Resurgent Regionalism and Democratic Development in Western Nigeria Challenges and Prospects


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Resurgent Regionalism and Democratic Development in Western Nigeria Challenges and Prospects

  1. 1.       Resurgent  Regionalism  and  Democratic  Development  in  Western  Nigeria:   Challenges  and  Prospects    PROTOCOLS     Let   us   begin   from   the   beginning,   with   first   things   first.   It   gives   me   great   pleasure   to   be   here  today  to  address  some  of  the  most  brilliant  minds  that  Nigeria  can  boast  of.  And  I  like  to  say  thank  you  to  my  brother  and  the  Governor  of  Osun  State,  Ogbeni  Rauf  Aregbesola  and  the  Vice  Chancellor  of  the  Obafemi   Awolowo   University,   Professor   Tale   Omole.   Between   them,   both   men   shared   the   burden   of  being  hosts-­‐in-­‐chief  to  our  team.  I  can  testify  that  so  far,  they  have  hosted  us  very  well.   Permit  me  to  also  express  our  profound  appreciation  to  the  Ekiti  Development  Network  of  the  Obafemi   Awolowo   University   (OAU),   or   Great   Ife)   for   this   initiative.   I   understand   it   is   the   very   first   on  this   scale   by   the   Network.   By   offering   us   this   platform,   the   Network   is   lending   a   hand   in   our   quest   to  engage   purposefully   with   our   people   everywhere.   In   our   view,   the   result   can   only   be   a   series   of  exchanges  that  sharpen  our  perspectives  on  what  we  should  and  can  do  and  especially  how  to  do  it.  This  gives  all  stakeholders  a  window  on  what  –  and  how  much  –  to  expect  from  us.   I  also  feel  even  more  privileged  to  stand  before  you  because,  as  I  see  it,  Great  Ife  has  always  had  a   bias   for   public   service.   To   that   extent,   the   event   of   this   morning   speaks   of   a   home-­‐coming   as   rare   and  as   significant   as   anyone   can   imagine.   It   is   a   historic   fact   that   the   University   of   Ife,   as   it   then   was,   started  with   robust   linkages   between   town   and   gown.   Not   only   was   agriculture   a   main   plank   of   the   University’s  research   agenda,   practitioners   were   warmly   welcomed.   Thus   S.K.T.   Williams,   a   senior   agricultural  extension   officer   would   join   the   faculty   at   Ife,   become   a   professor,   and   serve   as   a   Deputy   Vice  Chancellor.  By  the  same  token,  Ife’s  Institute  of  Administration  would  serve  as  a  ‘finishing  school’  of         1    
  2. 2.    sorts  for  newly  recruited  Administrative  Officers  in  the  old  Western  Region  and  elsewhere.  It  would  also  help   retrain   and   re-­‐tool   officers-­‐on-­‐the-­‐job.   I   am   gratified   to   note   that   the   training   needs   of   the   civil  service   in   the   southwest   are   still   being   met   by   various   units   of   OAU,   not   least     by   my   own   the   Faculty   of  Administration.   There   are   personal   aspects   to   the   linkages   as   well.   Not   many   are   aware   that   I   am   a   Great   Ife  myself.  That  I  once  drank  from  the  veritable  spring  of  learning  and  culture  that  this  university  has  always  been   –   and,   hopefully,   will   always   be.   Fewer   still,   may   know   for   a   fact   that   Ife   gave   me   a   wife,   so   to  speak.  It  was  on  these  beautiful,  inspiring  grounds,  exactly  inside  the  Hezekiah  Oluwasanmi  Library  that  Bisi   and   I   began   a   friendship   that   has   since   blossomed   into   a   life-­‐partnership   powered   as   much   by  mutual  affection  as  by  shared,  deep-­‐commitment  to  social  actions  in  pursuit  of  a  life  more   abundant  for  all  and  sundry.   Mr  Governor,  Mr  Vice  Chancellor,  colleague-­‐academics,  ladies  and  gentlemen,  please  allow  me,  on   behalf   of   my   family,   to   express   our   most   profound   gratitude   to   Great   Ife   for   the   enduring   gifts   is   has  bestowed   on   us.   I   do   not   know   now   if   some   day   in   the   future,   Great   Ife   would   ask   for   a   fee   or   some  recompense  for  providing  the  setting  in  which  priceless  gift  of  love  and  companionship  came  my  way,  but  suffice  it  to  say  that  I  remain  personally  indebted  to  this  great  institution.   Nigerians   emerged   from   recent   elections   more   emboldened   than   before   about   the   prospects   of  the  democratic  enterprise.  