The recent visit, for the second time, of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state to his counterpart in the state of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, has again reminded us about the critical issue of regional integration. Has regional integration agenda died? This question becomes pertinent in view of the seeming silence of the South-West ruling elite on the issue these days as against the way the call for it once gathered momentum in recent past.
Even though Governor Fayose is of the opposing political party, he seems to be on the same page with the Governor of Osun on the issue of RI as he clearly stated during his first visit to Ogbeni that he “had come to discuss issues bothering on the developent of the South-West”. So the Ekiti helmsman even though he’s in the opposition has not hidden his interest in RI. If this is so we wonder why all the helmsmen in the South-West cannot close ranks once again to make this agenda work. Of course there is no better time than now to put this agenda on the front burner. This is because for the first time since independence, the political alignment of the South-West is in sync with the centre. The alignment presents great opportunities. It must be used.
The reason why regional integration matters is because within the context of our lopsided quasi-federalism the region needs to pull resources together to make appreciable progress. For example, to build railroads, economies of scale is important. Realistically, no state can go it alone. And yet a lot of big infrastructural projects still have to be undertaken. The multiplier effect on the economies of the states will be tremendous. Indeed unquantifiable!
Now that the equation has changed at the centre, this is the time to restart. The key issues is that of commitment. Here the commitment of the State of Osun helmsman Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola is worthy of emulation. He is totally committed and has set aside petty jealousy and rivalry in his commitment. His attitude is commendable. Aregbesola is aware that the destruction of the regional system and the subsequent balkanization has adversely affected the prospects and development of the southwest.
The way out is therefore to use regional integration to redress the balance. With an understanding government in place at the centre we can now leverage on the change we worked for to our benefit. For example , the South-West must jointly pursue the repeal of the Railways Act of 1958. Such a move will allow us to fast-track the integrated development of the railway system across the region. The economic effect and benefits will be immense. Every aspect of our economy will be positively affected; agriculture, interstate commerce, manufacturing and so on and so forth. It is a win/win. Every other area of socio-economic endeavour will follow.
What’s more? The states in the region can jointly undertake agricultural and industrial projects for example and use jointly owned commodity exhanges and commodity boards to turn the region into an agro-industrial power house. The possibilities are immense. The same goes for mining, information technology, manufacturing and so on.
We deceive ourselves if we think we can go it alone. The current economic climate will show up the futility of a go-it-alone policy. It just won’t work.
For this reason all hands must be on deck to kick-start the process. A lot of work has already been done as background research work; it must now be activated. The South-West like elsewhere faces a demographic bulge. Mishandled it could turn into a social catastrophe. On the other hand it can be turned into an exciting opportunity. The immense opportunities provided by regional integration provides this.
In addition this is the time for the South-West to play catch up. There is no doubt that we lost out big time in the past. This is why we must use the present change as an opportunity to rebuild. However as we know ‘heaven helps those who help themselves’. By pooling resources and with careful planning and give and take the South-West can make it happen. We who have led the way before must once again blaze the trail. We cannot afford to slide backward. The present generation have a duty to promote the well-being of the next generation. This is why the impetus of regional integration is incontrovertible.