The Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission has enlisted more supporters for its efforts in economic and social integration efforts of the six states in Southwest Nigeria.
Last week it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Southwest Football Forum and organised a workshop for media practitioners where regional integration, its gains as well as concepts such as true federalism, restructuring, secession etc were fully examined.
The MoU was aimed at starting Western regional football tournaments to identify young talents and provide the platform for them to maximize their potentials.
According to the Acting Director General, Mr Seye Oyeleye said that the regional football tournaments would be able to create one million direct and indirect jobs with multiplier economic effects across the region.
While addressing media practitioners and other professionals that participated in the workshop held at its Cocoa House, Ibadan headquarters, Its Acting Director General, Mr Seye Oyeleye, said all stakeholders have all to gain and nothing to lose in making Western Nigeria integration a success.
The workshop was used to examine the current agitations for restructuring of Nigeria as well as true federalism, regionalism and secession.
The DAWN Acting DG emphasized to participants at the workshop the need for corporate bodies and all citizens living in the region to support its activities as it creates the platform for interaction and template for developmental initiatives.
Emphasizing that the DAWN agenda is not a separatist one, Oyeleye said it was just a project aimed at harnessing the potentials of Western Nigeria for socio-economic well-being of its people and residents.
For Oyeleye, Nigeria is better when all the parts stay together. “There is nothing wrong in restructuring our country. It will make it better. But it should not lead to war or secession because we are better together.” He said.
While quoting the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr Kayode Fayemi, on the strategic importance of DAWN, Oyeleye said: “The Southwest regional integration agenda is an eminently sensible course of action. Socio-culturally, the Southwest is homogeneous. Ecologically, the region is characterized by lush vegetation and fertile soil. But the most compelling reason for integration is provided by economic geography. We must understand that the lines that demarcate the region into states are cartographical marks laid down for administrative convenience. In real terms, they are imaginary. In this respect, we share a common destiny. To a great extent, the social and economic challenges that we face are the same.”
He added: “DAWN is widely acknowledged as presenting an opportunity for the states of Western Nigeria (SoWN), to act together and focus on critical development priority areas. The strategy is premised on the need to create a basket of collective actions towards delivering significant development outcomes to the people of the region.
“The vision behind the agenda is clear: it is to make Western Nigeria the preferred destination to visit, live, work and invest. Western Nigeria refers to the Southwest geopolitical zone as a definitional boundary comprising Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states. Apart from contiguous boundaries, the states have close historical and cultural affinities, common language, similar development orientation and trajectory; all of which is being combined as a leverage for the development of the region.
“The agenda seeks to commit the leadership of the region to governance actions and activities that deliver impactful results to the people, through deliberate regional thinking, planning, and acting together in critical areas of development possibilities and potentials. It also seeks to mobilize the collective strengths,enterprise, assets and endowments lying within the States.
“DAWN is a regional development strategy. There is a need to seek resource maximization through joint exploration of innovative solutions for achieving social, economic, human and physical development. The development agenda is therefore a united front of all the states in the region for a secured future for all, which takes into consideration the development of Western Region as a consolidated bloc of interventions, economic opportunities, resource optimization, investment promotion, advisory, guidance and access; development assistance and multilateral support.
It prescribes a compelling roadmap for achieving social and economic development, through a synergy of development actions that cut across the six constituent States of the Region, hoping that successful models and best cases can evolve which would then be copied or replicated across zonal boundaries. It is hoped that Nigeria’s development process can then be fast-tracked in an atmosphere of competitive regional initiatives and actions across the country.”
He said the workshop was organised to enlighten journalists on the calls for restructuring of Nigeria, devolution of power, regional integration, and the debate on Nigerian federalism so that they would be better informed to play their role of agenda setting from informed perspectives.
Participants hailed the commission for blazing the trail in regional integration in Nigeria.
Giving a lecture on the topic: “Understanding Nigerian Federalism: Origin, Trajectory, Dynamics and Travails,” a professor of International Relations at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Williams Fawole, explained that the hotbeds of sub-national agitations for break-up of Nigeria has necessitated the need for negotiation of the country’s existence.
Fawole said: “I am convinced that Nigeria needs to be negotiated along the lines that promote unity, equity and justice for the benefit of its diverse people, not for the purpose of break-up, for it is better for all Nigerians to hang together so that none will hang separately.
“It is not for nothing that different parts of Nigeria are on the boil, as hotbeds of sub-national agitations, and there is no point pretending that all is well with the country.”
The don noted that the existence of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which has existed for about 400 years as a single country, came up for negotiation recently through a referendum by Scotland, adding that Canada, another former British colony, has separatist agitations, whilst Spain is currently “grappling with Basque and Catalonian nationalism. In what ways is Nigeria, another multinational conglomerate state, different form these other countries.
“It is ludicrous if not utterly dangerous for the ruling elite to pretend that the current agitations for Biafra, Niger Delta Republic and similar centrifugal manifestations are mere inconveniences that will go away if we ignore them long enough, for they will not go away unless and until they are addressed.
“The first noble step is to change the archaic and obsolete thinking of Nigerian leaders, who want to equate restructuring with break-up of the country. It is without dispute that after nearly six decades of independence, various cracks have emerged in the fabric and political architecture of the country that call for urgent, comprehensive, holistic, honest and dispassionate reappraisal of the terms and principles of peaceful cohabitation for the sake of its corporate survival.
“This is simply the restructuring that is being advocated, not a negotiation of its break up. We must endeavour to strengthen the glue that holds Nigeria together, rather. Than let things fall apart because of the insensitivity and selfishness of the ruling elite.
“However, let no one be deceived to imagine that restructuring is the sole panacea to the country’s many ills, such as failed state institutions, collapsed infrastructure, massive youth unemployment, harsh economic recession, pervasive insecurity across the land exemplified by the Boko Haram insurrection, unchecked armed robbery, relentless kidnappings, ritual murders and so on, but it is an inevitable part of the solutions we must embrace at this historical conjecture. Ethnic hurt need to be assuaged, rather than ignored. Nigeria is much better a single country than if it is divided. All the agitations for and threats of secession are unhelpful.