DAWN: The journey so far

Southwest governors have reiterated their commitment to the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), in furtherance of their collective push for regional integration. They have resolved to leverage on their resources to tackle insecurity and promote the wellbeing of their people. LEKE SALAUDEEN examines how DAWN has fared so far and what needs to be done to enhance its performance. Southwest governors are pulling their resources together to tackle insecurity and improve the welfare of the people. They have resolved to work as a team, shun political differences and implement the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) in the interest of the region. To achieve this, a security summit organised by DAWN was held in June in Ibadan, the political headquarter of Southwest. The six governors were present. Also in attendance were security chiefs, traditional rulers, leaders of thought and prominent groups within the region. The governors vowed to put their political affiliations aside and confront the challenges facing the region. The governors made a strong case for the establishment of state and local police to compliment the efforts of the federal police. They also agreed to set up joint patrol teams to ward off criminals that have been killing and kidnapping innocent persons and check the activities of killer herdsmen that have made highways unsafe for travellers. Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, who doubles as the Chairman of the Western Nigeria Governors Forum, emphasised that governors in the region have decided to cast their political affiliations aside and tackle the security challenges. He said: “Partisan coloration should not delimit the extent of collaboration aimed at maximum of service for our people. This meeting has become exigent, considering the spate of insecurity in the country. The axiety of our people is palpable. The growing fear among the populace makes nonsense of any plans conceived for the development of our God-given space. “It is my fervent hope that this engagement will not be limited to the current challenge which threatens to wreck our collective space. I look forward for future interactions on matters as important and effective as this one which compels this assembly. There is no gainsaying the obvious; the issue of socio-economic integration in the region must be taken seriously for any aspiration towards development to be meaningful. “No remarkable progress can be achieved amid chaos. No state in the region can achieve greatness in isolation. We should extend the possibility of cooperation on other socio-economifronts. Our people stand to benefit from our resolve to ensure that they remain at the centre of all permutations and considerations. Our seeming difference, considering political platforms, should not stand in the way of commitment to promote the collect well-being of our people. Ekiti State Governor Dr Kayode Fayemi urged the people to hold the governors accountable for insecurity in the region. He gave assurances of a lasting solution to the crisis. Fayemi, who is the Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), stated that “Insecurity has created palpable fear in the mind of the people. We hold it a duty to reconfigure our security architecture. We are set to harness the potential of security agencies to rid the region of insecurity. “The crisis should unite us, not divide us. We need to focus on the root cause of the challenge. We should focus on what we can do. We don’t have to demonise any ethnic group. Security situation should be a serious concern to everybody. We need a regional response to insecurity given the contiguity of our states. We, as your governors, should be held accountable for the insecurity. We will not sleep until the problem is tackled head-on,” the Ekiti governor said. Fayemi emphasised the importance of a state and community policing system to compliment the federal police. “We cannot have a unitary police system in a federal state. We must democratise the intelligence gathering. Our demand for state and local policing is not tantamount to removal of the federal police. They will exist side by side with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF)”. Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, the only Peoples Democratic Party (PDP ) governor in the Southwest, expressed support for state police. He noted that the advantages of community policing far outweigh the fear we have against it. He described the problem of insecurity in the Southwest as a snake on the roof of a building that cannot be ignored. The growing tension between herders and farmers is worrisome. We should not allow the actions of the miscreants to change who we are. There cannot be development without peace,” Makinde said. The governors met second time in July in Akure to review the technical report committee on security summit. At the end of the meeting, they pledged a new security architecture that would address the security challenges in the region. Akeredolu said that immediate steps would be taken on some key areas as contained in the technical report submitted to the governors after the summit. He said: “Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission is going back to do some work for us, and thereafter, we will all implement it and ensure that there is security of lives and properties in Western Nigeria. “We are assuring our people that we are prepared and determined to deal ruthlessly with anyone found within the Southwest region perpetrating any criminal act. The full details of the plan cannot be made public for now. We want the people concerned to only just wake up to see the action”, Ondo State Governor added. A security expert and retired police officer commended the decision of the Southwest states to jointly tackle the problem of insecurity in the region. He said: “It i s a welcome development. A network approach is needed to achieve maximum success in this regard. If uniform security measures are put in place, criminals will not have a hidden place in the Southwest.” He said kidnapping is rampant in the region because states like Lagos, Ondo and Ogun have riverine areas.” If the states can jointly police these areas effectively, it will minimise kidnapping. It is even cost effective than each