WELCOME ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, SENATOR ABIOLA AJIMOBI, EXECUTIVE GOVERNOR OF OYO STATE AT THE MEETING OF THE SOUTHWEST GOVENRORS’ FORUM HELD ON MONDAY, 21ST NOVEMBER 2016, AT THE EXCO CHAMBERS, GOVERNORS OFFICE, SECRETARIAT, AGODI, IBADAN
1. Your Excellencies, my dear brothers, the Governors of Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo and Osun States, other distinguished invited guests here present, ladies and gentlemen, let me on behalf of the great people of Oyo State welcome you all to Ibadan the capital of Oyo State.
2. I particularly welcome my brother Governors of the States in Southwest Nigeria to this epochal meeting. I want to especially thank you for finding the time out of your busy schedules to come to this great city of Ibadan, which used to serve as the political and administrative capital of the old Western Region, to deliberate on salient and urgent issues of common interests affecting our geo-political zone in today’s Nigeria. Your presence is a clear testimony of the importance you have attached to the common challenges and problems confronting us as a people.
3. Today our country is buffeted with economic and political challenges of gargantuan proportions, our earning power as a people and country has been severely emasculated, several states are struggling to pay basic salaries with arrears running into several months in some states, manufacturers struggling to access foreign exchange for raw materials are shutting down leading to mass redundancies of our people, who unfortunately are mostly resident in our Region which is the industrial base of the country. The debilitating effects of the continued militancy in the Niger Delta have also had a direct effect on the economic stability of our States.
4. Indeed, it bears no rehashing the story of the difficult times that we are all facing. We are currently battling with financial and sustainability challenges on a scale that has probably not been seen in a long time. Despite our best efforts, we continue to struggle with low economic competitiveness, low revenue base, food insecurity, myriads of social problems, including security challenges, environmental and biodiversity issues, among other difficult challenges that task even the most astute managers of men and resources.
5. We cannot accept that this continues to be our reality. The destiny of a whole nationality, both at Home and in the Diaspora, comprised of a people with a profound sense of history, is at stake. Western Nigeria and her people remain a steadfast going concern. The homeland and nationality sentiments remain strong among the people. The people, who are the arbiters of public value, have become more empowered, and they continue to demand that government actions must align with their long-held development orientation for a Yorubaland that serves and caters for the interests of all.
6. I dare say at this point that Western Nigeria, the Homeland of the Yoruba people, possessing one of the most notable civilisations amongst the peoples of Africa; having a very widely-acclaimed sophisticated liberal and progressive development orientation; one of the earliest to be in contact with education; can boast of early ground-breaking landmarks and achievements; having the advantage of a proven template for effective and result-oriented governance; with unique providential bestowals of access to both land and sea borders, and has always been the most dynamic space for commercial engagement in the Nigeria, can indeed be the growth pole not just for the country, but with the potential to become a true Icon of Africa. We clearly have no business with underdevelopment, poverty and low quality of life.
7. We are the leaders of our people, and they look up to us for solutions. We are the primary custodians of the resources, the wealth and the well being of Yorubaland and her people. Our actions, arising from good and effective governance, must lead to peace, prosperity and social harmony. We are judged not by the amount of efforts that we put into leading our people, but by the net effect and outcomes of our policies, programmes and actions. Whilst we cannot run away from this reality, it however behoves on us to continue to search for ways and means of ensuring that the collective aspirations of our people are met.
8. It is obvious that we can no longer continue and carry on the way we have over the years. Today therefore must be the beginning of that new journey to bring our people out of creeping poverty, to empower the youths by training and equipping them with requisite skills, seek common ways of boosting our agriculture, deal with the security challenges assailing us and make our Region ready for investments. Today, we must agree that development and politicking become mutually exclusive. We must agree that the Southwest Region, with all its immense potentials has been sub-optimising in spite of the huge potential. I am, as I am sure the rest of us, particularly concerned about the state of our education, which has always been our traditional forte, and I dare say that we need to work very hard to save the sector and therefore save our future.
9. There is no better time to pick up the gauntlet again, fashion out collectively common policies that will ensure we regain our rightful place as the leading industrial region, economic basket and infrastructure reference point of the country.
10. We can no longer afford to organize our development in silos, joined up thinking is the new economy, indeed it is the reality of our today if we are to survive the tempest which the present economic challenges is throwing at us, we must resolve to put collective development at the forefront of our planning. Now is the time to make sense of the world where sense and reason seem to be going missing, we must help bring solutions that offer real change to our people in the Region through innovative thinking and inventive governance.
11. We need to fight for our competitiveness together. We need to build integrated regional transportation and energy infrastructure. It only makes sense to do all of these together. We need to merge our strengths, build synergy, achieve high economies of scale and minimise duplication of efforts. We must bring back our pioneering and revolutionary spirit, we must bring back the spirit of togetherness in tackling our challenges. We must work together to create common solutions to those common challenges. We must strengthen the capacity of our States to work together to deliver regional solutions. We can remain divided, but we can also choose to be united.
12. As a people, there is a decline of relations. The quality of our social relations is defined by political, partisanship and electoral engagements. We must no longer allow politics and quest for political power to divide, redefine or distract us from the real issues of our common patrimony. We must be united around the issues that bind us together – culture, language, common heritage, even our common problems and challenges. Rather than solitude, we must build solidarity. This is the time to reinforce our alajobi and agbajo owo ethos! Cynicism and distrust must give way to collaborations and synergy.
13. Indeed, there is power in getting together. That necessity is even more compelling in our Region, where God has, in His wisdom, created us together as one people, with the same historical and cultural orientation, and even a myth of common ancestry. Therefore in many cases, our problems and challenges, even our natural advantages and physical endowments are uniquely peculiar. Let’s face it. We cannot continue to pretend that we can deal with the issues confronting our Region and her people on a case-by-case, insular State basis. It will not work, and we cannot, no matter how hard we try, achieve long-term sustainable development and radical transformation in Yorubaland. Therefore, the key to leveraging our uniqueness is the regional approach to dealing with our afflictions, overcoming our difficulties, as well as creating a sustainable pathway to progress together. State-by-state solutions, desirable as they might seem, are no longer enough. The capacity to optimise the space for development lies in collective thinking and actions, as well as effective collaborative governance.
14. Meanwhile, except for occasional opportunities, mostly in Abuja, and perhaps at social and informal functions, we do not meet together as a Forum. There is no organised format for meetings and therefore the capacity for common positions on issues affecting the Region is blunt. This is dangerous. Going forward, we must ensure that never again will our busy schedules prevent us from meeting periodically to review notes and brainstorm together on issues affecting us as a people and seeking common solutions.
15. We are lucky that we already have a functional body that is doing this for us, the DAWN Commission, which has continued to push the button for collective thinking and working whilst not jeopardizing the individual identity of the states. We must resolve going forward to continue to strengthen the institution through constant institutional support in order for them to fulfil the mandate given to them.
16. Your Excellencies in conclusion, these challenging times have presented us with a big plain canvas of opportunities. Let us make the most of it. We cannot afford to sit back and expect the opportunities to fall on our laps, we are now realizing the importance of self help and self motivation, let us resolve as leaders to throw as much paint as we can on this canvas. It is then that we can stand up and say that we changed the course of our Region when the tempest came and threatened to sweep us away.
Thank you all.