The recent meeting of the governors from the South-West in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, marks another watershed in the annals of the region. It is another strategic thinking by a region that is known for leadership with vision, a virtue that distinguished the South-West from its peers. Coming at a period when the country is facing very harsh and tough times and challenges, the meeting underscores the general belief among the people that the region needs to be rescued, especially against the backdrop of terrifying security challenges and a parlous economy that was hitherto the envy of other sections of the federation.
That the meeting, organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), was attended by the governors and not representatives amply showed the urgency and desirability of a collective will and effort, since it takes a whole to make a serious impact, given the nature and manner of suffocating challenges. From massive youth unemployment to incessant threat from bandits and herdsmen as well as collapsed infrastructure, the South-West is writhing under a heavy burden.
Their decision to create a joint task force and joint actions on security threats to guarantee the safety of lives, property and prosperity of the people of the region, foster competitive advantage and establish a Western Nigeria Export Development Initiative (WENEDI) to drive the export potentials of the region is ennobling.
What is required now is for the governors to fully demonstrate the commitment, will and capacity to walk the talk. This is the only way to convince the people that there is a new dawn that is meant to build institutions that would restore the lost glory of the region, as encouraged by the political leadership of the zone through integration at post-independence Nigeria.
Part of the beauty of federalism is the principle that empowers the federating units to explore the factor of comparative advantage, which is at the heart of the prolonged clamour for restructuring of the country. Therefore, the current initiative by the governors is avowal on the imperative of a synergy to pool resources together towards exploring the bond of commonality at all fronts. Sadly, the Ministries of Integration which some of the governors individually created at the dawn of the DAWN have been scrapped. We strongly believe that is not good enough.
It is also imperative that the governors should be more pragmatic in tackling the issue of security. There is nothing wrong in all the governors in the zone adopting the template set by the Ekiti State government on grazing bill, as herdsmen constitute the greatest threat to security of life and property now.
One way to immortalise the Director General of DAWN, Dr Dipo Famakinwa, who suddenly passed on recently, as well as buoy the policy of integration is by the South-West states collaborating in the area of agriculture. The success and impact of the Lagos and Kebbi states in the production of rice reveal the huge potentialities of such collaboration among states in the South-West, which is blessed with clement climate for all year-round farming and cultivation. Thus, we recommend that western states should work together on agriculture based on the comparative advantage in the growing of specific crops.