Bukola Saraki, Kwara Governor

Six Nigerian governors were in the United States at the weekend to attend the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, and supposedly to explore areas of partnership with their American colleagues.

The National Governors Association is a non-partisan umbrella body of America’s 50 governors, an equivalent of Nigeria’s Governors Forum.

The governors, who attended the three-day summit held in Boston, United States, were Bukola Saraki (Kwara), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Sullivan Chime (Enugu), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Ibrahim Shekarau (Kano).

The NGA annual meeting affords America’s 50 governors the opportunity to brainstorm over national economic and political issues, share experiences, and chart road maps for the development of their individual states.

Businesses, researchers, heads of government departments, non-governmental organisations and foreign governors in partnership with the NGA, are usually invited to the meeting. The association has a working relationship with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and it was the second time Nigerian governors attended the summit.

At the Boston meeting, the Nigerian governors attended plenary and business sessions, including that where American governors explained what they had done to transform their states and what they wished they had done differently.

Yet there were other sessions, which focused on ways to restructure and streamline state governments for maximum efficiency and strategically balance state budgets.

The Nigerian governors also explored ways of forging partnerships with American state governments by holding a series of private meetings with some of their American counterparts, including host, Patrick Duval of Massachusetts, Haley Barbour of Mississippi who doubles as chairman of the Republican Governors, and Mark Parkinson of Kansas.

The secretariat of the NGF is expected to follow up on the decisions reached at the meetings.

We have gained

Bukola Saraki, the chairman of the NGF, told journalists that he and his colleagues learnt lessons from the summit, that would strengthen the NGF and improve governance in their states.

“What we have gained here is how to strengthen NGF so that three, five years down the line, we can have a governors’ forum that is strong enough to support governors and governance,” Mr Saraki said.

“That will improve governance at the state and local government levels. It will strengthen our democracy because most of the policies that are crucial towards fighting poverty are best driven at the state levels.

“So, if you strengthen governance at the state levels through these best practices, definitely our country is best for it.”

Kano State governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, said one of the lessons learnt from the summit was how governors can work consistently together and build consensus despite party and political differences.

“For instance, we learnt that the chairman of the NGA is always from the dominant party, while there is always a vice-chairman from the minority party,” Mr Shekarau said. “That is one arrangement we plan to consider for the NGF so that every party will have a sense of belonging.”

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