Yet  our  country  remains  at  a  critical  crossroads.  Although  election  has  come  and   gone,   the   first   challenge   that   the   President   confronted   was   post-­‐election   violence   in   parts   of   the  north  believed  to  have  been  caused  by  perceived  inequities  much  deeper  than  what  happened  during  the   election.   Nowhere   are   the   limits   of   the   democratic   project   in   Nigeria   more   apparent   than   in   the  question   of   creating   appropriate   institutional   arrangements   for   the   political   accommodation   and  management  of  social  diversities  and  difference.  By  its  very  nature,  the  working  of  democratic  politics  radically   alters   the   existing   social   boundaries   and   divisions,   often   accentuating   hitherto   dormant  identities  and  conflicts  in  a  supposedly  united  entity.  The  consequences  of  the  relationship  between  the  two  have  not  only  posed  a  challenge  to  those  who  seek  to  understand  these  dynamics,  it  has  also  placed  a  question  mark  on  the  very  viability  of  Nigeria’s  democratic  enterprise.     It   is   in   this   sense   that   the   debate   on   the   post-­‐election   violent   phenomenon   known   as   Boko  Haram  is  itself  a  debate  about  the  status  and  quality  of  democracy  in  Nigeria;  a  debate  about  the  future   2    
  3. 3.  of   the   country   as   a   united,   federal   entity.   With   bombs   going   off   occasionally   in   the  Federal  capital  and  the  North  Eastern  part  of  the  country  in  particular  and  an  increasing  level  of  panic  in  other   parts   of   the   country,   thinking   of   innovative   ways   of   accommodating   social   diversity   in   a  democratic   frame   is   a   challenge  that   is   at   once   intellectual   and   political   and   it   is   perhaps   the   greatest  challenge  to  democratic  transition  and  security  in  our  country  today.     There  is  a  positive  angle  to  this  challenge,  if  only  in  the  realisation  that  democratic  transition  in  countries  emerging  from  prolonged  authoritarian  past  should  elicit  restrained,  rather  than  exaggerated  expectations   after   elections.   Unfortunately,   the   euphoria   that   often   accompanies   elections   relegates  this   position,   treating   elections   as   end   in   themselves   and   processes   assumed   to   be   irreversible.   The  superficiality   of   these   claims   begin   to   manifest   itself   sooner   rather   than   later.   When   fragile  ‘democracies’  receive  reminders  of  their  own  precarious  status,  as  has  been  the  case  in  Nigeria  in  the  last   two   months,   the   hope   is   that   the   realisation   would   encourage   those   of   us   in   government   and  citizen-­‐observers   to   think   less   teleologically   about   democratic   transitions   automatically   producing  democratic   development   and   more   pragmatically   in   search   of   institutional   frameworks   for   deepening  our  democracy.       Given  the  experience  of  post-­‐Cold  War  democratic  transitions  in  Africa  in  the  last  decade,  this  understanding   should   now   be   commonplace.   Indeed,   while   democratic   transitions   may   lead   to  democratic  development,  forged  transitions  have  not  necessarily  led  to  consolidating  democracies  nor  stemmed   the   tide   of   democratic   reversals,   especially   in   places   where   the   ethos,   language   and   character  of   public   discourse   have   been   completely   militarised   and   there   remains   several   unresolved   questions   of  identity,  nationality,  ethnicity  and  management  of  social  and  religious  diversities.    Consequently,  it  is  my  view  that  we  must  at  least  see  what  is  happening  in  Nigeria  today  as  an  outcome  of  the  nature  of  the  country’s  democratic  transition  and  an  argument  for  treating  Nigeria’s  quest  for  democracy  as  a  work  in  progress  that  is  not  easily  susceptible  to  instructions  from  above.      Boko-Haram, Democracy and the Current State of the Nigerian Nation  One  dominant  way  of  explaining  recent  controversy  around  Boko  Haram  has  been  to  trace  it  to  some  kind   of   Moslem   exceptionalism;   an   exceptionalism   which   allegedly   makes   moslem   societies   incapable   of   3    
