By Leke Adeseri, South West Editor & Ola Ajayi
Governors of the six states in the South-Western geo-political zone have resolved to forge a common front at regional integration by jointly staving off external influences capable of stifling the region’s economic and social interests.
Irrespective of their political affiliations, the governors said they have decided to be their brother’s keepers by promoting common programmes and projects capable of enhancing the human capital development of the region.
This was one of the highlights of the meeting of the governors’ economic forum, hosted yesterday by the Governor of Oyo State, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, at the Executive Council Chambers, in Ibadan.
The governors mulled the need to introduce uniform tariffs on commodities, while agreeing on the need to seek areas of cooperation in agriculture, transportation, rail system, sports and other areas of common interest.
Other governors at the meeting were Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State; Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State; and Mr. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, while Secretary to Ondo State Government, Mr. Rotimi Adelola, represented the Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
In his welcome address, Ajimobi said attendance of the governors signposted the high importance they paid to the common challenges besetting the zone, part of which, he said, was the difficulties in the prompt payment of workers’ salaries and pensions.
Ajimobi said: “Your presence at this meeting is a clear testimony of the importance you all have attached to the common challenges confronting us as a people. Today our country is buffeted by economic and political challenges.
“Several states are struggling to pay basic salaries with arrears running into several months; manufacturers struggling to access foreign exchange for raw materials are shutting down leading to mass redundancy of our people.
“Unfortunately most of these people are resident in the South-West region, which is the industrial base of the country. We need to quickly explore escape routes from poverty through empowerment and equipping of our youths with requisite skills.
A communiqué read at the end of the meeting by the governor of Ekiti State said that the forum reiterated the need to use regional integration to create economic relief for the people of the South-West in the face of the pervading economic recession.
Fayose stressed that the conversation dwelt on pragmatic steps necessary to be taken to enhance the development of the region and to proffer the surest way to put food on the table of the common people.
Regardless of their political differences, he said that the governors were more concerned about their relations by the force of history and geographical location, the unity of which, he said, the regions forebears fought for and defended.
Fayose said: “All states, including Ekiti, have subscribed to and agreed that regional integration is the best way forward. We must do everything humanly possible not to go back on our resolves. It is forward for the people and for the Yoruba race.
“We agreed that the next meeting, which holds in the next two months, will be held in Ekiti State.”
Earlier, the governor had told the forum to examine issues of common concern and learn from models that had worked for one state, with a view to replicating them for the common good of the people.
Aregbesola pleaded with his colleagues to take advantage of the remaining period of their tenure by ensuring that they redouble their efforts to ensure the survival and prosperity of the people of the region.
Governor Amosun also restated the need for the governors to shed political differences by walking in the footsteps of the region’s nationalists and torchbearers, stressing that the unity of the region would be its strength.
On his part, Ambode reminded his colleagues that the touted prosperity of Lagos State could only be sustained by the prosperity of its neighbour states.
He said he was committed to the improvement in the revenue base of the South-West such that a rail system would make it possible for people to work in Lagos State and live in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
The meeting’s communique
In a 12-point communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the governors said, the leadership of the region agreed and resolved that deliberate, concerted and determined collaborative and cooperative regional-based actions should be carried out.
They also said, “the interest of the Yoruba people should be in focus at all times, and all politics must be politics of development.”
“That regional cooperation, synergy and economics of scale is important to move the region forward; that good intentions must be backed by sincerity of purpose; that the prosperity of any constituent part is negated if others are not.”
The communique signed by the Director General of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, Mr. Dipo Famakinwa stated further, “that political differences should no longer be a barrier to the economic development of the region while the welfare of the people should be foremost.
They also noted that “a regime of continuity, regularity and urgency of interaction is important among the leadership of the region; The states should jointly embark on collaborative programmes in areas of common cooperation identified as needing immediate attention in the region include security, education, transportation infrastructure, including roads, rail and water transportation, Trade and Commerce linkages, Agriculture, and Sports; that the DAWN Commission (the regional development agency for pursuing the regional integration agenda of the States of Western Nigeria, comprising Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo) should be vigorously strengthened to coordinate the regional development process; all the states agreed to work together within the framework of people-centric development and that the present crop of governors must bequeath to the people a good legacy reflective of the visions of our founding fathers and common ancestors.
Other points contained in the communique include, the current Chairman of the Southwest Governors’ Forum, Senator Abiola Ajimobi should also serve as the Chairman of the Commission and that DAWN Commission shall develop programmes and activities along the identified areas of cooperation and bring them up for cooperative implementation.
At the end of the forum, participants underscored the fact that regional integration and sustainable economic development of the Southwest Region presents an opportunity that can provide the necessary intervention to push the Region and indeed the whole of Nigeria out of economic recession into economic prosperity.