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25 Jul 2017

Yoruba better off during regional govt, say governors

Governors of the six southwest states yesterday agreed to work in line with a 25-year master plan.
The 11-point communique read by host Governor Ibikunle Amosun,said the governors would set up an inter – State security task force to tackle the menace of fulani herdsmen and other crimes, establish agricultural produce export processing facilities, adopted the 25 years Master Development Plan designed by the DAWN, and hold regional agricultural summit in Ibadan, Oyo State, to tackle food challenges.

They also agreed that the artificial boundaries of states, religions and political affiliation will not act as barrier to the regional development, adding that all the states had been encouraged to improve bilateral cooperation and foster development.

The forum revealed that it would set up a committee to codify the values and ethos of the Yoruba race, in order to strengthen the identity and unity of the people of the region. It was also decided that the forum would henceforth be known as the Western Nigeria Governors’ Forum.

Southwest governors yesterday lamented that the splitting of the Old Western Region into six states robbed the people of their spirit of oneness and hampered the pace of socio – economic development.

The six governors – Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and Rotimi Akeredolu(Ondo), expressed this sentiment at a meeting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital, during a regional meeting.

At the end of the meeting, they approved the 25-year decelopment plan designed by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) and agreed to collaboprate on security of the region, agricultural development and improvement of infrastructure.

Amosun, who hosted the meeting, said instead of state creation to “build bridges,” it left the Yoruba land  “digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters” as well as fostering boundary disputes and security challenges among them.

The Governor recalled that many landmark achievements were recorded in Yoruba land when it was under one regional economic umbrella during the time of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as Premier. He advised that  the time had come for them to unite, promote  and re -enact the pre-eminence and achievements of the South-West in the Nigerian federation.

According to him, the onerous task on the hands of  the Southwest governors today  is to lead the  people to further prosperous living and  “Economic Self-Determination for South-West Nigeria” which formed the meeting’s theme.

“We will recall those laudable feats made us the envy of other Regions.

“We have physical infrastructure such as the Cocoa House at Ibadan, which was aptly named after the source of its funding; the Agodi Secretariat at Ibadan; and the different roads that connect our towns and cities some of which are still standing the test of time. We also have the educational infrastructure of which we are still benefitting from today.

“Indeed, many of us seated in this room are beneficiaries of the Free Education Programme of that time. It is the same Free Education Programme that culminated in the establishment of a University that was once the most beautiful campus in Sub-Sahara Africa, the then University of Ife, and now appropriately named the Obafemi Awolowo University, at Ile-Ife.

“We cannot also forget the economic infrastructure; we have the O’odua Group as the umbrella Investment House for the commercial enterprise of the Region such as the Sketch Publication; the Wemabod Estates; the Lafia Hotels; the Premier Hotel at Ibadan; the Area J4 Forest Reserve, etc.

“However, the creation of States from the old Western Region in 1976 which should have been an impetus for further socio-economic development have been allowed to create artificial boundaries between our people.

“And to further worsen the situation, some of our people are also making themselves available as instruments of division because of their selfish political gains. The consequence is that our people begin to see themselves as a people of one state or the other rather than as a sub-unit of the entity of the Yoruba people.

“This is not without its attendant challenges of intra and inter-state boundary disputes which have worsened security in some states and, hampered socio-economic development. Instead of building bridges, some of our people are digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters.

Aregbesola said the old Western Nigeria recorded greater feats when it operated as single state than what obtained today as six states.

“We must be mindful of the fact that as singular state then, we achieved more than now when we are divided into six states.

“We must identify our strengths, unify those strengths and explore the strengths for the benefit of our people. We use the development to galvanise our potentials,” Aregbesola said.

Ajimobi explained that there were gains to be tapped from the numerical strength of the Yoruba,  stressing that should the six Southwest states elect to pull together, they would amount to over 60 million population and fit to become a country.

“I will like to plead for not only inter-governmental relationship but also inter personal relationship. Six of us combined, we are talking about more than 60 million people and that is more than a country.

“We are also talking of landmass of 60km square. With that we can stand as a mini country. If you look at each state in Southwest, if we make use of the potentials available to us , we are bigger than many nations in the world.

“We are as a region, very formidable region, we must not only talk it, we must act it. We reinstate and reinvigorate the concept of Omoluabi. Success is not money but character and industry,” he said.

Ambode aligned with the economic and political integration of Southwest states as espoused by his colleagues, saying it was of great significance to the nation while his Ekiti State counterpart said the forum represented the interest of the Yoruba nation.

Fayose said there was the urgent need for the cooperation and collaboration of all the governors to make the region a place of success again.

For Akeredolu,  the “development agenda for Southwest Nigeria is a great idea”.

“It is a forum where the governors meet to discuss issues of common interest. It is a great task for all us. We have great challenges and we must be prepared to face these challenges; united we stand, divided we fall. This meeting transcends political interest, we are brothers,”  Akeredolu said.

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