  4. 4.  democratisation   because   of   the   pre-­‐ determined  nature  of  religion  as  a  way  of  life  –    an  implicit  constitution  providing  a  blueprint  of  a  social  order  for  all  moslems.  The  view  that  poses  Islam   in   some   sort   of   oppositional   ‘clash   of   civilisation’   remains   an   attractive   one   and   has   influenced  attitudes  and  coverage  of  the  popular  media  in  Post  9/11  world  and  even  here  in  Nigeria  but  it  is  one  that  is  contested  in  every  Moslem  society.  In  the  Nigerian  case,  it  obfuscates  rather  than  explains  what  is   responsible   for   the   present   dangers   that   are   threatening   the   polity.   One,   the   ethnic-­‐religious  construction   of   the   problem   has   made   it   impossible   for   people   to   come   out   and   take   a   clear   and  enlightened  stand  on  the  post  election  violence  and  Boko  Haram  debate.  If  you  were  from  the  north  of  Nigeria,   you   are   expected   to   call   for   dialogue   with   Boko   Haram   because   you   are   not   expected   to   openly  attack   its   adherents.   If   you   were   from   the   southern   part   of   the   country,   you   opposed   it   and   call   for  maximum   weight   of   the   law   against   it,   whilst   using   it   as   a   crutch   to   attack   the   Hausa-­‐Fulani   –   often  accused  to  be  at  the  butt  of  all  problems  in  Nigeria.     In  reality,  the  thousand  odd  lives  that  have  been  lost  to  violence  since  the  advent  of  civilian  rule  in   Nigeria   have   occurred   as   a   result   of   a   combination   of   factors   -­‐   environmental/decentralisation  problems   (Odi,   Niger   Delta),   inter-­‐ethnic/religious   animosities   (Kaduna,   Aba)   and   land/intra-­‐ethnic  disputes  (Ife/Modakeke,  Takum/Jukun,  Urhobo/Itsekiri).  This  is  a  pointer  to  the  fact  that  there  is  nothing  unique  in  the  violence  that  has  followed  elections  in  the  Northern  part  of  the  country  co-­‐mingling  with  Boko   Haram,   unfortunate   and   unwelcome   as   it   is.     It   is   also   an   indication   of   a   problem   much   more  fundamental   about   the   nature   of   the   Nigerian   state,   a   problem   that   is   cross-­‐sectional,   cross   religion   and  cross   regional.       The   challenge   is   therefore   to   place   post   election   violence   and   ethnic   crisis   within   the  context   of   the   people’s   efforts   to   clarify   the   link   between   citizenship   and   rights   whilst   handling  difference  in  a  supposedly  liberal  democracy.       Beyond   all   the   arguments   about   religion,   the   fundamental   issue   about   Boko   Haram   and   post  election   violence   is   that   it   now   lies   at   the   heart   of   identity   politics   in   Nigeria   and   the   centrality   that  identity  politics  has  assumed  has  ensured  that  it  is  not  being  clothed  in  other  intervening  variables.  Why  is   this   so?   My   argument   is   that   many   of   the   internal   contradictions   of   the   Nigerian   state   have   been  sharpened   to   a   point   that   the   bare   bones   are   now   visible.   The   failure   to   resolve   the   national(ity)  question   in   an   inclusive   manner   is   evident   in   the   varied   responses   across   country   to   conflicts   over  identity,   nationality,   self-­‐determination   and   autonomy.     These   issues   are,   in   turn,   bound   up   with   such  questions   as   what   manner   of   federation   do   Nigerians   want?   Unlike   in   the   past   when   military  governments  always  drove  such  ‘sensitive’  issues  underground,  Nigerians  are  now  forcing  these  issues  in   4    
  5. 5.  the   open   and   the   hitherto   authoritarian   might  of  the  federal  centre  is  being  put  to  test.  This  view,  self-­‐evident  as  it  is  does  not  strip  bare  the  explanatory  power  of  other  causes  -­‐  causes  which  reside  in  the  political  and  economic  realm  of  the  Nigerian  crisis  today.     For  example,  there  can  be  no  doubt  that  the  Boko  Haram  issue    and  the  post  election  violence  in  the   North   are   clearly   reactions   to   perceived   or   real   loss   of   power   by   an   elite   stratum   that   is  predominantly   “Northern”   and   also   “Moslem”   even   if   the   leading   figures   in   this   agenda   do   not  necessarily   count   religious   piety   among   their   greatest   attributes.   What   is   happening   in   my   view   is   a  contest   over   raw   political   power:   who   lost   power,   who   won   power,   and   who   wants   power   back.   