Youths, as widely opined, are the leaders of tomorrow. However, a dangerous trend is surfacing whereby the youths are being neglected, only to be remembered during election periods, and are promised heaven and earth and once political power is obtained whether legally or otherwise, they are abandoned again.
This has always been the trend until recently, when the governments of the Southwest region through the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission came together to act in order to save the future from conspicuous impending danger.
A two-day regional youth summit was held for the first time and hosted by the government of the State of Osun as a bold step to address this issue. FRANCIS EZEDIUNO was part of the summit and writes.
The Western part of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has always been known to be the most progressive region and no other region could be said to have disputed this fact. It has always been a region of firsts. Any student of Nigerian history would be well acquainted with this.
Right from the first university in the country, University College, Ibadan now known as the University of Ibadan (UI); the first storey building in Nigeria located in Badagry; the first secondary school in Nigeria, CMS Grammar School, Bariga; the first skyscraper in Africa, Cocoa House; the first stadium in Africa, the Liberty Stadium, now known as the Obafemi Awolowo Stadium, Ibadan; the first television station in Africa, Western Nigerian Television Service now known as Nigerian Television Authority, Ibadan.
Before that, the first graduate, first medical doctor, first lawyer were all proud Yoruba citizens.
In the area of tradition, culture, politics, education and commerce, the West has always showed a progressive tendency to outshine and outclass the other regions. Outside the country, Nigeria has always been described as made up of the Western Region and others.
Politically, the ruling government of the First Republic noted this quality and therefore embarked on an exercise to divide the West into two and geopolitically extricated the Midwest from the region but notwithstanding, the Yoruba nation proudly stood and trudged on.
It is an open secret that of all the leaders that have been produced in Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo stand out as a good leader and that is why university of Ife was renamed as Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and so many other development strides that even today more than 60 years after their initiation, after 53 years of the abrupt end of the First Republic and 31 years after Awolowo’s demise, his works and some of his policies have not aged and are still very visible all around.
Surprisingly, no other equable leader has risen from this same region or any other geopolitical region to smash the enviable records of the man popularly referred to as Awo The Great!
It was also in this same Western Nigeria that in the regional House of Assembly in 1953, Chief Anthony Enahoro moved a motion for the independence of the country by 1956 which was promptly misunderstood by delegates from the Northern region.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo planned not for the present but for the future. He had a picture of what he wanted even after he had transited to the great beyond. The achievements of the late sage and his team have umpteenth time been used as a template to measure successes decades after his exit.
It was in the light of this, that the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti; the six states in the Southwest geopolitical zone which by incident of history are all Yorubas came together to bring back the glory which the Yoruba nation is known for. The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission was birthed by the governments of the Southwest States of Nigeria as the institutional and programme management body to midwife their Regional Integration Agenda.
It is therefore the dedicated coordinating agency, fully empowered by the governments to ensure the delivery of the composite development aspirations of the Region, as expressed in what has been generally adopted and known as the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN).
The DAWN Commission is the dedicated technocratic institution for the sustainable development of the Southwest Region. The Southwest, with this commission does not have the intention to secede from Nigeria, rather, they are seeking to come together as a body to fight for a single course, the unification of ideas, opinions, dreams, and to forge a common front so as to seek a common future for the region.
The DAWN Commission and the six governors of the Southwest states are now trying to revive this and bring back the lost glory that the region was once known for. The governors then resolved on the best solution to the many problems that has been bedeviling the developments of their region and have decided to work together irrespective of political differences in order to realise this sole aim and other objectives.
The road to achieving this had not been easy but with the desire of the governors, led by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Governor of Osun, who has been openly canvassing for regional integration. He has through his programmes and policies been championing this course such that he created the Ministry of Regional Integration.
From his first term in office, Aregbesola has been known as an open crusader for regionalism and going back in time to embrace the ideals of the glory days of the old West, with a view to applying it where possible in the 21st century Southwestern, Nigeria.
With this in mind, he has overseen the establishment of a Commercial Hub at Dagbolu, near Osogbo where goods from Osun and other neighbouring states will be freighted through rail line to Lagos and goods from Lagos will pass through same route to Osun and other states.
This lofty project has since kicked off with an appreciable amount of successes recorded. It will also be a great injustice not to mention, the free train services provided by Aregbesola’s administration since inception through which holiday makers would journey for free to and fro Osogbo.
These two projects are enough to bring about regional integration, albeit on a small scale.
Since success has been achieved and DAWN Commission was now a reality, the Southwest needed to forge a development plan in line with the aim of the commission, hence there is the need to carry youths along in the same course, having realised that youths are abundant and efficient sources of untapped energy and through their involvement in the whole agenda, it would help in unleashing the desired result.
