Government of Ekiti State, Nigeria.

Why Southwest Needs Economic Reintegration, By Fayemi

March 19, 2012

It Is Essentially About Development, Not Politics

EVEN as the implementation of the Southwest regional economic reintegration policy unfolds, and some doubts have been expressed regarding the viability of the policy, one of the stakeholders in the formulation of the working document, Ekiti State Governor, Kayode Fayemi says the policy will transform the Southwest economy and stimulate quick growth and development.

Explaining the idea behind the policy in an interview with The Guardian at the weekend, Fayemi said within the context of true federalism, such programme is important for the democratic growth of the Southwest, and Nigeria.

According to him, there is the need to foster integration and cooperation across the states of the previous Western Region – Ekiti, Oyo, Osun, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Edo – by leveraging on the unique competencies of each state, in order to uplift their competitive edges and thereby promote a synergy that leads to the creation of a more efficient economy in the Southwest.

He said the coming to power of progressive government in the states, provides the push towards regional integration, as a means of securing a shared basis for growth and development.

He said, “Regional integration is fundamentally a mechanism that encapsulates our common history, values, experiences, social and political goals. This determination to bond for growth has been with our people and precursors prior to the days of colonialism, when political and economic structures that were unique were set up, which were not only enviable across Africa, but were fairly competitive in the world. And, besides the unprecedented template of the Western Region’s achievements between 1952 and 1959, there is also the history of the mutually beneficial cooperation that existed among the LOOBO (Lagos, Oyo, Ondo, Bendel and Ogun) States between 1979 and 1982.

“The case for a notion of regional development that transcends limited state boundaries is necessitated by the purpose of revising the construct of a territorial state, where artificial boundaries have become the legitimating force for arrested development in several states, which are merely empty constitutional entities that have no relevance to their people. Therefore, one could argue in favour of a confinable regional development mechanism that is properly structured as the basis of a sustainable democratic agenda.”

On why the Southwest leadership now resorts to regionalism in a federal situation, Fayemi explained that regionalism seeks to enable the process of political, legal, economic, social and cultural cooperation among states, as a way of rapidly boosting their growth and development.

When properly conceived and operated, he said it would facilitate the execution of projects across participating states in areas of mutual benefit and comparative advantage, in a manner that reinvents the development paradigm of the old Western region.

He said, “Regionalism is about the development of the Southwest along lines that conceive the region as an economic block that would facilitate a cost effective approach to the development of infrastructure, industrialisation, commerce, the environment and agriculture. It is about development as freedom and the essential basis of creating life more abundant.

“Moreover, the current global economic downturn and the efforts to rise out of this has made the development of a regional model of economic and social organisation more relevant as units within this system are primed to pool resources together to withstand shocks and unfortunate circumstances.

Listing the objectives of regional integration, he said it would build a new momentum for engaging and mobilising our people, respective states and inherent capacities; build a consensus on major issues of communal concern; facilitate a genuine process of political and economic cooperation for the much needed rapid growth and development of states in the Southwest.

He further explained the goals to include; promotion of the notion of good governance through which the goods and dividends of representative democracy can be accessed by the people of the Southwest; develop a common set of practices and development strategies that will enhance an even and equitable level of development across the states of the Southwest, which would ultimately benefit the people of the region; create a platform for the sharing of resources and expertise across the region for the common purpose of development; attain the objectives of governance, in terms of human capital development, the delivery of healthcare services, etc which are coterminous with some of the goals of the Millennium Development Goals in the Southwest; and the forging of regional alliances makes this more feasible in terms of its achievement; maximise the potentials for job creation and the expansion of opportunities and harness the fairly homogenous and unique history of the region in order to create value.

On fears that economic reintegration could lead to political domination, Fayemi said, “we are talking development and development is not party based. It is about investing in the people and putting the people first.” On whether the Labour government in Ondo should feel at home with the policy, Fayemi said, “To the best of my knowledge, Governor Mimiko is as committed as any of us on the development agenda for Western Nigeria. Governor Oshiomhole, my colleagues in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Osun, they are equally, unapologetically committed to the development agenda that seeks to transform the lives of our people for the better. I don’t see any dichotomy in our viewpoints on the issue.

“If you take that development to the political arena, of course, Governor Mimiko does not belong to our party; he has his own party and he has every right and every reason to want to push the interest of that party. We would love a situation in which we all can work together in one political party. But you know, even our sage, chief Awolowo, had people from Ikenne, who were not in the UPN and the Action Group. People forget this. President Shagari’s Attorney General was from the same community as chief Awolowo. Everyone who is familiar with the history of Yoruba land will tell you that Yoruba people do not necessarily believe and face the same direction. By and large, majority will, because it is the rule of consensus and because we’ve been fed on the diet of progressive politics all our lives. Majority of us, to a great degree are fundamentally, social democratic in our agenda. There are exceptions to the rules always; and in those exceptions, we are also sufficiently democratic to allow them a free reign, until they become an impediment in the over-aching development agenda of our people.

“So far, Governor Mimiko is not an impediment in that agenda. I think he subscribes fully to it. I think he wants to be fully identified with it. There are differences between him and my party members in Ondo State, that’s politics. Governance is different from politics. There are ties that bind Ondo and Ekiti, I must be honest, that are important to the survival of our states.  I have constituents who have spent the better part of their lives in Akure. They have invested resources in Ondo State, ditto for people of Ondo in Ekiti, in a sense that politics ought not to get in the way of that developmental relationship. I hope that I would be sufficiently endowed with superlative ability to convince my brother to come on board our own train, politically. But that will not stop the relationship.”

This article is written by Alabi Williams and published for the Guardian newspaper on March 18, 2012.

Last modified: March 19, 2012

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