The  processes   that   threw   up   President   Goodluck   Jonathan   as   the   candidate   of   this   elite   stratum   were  intimately  bound  up  with  the  political  crisis  that  has  gripped  the  ‘northern’  political  class.     For   a   political   ‘north’,   which   has   always   been   in   position   of   power   and   authority,   the   idea   of  getting   used   to   ‘powerlessness’   poses   a   huge   challenge.   This   is   a   crisis   for   power   brokers   and  beneficiaries  of  power  in  the  north.  And  one  of  the  ways  in  which  the  Boko  Haram  is  being  interpreted  is  the   service   it   offers   such   power   deprived   elite   stratum   to   play   cynical   politics   without   alienating  themselves   from   their   communities.   Linked   to   this   of   course   is   the   contest   between   the   conservative  traditional   authority   and   a   more   progressive   successor   generation   in   the   North.   There   is   clearly   a  breakdown   in   this   traditional   authority   in   the   north   where   it   used   to   be   very   strong   in   the   country.  Young,  dynamic  and  street  smart  politicians  are  edging  out  the  old  (a  common  phenomenon  all  over  the  country)   but   they   are   yet   to   consolidate   their   grip   on   power   and   Islamic   radicalism   offers   a   strong  incentive   on   that   consolidation   agenda.   Hence,   the   perennial   but   oft-­‐denied   accusation   that   the  erstwhile   Governor   of   Borno   State   was   the   progenitor   of   Boko-­‐Haram,   as   a   means   of   protecting   his  party’s   precarious   hold   on   power   in   a   State   perceived   to   run   the   risk   of   losing   power   to   the   People’s  Democratic   Party   (PDP).   For   the   leading   lights   of   the   Boko   Haram   campaign   therefore,   religion   offered   a  most  appropriate  mechanism  for  winning  over  a  largely  sceptical  citizenry  in  communities  where  leaders  were  largely  perceived  as  ‘dealers’  -­‐  and  totally  unrepresentative  of  the  interests  of  their  toiling  masses  who  voted  them  into  office.   But  convincing  as  the  ‘power’  argument  is,  it  cannot  explain  why  it  has  fired  popular  imagination  amongst   ordinary   people   in   Northern   Nigeria.     That   explanation   has   to   come   from   somewhere   else.   The  issue   of   democracy   dividend   assumes   centrality   here   when   one   examines   the   reckless   abandon   of   those  involved  in  the  post-­‐election  violence  and  the  Boko  Haram  crisis.    But  perhaps  there  is  method  to  this  madness   and   a   logic   to   the   action   of   a   people   who   had   little   at   stake   -­‐   especially   if   one   locates   their   5    
  6. 6.  action   within   the   context   of   communities   where  the  youths  are  largely  deprived.  It  is  a  fact  that  the  foot  soldiers  of  the  post  election  violence  are  the  unemployed  youths  still  awaiting  their  own   democracy   dividends.   This   therefore   means   the   problem   goes   beyond   religion.   It   is   about   the  disillusionment   of   those   who   had   been   hard   done   by;   underscoring   the   importance   of   tackling   the  underlying   problems   which   issues   like   Boko   Haram   feed   on.   As   long   as   we   have   the   unemployed,   the  hungry   and   the   desperate,   a   hapless   citizenry   would   always   be   exploited   by   the   manipulators   of  difference,  secure  in  the  knowledge  that  there  would  be  foot  soldiers  to  take  their  war  to  the  street.  The  same  is  true  of  the  exploitation  of  other  problems  around  the  country.     Yet,  valid  as  the  above  is,  it  would  still  be  wrong  to  dismiss  the  place  of  religion  altogether  in  the  current  debate.  Indeed,  the  Shari’a  issue   can  be  seen  as  a  response  by  so-­‐called  Islamic  fundamentalism  to   an   equally   virulent   form   of   Christian   fundamentalism.   The   advent   and   proliferation   of   Pentecostal  Christianity   as   a   powerful   social   and   political   force   in   Nigeria   represents   a   growing   concern   amongst  Moslems  and  orthodox  Christians  alike.   The  sight  of  a  President  Jonathan  kneeling  down  before  popular  Pastor  Adeboye  of  the  Redeemed  Church  sends  a  more  definitive  statement  about  who  is  perceived  to  be  in  charge  in  some  religious  circles.  