Southwest And Quest For Regional Unity


On Monday, 13 February, 2012, leaders of the progressives in southwest Nigeria, gathered in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, to form a united and committed front for the pursuit of regional economic integration within the Nigerian federation.

The agenda, according to them, is to return the zone to progress and prosperity. The leaders resolved to work together for this purpose in the interest of the present and future generations.

The programme was the maiden Legislative Summit on Regional Integration, organised by Vintage Press, publishers of The Nation in collaboration with CEEDEE Resources, a private company.

The theme of the three-day summit, which is holding at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan, is “Achieving regional integration agenda for rapid growth”. The summit is being attended by state and federal legislators from Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos, Edo, Delta, and Kogi states.

Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, who spoke on the imperative of good educational foundation, called for the establishment of a southwest university with satellite campuses in the six states. He called for qualitative leadership in the region and collaboration on economic development.

Ajimobi, who is the chief host, paid tribute to the first premier of the defunct Western Region, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who, he said was described by an African anthropologist as “a recent Yoruba ancestor”, adding that he achieved sparkling feats, which catapulted the zone to the horizon of progress in the fifties.

He lamented that in post-Awolowo era, the region regressed, in spite of the advances in technology, making the earlier republics to remain the benchmark of excellence and examples of purity of mental sophistication.

Urging the Southwest to return to the basics, he stressed the need to copy the creative ideas of the Awolowo days which made the region a pacesetter in infrastructure and qualitative human development.

He said the key to integration and development in the region is quality leadership and collaboration among the states. He referred to Awolowo’s dictum: “Only the deep can call to the deep”.

Ajimobi noted that the integration agenda had been criticised by politicians in the zone, pointing out that these critics can never pursue the initiatives, if they find themselves in power, despite the benefits.

The governor urged the six states to collapse all the social, political and legal constraints militating against integration and development, reiterating the determination of the ACN to pursue the initiative because it is germane to the well-being of the people.

He added: “However, the dream will remain a pipe dream unless the legislature in the states buy into the idea and promulgate legislations that will translate the dream into reality. Legislation on integration and development is key to the collaborative development that we desire”.

He ruled out the possibility of harvesting any gain from integration if agriculture is ignored and electricity supply is epileptic.

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Ajimobi said: “I envision a Western Nigeria where the 20 million people in Lagos State can be daily served with vegetables from the riverine area of Ogun State, cassava from the vast land of Oyo State and dodo Ikire from Osun State, fish from the mangroves of Ondo State and yam from Ekiti State. We can replicate these collaboration in all spheres of human endeavours like education, health, sports and other areas where the states can partner to boost their economies.

“Our quest for regional integration should include educational and cultural integration of our people. Although we speak the same language and share the same culture, the balkanisation of the states has introduced many policies that have sought to push us far from one another. For instance, all the states in the Southwest, except Oyo State, have a state university.

“Let me clarify that even Oyo State has initiated the process to establish a state university by September this year. But these are universities that can all come under the same roof of a southwest university. The University of Cairo in Egypt has over 100,000 students on its roll. Why can’t a Southwest Nigeria university have such a profile and enjoy the economies of scale that will put us among the foremost universities in the world, rather than bicker over the management of a jointly owned LAUTECH between Oyo and Osun states?”

“Regional rail, communication system and agricultural programmes would launch the zone on the path of greatness,” he added.

“Is it not possible to organise a transport system in such a way that our teaming population in Ibadan, Lagos, Abeokuta, Osogbo, Akure and Ado-Ekiti can transit and receive fresh farm produce from all the six states in the Southwest on a daily basis,? he asked.

ACN national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, called for a review of the 1999 Constitution. He described it as “a code of impediment.” He urged the legislators to remain faithful to the constitutional amendment plan.

Former Ogun State Governor, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, who delivered the keynote address, asked governors in the country to initiate a bill on deregulation of electricity generation and distribution to enable the states revitalise their moribund economic activities.

Praising the organisers, Akande observed that they were contributing to efforts to return the region to its glorious days. He advised the legislators to ensure that the constitution, which is a major obstacle to the achievement of integration, is reviewed.

Akande said: “In our days, we saw the good things, but I don’t know what is left for the present and future generations. We need integration to move forward. We need a circular rail system. Nigerian constitution is a code of impediments that does not allow those who want to move forward to move forward. You should look at this in your deliberations”.

Osoba lamented that Nigeria is at a cross road, adding that the solution is a productive federal system.

Reiterating his support for regionalism, Osoba recalled that Awo had proposed a federation based on cultural units.

He hailed moves by ACN governors in the Southwest to take over the construction of federal roads in their respective states, adding that a collective blueprint also developed by them would augur well for the region.

Osoba called for true fiscal federalism, saying; “The Federal Government has failed in the provision of electricity. If the states were empowered to generate electricity, industries would not collapse and jobs would be available. Lagos State did it, but the Federal Government frustrated it.”

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