Southwest governors on Monday lamented the splitting of the old Western Nigeria into six states by the Federal Government, saying the action not only robbed the people of their oneness, but also hampered the region’s socio – economic development.
The governors – Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun), Akinwunmi Ambode (Lagos), Senator Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Ayo Fayose Ekiti) and Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), spoke during the Southwest Governors’ Quarterly meeting held in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
Amosun, the host Governor in his welcome speech, said instead of building bridges, state creation led to boundary disputes and security challenges among them.
The governor recalled that many landmark achievements were recorded in Yoruba land during the time of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as Premier of the Western Region.
He advised that the time has come for them to unite, promote and re – enact the achievements of the South-West in the Nigerian Federation.
Amosun said: “As a region, it is important that we promote the pre-eminence and achievements of the South-West in the Nigerian Federation. This in reference and in particular to the greatness we have achieved as a people when we were together as a regional government in Nigeria.
“We will recall those laudable feats made us the envy of other regions. Time and space will, definitely, not permit me to begin to list the giant leaps that the South-West took as a region between 1957 and 1967 particularly under the leadership of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.
“Permit me to list a few. We have physical infrastructure such as the Cocoa House at Ibadan, which was aptly named after the source of its funding; the Agodi Secretariat at Ibadan; and the different roads that connect our towns and cities some of which are still standing the test of time. We also have the educational infrastructure of which we are still benefitting from today.
” Indeed, many of us seated in this room are beneficiaries of the Free Education Programme of that time. It is the same Free Education Programme that culminated in the establishment of a University that was once the most beautiful campus in Sub-Sahara Africa, the then University of Ife, and now appropriately named the Obafemi Awolowo University, at Ile-Ife.
“We cannot also forget the economic infrastructure; we have the O’odua Group as the umbrella Investment House for the commercial enterprise of the region such as the Sketch Publication; the Wemabod Estates; the Lafia Hotels; the Premier Hotel at Ibadan; the Area J4 Forest Reserve and others.
“However, the creation of states from the old Western Region in 1976 which should have been an impetus for further socio-economic development had been allowed to create artificial boundaries between our people.
“And to further worsen the situation, some of our people are also making themselves available as instruments of division because of their selfish political gains. The consequence is that our people begin to see themselves as a people of one state or the other rather than as a sub-unit of the entity of the Yoruba people.
“This is not without its attendant challenges of intra and inter-state boundary disputes which have worsened security in some states and, hampered socio-economic development. Instead of building bridges, some of our people are digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters.
“My dear brothers, the onerous task on our hands is to lead our people to further prosperous living. That is why the chosen agenda for this meeting ‘Economic Self-Determination for South-West Nigeria’ with special focus on ‘South-Western Nigeria Export Initiative’ is very apt.
“Instead of the bowl-in–hand practice that each of the states seeks from the Federal Allocation, the time has come for us to map out strategies to harness the natural resources of the entire region for further socio-economic development of the South-West Region as a whole and for more prosperity for our people.
For Aregbesola, the old Western Nigeria recorded greater feats when it operated as single state.
“If we look critically at the achievements we had as singular state of Western Region. We must be mindful of the fact that as singular state then, we achieved more than now when we are divided into six states.
“We must identify our strength, unify those strength and explore them for the benefit of our people. We use the development to galvanise our potentials,” Aregbesola said.