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South West govs resolve to shun political differences for regional integration

From right: Representative Ondo Governor, Secretary to the State Government, Ondo State, Dr Rotimi Adelola, Governor State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, Oyo State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun and Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode, during the Southwest governor's economic forum, at Exco Chamber, Oyo State Governor's office, Ibadan, Oyo State on Monday.

•    Say train from Lagos to Ekiti in the offing

GOVERNORS of the six states in the South West geopolitical zone of the country converged upon Ibadan, on Monday, to advance positions towards regional integration and socioeconomic development of the region.

The state executives at the meeting themed, “South West Governors Economic Forum”, resolved to collaborate in the areas of infrastructure, commerce, security, agriculture, economy, with a train to run from Lagos to Ekiti State in the offing.

The host governor, Abiola Ajimobi, met with Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), and Secretary to the Ondo State government, Dr Rotimi Adelola.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Fayose, disclosed that the state executives had agreed to coalesce in purpose, beyond political differences, to ensure that the region boasts of a sound economic base.

“We want to better the lot of our people. We want to play politics of development, play politics that will bring food to the table of the average South Westerner. We have agreed that beyond our differences, the region must come first and we must have unity of purpose beyond politics, and have an economic base that we can be proud of.”

“We have agreed to use this collaboration to improve on our infrastructure, commerce, security, agriculture among other areas. When we stand together, we will achieve all these for the people. All states, including Ekiti, have subscribed and agreed that regional integration is the best way forward, and that we should do everything to realise this for the people of the South West region,” Fayose said.

Also present at the interaction are Director General, Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), Mr Dipo Famakinwa; Group Managing Director, Odua Investments, Mr Adewale Raji and the Director General, Nigeria Institute for Social Economic Research (NISER), Professor Dosu Adeyeye; Managing Director, Sammya CITTC Consortium, Mr Sam Adigun.

Ajimobi, in his welcome remarks, emphasised the imperativeness for states of the region to synergise so as to achieve high economies of scale areas such as in agriculture, education, transportation and infrastructure.

Togetherness, Ajimobi said, would help address the region’s challenges ranging from low economic competitiveness to low revenue base, food insecurity, social problems, insecurity, environmental and biodiversity issues.

“We must agree that development and politicking become mutually exclusive. We must play politics of development. We must agree that the South West region with all its immense potentials has been sub-optimising in spite of its huge potential.”

“We need to fight for our competitiveness together; we need to build integrated regional transportation and energy infrastructure. It only makes sense to do all these things together. We need to merge our strengths, build synergy, achieve high economies of scale and minimise duplication of efforts. We must bring back our pioneering and revolutionary spirit; we must bring back the spirit of togetherness in tackling our challenges. We must work together to create common solutions to those common challenges. We must strengthen the capacity of our states to work together to deliver regional solutions.”

“As a people, there is a decline of relations. The quality of our social relations is defined by political partisanship and electoral engagements. We must no longer allow politics and quest for political power to divide, redefine or distract us from the real issues of our common patrimony. We must be united around these that bind us together, culture, language, common heritage, even our common problems and challenges. This is the time to reinforce our Alajobi and Agbajowo ethos. Cynicism and distrust must give way to collaboration and synergy. There is power in getting together,” Ajimobi said.

On whether the integration meant states of the region having common political ideology, Amosun said states may be governed by different political parties with different programmes as long as they were targeted at improving the welfare of the people.

“There is no way the part can be bigger than the whole. It is in our interest to unite as a region, race, and as a people.  We are looking at a train that will run from Lagos to Ekiti. We are collaborating, interfacing among one another. We recognise that we can use Lagos State as a launch pad that all states in the region will collaborate. We will look at areas where we have comparative advantage and leverage on that.

“We may not necessarily posses the same political ideology. Our forbearers were not like that. Yes, it is good that if all of us have a common ideology, we will all be in sync with one another. Our party has its own programmes and other parties may also have their own programmes, but they are all in the interest of development of our people,” Amosun said.

Similarly, Ambode held that the states had to shun political differences and collaborate towards the prosperity of the people of the region.

The next meeting of South West governors is scheduled to hold in Ekiti, next February.