By Soyombo Opeyemi
It is clear that some commentators are living in the past. Indeed, the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, was prescient enough to warn against creation of mind boundaries as South West marches towards economic integration: “Instead of building bridges, some of our people are digging trenches for protection against their own brothers and sisters.
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 Yoruba entity.”
Our founding fathers built Lagos State. They built Ogun State. Not many may even remember that the old Ogun stretched into many parts of today’s Lagos State. Those writers trying to create a wedge between the two brother states had better watch it. We are one people, one culture.
Despite the excision of the Lagos Municipality from the Western Region in 1954 following the inauguration of the Lyttleton Constitution, the bulk of the territory of today’s Lagos State, consisting of Ikorodu, Epe, Somolu, Ikeja, Mushin, Ajegunle, Yaba and Badagry remained part of the Western Region.
Lagos State is today a member of the Odu’a Group and the march towards economic integration of the old Western Region is on course. Ogun! Lagos! What’s the difference between the two? Millions of workers in Lagos reside in Ogun. Many companies in Ogun have their headquarters in Lagos. Many firms in Lagos have equally expanded to Ogun. Many indigenes of Ogun have their houses in Lagos and vice versa. So, there is so little to choose between the two states.
What is more, Lagos and Ogun are headed by progressive governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is true that the Ogun State counterpart had to do twice as much to get the state on the present progressive lane of development because of the depredations of the past, which is known to the progressive governors. If Ogun State has now become an industrial hub just like Lagos is, should that not be celebrated? Isn’t that to the good for the neighbouring states? Are the masses of the two states not the ultimate beneficiaries? Will these leaders remain the governors of their respective states forever? Can we ever separate Lagos from Ogun or Ogun from Lagos?
We must be wary of fifth columnists, political opportunists, profiteers and racketeers who wish to clog the wheel of progress and the march of the two friendly states to economic prosperity. Having lost on the electoral field, they try to create a non-existent friction, provoke unwarranted malice in order to oil their dubious political machinery. We will not fall for their antics.
To quote Senator Amosun once more, “We cannot allow artificial boundaries such as geography, religion, politics, etc. to hinder our joint development. We should explore the common heritage in culture and tradition as a spring-board for the development of our different States and the entire Region as a whole.”
Just last week, a leading financial newspaper, Business Day, had this report on its front page: “Lagos and Ogun states are fast moving away from other states in the country in financial capacity, following their ability to generate over 60 per cent of their revenue internally.
The two states generated 73 per cent and 63 per cent of their revenue internally in 2016. This means that in the event of a failure or shortfall in allocation from the Federation Account, the two states can internally generate at least N63 out of every N100 needed monthly.
Lagos and Ogun are closely followed by Rivers, Kano and Edo sates, which generated 43 per cent, 38 per cent and 35 per cent respectively of their total internal revenue…” It is this kind of cheery news we should celebrate rather than create a non-existent rivalry between brother states. How meaningless will the agitation for full (fiscal) federalism become if states cannot fend for themselves, if they cannot look inward and provide enabling environment for business growth with an eye on backward integration?
In 2013, the governor of Ogun State invested in heavy land-clearing equipment in a scale never witnessed in the annals of the state. Just recently, another massive investment was made on farm machinery. Hundreds of acres of land have been cultivated. More hectares are being cleared and more and more private investors are making their presence felt in the sector. Just as Lagos partners Kebbi State, it has agriculture land leased to it in Ogun State in a win-win partnership between states of the same parents and common heritage. The six South West governors have begun moves to harness the “competitive advantage of all the States in the region for sustainable regional development.”
Finally, we should have expected these armchair critics – politicians in the robes of writers – to learn from history. The late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, was criticised for being ahead of his time. When he mooted the idea of free education, he was criticised.
When he built the first industrial and housing estates in Nigeria, what was the socio-economic situation at the time? When he established the first television service in Africa, how many Nigerians at the time had television sets?
When he constructed the Liberty Stadium, the first in Nigeria, what was Western Region’s position in the world in relation to sports or how many children of the Region were in school? The simple fact is, you do not wait for tomorrow before you plan for it.
Those writers trying to ingratiate themselves with either of the top-notch governors of Lagos and Ogun are simply wasting their time. “Ambode and Amosun no get their time.” They should invest their time (pens) in more productive ventures.
Soyombo writes from Abeokuta via [email protected]