9th March, 2012
The Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, has launched its Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN.
DAWN is to reset and present a fresh agenda for value-based leadership that will rally the Yoruba nation towards a desired change as well as provide a fresh impetus for mobilising the Yoruba in the country and in the diaspora.
The cultural, socio-economic and political blueprint which was presented to the public at the Lagos City Hall, Lagos Island, southwest Nigeria, on Tuesday 6 March, 2012 can be described as a fresh attempt at evolving a development framework for the region.
At the ceremony were Mr. Fola Adeola, chairman of the occasion, former military governor of the now defunct Western State, Major-Gen. Adeyinka Adebayo (retd.), former Chief of Defence Staff, Lt-Gen. Alani Akinrinade, founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, Senator Femi Ojudu, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Chief Idowu Sofola, Bashorun J.K. Randle, Dr. Olu Agunloye, Senator Sola Adeyeye, Dr. Muiz Banire, Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose, Alhaji Mutiu Are, Mrs. Gbadebo Ajayi, Jimi Agbaje, Mr Layi Oyeduntan, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, former Speaker of House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, Oodua Group chairman, Safaradeen Alli, Managing Director of Oodua Group, Adebayo Jimoh, Prof. Wale Omole, Mr. Tayo Soyode, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Prof. Adebayo Williams and Prof. Kayode Familoni.
Others were Comrade Rotimi Obadofin, Rev. Tunji Adebiyi, Mr. Awodeyi Akinsehinwa-Apata, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, Mr. Bayo Adesanya, Tunde Kelani, Mr. Sola Lawal, Chief Ipoola Omisore, Mrs. Derin Disu, Mr. Biodun Sobanjo and Mr. Femi Orebe.
Among the traditional rulers at the ceremony were the Ajero of Ijero, Oba Adebayo Adewole, Elekole of Ikole, Oba Ajibade Fasiku, Oore of Otun, Oba Popoola Adedapo and Onifon of Ifon-Osun, Oba Aderemi Adedapo.
To smoothen the presentation of DAWN, an ARG delegation, led by its leader, Mr. Olawale Oshun, visited southwest governors and speakers of Houses of Assembly in Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo, Ogun and Osun states.The presentation began with the observation of a minute silence for the late Yoruba leader and Premier of defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whose post-humous birthday coincided with the presentation of the agenda.
Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) and Babatunde Fashola (Lagos) reiterated their commitment to the integration of the region.
They all resolved to implement the agenda as part of efforts to chart a new course of development for the geo-political zone.
Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, who was represented by his Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Sola Ebiseeni, confirmed his boss’ acceptance of the blueprint and urged the ARG to include more historical facts about Yoruba, particularly Ondo State, if there is an opportunity for a review of the compendium.
Ajimobi, who was the first governor to speak, lamented that the apostles of mainstream politics were responsible for the poverty ravaging his state, adding that the conservative bloc did havoc because the changing times permitted their incursion.
In his own speech, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State said: “Our region has slipped backward, neglecting agriculture, which was the mainstay of our economy. Proceeds from agriculture were used in those days for free education, health, roads, stadium, Cocoa House. We will promote education. We are going back to the basics. We have started that in Ogun State. Now, students are moving from private schools to public schools.”
Governor Kayode Fayemi, his own remarks, said: “What is happening today is not strange to me. I knew the beginning. I have been intimated with the processes which led to the roadmap. Those who left power have spoilt the Southwest, but we are ready to make Yoruba proud, through the support and cooperation of our leaders and royal fathers. I was happy when I saw a newspaper and there, Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo were talking about Yoruba progress. This is commendable. In his own remarks, Governor Babatunde Fashola said: “Lagos State is in support of the integration agenda as outlined by this roadmap. At a time states are thinking about how to share the oil money, ARG has sensitised us to the fact that it is not the route.
“Southwest governors are ready to work. But the people have a role to play. We must unite and be loyal to the vision. If a party is against our development, our people should leave it and come back home.” Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State castigated past PDP administrations in the Southwest, saying: “PDP President and governors spent eight years in power destroying Yorubaland. No Yoruba in power can work for Yoruba welfare, if he is not serving on a progressive platform. Obasanjo took over the Southwest by force, except Lagos, where people, led by Asiwaju Tinubu, used all means to avert their incursion.
“I want all the states to adopt this blueprint by ensuring that they appoint commissioners for regional integration. I want the local governments to also subscribe to the adoption. I want the Lagos State Government to create a conducive market where farm products from Yoruba hinterland can be sold,” he said.
Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who praised the ARG’s initiative, asked stakeholders to move from rhetoric to action by implementing the agenda. He also reiterated his call for true fiscal federalism, stressing that the current unitary federalism is counter-productive.