It  was  no  surprise  therefore  that  General  Buhari  countered  that  by  his   choice   of   a   southern   radical   Pastor   as   running   mate.     In   addition,   there   is   a   sense   in   which   it   is  believed  that  Christians  have  also  now  appropriated  Jonathan’s  government  as  their  own  government.  The   problem   is   that   this   Pentecostal   strain   of   Christianity   is   fundamentalist,   and   viscerally   opposed   to  resurgent   Islam,   unlike   the   erstwhile   mainstream   churches   (Catholic   and   Protestant)   which   are   more  liberal  and  embracing.  This  has  created  genuine  tension  in  between  the  Christian/Moslem  communities  in   Nigeria.   Many   Christians   have   become   more   confident   and   outspoken.     It   would   appear   that  Christians   have   concluded   that   religion   has   played   a   key   part   in   ensuring   the   tenacity   and   staying   power  of  Moslems  in  government  over  these  years,  hence  the  signs  and  symbols  of  government  have  taken  on  a   strong,   Christian   streak.     This   represents   an   extreme   form   of   religiosity,   which   has   overtaken   the  Nigerian   landscape,   threatening   it   to   its   very   foundations.     Whilst   it   may   not   resolve   all   of   the   problems,  one  solution  to  the  on-­‐going  crisis  lies  in  making  the  State  a  neutral  arena,  separate  from  religion,  in  which   people   of   different   faiths,   and   those   of   no   faiths   can   meet   on   equal   terms.     This   is   not   a  suggestion   to   exclude   religion   from   public   life   –   an   argument   that   will   be   vigorously   opposed   by   both  Moslems   and   Christians.   Indeed,   one   will   be   underestimating   the   pro-­‐Sharia   and   Pentecostal   forces,  especially   the   way   they   have   seized   popular   imagination   and   clearly   influenced   public   opinion   in   the   6    
  7. 7.  domain   of   operation,   using   strategies   to   sway   the   ordinary   people   in   communities  where  there  is  an  acute  failure  of  leadership.1      Resurgent  Regionalism  as  a  Response  to  Nigeria’s  Crisis  of  Governance     What then is the connection between regionalism and the crisis of governance thatNigeria is currently experiencing? The connection, in my humble opinion lies in the search forthe most appropriate institutional mechanism for promoting consensus, mediating conflict andmanaging diversities in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. What has compounded thegovernance crisis and underplayed the need for dialogue have been the pervasive role of oil andthe influence of years of military rule in Nigeria. The militarisation of the national psyche alsoaffects individuals in their daily lives. Nigeria witnessed, especially under military dictatorshipand the civilian government under President Obasanjo, intense communal conflicts that disruptedpeaceful relations in several communities. Some of the conflicts have antecedents in oldanimosities, but many were resource-driven, spurred by perceptions of unequal distribution ofgovernment resources. Causes of increased violence and crime include the high unemploymentand poverty levels. At root however is the loss of a culture of compromise and accommodation.This point cannot be overemphasised: Nigerians lost their culture of dialogue in a period whenmilitarisation and the primacy of force had become state policy. All will agree that we need toreturn to a culture of dialogue. Any indication that government is willing to create the conditionsfor dialogue in the country is bound to reduce the increasing level of tension since many withindeprived communities now believe the only language that government understands is violence.And it is commendable that President Jonathan has significantly reduced the rampaging,authoritarian streak in government. While Nigerians are happy about this new disposition and acknowledge that thedemilitarisation of politics has widened the space within which democratic reform is taking                                                                                                                          1 A recent survey on popular attitudes to democracy in Nigeria reveals, not surprisingly, that the average Nigerian ina crisis situation will first approach a religious priest/malam, and or a traditional ruler. The elected representativecomes last in the list. See Afrobarometer survey, “Down to Earth: Changes in Attitudes Toward Democracy and theMarkets in Nigeria” November 2001,( 7    
