SDGs: Governors’ request for foreign assistance

Foreign assistance by governors who attended the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

A call the other day for foreign assistance by governors who attended the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York gives the impression that Nigerians are helpless and could do nothing without assistance from world powers. That is not in our character.

There should be an end to such degrading attitude of the federating units. Nigeria is endowed with huge wealth that should be exploited and used to develop the country. While not discounting the importance of strategic partnerships in international relations, the governors should not have used the United Nations annual convention to showcase what their country is not.

Nigeria isn’t helpless. It is the governors who have not been creative and resourceful enough because of the convoluted federation that delivers to them revenue shared from the federation account every month. This is strange to the practice of federalism in today’s world. There should be no underserved foreign assistance to any governor that shows no seriousness in leveraging on the endowments in his state and local government councils in the country.

The governors, without doubt, could meet the basic needs of their people, which are what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are about if they judiciously manage their resources. The wasteful and extravagant lifestyle of most of the governors is robbing them of needed funds to implement useful projects. The governors must, therefore, change their attitude and lifestyle and focus on the people’s needs.

Besides, it needs to be seen what the governors have achieved so far on the SDGs or in mitigating the impacts of climate change in their states before seeking assistance.

According to reports, no fewer than 10 governors, led by the Chairman of Nigeria Governor’s Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, attended the meeting brokered by UNGA president, Prof. Tijani Mohammed Bande.

Those in attendance included Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abdulrahman Abdulrazak (Kwara), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Umar Ganduje (Kano), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Emeka Ihedioha (Imo) and Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos).

The governors, who met with international partners on the sideline of the 74th UNGA in New York, agreed that the SDGs had limitless potentials to enhance the lives of their people.

Speaking at the meeting with the theme, “The role of sub-national governments in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement,’’ Fayemi noted that it was important for the governors to attend the event, given the “existential threat” faced by their states.

He said the problem of climate change could no longer be ignored, adding that the consequences had become too obvious in different states, considering, especially, the amount of flooding, desertification and other threats across the country.

Governor David Umahi called for international intervention to enable states to upgrade their infrastructure to tackle the challenges. He said flooding and erosion had worsened in the south-eastern states.

On his part, Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State said his state had sought intervention on the receding Lake Chad, security and climate change.

Director-General of the NGF, Asishana Okauru, noted that there is a connection between climate change and SDGs. He said the expectation is that the governors should frame development plans around the SDGs. Sadly enough, few, if any, a tier of government is operating with development plans.

Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and Nigeria’s former Minister of Environment, Amina Ibrahim, promised that the UN would support the governors’ initiatives. Finally, president of the 74th UNGA, Prof. Mohammed-Bande said the SDGs are achievable from the local government level. He said security, poverty eradication, quality education, must start from the local government level if Nigeria really wants to achieve these goals.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Agenda 2030, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), underscores the desire of humanity to promote a liveable world where equity, justice, peace and progress reign supreme and poverty is eradicated.

Lofty as the goals are, the problem is how to achieve them amidst the turmoil and wars plaguing humanity. Millions of refugees and economic migrants are fleeing their devastated homelands. How could the war-ravaged nations be part of the new agenda? Humanity has the responsibility to crave peace by which the SDGs would be meaningful.

Coming on the heels of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) initiative launched in 2000, which expired at the end of 2015, the SDGs seek to sustain the tempo and improve on the successes recorded under the MDGs.

The SDGs, essentially, is an extension of the MDGs, which have fallen short of expectation in many countries, especially, in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria, of course, did not make significant progress in the attainment of the MDGs.

The SDGs proposal contains 17 goals and 169 targets, which seek to recapture and expand a broad range of sustainable development issues. These include ending poverty and hunger and education; making cities more sustainable; combating climate change and protecting oceans and forests, among others.

As earlier stated, Nigeria didn’t do well with MDGs and so a lot still needs to be done in these SDGs years. For instance, extreme poverty remains a plague among the citizenry. The National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) merely succeeded in flooding the country with tricycles (popularly called Keke NAPEP) and motorcycles (Okada), whose salutary effect on beneficiaries is unsustainable. On education, more than 10 million Nigerian children are still out of school.

The launch of the SDGs initiative is another opportunity for Nigeria to increase its efforts. There are certain fundamental issues, which must be addressed under the new agenda. 

Ordinarily, Nigeria has no business being poor and underdeveloped if past policies and programmes initiated over the years had been faithfully implemented.  The Education for All by the Year 2000; the Health for All by the Year 2000 and the Vision 2010 were well-articulated programmes that would have shored Nigeria up.

Furthermore, the much-publicised National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) could have transformed the country if it had been sustained by the successive administrations. Lack of sustainability in governance is the bane of national development in Nigeria.

It is not clear to what extent the governors would continue with the unfinished business of the MDGs to transit to the SDGs, which are a new set of global development priorities for the next 15 years. Whether the targets would be attained or not depends on leaders and not on how well they can beg.

It is shameful that Nigeria’s governors are asking for assistance while they are yet to show a serious commitment to achieving the set goals. They claim to show fidelity to UN agenda but destroy home-grown initiatives. That is why every government starts on a fresh note ignoring what the predecessor had done.

Nigeria can change in less than 15 years with a selfless and committed leadership. But education is key. Attaining the SDGs is dependent on quality mass education and committed, not beggarly, leadership.

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