As govs forge common front for southwest development

With the recent meetings of Southwest governors in Ibadan and the pledge to work together for the good of the people without bias to political affiliation, it may indeed be the dawn of a new era for the people of the region. YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE reports:

In recent times, the need for the Yoruba race to come together to form a synergy and work as one to uplift the region has been the focus at many gatherings and many have expressed the opinion that until there’s a united front, the southwest cannot regain its pride of place.

And in recognition of the need to work together, governors of southwest states under the auspices of Southwest Governors’ Economic Forum, converged in Ibadan to discuss ways of working together to achieve a common goal – uplifting the southwest in every important way.

The meeting which was convened by the Oyo state governor, Senator Isiaq Abiola Ajimobi focused specially on developing and agreeing on a common and integrated front for reinforcing regional integration and economic development in Southwest Nigeria.

And the deliberations were aimed at re-establishing the need for strong and implementable decisions that would put the Southwest Region back on the path of irreversible progress.

Contrary to general belief that such meetings are merely a political meeting of people from the same party, every southwest state was represented at the meeting in Ibadan, irrespective of the political party at the helms in each state.

The meeting was attended by the governor of Ekiti state, Mr Ayodele Fayose; Lagos state governor, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode; Ogun state governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Osun state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola while the Ondo state governor was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Rotimi Adeola.

Others in attendance include the Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, Mr. Dipo Famakinwa, Director General, NISER, Professor Victor, Group Managing Director, Odua Investment Limited, Mr. Adewale Raji and some very high level officials across all the southwest states.

The governors came to some decisions that are meant to propagate the interest of the southwest people, they underscored the fact that regional integration and sustainable economic development of the southwest region presents an opportunity that can provide the necessary intervention to push the region and indeed the whole of Nigeria out of economic recession into economic prosperity.

Aside deliberations on promoting issues of common concern and interest, the dwindling economic fortune of the region and ways out of the economic doldrums topped the chart of discussions and they arrived at some decisions which they believe will take pave way for a vibrant region.

Senator Ajimobi while speaking on the reasons behind calling the meeting stated that it was to discuss several issues of common concern to the region in view of the challenging economic circumstances confronting the nation and its constituent parts.

“These issues include security of lives and properties of all citizens and our peoples; the economic development of the states by leveraging on common resources and the competitive advantages of the region. Other issues to be discussed will include the identification and development of critical infrastructure, especially road networks and the need for a regional rail network for transportation of goods and services within the region,” he stated.

Ajimobi in his welcome address stated that attendance of the governors signposted the high importance they paid to the common challenges besetting the zone, part of which, he said, was the difficulties in the prompt payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.

“Your presence at this meeting is a clear testimony of the importance you all have attached to the common challenges confronting us as a people. Today our country is buffeted by economic and political challenges. Several states are struggling to pay basic salaries with arrears running into several months; manufacturers struggling to access foreign exchange for raw materials are shutting down leading to mass redundancy of our people.

“Unfortunately most of these people are resident in the South-West region, which is the industrial base of the country. We need to quickly explore escape routes from poverty through empowerment and equipping of our youths with requisite skills,” Ajimobi said.

At the forum, deliberations focused on developing and agreeing on a common and integrated front for reinforcing regional integration and economic development in Southwest Nigeria.

The governors after the meeting resolved not to allow political differences to divide them as the interest of the people and the region must not only come first before any other thing but also guide the actions of the leaders of the region.

And at the end, they issued a communiqué which stated that the interest of the Yoruba people should be in focus at all times and all politics must be politics of development while regional cooperation, synergy and economics of scale is important to move the region forward.

Also, they decided that good intentions must be backed by sincerity of purpose and the prosperity of any constituent part is negated if others are not, that political differences should no longer be a barrier to the economic development of the region while the welfare of the people should be foremost and a regime of continuity, regularity and urgency of interaction is important among the leadership of the region.

Further, it was decided that the States should jointly embark on collaborative programmes in areas of common cooperation identified as needing immediate attention in the region including security, education, transportation infrastructure, including roads, rail and water transportation, trade and commerce linkages, agriculture as well as sports and that the DAWN Commission (the regional development agency for pursuing the regional integration agenda of the States of Western Nigeria, comprising Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo) should be vigorously strengthened to coordinate the regional development process.

They further agreed that all the states should work together within the framework of people-centric development, the present crop of governors must bequeath to the people a good legacy reflective of the visions of our founding fathers and common ancestors, that the current Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Senator Abiola Ajimobi should also serve as the Chairman of the Commission while DAWN Commission shall develop programmes and activities along the identified areas of cooperation and bring them up for cooperative implementation.

Governor Fayose who spoke on behalf of the governors explained that the meeting was being called to discuss several issues of common concern to the region in view of the challenging economic circumstances confronting the nation and its constituent parts

Fayose stressed that the conversation dwelt on pragmatic steps necessary to be taken to enhance the development of the region and to proffer the surest way to put food on the table of the common people. Regardless of their political differences, he said that the governors were more concerned about their relations by the force of history and geographical location, the unity of which, he said, the regions forebears fought for and defended.

“All states, including Ekiti, have subscribed to and agreed that regional integration is the best way forward. We must do everything humanly possible not to go back on our resolves. It is forward for the people and for the Yoruba race. “We agreed that the next meeting, which holds in the next two months, will be held in Ekiti State.” Earlier, the governor had told the forum to examine issues of common concern and learn from models that had worked for one state, with a view to replicating them for the common good of the people.

On his part, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola pleaded with his colleagues to take advantage of the remaining period of their tenure by ensuring that they redouble their efforts to ensure the survival and prosperity of the people of the region.

Governor Amosun also restated the need for the governors to shed political differences by walking in the footsteps of the region’s nationalists and torchbearers, stressing that the unity of the region would be its strength. On his part, Ambode reminded his colleagues that the touted prosperity of Lagos State could only be sustained by the prosperity of its neighbour states. He said he was committed to the improvement in the revenue base of the South-West such that a rail system would make it possible for people to work in Lagos State and live in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.

The governors decided that their collaboration will be a continuous process and agreed to have quarterly meetings with the next one to be hosted by Mr. Ayodele Fayose, Governor of Ekiti State.

The collaborations of the southwest governors and their sincerity in being their brother’s keeper irrespective of political affiliation, may indeed be the recipe needed for growth in the southwest.