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Nigeria: The inevitability of regional integration (2)
THE possibility of an integrated and holistic development mentioned above inheres fundamentally in having leaders seized with a long term strategic vision of the future. It is such leadership which Chief Obafemi Awolowo exemplified, and the results of his long-term and forward thinking, meticulous planning and implementation remain evident in the Southwest till date. He implemented a people-oriented development agenda that allowed the people of the then Western Nigeria not just to enjoy life more abundantly within the bounds of their available resources and ingenuity, but also to leave something behind that would enable successive generations to enjoy and even improve upon the enjoyment of the good life by the mass of the people. In contemporary popular parlance, that is called ‘sustainable development’. That, in a nutshell, explains why the Western Region was the cynosure of all eyes, the region to emulate! What is here being advocated is also a collective development strategy that would allow the current generation of Yoruba people to enjoy life to the fullest with all their God-given resources, entrepreneurial skills and energies without necessarily endangering or compromising the ability of coming generations to guarantee their own welfare and socio-economic wellbeing. Political leaders across the South West must be in the vanguard of all the efforts to galvanize, unleash and coordinate the latent but manifest productive capacities of their people for the realisation of such collective developmental agenda. The implication is that the present crop of political leaders must wake up from slumber, put on their thinking caps, learn from the experiences of their inimitable forebear, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, and begin to dream grand dreams of a great and bright future for their people rather than engage in needless populism and media grandstanding. Leaders must go beyond mere talk and move decisively into the realm of positive actions that would provide the good life for the people. The region has had enough of philistines, political scoundrels and spineless opportunists who merely engaged in grand talks but lacked the required intellectual depth, strategic vision, commitment, and moral gravitas for the elevation of the plight of the people. Many of the military and civilian rulers the region has been unfortunately saddled with in the last few decades have been men of tunnel vision, puny intellect, too narrow-minded and opportunistic to think in grand terms. Their abysmal lack of ability to see beyond the immediate led to the deterioration in the plight of the region they governed. That is not to talk of their perpetration of the most horrendous plunder of the people’s patrimony for self-aggrandisement.
Possession of tunnel is inherently dangerous, for it allows a leader, or ruler in most cases, to see only the tree rather than the forest, rendering him neither capable of seeing the total picture nor the interconnectedness of the political and socio-economic realities of the region. This, in my view, was the grand failure of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) governors of the Southwest states between 1999 and 2003. The AD governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states, without doubt committed Awoists in their own rights, can be blamed for such tunnel vision, for each saw the tree and totally lost the vision of the entire forest; they saw the individual development of their respective states as their sole purpose and thus failed to evolve policies, strategies and plans for a coordinated development of the Yoruba geopolitical region of Nigeria. Had they done that, it would not have been easy for the PDP rigging machinery to shove them aside in the 2003 general elections.
And I also wish to blame this lack of coordination on the patent absence of an overarching and visionary leader and mentor, a veritable ideological and moral gatekeeper in the manner of Chief Obafemi Awolowo who served in that hallowed position for the UPN governors of the Second Republic. By the time of the return to civilian rule in 1999, there was no such central leader or personage who could rally all the people to a common purpose and keep them in line with the force of his character and examples. Without such a unifying personage and moral gatekeeper, the AD governors in the early part of the Fourth Republic lacked such mentoring and were, therefore, left to their own devices, dangerously exposed and vulnerable to the overbearing ruthlessness of the PDP-controlled Federal Government and a President Olusegun Obasanjo who badly needed a political base for his own survival. In the ensuing contest of unequals, only one of the governors survived the political tornado of the 2003 general elections. The rest, as they say, is history!
If I may say it, one indispensable ingredient for collective development through harmonised and integrated approach will be for the current political decision makers to commission a panel of development experts from their respective states to undertake a comprehensive and in-depth study of the developmental requirements of the region, identify the variety and quantum of available natural resources that can be harnessed, available infrastructure, identify the comparative advantages and strengths of each area, and produce a comprehensive development blueprint for collective implementation. In it they must identify the immediate and actionable programmes, as well as medium and long-term programmes and strategies, the interconnectedness and holistic nature of development, so that the states would work in concert for the common good of the Yoruba and the overall benefit of the Nigerian nation, rather than the pursuit of individualistic programmes.
It is indisputable that the South West region is blessed with some of the best brains, intellectuals, professionals and technocrats in all areas of human endeavour. All that is required is for the political decision makers to embark on skilful harmonisation and effective deployment of cutting edge scientific, technological and social scientific wherewithal for targeted development. It bears repeating that the current pervasive individualistic, go-it-alone approach may be pleasing to the politicians in each state in the short run but would ultimately amount to a strategic blunder of gargantuan proportions in the final analysis and a fatal error that would not be easily rectified in the future. If anything, the time is now, and the conditions for collective development are ripe. But only the visionary and perceptive can seize the moment and advance the fortunes of the Yoruba race. The current political office holders must encourage and facilitate synergy between the region’s intellectuals, professionals, technocrats and the political decision makers for the purpose of designing appropriate visions and programmes, tools and methodologies for development. One must warn against the predilection of political office holders to arrogate wisdom to themselves alone and become defensive in matters of politics and governance, a tendency that smacks of crass anti-intellectualism, because it is ultimately counterproductive. We must remember and emphasise that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, himself a man of immense intellectual endowments, did not succeed so peerlessly in the governance and administration of Western Nigeria by relying solely on his wisdom alone but by being able to attract, assemble and surround himself with some of the most cerebral men and women, respected politicians, professionals and academics of the time who assisted him in designing and implementing his progressive development programmes. Today’s leaders should emulate this and go beyond narrow partisan considerations to attract not political jobbers but those who can contribute effectively and meaningfully to development.
Let me hasten to point out that the development that advances the fortunes of the people and contributes to overall national development must be treated as an imperative. Any failure to think in this regard may spell political doom for political office holders, for the politically enlightened and sophisticated Yoruba do not usually wait endlessly for history to judge their own non-performing leaders, they simply vote them out of office the next time around. Our current governors and legislators can only lose sight of this reality to their own doom: the people would not hesitate to vote you out at the next elections, no matter the level of present popular acceptance. Should you fail to do the needful, you will also be putting on hold the aspirations of the people for development to make them enjoy the benefits of the 21st century.
To be continued.Share