  8. 8.  place, many believe that this will not automatically translate into a completeoverhaul of politics from its military roots, especially in a body politic that has become soatomised and unitarised, and in which the symbols, values, and ethos of the ‘big-man’ are nowreplicated in large sections of society. Yet while we must alter the landscape of Nigerian politicsby removing the obstacles of region, ethnicity, religion and personality so that our people can seethe issues in a clear sighted manner, this can only happen within the context of current socio-economic realities. It is now clear to all that the formal end of authoritarian rule did not lead tothe acceptance of the nation state as representing a broad social consensus beyond the juridicalprinciples enshrined in the constitution. Without a doubt, issues of nationality, identity andethnicity still dominate the analysis of nation-state, state building and democratic transition inNigeria, especially following the end of military rule in 1999. These concerns are attended to bythe prevalence and ferocity of internal conflicts across the country, thereby leading scholars tosuggest that the State can be reconstituted purely on the basis of resolving the quandaries ofnationality, identity and ethnicity. Yet while the challenges we face maybe internal and ethnic in nature, oftentimes theinterlocking nature of these challenges underscore the artificiality of state boundaries and call fora broader response driven by social consensus. If it is the case that the challenges are regional,and perhaps global, as they involve a range of different actors – national, sub-national and trans-national, it stands to reason that their resolutions must also involve a range of options includingregional ones. Important as it is to resolve the crisis of governance on a state basis, tyingsolutions to territorial boundaries in a nation in which power is located in sub-national and supra-national political, social and economic networks undermine the envisioned end-product ofdevelopment, at least in the creation of social harmony and consensus amongst differentcommunities and constituencies within the polity. As things are, Nigeria is trapped between the extremes of a super-nation and the inwardlooking localisation that wears the toga of ethnocentrism resulting in the increasing illegitimacyof the artificial state. This is where the opportunity offered by a return to regionalism as apanacea to the much weakened state comes in. Indeed, it seems to me that any prospects fordemocratisation and development in Nigeria must build on the scaffolding of regionalism if it isto experience any chance of success. The last decade in Nigeria has witnessed the strengtheningof integrative development links in the South-South(BRACED Commission), Northern 8    
  9. 9.  Governors Forum, South East Governors’ Forum and now our ownmodest emerging steps in Western Nigeria. Yet, regional dimension to governance anddevelopment can still be influenced by national and sub-national factors. In rethinkingregionalism therefore, it is necessary to go beyond the proforma creation of mechanisms that arejust mere technicalities. For regionalism to be an effective antidote to extreme nationalism andethnocentrism, it must consciously permeate the State in a more deeply rooted manner.Otherwise, if the current challenges posed to the State by non-State actors are gauged, the futureprospects for the consolidation of the processes of democratisation are slim, if not non-existent.It is for this reason that the recognition of the necessity of a multi-dimensional understanding ofdevelopment without a re-conceptualisation of state boundaries will ultimately undermine thesearch for a holistic developmental agenda. What   then   are   the   prospects   for   deepening   our   fledgling   democracy   through   regional  integration?   How   do   we   ensure   that   our   states   can   rise   above   territorial   inhibitions   to   embrace   a  regional  development  agenda?  Given  the  manner  in  which  Nigeria  has  found  herself  between  the  forces  of  globalisation  and  the  strictures  of  localisation,  the  road  to  development  has  become  more  tortuous,  provoking   in   its   wake   increased   post-­‐election   violence   and   insecurity   in   communities   and   constituencies  that  espouse  democratic  norms  and  values.  Faced  with  the  artificiality  of  states  and  the  refusal  to  fully  embrace   the   recalcitrant   nation,   it   would   appear   that   at   no   time   has   the   need   to   turn   to   consensual  resolutions  become  more  urgent.  