Governor Shettima stated this in Kaduna during his opening remarks at the meeting of the 19 northern governors, with the majority of them in attendance, including the host, Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
This is the first meeting of the forum in Kaduna since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the leader of the country. The NSGF chairman also took a critical look at quality of past leaders of the North, saying that the present crop of leaders, including the governors from the zone, are a disappointment to the people since they are doing little or nothing to eradicate the socio-economic problem bedeviling the region.
Apparently sad and angry about negative issues hindering the development of the north, Governor Shettima described the region as a laughing stock among the comity of regions in the country.
To this end, he called on his colleagues to work in unity, despite the ethnic and religious diversity to rid the northern region of all forms of negativities and social vices.
He said: “Regrettably today, our region has become a thriving nest for war, terrorism, deep-seated social divisions, senseless violence, mind-boggling intolerance, injustice, destitution, joblessness, and all manners of other social vices, the height of which is the madness called Boko Haram.
“Things have become so bad, so much so that we can say without fear of contradiction that in Nigeria today, poverty glaringly wears a bold Northern face. We have turned our region into a laughing stock, derided by friends and foes alike, and, not without justification, as having dragged the rest of the country down with us.
“No amount of lamentation will, of course, solve our many problems. We need to act, and fast too. This generation of northern leaders, led by us the governors, have both a moral and constitutional responsibility as well as a historic opportunity to reverse the negative fortunes of our people. We must do everything in our power to restore and entrench the lofty values of unity, understanding, tolerance, mutual respect, empathy, justice and mutual coexistence in the minds of our people and region. We must firmly and decisively commit ourselves to fighting poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, terrorism and other forms violent crimes in the North.
“I dare say that there is no better time to do that than now, when a sequence of events over the last few months is showing that a silver lining is beginning to appear in the dark clouds that have hovered over the North for so long.
“I urge us to take full advantage of this development and dedicate ourselves to, beginning from this meeting and within the shortest possible time, developing a comprehensive blueprint that will take our region and its long-suffering people out of the woods. I solemnly enjoin all of us to put our heads down, get to work and come up with an agenda for the speedy transformation of Northern Nigeria from its current travails into a well modern, well-developed, prosperous, progressive, just and united polity for the good of its people and the entire Nigeria.
“The first generation of Northern leaders -May God Almighty bless them – bequeathed to us a polity, though vast in land mass and complex in its diversity, that showed enormous promise, and was indeed beginning to live to that promise: A polity where the social mantra was unity in diversity, where justice, fairness and equity reigned, where exemplary peaceful coexistence was the order of the day.
“Not only did succeeding generations of leaders including – sadly – our own, fail to sustain the benchmark handed over by our heroes, they let things to progressively and rapidly deteriorate, in the process exhibiting base irresponsibility of the worst kind. Thus, from those dizzying heights of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s when the North was the cynosure, if not the envy, of all eyes, we plunged to the nadir of the social ladder.
“On my part, I promise, as chairman of this important forum, to do everything humanly possible to ensure unity and purposefulness in our ranks by running an open and democratic system and by carrying everybody along. I promise to do my best, and with your support, understanding and cooperation, to transform this forum from a mere talk shop into an action-oriented and Agenda setting platform in the interest of all our 19 Northern states and, by extension, Nigeria as whole.
“Although uncountable meetings of the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF) have been witnessed here in the historically strategic city of Kaduna over the course of a period spanning no less than three decades, today’s gathering, you would agree with me, represents a significant watershed, this being so for a number of reasons.
“First, this is the maiden meeting of the forum since you, my colleagues, so graciously honoured me with the responsibility of steering its affairs as a first among equals. Indeed, a majority of members are attending the Forum’s meeting for the first time.
“Second, it is the first major meeting of the forum since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the first time an opposition candidate took over the mantle of leadership as President of our great country and also the first time since 2013 crisis that nearly tore the forum apart and permanently damage it.
“Third and more significantly, this meeting is coming at critical time in the history of Northern Nigeria when we appear to be on the cusp of a new era; the promise of a transition from seemingly interminable years of hardship, poverty and turmoil – the proverbial Locust Years – to a period of hope, prosperity and calm.
“For the first time since the early 1980s, the political leadership of the Northern states seem poised to reverse the negative trends that had so readily sown the destructive seed of mutual suspicion, distrust and animosity among the teeming people that occupy the vast lands of-of our states. I can see the signs of sincere effort and genuine optimism to draw strength in our diversity and change the narrative of our troubled history in the interest of our region’s history, and indeed, the rest of Nigeria.
“As leaders of our people at this crucial epoch of our history, and democratically elected ones at that, we are left with no choice but to rise to the occasion and live up to people’s perfectly understandable expectations. We must seize this moment, for history is beckoning at us.”
FROM NOAH EBIJE, KADUNA