; we can do something in our states and other states in a way of advocacy or action on education and healthcare in particular and jobs.
“I think it is important for those of us who have had the benefit of all of these experience and leadership not to now settle down to a life of business or perhaps of enjoyment or sleeping for eight hours. I need this time for action.”
The privilege to serve
The vice-president, who thanked the governors for the encomiums showered on him by various speakers at the meeting, noted that of Nigeria’s huge population of about 200 million, only 74 persons, including the president, vice-president, 36 governors and their deputies, were given the responsibilities of formulating policies and executing projects meant to serve the huge populace.
While canvassing more commitment of the governors to better the lots of the citizenry, the vice-president noted that in a matter of years, the population of Nigeria would double, pointing out that the country depended heavily on the elite for survival.
He said having led their various states for some years, the governors do not need anyone to advise them any longer on the imperative of unity or security of lives and property, emphasising that the main priority of citizens was availability of food and water on their tables.
However, the vice-president lamented that most people dissipate energy to stoke the embers of disunity and ethnicity, advising the governors to openly condemn those who engage in such acts and resist them because the country does not belong to them alone.
He reiterated the need for the outgoing governors to be challenged by the enormity of problems at stake and consequently use their influence as former governors to contribute to continued efforts to address such problems. Osinbajo added: “In the next few years, our population will double, with the attendant challenges of jobs, education, health care, security and infrastructure.
Every nation that has moved its people from misery to prosperity has depended heavily, in fact, almost completely on the political elite.
‘’Our people have nowhere else to look or to go, it is as they say, at the collective table that the bulk stops.
Speaking at the meeting, outgoing chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, commended the vice-president for his sterling leadership in the last four years.
While advising the council on the need to work hard, block leakages in the system and take proactive measures to expand the size of the economy, Yari commended the federal government which he said had done well in the agricultural sector, with N200 billion spent since 2015.
He, however, said if N2 trillion can be spent on oil development every year, much more needed to be spent to shore up growth in agriculture, warning that if Nigeria failed to plan for the future, the country would be sitting on a time bomb and that the aftermath would be catastrophic in the next few years.
He said: “I will say, yes government has done tremendously well in terms of expanding the economy through agriculture by spending over N200 billion through the anchor borrowers programme, but we need to do more because we all agree that agriculture is the mainstay of this economy.
“It provides over 80 per cent of the employment. So, if N2 trillion can be spent yearly on oil development we need to increase our spending on agriculture too. With what we are seeing as governors, especially from the zone where I come from, the rate of population growth, if nothing is done to address it, I am afraid Mr. Chairman, we are sitting on a time bomb. And that’s the truth.’’
Speaking on behalf of South-West governors, Lagos State governor, Akinwumi Ambode, who recalled the challenges facing the states when NEC came into being in 2015, narrated how 27 states could not pay workers’ salaries. According to him, this led to the decision to seek bailout funds for states from the federal government, which was promptly approved by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Describing the vice-president as tolerant, friendly, accommodating and a stickler for good governance and accountability, Ambode advised the next NEC to address the issue of power and steel, saying doing so will go a long way to reflate the economy.
Also speaking on behalf of South-East governors, Imo State governor and Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, suggested the need to set target as performance benchmark.
He said where there was no target, most people would not feel motivated to perform, noting that the trend among governors over the years had always been that some performed well, another over-performed, while others under-performed.
While speaking on behalf of North-West governors, Kaduna State governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, commended the vice-president for providing the right direction to the council.