By Monsuru Olowoopejo
AFTER 40 years of exclusion from O’odua Group, Lagos State was officially admitted into O’dua Investment by five other states, to boost investment drive within the region.
Perhaps, underscoring the strategic role of Lagos to the development of the region, South-West governors have harped on the need for concerted efforts to collaborate for progress of the region.
In attendance at the meeting were Governors Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti).
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga.
The governors, however, took turns to harp on the need for concerted efforts at the two-day Western Nigerian Governors’ Forum quarterly meeting held at Lagos House, Alausa, Ikeja, themed: Consolidating the legacy of regional integration.
We need increased collaboration—Ambode
In his opening remarks, Ambode said there was no better time for states in the region to pull together to fathom ways of tackling social and economic challenges facing the people individually and collectively.
He particularly emphasized the need for comprehensive, sustainable and collective food security plan, as well as collaborative efforts on issues of security, economy and well-being of the people, among others.
Ambode said: “Increased collaboration in agricultural activities is critical to sustaining the teeming population of Western Nigeria. Lagos State alone has over 23 million people and on record, 85 people migrate into Lagos from other parts of Nigeria on hourly basis.
“The drive towards food security is therefore not only to ensure that Lagosians have enough to eat, but that the people of the entire Western Nigeria have enough to eat and export to other states and outside Nigeria.
“The whole essence of food security of Western Nigeria is thus focused on our states maximizing their comparative advantages to guarantee increased food, job creation and the welfare of our people,” he added.
There’s need for unity—Amosun
Amosun, who was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga, stressed that there was need to strengthen the legacies the unity of the region brought earlier.
He said: “We have realised that there is need to consolidate on the legacies of regional integration. We need to continue consolidation of regional integration. The South-West regional forum is very key to the development that we have presently in the country. It will be another avenue so that we can move the South-West forward. The spirit of togetherness will continue to propel us to greatness.”
We need the spirit of collectivism —Ajimobi
On his part, Ajimobi urged his colleagues to commit themselves to collective development of the region and their goal, saying, we must be collectively determined and focus on development of the region.
Ajimobi said: “The spirit of collectivism and not individualism should continue to be our watch word. The reality of the moment further showed that our focus must be on agriculture, education, security and physical infrastructure.”
Oneness in the region imperative — Aregbesola
While harping on the need for comparative advantages towards development of the region, Aregbesola argued that oneness in the region must be strengthened daily for South- West to regain its status and address its challenges.
Aregbesola said: “Development must be tackled seriously within the region. Lagos has been working to ensure unity among other states but it must do more. It is noteworthy that the state is investing in the integration of the region especially investing in other states.
“If Lagos doesn’t invest in the integration of South-West, it will suffer the consequence. It is not that we don’t appreciate the effort of the state but we must emphasise what it must do. It cannot sustain the pressure that its success has continued to attract to it. It is the interest of all to relieve Lagos of the pressure.
“We all must be ready to develop in a way that will support Lagos demographically. If Lagos understands this key role and support the region to achieve its potential, it will stimulate what the west will enjoy.”
I’m committed to regional integration —Fayose
Fayose argued that every state within the region must do more for comfort and well-being of the Yoruba nation.
He said: “As much as we want restructuring; we want true federalism; I am committed to it but talking about Nigeria, the west has potentials; we have the capacity to develop this country and with Lagos on the driver’s seat, we can save the whole of this country.
“The states of the South-West are looking up to Ambode. As Governor of Ekiti, I barely get allocation that pays my salary but when we look at Lagos being in the South-West, we are consoled and Lagos can make the whole of the South-West comfortable but we will continue to come to Lagos if you don’t do something about it.
“We need Ambode to lead South-West growth and if we are able to achieve this, in another 10 years, the issue will no longer be restructuring because people will begin to look at what is happening in the west,” Fayose said.
Fayose, who is the only Governor of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the region, said credit must also be given to the National Leader of All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu for his contribution to the growth and economic integration of the south west.
“Asiwaju Tinubu laid the foundation; nobody can deny it. I am never a member of APC and I will never be but the truth must be said at all times. The environment where we are today tells it all. I am particularly proud of his product – Akinwunmi Ambode, Governor of Lagos State,” he said.
On admittance of Lagos into O’dua group
Aside the official admission, the governors also allocated 115 million shares to Lagos State after shares and size of the conglomerate’s equity increased to 690 million shares.
While addressing his colleagues on need for Lagos admittance into the group, Aregbesola opined that incorporation of Lagos into the economic framework of the region is significant and important for the region.
“We have signed the inclusion of Lagos into Oodua group of company. With that, the share and size of the equity of the conglomerate has increased to 690 million shares with each of the states having 115 million shares. We hope that the inclusion of Lagos will drive the economy of the region”, he said.