This  increasing  importance  of  regionalism  in  Nigeria  must  be  located  within   the   twin   trajectories   of   the   incipient   localisation   of   conflicts   and   the   nationalisation   of   political  and  economic  realities.   In   arguing   for   a   re-­‐conceptualisation   of   the   concept   of   regional   development   which   de-­‐emphasises  state  boundaries,  the  motive  is  not  a  form  of  territorial  revisionism.  Instead,  our  intention  is  the   revision   of   the   territorial   state   where   artificial   boundaries   have   formed   the   legitimating   force   for  arrested  development  in  several  states,  thereby  turning  them  into  empty  constitutional  entities  which  are   totally   meaningless   to   their   internal   publics.   Translated   into   a   sustainable   democratic   agenda,   it   is  safe  to  argue  in  favour  of  a  confinable  regional  development  mechanism  that  is  properly  structured.    Development  Agenda  for  Western  Nigeria     9    
  10. 10.   The  above  represents  the  strategic   and   theoretical   basis   for   our   current  regional  developmental  programme  in  Western  Nigeria  (incorporating  the  eight  states  carved  out  of  the  old   Western   State).     It   is   aimed   at   facilitating   the   process   of   political,   legal,   economic,   social   and   cultural  cooperation  between  juridical  states  for  rapid  growth  and  development.  We  believe  that  collaboration,  properly  conceived  and  structured  will  enable  participant  states  to  prosecute  projects  in  areas  of  mutual  benefits  and  comparative  advantages  in  a  cooperative  manner  as  a  way  of  reinventing  the  development  paradigm  of  the  old  Western  region.    Integration  therefore  binds  participant  states  to  put  on  the  front  burner  collective  interest  and  place  an  obligation  on  them  to  cooperate  and  support  one  another  and  avoid   destructive   competition   over   resources.   For   us,   development   is   freedom   and   it   is   the   essential  basis   of   life   more   abundant   and   to   this   end   –   the   provision   of   infrastructure,   transportation,   power  generation,  commerce,  agriculture  and  other  emerging  areas  like  information  technology  is  a  sine  qua  non.   When  Governors  of  Western  Nigeria  met  in  Ado-­‐Ekiti  on  July  8th  2011,  the  intention  was  to  kick  start  the  process  of  building  a  new  momentum  for  engaging  and  mobilising  our  people,  respective  states  and  inherent  capacities.  It  will  also  enable  us  to  build  a  consensus  on  major  issues  of  communal  concern  and  also  facilitate  a  genuine  process  of  political  and  economic  cooperation  for  the  much  needed  rapid  growth  and  development  of  our  dear  states.    It  is  my  humble  opinion  with  all  sense  of  modesty  that  with  determination   and   concerted   efforts,   we   can   collectively   surpass   the   1952   benchmark,   enunciate   a  developmental   paradigm   and   also   provide   a   window   of   hope   for   our   people   that   would   herald   a   new  dawn  for  the  region.   Imagine   where   Western   Nigeria   would   have   been   now   had   it   not   been   for   the   overweening  influence  of  a  supra-­‐national  entity  that  subjected  her  to  a  huge  pall  of  arrested  development.  Though  deeply   ideological   and   historically   progressive,   the   region   came   under   the   control   of   an   ultra-­‐conservative   class   and   the   quality   of   governance   declined   abysmally.   A   region   that   used   to   set   the  standard  regressed  badly  into  mediocrity.  Our  quest  now  is  to  halt  this  slide  and  return  the  West  to  its  path  of  honour  and  glory.   The  region  according  to  the  The  Nation  of  Sunday,  3rd  April,  2011  has  a  remarkable  history  on  its  side.  It  did  it  in  1952–1959,  and  to  some  extent  in  1979–1982  as  LOOBO  States.  More  crucially  and  overwhelmingly,   it   even   did   it   before   colonialism,   with   political   and   economic   structures   that   were  breathtaking   not   only   in   Africa   but   also   fairly   competitive   in   the   global   world.   We   can   do   it   again.   If   only  we  can  all  subscribe  to  a  unified  regional  developmental  agenda.   10    
