State governors in Nigeria do not seem to think much about letting change permeate their territories.
From what I see, the men at the helms of affairs of states, majority of whom belong to the All Progressive Congress(APC) were done with the concept of change, the moment their party took the reins of power at the federal level. Change for them seemed not to extend beyond driving the former occupier of the Aso Rock Villa back to his village and having their own man in so there cab be accountability and more money from the federal allocation, maybe.
But I disagree. I maintain that majority of the things that drag our country back remain within the purview of states. The parlous state of foundational education, the disheartening state of primary and secondary healthcare delivery and the lack of productive opportunities for millions of youths in the rural areas have worsened in the hands of governors due to what they would have us believe is insufficient revenue for states.
And this is what the problem is. If federal allocation, which forms the bulk of revenue in the purse of states, has continuously dwindled over the months, should governors not begin to get more creative about ways in which their states can be independent of the federal government, earn more funds and make lives better for their people? This is why I have always argued that each state in the country must work towards securing its financial autonomy but I attended an event early last week which has inspired a slight amendment in my position.
As part of the launch of Tunde Rahman’s Western Post Newspaper the newspaper organized a discussion on the theme: ‘The dwindling oil revenue: A case for regional integration’ at the Civic Centre Hall Ibadan. Lead speaker at the event, Mr Dipo Famakinwa, Director-General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) made a strong argument for regional cooperation among states in Nigerian.
Revealing that a lot of the problems that Nigeria faces are regional in nature, he explained that it is almost always predictable that whatever affects one state would spread into other states in that region in a matter of time. It is therefore impossible, for example to solve the problem of insurgency in Adamawa State and hope that Borno State will be safe and that the problem has been solved. It is the same way in which you cannot say you have solved the problem of armed robbery or kidnapping in Lagos State without corresponding efforts to deal with the situation in Ogun State. In certain situations, migrating criminals from one state do no more than walk across into the next to continue their nefarious activities, which is why states in the same region should work together to solve their identical challenges
He noted that what our states, even the most endowed ones can achieve individually “is sub-optimal performance” and that this limits the capacity for radical transformation. He buttressed this with the fact that while the western region for instance contributes about 35% of the country’s GDP estimated at $180bn, only Lagos State contributes 72% of the sum of $129bn while the other five states in the region cumulatively share the remaining $51bn
Quoting Professor Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School, Famakinwa said that regions are the most important economic unit for development and competitiveness in large countries such as Nigeria. He advised that organising for regional actions, mobilising regional endowments and assets, and optimising the space for development through the Regions is central.
And I totally agree with him. In addition to standing with him on this, I opine that nothing, not even party affiliations should stop governors in each region from coming together to sit down and exploit this possibility.
Sadly, none of the governors of the six South Western states, with the exception of Governor Ajimobi of Oyo State who sent his deputy to represent him, made the event. That is in spite of the importance of the proposition to the development of their states. The absence of these governors pointed clearly to the fact that such cooperation would work and that there would be any improvement in the potentials of the state for sustainable development anytime soon.
As Brigadier General Oluwole Rotimi (rtd), a former governor of the old Western Region, who chaired the event said, providing the skeleton for such possibilities is pretty easy, what is difficult and would remain impossible for as long as these governors don’t get serious about the issues and come together for discussions like the one put together by Western Post, is the actualisation of the goals .