• Monday, March 04, 2024
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BusinessDay

A case for regional integration

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In this era of open letters, we write from the standpoint of our engagements in the process of pursuing the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Strategy Roadmap, which culminated in the eventual establishment of the technocratic institution, DAWN Commission. In our capacity as Staff Associates, we hereby present a compelling case for the Southwest regional integration agenda and the reason for being.The idea which hitherto appeared nebulous has metamorphosed into a fait accompli.

As far back as the Middle Ages, Southwest Nigeria has been known to be a hub of civilisation.Urbanization and Social Change in West Africa(1978) records thatYoruba towns were mentioned in written chronicles of the sixteenth century.With a history of complex pre-colonial system of urban residence, economic production and trade, the region has to her credit the first television station, the first skyscraper, the first university and the first teaching hospital in the country.  Also the premier beneficiaries of Western education in the country, a schemedescribed by Babatunde Fafunwaas the boldest and perhaps the most unprecedented educational scheme in Africa South of the Sahara.

Centuries after this pacesetting epoch, the region has undergone different appellations, governments and exclusive changes. Presently, with a population of about forty (40) million, the region epitomises the quintessence of civilisation as the hub of trade and commerce, eclectic brains and home to unorthodox wisdom.Southwest as a geo-political zone refers to Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo and is potentially poised and strategically equipped to wield the power of transformation as a consolidated economic bloc.

In 2012, the Gross Regional Output of the region grew with an absolute nominal increase of 21.8%. Currently, the Southwest landmass of about 80,000km2plays host to over 60% of Nigeria’s industrial capacity. The region contributes 61.3% to the national GDP in the following non-oil economic activities: Manufacturing, Wholesale and retailing, Building and Construction, Hotel and Restaurants, Business and other Services. Report by Renaissance Capital recently revealed that four (4) states in the Region are amongst the nine (9) largest economies in the country with more facts gradually emerging testifying to the phenomenal growth in the region.

A Case for Western Nigeria Development

Nigeria as an economy is fast being eroded of her glory with the myriads of socio-economic challenges bedevilling the giant nation. As vast and enormous as these challenges seem to be, so are the suggested doses of panacea. Essentially, this underscores the fact that the challenges in the 21st century are dynamic. This dynamism calls for multiple-barrels of solutions, one of which is developing the growth hubs (Regions) in the country. In growth dynamics, it is important to note that developing component units results into growth for the whole. This consequentially is crux of the argument for the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission.

This development thinking paradigm is rare and should be embraced if we seek the manifestation of a bottom-up kind of development. It is increasingly becoming pertinent to put Nigeria’s development in regional context. Indeed, DAWN Commission presents a regional synergy that achieves high economies of scalewhichtranscends into national development.

How do we intend to close the gap amongst States and Regions in terms of socio-economic development? DAWN Commission’sstrategic objective aims to merge strengths, leverage competitive advantages, encourage peer learning (at State level) and minimise duplication of efforts. The imperative of the emergence of this think tank is defined by the need to seek resource maximization through joint exploration of innovative solutions for achieving social, economic, human and physical development. Indeed, the merits of integration are legion, the most salient being to unleash their collective enterprise with the final outcome of promoting citizens’ well-being and improving lives.

DAWN Roadmap

With the realisation of the relevance of States in Southwest Nigeria to pursue a common integrated development agenda, a gathering of intellectuals and practitioners (home and abroad) embarked on a detailed and creative discourse. The aftermath of this series of meetings is the birth of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Roadmap. Based on the àgbájo owó orientation,the roadmap clearly outlines the pillars around which the development of the region is to be anchored. These include: (1) Presenting the region as a bloc for global competitiveness by strategically harnessing its economic competitive elements; (2) infrastructural development; (3) a strong focus on both social and human capital development; (4) Building inclusive institutions and (5) Homeland affairs and security.

According to Christine Lagarde, the Managing Director of The International Monetary Fund (IMF), “We need a reset in the way the economy grows around the world.”With the recent pitch for circular economy at the recently concluded World Economic Forum, the Commissionrelates with the restorative design promoting an integrated market approach. This developmental paradigm will help address the imbalance in the system.

Adeptly conscious of our responsibilities as the organisation to make, midwife, mainstream and monitor ideas for development in the region, we have in the six months of our existence: 1. Planned the Zonal Public hearing on the review of the revenue allocation formula, Southwest Zone; 2. Partnered with UNIOSUN and Adulawo Innovations and Technology Institute on the innovation fair and launching of the Southwest Nigeria competitiveness forum and innovation cluster consortium; 3. Sponsored TEDx Bodija with the theme ‘Time and Space’ with a presentation on Transformational Development and; 4. Co-hosted Odu’a Economic Summit 2013 with Odu’a Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture amongst others.

Challenges

As an organisation departing from the conventional style of development, DAWN requires a change in thinking and approach on the part of the citizenry. Accepting this change happens to be one major challenge to the drive for growth in the region.

The Commission in itsfew months of existence haserroneously been tipped to have political party affiliations with some seeing the Commission as a secession-promoting organization. It is imperative to State that the roadmap and pillars of integrated development for Southwest Nigeria is within the context of the Nigerian nation-State. DAWN Commission is what the European Union (EU) is to member-States in the European continent.

We advocate for a federalist-oriented case for regional development and until true federalism manifests, the reality of development in the region will be a mere facade. Now is the era of driving development from the bottom up, making the constituents stronger than the central, thereby building a strong case for an all-inclusive growth.

Indeed, integration is a criticalsine qua non tofast paced phenomenal development in Nigeria. In this light, DAWN Commission has the mandate to formulate and commence a composite regional development strategynot just to rejuvenate the carcasses of past successes but to in a conscious, constant and institutionalized process, make Southwest Nigeria the first place of choice to live, to work, to invest and to visit.

By: FAJEMILEHIN V. Yetunde &  SEYINGBO V. Adedotun