My heart is full of joy today. No, I did not win a lottery and nothing has changed in my personal circumstance. Indeed, given the uncertainties of life following the general election in my adopted and beloved country, there is plenty to worry a reflective mind. But with the one who can take control of everything and calm the tide and turbulence of life in charge, worrying is unwarranted.
I have joy in my heart because something great and desirable is finally happening in my native land as hope rises for the West. “It is God’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.”
Between October 7 and October 21, 2016 I did a three-part series on “Rethinking Southwest priorities.” In the second part, I argued that our political leaders, who have been favoured by providence as the Joshuas of our time, must lead our people with vision to the Promised Land. The best way to do so, I observed, is to remove the artificial boundaries that stand in the way of regional development. I submitted as follows:
“It was because I believe strongly that we must find a creative way of blurring the sharp and dangerous edges that the artificial boundaries between states have created, and remove the wedges that had effectively blocked the development of the entire region that I and other well-meaning citizens welcomed the emergence of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) a bold initiative of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) a few years ago.
For no matter the divisions, the people of Southwest are one and their leaders, no matter what the temptations are, must refrain from putting them asunder. States are supposedly created for administrative purposes. They must not be used in a way that retards growth or limit the opportunities for the people, and certainly never in a way that tears apart the fabric of the Yoruba nation.
In the light of the difference between the past and the present Southwest in terms of the transition from one region to six states, what adjustments need to be made to ensure that the people still matter and their social and economic interests are enhanced?
Voluntary regional integration must be the policy objective of the leaders of the states and region and party affiliation must not stand in the way of this important ideal. Years ago, I made this point in a keynote address to Egbe Omo Yoruba National Convention that took place in Baltimore, Maryland. It was also part of my submission when I gave the Bola Ige Memorial Lecture a few years ago. DAWN had not been established in those days, and the partisan war over rigged elections was still very much fierce. The challenge was for victims to accept the leadership of those who stole their mandate and work with them for the integration of the region. Happily, that war is over and political enemies of the past now wine and dine together on the same political table.
What needs to be overcome now is fiefdom mentality and leadership temptation to resist cross-fertilisation of ideas and practices across territorial boundaries.”
I never doubted the leadership credentials of our governors and political leaders. Neither did I question their patriotic fervour. The joy in my heart today is that my assumptions have been proved true and my argument in the series has been determined to be valid and sound.
I had challenged our political leaders on the general issue of regional integration for economic development. I also challenged my dynamic governors Ajimobi and Aregbesola of Oyo and Osun states respectively on the LAUTECH crisis. A week later, I read about their meeting which resolved the crisis with an affirmation of the joint ownership of the institution by their two states. I sent both congratulatory messages in appreciation of their mature leadership. That was another excellent example of responsive governance.
On the general issue of regional integration, I have always been aware of the strong commitment of our leaders to the concept. The challenge has been the frustrating combination of a willing spirit and a weak body. Yet the real solution for finding strength for the weakness of the body has ironically been to take the plunge and challenge the body. That is what has just occurred, thanks again to the recognition by the governors that a desperate time such as this needs a desperate solution.
As I browse gleefully through the communique issued at the end of their conference on November 21, 2016, I could not resist calling our leader, Chief Adebisi Akande, to share my ecstatic state of mind with him. I was particularly thrilled that the governors affirmed the principle championed by Chief Obafemi Awolowo that the sole purpose of government is the welfare of the people. This is expressed brilliantly as the first item on the communique: “That the optimum interest of the Yoruba people should be the prime focus of the six state governments at all times, and that all politics within the region must henceforth be guided by the philosophy of politics of development.”
Governor Ajimobi’s welcome statement set the ball rolling: “Let’s face it. We cannot continue to pretend that we can deal with the issues confronting our region and her people on a case-by-case, insular State basis. It will not work…State by state solutions, desirable as they might seem, are no longer enough. The capacity to optimise the space for development lies in collective thinking and actions, as well as effective collaborative governance.”
Other resolutions in the communique are equally noteworthy and praiseworthy:
“That regional cooperation, synergy and economies of scale are critical to the development of the region.
“That good intentions are not enough unless backed by sincerity of purpose and commitment to action.
“That the prosperity of any constituent part of the region is ultimately negated if other parts are not similarly prosperous.
“That political difference should no longer be a barrier to the economic development of the region where the aggregate welfare of Yoruba people is concerned. All the states consequently agreed to work together within the framework of a people-centred development strategy.
“A regime of continuity, regularity and urgency of interaction was canvassed and agreed upon by the meeting. The present crop of governors therefore agreed to bequeath to their people a good legacy reflective of the visions of our founding fathers and common ancestors.
“The states also agreed to jointly embark on collaborative programmes in areas of common interest that require immediate action in the region. These include security, education, transportation infrastructure (roads, rail and water transportation), trade, commerce, agriculture and sports.
“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.
“That the current Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, should also serve as the chairman of the commission.
“DAWN Commission shall consequently develop programmes and activities along the identified areas of cooperation and bring them up for cooperative implementation.”
In a clear message of deviance to agents of destabilisation, and a courageous stand on the unity of the West, the governors boldly declared that “politics and external influence will not divide us.” What blood and historical ties have joined together, let no one attempt to put asunder.
This is what progressives have urged since the beginning of the Fourth Republic. That Governor Fayose saw it fit and morally obligatory to sit with his peers in the All Progressive Congress, and that Governor Mimiko, despite the partisan bickering that fills the air of Ondo can send his SSG to meet with his political opponents because they all recognise their blood ties and place a premium on the welfare of our people, must go down as the beginning of another glorious era of the Southwest.
I hope and pray that the new spirit of unity is sustained for the sake of the masses of our people whose lives would be positively impacted. The ball is now in the court of DAWN!