  11. 11.   Ladies   and   gentlemen,   in   the   eight   States   of   Edo,   Ekiti,   Delta,   Lagos,   Ogun,  Ondo,  Osun  and  Oyo,  about  14%  of  children  between  the  ages  of  six  and  eleven  are  not  in  school,  and  of  those  in  primary  schools,  only  50%  who  sat  for  the  NECO  examination  made  a  credit  pass  in  five  subjects  including   English   and   Mathematics.   It   is   very   disheartening   to   note   that   the   State   with   the   highest  percentage   score   credit   pass   in   any   five   subjects   recorded   just   13.2%,   while   the   one   with   the   least  percentage  score  recorded  just  1.11%  of  the  students  registered  for  the  examination.  This  happened  in  a  region  whose  main  stake  in  the  Nigerian  project  used  to  be  her  excellence  in  education.  (Oshun,  2010)   I  have  gone  through  this  historical  excursion  to  underscore  the  critical  nature  of  this  issue  and  to  assure   our   people   that   help   is   on   the   way.   We   are   aware   that   the   expectations   are   huge,   we   are   also  aware   that   it   is   going   to   be   a   daunting   task,   but   it   is   not   an   insurmountable   challenge.   We   are   thus  resolved   as   a   people   to   move   beyond   our   most   recent   wounds   because   we   do   not   suffer   a   dearth   of  ideas.  It  is  therefore  a  notorious  fact  that  having  achieved  electoral  credibility,  it  is  now  time  to  achieve  performance  credibility  through  collective  efforts,  competence  and  compassion  for  our  people.   Most  of  the  critical  issues  which  confront  us  today,  including  how  to  organise  a  livable  society  that   guarantees   a   decent   life   for   the   greater   number   of   our   people   have   been   articulated   by   Chief  Obafemi   Awolowo   in   his   books   The   People’s   Republic   and   The   Strategy   and   Tactics   of   a   People’s  Republic.  In  those  books,  the  great  Awo  posited:     “The   man   is   the   alpha   and   omega,   the   only   dynamic   means   and   the   sole   end,   of   all   earthly   human  activities;  and  that  any  development  plan  is  a  failure  which  falls  short  of  benefiting  every   member  of  the  society  in  accordance  with  deeds  or  needs  as  the  case  may  be”  (p.82)     Ladies   and   gentlemen,   colleague-­‐academics,   today’s   meeting   represents   a   watershed   in   our  determination  to  return  the  Old  Western  Region  to  the  path  of  real  growth  and  pragmatic  development.  It  is  our  expectation  that  you  would  rigourously  interrogate  issues  such  as  the  nature  and  structure  of  collaboration,   the   development   of   a   legal   framework,   mechanism   for   information   sharing   and  evaluation,   enunciate   a   developmental   paradigm   for   the   region,   the   desirability   of   a   Peer   Review  Mechanism,   and   development   of   a   policy   guideline   on   an   on-­‐going   basis   aimed   at   strengthening   the   11    
  12. 12.  efficiency   and   effectiveness   of   integration   and   also   locate   the   cause   of   the  retrogression   in   the   region,   proffer   solutions   and   contribute   to   the   development   of   a   regional   action  plan.   In   concluding,   we   should   remind   ourselves   that   history   has   placed   on   our   shoulders   a   very  serious   burden   because   we   are   “heirs   to   a   tradition   of   hope   and   tireless   expectations”   –   which   Awo  captured  repeatedly  as  “Ba  o  ku,  ise  o  tan”  –  can  we  then  afford  to  give  up?  We  return  then  in  the  end  to  the  endless  optimism  of  that  eternal  spirit  of  possibilities  made  manifest  in  the  person  and  leadership  of  Obafemi  Awolowo.  We  cannot  be  tired  of  reminding  ourselves  of  this.  In  the  voice-­‐over  of  the  Unity  Party  of  Nigeria  (UPN)  anthem,  Awo’s  voice  rings  through  the  ages:     “It  is  a  duty  we  owe,  to  our  dream  motherland   To  our  dear  great  motherland   To  enhance  her,  and  to  boost  her   In  the  eyes  of  the  entire  world…”     Mr   Governor,   Mr   Vice-­‐Chancellor,   colleague-­‐academics,   students,   I   like   to   thank   you   most  sincerely   for   this   opportunity   to   once   again   reflect   seriously,   in   the   direction   of   our   regional  developmental   goals   and   particularly   to   a   people-­‐centred   leadership   in   the   Land   of   Honour.   I   look  forward   to   an   insightful   debate   and   pragmatic   deliberation   of   the   points   which   I   have   laid   before   you  this  morning.     Thank  you  and  God  bless  you  all.           12    
  13. 13.                   13    
  14. 14.       14