Opinion: Furore Over Relocation of FAAN and CBN Depts. to Lagos – By SUNDAY EZE

The recent relocation of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and some departments of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Lagos State was a strategic, operational decision which ordinarily should not have made news headlines. However, with the censure raised by leaders especially of northern Nigerian extraction, the move has become a topical national discourse. The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) – a prominent northern interest group in a statement by its spokesman Prof. Tukur Mohammed-Baba had strongly kicked against the planned relocations of the two federal agencies from Abuja to Lagos. According to the ACF, “the relocation of the two agencies are a deliberate ploy to further under-develop the northern region of the country. They argued that the planned relocation of the agencies was in bad faith. The forum therefore called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to prevail on those agencies to retrace their steps and apply other honest means of addressing the alleged overcrowding in offices.”

Katsina Elders’ Forum also condemned in strong terms the relocation of the agencies and some projects, including the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua International Airport’s refurbished Rescue and Firefighting Vehicles Project to the southern part of the nation. The forum which called on the President Tinubu to reconsider the decision, declared that the president risks losing Northern support in 2027 if he goes on with his plans. “Therefore, we are telling Mr. President, as long as he is interested in coming back in 2027, as long as he is interested in the votes of the Northerners, to reverse these unconstitutional decisions. Whoever is advising him to take such decisions is an enemy of the country.”

It would be recalled that in a recent internal memo, CBN had made known plans to move some of its departments to Lagos State, alluding to congestion at the headquarters in Abuja. “This is to notify all staff members at the CBN Head Office that we have initiated a decongestion action plan designed to optimize the operational environment of the bank. This initiative aims to ensure compliance with building safety standards and enhance the efficient utilization of our office space,” the CBN said. In the same vein, the Federal Government announced the relocation of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria’s headquarters from Abuja to Lagos. The decision was officially announced by the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo, in a memo dated January 15, 2024, and signed by the Managing Director of FAAN, Mrs. Olubunmi Kuku.

The Northern Senators Forum led by Senator Abdul Ningi has joined in the fray by criticising the move of government. Senator Ali Ndume had while appearing on a national television equally warned that the move will have “political consequences.” Speaking during an interview on Channels Television, Ndume said “political cartels” are misguiding Tinubu to take the wrong decisions. Almost all northern leaders who spoke on this development called for its reversal except the former governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Sanusi Lamido Sanusi whose reason were more reasonable, policy-driven than regionally entitled. Obviously, Nigeria is in a democratic dispensation where people are entitled to their opinions. However, the position of ACF, Katsina Elders Forum and others from north on the matter is unnecessary. 

It seems northern elites only have a reason to cry wolf whenever they feel shortchanged through the channel in which the largesse of government is always shared. Everything is politics in Nigeria and it all depends on the interest it is meant to serve. Whether it is right, wrong or generally accepted is another kettle of fish. The nation is actually in a confused state. The over sixty years old nation is practically aloof. Leaders are bereft of ideas equal to the enormous problems confronting it. People are already weary of the Nigerian situation and on their very lows with the harsh economic realities imposed by the previous and this present administration. And instead of leaders proffering quick and sustainable solutions, they behave like Nero who fiddled when his house was on fire.

Nigerian leaders since 1999 are poor in leading appropriately. They make so much noise on fivolities in the name of achievements and lack the capacity to elevate true leadership to the desired height.  Generally, they have failed to genuinely dissect national problems and put the nation on the path of real development. The north glories in its landmark, dense population, high level of poverty and catastrophic climatic condition resulting in fast desert encroachment. The entire region is generally contending with the devastating effect of over a decade of Boko Haram insurgency, unending vicious attacks on communities, kidnapping and banditry. The South East is still very bitter on account of human and material losses in a civil war resulting to existential hatred, suspicion which today isolated the region from mainstream Nigerian politics. The South West is basking in the euphoria of Lagos characterised by charlatans, dearth of infrastructure and slums, while South South is suffocating and dying in pain of environmental degradation. The nation is not at peace with itself. Virtually everybody is angry. 

The noise about united and indivisible Nigeria can only be seen on paper not felt in the actions of leaders and most importantly Nigerians. We live in a spiritually balkanised country where people who pretend to be one outsmart, malign and kill each other. Unity makes sense only when government policies favour and benefit ones people or their regions. 

ACF has suddenly found it’s lost voice in mere administrative and policy decision of government while the unabated  killings in the north since 2015 does not worth the attention of the forum. Nigerian leaders are known for making a mole out of molehill – selfishly chasing shadows. They take fake patriotic stance on issues to garner regional support. Whatever does not feed their glutinous interests is elevated to religious and or regional threats.

Such is the concerted move by almost all northern regional leaders to condemn this government decision. However, when Muhammadu Buhari held sway and deliberately instituted nepotism in appointments and leadership recruitment process and ruined the nation for eight years, those in ACF and Katsina Elders Forum never found their lost voices to challenge the style of their own. The north is the problem of itself. The overwhelming hypocrisy of the northern elites is dotting the landscape of the entire region. Mobilisation of regional consensus against policies of government is a priority not serving the general interests of all. They have commissioned some opinions and public commentaries to demonise government and place it in bad light in the eyes of the north. Must northern politicians play regional and religious card in every issue? 

Northern leaders always see themselves as the lords of Nigeria. Anything not done in accordance with their dictates must have political consequences. They gleefully confessed using religion to sell Tinubu in the north instead of competence. Still, they expect to reap apple where bitter leaf was planted.  One thing the north and groups  like ACF forget to understand is that political promises in Nigeria are not binding on anybody. Ask the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Buhari. They are mere promises made to a woman while in bed – I will buy you America. 

A typical northern politician has refused to put the blame where necessary – on himself. Most of the people talking now were or are political office holders who were far more nepotistic. Are you blaming a government bequeathed to Tinubu by Buhari for continuing with the nepotistic legacies of his predecessor? It appears to the discerning mind that ACF, Katsina Elders Forum and others are simply whipping up regional, ethnic and religious sentiment to discredit the government of Tinubu. Why the furore? Anyways, whatever action ACF or any other northern regional group intends to take will amount to absolutely nothing.

Sunday Onyemaechi Eze, a Media and Development Communication Specialist writes via [email protected] and can be reached on 08060901201

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