Tinubu, who called for a change of development style, added: “You cannot make Awolowo a reference point, if you don’t copy Awolowo and improve on what he has done. You cannot improve today’s farm with yesterday’s cutlass. Without education, we cannot make progress. We talk about agenda, but we must do it. Can we do it? Yes, we can.” The chairman of the occassion and founder, Fate Foundation, Fola Adeola, who spoke in Yoruba, lauded ARG and urged the Southwest governors to advance the cause of development in the zone. An economist, Dr. Doyin Salami delivered a lecture entitled: “The March of Yoruba Into The Future Of Development.” Lamenting the rot in education, as exemplified in failures in the General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination, Salami argued that without education, the quality of industry and entrepreneurship would fall below standard.
Salami employed the tragedy of the growing poverty, squalor and misery in Oyo State to explain the backwardness of Yorubaland. He also justified the integration agenda, saying since most of the states depend on federal revenue, only a few of them are viable.
Salami also alerted the Southwest to the danger of agitating for true fiscal federalism without preparing adequately for its challenges, pointing out that if oil is removed from financial calculations of most states, they would not get anywhere.
He said: “We have retrogressed. Our retrogression is alarming. Ibadan, the seat of government, is the lowest income-earning in Nigeria. Southwest is the gateway to Nigeria and manufacturing hub. To what maximum use have we put that?”
Salami called for a re-focused agricultural drive, saying that a synergy is required between agriculture and industry for employment generation for the benefit of the people. He said: “A Southwest agenda that does not encompass productive agriculture is vanity. Despite the constitutional limitations, states can be creative.”
The economist said he was impressed by the resolve of the Southwest governors to construct the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, adding that infrastructure that support economic activities are required.
Adducing reasons for the soaring unemployment in the region, he said a high level of unemployment co-exist with a high level of skill shortages. He added:”When GSM came in 2001, there were no telecommunication engineers, until South Africans came to Nigeria. There is also the need for information and auditing of assets, opportunities and challenges of the Southwest. We need a vision of where we want the Southwest to be in five decades. We must commit ourselves to the vision, irrespective of political affiliations. We need a consensus built around the vision; an elite consensus. We have lost our values. We crave to be an omoluabi ( a well cultured child). How many of us are omoluabi?”
In his speech, Gen. Adebayo called for unity and understanding “because we can only achieve success in an atmosphere of peace and cooperation.”
General Alani Akinrinade also called for commitment and loyalty to the vision to achieve progress. “I believe that with the calibre of people at the helm of affairs, we can do it,” he added.
ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, in his speech, said: “We have started the race and journey for the implementation of the agenda and we must not look back. I commend ARG for its commitment and hardwork.”
Former Speaker, House of Reps., Dimeji Bankole enjoined those in power to realise the limitation to their tenure, stressing that power is transient. “In 2009, I was summoned by the ARG to explain myself. They asked questions. They complained about development in Yorubaland. I asked for their agenda and solution. After three or four months, we started getting ideas from ARG. Power is transient. Nobody can be in power forever. Things can always change,” he submitted.
Founder of OPC, Frederick Fasehun, urged all to embrace the roadmap to get good results. “God has made Yoruba a model in Nigeria. We must live up to this destiny.”
In his own contribution, Lagos lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana said: “If there are people here who supported the killing of our people, we must not allow them to mingle with us. Yoruba is suffering. Some people killed Abiola and his wife. We have not gained anything from Abuja. What we are doing here is about ideological value. A line of dichotomy should be drawn between the enemies of Southwest and those who love us.”
Another ARG chieftain, Adeyeye, spoke on the challenges ahead for the governors and urged them to learn from the lessons of the Awolowo era. “It was not easy for Awolowo. He ruled the Western Region at a time of hostility. The establishment and British government were opposed to the establishment of the University of Ife. Awolowo sought the cooperation of the Soviet Union. Before his delegation to the Soviet Union came back, the Federal Government supported the establishment of the university.
“Our governors are not Jesus who fed a multitude with 12 loaves of bread and two fish. We should insist on fiscal federalism. Why should workers across states receive the same salary? Our governors should not even receive the same salary.”
The Ajero of Ijero-Ekiti, Oba Adewole, said: “We traditional rulers are happy. We need patience, peace and perseverance to succeed.”
Afenifere chieftain, Wale Oshun, submitted that Southwest’s journey to development should start now, irrespective of political, social, constitutional, sentimental and economic barriers.
He explained that the region cannot run away from the fact that Nigeria is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious entity, stressing that only true federalism can salvage it.
“We must not be hoodwinked into believing that Nigeria’s unity can only be assured by a strong central unit that doles out money to surrogate states and stifles the initiatives of these states from breaking the barriers of poverty, which militant capitalists in the cloaks of socialists continue to force on us.
“Unity is not a condition for development, especially our economic, infrastructural and human attainment. Rather, the development and wellbeing of the citizens is a pre-requisite for the unity of a co-habiting people.
“A true federal Nigeria will encourage productive competition, in which the federating units optimise their respective economic activities and aspire to a self-fulfilling citizenry. Optimising job creations, reducing poverty among our people and making our states places to live in. This will mean our governors working together to make our states safe, managing just and stable tax system, ensuring quality in all public schools, developing a transportation that supports employment and goods, encouraging small businesses and laying emphasis on shared interests, rather than direct unhealthy competition,” he averred.
— Yisa Jamiu