state doing it on its own. The end result is that there will be peace, security of lives and property and as well creating enabling environment for local and foreign investments”, the expert explained. A major landmark in the quest for regional integration in the Southwest was the admission of Lagos State as the sixth member of the Odu’a Investments. Economists believe the drive towards regional integration of Southwest cannot be effectively pursued, if the states in the region do not combine their resources, work together and maximise their comparative advantages to build strong regional infrastructural and social links among the states. They therefore see the admission of Lagos as a welcome development. They observed that with its huge population , its vibrant economic base and its being the centre of economic and business activities in Nigeria, Lagos is uniquely placed to contribute to the development and growth of the Odu’a Investment Company, the investment arm of the group as well as the integration of the Southwest. The admission of Lagos State which acquired 115 million shares, grew the share equity of the company to 690 million. Odu’a Investment Compay Limited was incorporated as a Limited Liability Company in July 1976, to take over the business interests of the former Western State of Nigeria. It commenced operations on October, 1976. Former Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode said: “My belief in total economic integration of the Southwest arising from our vision of the Southwest Governors Forum that there is a need for all of us to come together as a regional force to be able to help each other in the areas of our comparative advantages was what drove me to make sure we become partners in the Odu’a Investment Group. “We are happy also that we would be bringing in part of our own expertise to grow this investment. We are proud that it is the only regional investment group that is existing in the country right now and because of that I am very happy that I was able to lay down the foundation and the framework that would allow the bigger economic integration to take place even with the kind of infrastructure that we have tried to put in place”, the former governor stated. An economist, Dr Ismail Adepoju said the inclusion of Lagos State in Odu’a Investment Company will accelerate the pace of growth and development of Southwest region and fast track its integration. He said bringing Lagos into the fold will boost regional integration and increase the pace of economic development in the region. Adepoju said: “The good financial rating of Lagos in the global market will assist in the growth and development of the Southwest. The collaboration would foster comparative advantage where the states would provide what they have for the general development of the region. With the pace and standard set by Lagos in terms of infrastructural growth and development, the integration is a quick one. It would make it easy for other states to pursue Lagos and effectively implement a system of rail transportation and boost our agricultural production. For instance, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti would increase production; Ondo would provide us with various mineral resources that can be tapped while the finances can be secured from Lagos.” He recalled that the last administration in Lagos State promised to acquire large hectares of lands in Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ogun for modern, technologically driven farming so that both raw and processed products from such farms would be brought to Lagos for profitable sales, given the huge market potential of the state. He prayed that the present administration led by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu would continue will implement the programme so that states benefit from one another by creating jobs and ensuring food security. At independence, Nigeria had been a Federal state until the advent of the military in 1966. Though the military retained the name “Federal Republic of Nigeria” as the official name of the country, but proceeded to restructure the entire country along central command lines. All the features of federalism such as state police, resource control by the states, fiscal federalism were removed. As a result, the impact of governance in all spheres of life is abysmally low. The Southwest is losing its competitiveness and falling short of its economic and social ambitions. The answer is to go back to what worked in the past and adopt them in the present context. Therefore, the establishment of a composite Regional Integration and Development Agenda for the Southwest became imperative in order to fulfil the immense potential of the region. The primary objective of DAWN is to foster regional cooperation and integration as a catalyst for decentralisation. The bottom line of the regional integration is the economic rejuvenation of the region. The Western Region was the pace setter in the country during the First Republic. The first Premier, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, laid a solid economic foundation for the region. He created what is now known as economic empire for the region which is today being managed by Odu’a Investment Company. The company generates revenue for the states in the Southwest. A Yoruba elder and a First Republic politician, Chief Olatunji Adeyemo, has charged political leaders in the Southwest to replicate Awo’s achievements in the region. He said: “As far back as 1950s the late Awo had realised that aggressive state investment was sine qua non for rapid economic development, especially where there is weak indigenous capital base. That informed the establishment of Western Nigeria Development Corporation (WNDC), the Agriculture Finance Corporation and Western Nigeria Housing Corporation which are being managed today by Odu’a Investment Company and money spinning institutions for the states in the Southwest.” Adeyemo added: “The need to restore high sense of dignity and self-worth among the people of the Southwest remains urgent and critical imperative. The Yoruba have vested the authority to lead them out of the developmental quagmire in the hands of the present governors. It is under their authority that the people expect to see progress and irreversible developmental strides.”