• Governors of the South West states close ranks to get out of recession and work for a brighter tomorrow
The decision by governors of the six states in the South West to put aside personal, partisan and political differences in designing a common economic integration effort is commendable. Following a meeting attended by leaders of all the states in the region, it was resolved that the current economic challenges in the country call for a new approach if the states are to survive and resume their pace-setting role in the country.
This would not be the first time that the political leaders would deliberate on the imperative of unity. In 2012, similar meetings were held in Ibadan, Ado-Ekiti and Abeokuta and similar speeches were made upon presentations by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN). The efforts failed as impolitic statements made by some of the leaders led to serious disagreements.
We hope the correct lessons have been learnt from previous failed attempts. Two significant developments tend to suggest that the governors could be sincere in the new move. First, more than ever before, a recession is biting in the country. The only state in the region that has been able to pay its bills efficiently is Lagos. Others are struggling with payment of workers’ salaries and are thus unable to embark on capital projects. The governors must have realised that unless they come together, they could sink.
Second, the admission of Lagos to the fold would be of immense benefit to all. Lagos is the most populous of the states in the region. It is also the most economic developed. The population advantage has provided a large market into which the others could tap. Recently, the state had to go into strategic business partnership with Kebbi State in the production of rice.
There are many similar opportunities in the region that could have been of mutual benefit to the partners. Food consumed in the state now officially described as the fifth largest economy in the continent has been estimated at N3 billion. This is huge and the needed capital to cultivate food crops in any of the other states in the region could be supplied by Lagos.
Lagos State is overcrowded, thus, the pressure on available infrastructure is unbearable. Many who live in the city are unable to afford decent accommodation and that has created slums. If the states could come together as they are proposing to boost linkages, the mega city could be decongested as workers there could live in contiguous states.
We agree, therefore, with the resolution to “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, and sports, and that the DAWN Commission should be vigorously strengthened to coordinate the regional development process.”
We call on the Federal Government to support the Western Nigeria integration effort. It could serve as a catalyst for the development of the various regions of the country. Whereas it has become difficult to revert to the regions we had in the First Republic, it is obvious that collaboration and integration among states of common historical and cultural ties has become inevitable. It is in the interest of the Federal Government to support the move. In the same way that it avoided legal niceties to cede some power to the states in electricity supply and solid minerals exploitation, the regions could be encouraged to boost rail transportation and other items on the exclusive list of the constitution.
If all the regions could adopt this model of development, Nigeria would soon truly resume the status of the giant of Africa. Healthy competition as was the case in the First Republic would be the order of the day once again and the people would be the better for it. As the governors observed, “all politics must be politics of development and regional cooperation; synergy and economics of scale is important to move the region forward, and good intentions must be backed by sincerity of purpose.”
Rhetoric is certainly not enough. The people need to see sincerity in these declarations and resolutions.