2015 has been an historic year for Nigeria, its people and its political institutions. Our first truly contested democratic elections created a renewed sense of hope and optimism for Nigeria’s future.

At a time when our nation’s economic and financial security was under threat, the national elections presented an opportunity to set a new political and economic direction for our country, putting the security and aspirations of the many, before the interests of the few.

The challenges we face are widespread, deep-rooted and require both evidence -based, and imaginative policy solutions in equal measure. Governance that allows our diverse nation to work together, and systems that foster collaboration rather than separation, will be vital to meeting the challenges ahead.

The Nigeria Governors’ Forum was established to play this very role. Acting as the missing mezzanine of governance in Nigeria, the NGF’s original purpose was to enable Governors to come together, share best practice, and foster greater policy collaboration and political connectivity between states. The NGF has done this through the adoption of evidence-based and non-partisan policy research and development – placing policy efficacy before political expediency.

This book tells the story of arguably the most important part of the NGF’s history. A period driven by the Chairmanship of Senator Bukola Saraki, this history represents a period of growth, impact and delivery for the NGF. Reimagined with a twenty-first century purpose in mind, the NGF was restructured to have a national footprint, working to deliver real and tangible change in partnership with Governors across Nigeria.

The book begins by tracing the emergence of Senator Saraki’s Chairmanship and his initial work with the NGF. This was focused on a series of wide-ranging reforms designed to enable the NGF to play an even bigger role in policy formation and programme delivery. Through building the internal capacity and resource of the Forum and reaching out to new strategic partners and collaborators, the NGF developed a new confidence in its ability to provide guidance and direction to state-level government.

Following this, the NGF appointed a new management team, led by Asishana B. Okauru as Director General, and entered a phase of productivity following its internal restructuring, and national tours across Nigeria. The new team quickly identified the need for a more activist approach to policymaking, providing steer and direction to national issues at across state-level government.

This account details the highly respected role that Senator Saraki and the NGF played in crisis resolution, including working with the teaching unions, as well as playing a pivotal role in developing and securing the Senate approval of the Doctrine of Necessity. Following the illness and subsequent death of President Umar Yar’adua, Nigeria faced political paralysis with uncertainly over who would be appointed to the Presidency of the Republic. The chapter outlining the Forum’s role in overcoming this provides a compelling case study in finding consensus during times of great volatility.

Some of the biggest achievements of the Forum relate to policy development in the health sphere. Senator Saraki’s role in developing new strategic partnerships with global organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was fundamental in the development of the Forum’s ability to fund and support programmes relating to polio eradication and routine immunisation. The Immunisation Leadership Challenge highlighted later in this book, in addition to the Abuja Commitment, was a pivotal programme delivered by the NGF, and played a significant role in the eradication of polio across Nigeria.

The book later goes on describe the range of policies and initiatives that the NGF played in supporting local economic development, state-level revenue generation, and infrastructure investment and modernisation. Many of these policies are still in operation today, and are commonly used by Governors and state governments.

While this account of the NGF’s role in policy development is central to understanding its impact, the key theme of the book, and central to demonstrating the success of the NGF under the Chairmanship of Senator Saraki, is the methodology and approach he adopted – arguably the fundamental driver for the NGF’s success. Senator Saraki’s unique mixture of philosophy, purpose and personality allowed him, in partnership with individual Governors, to provide the perfectly pitched leadership that the NGF needed to take it from a talking shop to a policy think and do tank. The NGF became the missing piece of Nigeria’s federal jigsaw, acting as an enabler and educator for Governors across the country.

The failure to understand the utility of procedure has been a key factor in the inability of national, state and local government to deliver a progressive and reforming agenda for Nigerians. This account of the NGF shows how the Forum and its partners valued process, and made better governance the cornerstone of its work.

By revisiting the NGF’s recent history, and walking back through the footprints it has made in Nigeria’s politics and economy, I hope we can help set a new path for Nigeria’s future – one defined by collaboration, open and transparent governance, and an acute sense our responsibilities to one another.

The purpose of this book is to enable Governors and anyone with an interest in better policymaking and delivery, to carry out their duties more effectively. We believe this book is an inspiring best practice case study for Nigeria, and, perhaps even policy -makers across Africa. Indeed, we hope the NGF can play a defining role internationally in promoting Nigeria, and supporting its global partners.

The economic, social and security challenges Nigeria faces should not be underestimated – but neither should the resolve, courage and determination of Nigerians to meet these challenges.

The NGF’s role supporting Nigeria’s elected representatives, and acting as an enabler and engine for reform, is more important than ever. We hope that the case studies in this book can be utilised to act as coordinates for Nigeria’s future.

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