The governors decided to harness the power of the youths and decided to hold a youth summit with the sole aim of mapping out a 25-year development plan for the region by fully making use of the youths.
Just like the sage planned for the future, the six Southwestern governors have a target of 2040.
The Regional Youth Summit with its theme: ‘WEST 2040: PRODUCTIVITY, PROSPERITY AND PEACE’ is a strategic 25-year Western Nigeria master plan where decisions were reached on how to make the region less dependent on fossil fuel (petrol and diesel). This is because technology has advanced, that in some developed countries, very soon vehicles will not powered by petrol and diesel anymore, but with electricity and solar energy.
At the summit, youths were made to understand that technology is the way out and it is better for them to embrace it now than to be a liability in the future.
Part of the master plan is for the region to be a hub for tourism and agricultural competitiveness where its vast agricultural resources would be harnessed to feed its rapidly increasing population.
In the area of tourism, since all the six states have various tourist attractions, the master plan aims at developing these potentials which will be another source of revenue generation for the government and income for its people.
Since majority of the best educational institution are located within the region, part of the masterplan is to capitalise on the successes which will in turn facilitate the production of an educated workforce.
The issue of technological development is also part of the plan which the summit aimed to draft and it was concluded that the South west should be a region of technologically developed urban centres, where tradition, culture and modernity would achieve a peaceful blend. That is, a peaceful and secure region with a globally competitive Yoruba language and culture.
Imperatively, far reaching decisions were arrived at which it is expected that with faithful implementation, in the next 25 years, the Southwest region would have reached an advanced stage of development.
These decisions are expected to be studied by the state governments in the region in synergy with the DAWN Commission, and with the high hope of having it on ground and fully running within the space of 25 years.
The first is in the area of governance and politics. The entire Yoruba youths insist on restructuring of the current warped federal arrangement that stifles the growth of the region. The youths agreed that the golden era of the region was during regional government of the old West and there is the need to revert to a system of federalism based on regionalism.
It was also agreed that the youths of the Western Nigeria affirm their belief in one united Nigeria based on fairness, equity and strict adherence to the doctrine of federalism, separation of powers and rule of law. And that there is the need to enshrine in the Federal constitution, a role for plebiscites or referendums on certain issues of public importance.
It was part of the resolution that the youths in the region should be encouraged to participate in political governance at both the legislative and executive levels. The ‘Not Too Young To Run’ proposal should be properly institutionalised at both federal and state elections.
On education, it was agreed that the ultimate goal of education should essentially be to produce the quintessential Omoluabi, both in content and character. The education should bring enlightenment to the human mind; prepare people for the world of work; provide the platform for leadership recruitment and provide the means for character building, especially the development of the ‘Total Man’.
Meaning that in the next 25 years, the region should make it a point of duty to take back its position as the pacesetter in education. It is on record that the western region has always been known for achieving firsts in education and this could be seen in the bold steps the various governments are taking to improve on this legacy, particularly in Osun.
Besides, over the years, many of the entrepreneurial geniuses that the west has produced have gone through this process and before they quit the stage, they ended up establishing and creating big local enterprises. This culture is fading off and many schools of thought have attributed it to two things: changing the face of formal education and advancing in the area of technology.
From the summit, however, it was arrived at that to tackle poor entrepreneurial skills and financial illiteracy, the region should support and enable policies in Business development and entrepreneurial skill development; while financial literacy training should be deployed in states of the region.
It was also resolved that legal and regulatory frameworks should be put in place to harmonise and simplify the regime of taxes and levies, while the state governments should also make public their services, procedures, cost and redress mechanism to encourage payment of taxes, so as to lessen reliance on the federal allocation. The creative economy and informal economy (film, music, fashion, food, photography and so on) were also recommended for properly restructuring to stimulate creativity and economic growth as they translate, promote and preserve our indigenous modicums of ethical values and traditions.
On agriculture, it was observed that prior to the coming of the white men, the economy of the Southern Nigeria thrived on by agriculture and commerce. Commerce in the sense that, the produce from farms whether food or cash crops were exchanged or battered for some form of legal tender or something else.
A call however came from the summit to embrace the old order and go back to our long abandoned farmlands. This was because the crude oil which Nigeria still look up to as a major source of revenue is slowly being degraded devaluated and getting rather irrelevant in the face of other biodiesels and technological advancement.
Most heavy equipments and even automobiles are technologically driven and alternatives sources of energy are being sought for, discovered, tested and in some cases adopted. It was recommended that enablers should be put in place so that agriculture can be optimised for youths participation.
On security, it was agreed that no society can succeed in an atmosphere of chaos and disarray, hence there was a recommendation that a mechanism for peaceful coexistence must be put in place. To achieve this, youths have offered to pursue and sustain joint actions against security threats to guarantee the safety of lives, property and prosperity of the people of the region.