Regional Integration As A Rescue Mission

In 1914, the British colonialists amalgamated different nations around the River Niger area to form what is today known as Nigeria. The ‘British masters’ caused the fusion of the Hausas, the Fulanis, the Kanuris, the Nupes, the Yorubas, the Ijaws, the Ibos, the Ibibos, the Kalabaris and so on. Nigeria is a combination of nations because a nation is a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture including language, inhabiting a particular natural country or territory. It is different from a federation. A federation is a group of states with central government and with each state having independence in internal affairs like governance, education, policing, transportation etc. How thin do we have to wait for the ice to be before we know that internal cohesion of our regions will stimulate national cohesion of Nigeria and will place us in a better stead?

Nigeria-nation is used to refer to a political, economic, social and cultural actions in the international system. It is a multiple nationalities joined together in a formal political union. It then adopted the language of the colonial masters, English, as its national or common language. Over  ninety-eight years after the forced union, not all Nigerians can speak “our common language” and some of us are very pleased with our local language irrespective of the constituents of the gathering. In the beginning of the union, things looked promising. The education system introduced by the colonialists was embraced by the little that could afford schools. A primary school graduate in the sixties will read newspaper correctly and can write acceptable application for jobs. University graduates are now riding Okada and only take time off during off-peak hours to read free newspapers.

We should be living like humans that we are in a serene and secured environment devoid of bombing, kidnapping, incessant armed robbery, massive unemployed citizens, food insecurity, high level of corruption, high poverty rate and substandard housing in the slums. We have the resources both at state and national levels to actualise better standard of living for our people but the structure to make sure this is possible is not in place. We seem to perform better when we are organised along the regional divide. When we operated as a region, we did more collectively than we have been ‘butchered’ into states. The states were not correctly demarcated because the stakeholders were not involved and could not say which state they prefer to belong. For example, the Okuns, the Aworis and the Ekitis. In some cases, because of natural features like the rivers, a community was divided into to. Example is Asejire in Oyo and Osun States.

Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memory, gave the South-Western region of Nigeria the infrastructure that made it the envy of other regions and nations. Nnamdi Azikiwe followed suit in the Eastern region and Tafawa Balewa in the Northern region. Our people were motivated because they had sense of belonging to their respective regions and saw regional projects as national projects that belonged to all. Corruption level was low because everybody’s aim was to deliver qualitative public goods and not personal aggrandisement. The other regions in Nigeria were greatly impacted by the Yoruba’s doctrine of being virtuous and the laudable achievements of the Sage (Chief Obafemi Awolowo). A lot of job-seekers came from the other regions to seek solace in the South-West. Ibadan greatly developed into the biggest city in West Africa. So also was Lagos.

The first television house in West Africa, the first stadium, the first high-rise in Nigeria, the first specialist hospital, the first tertiary institution, the first university, the first industrial estate, the first plantation and the first organised farmers’ group who made millionaires out of farmers were all the products of regionalism. Qualitative education which inculcated the doctrines of being virtuous into our people was provided in the various regions. Corruption was minimal because everybody was his or her brother’s keeper. Life was then meaningful and we prayed it will continue to improve. Mainstreaming at the detriment of regional integration derailed the beautiful developmental programmes of the regions. The country’s fortune has been plummeting ever since.

Seven Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree holders applying for driving jobs in Dangote Group and eighteen Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree holders applying for Osun Youths Empowerment Scheme (OYES), a volunteer programme created by Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola to engage the youths massively and to empower them to be self-dependent, will not be possible in the country if the tempo of development of the Sage has been maintained. We should be talking of ‘clean energy’ and not ‘stable energy’, talking of sustainable development of our cities and not ‘infrastructural inadequacy’ and we should be talking of aesthetics of our airports and not lack of power to run the baggage conveyor. We should have innovators by now and not job-seekers.

Due to graduate unemployment, our youths have turned into crime for living. Some of those that have the opportunity to travel are traveling by road across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. This is share madness, desperation and suicide-attempt. It should be discouraged as much as possible through better governance because it is as a result of the push and pull effect. The easy way in which corrupt leaders make money in the country is pushing the youths away while the ‘golden fleece’ in Europe is pulling them.

Regional integration of all the nations (regions) that form Nigerian federation will ginger rapid development of the federation. Nigeria is like a construction project with language barrier as a major problem. We fail to understand and listen to each other. The people that can steer the ship of Nigeria to saver harbour can hardly get to the steering. Mainstreaming is a callous means of benefiting at others’ expense. Regional integration is for those that have ideas to let ‘charity begin at home’. By demonstrating that our regions can be great, Nigeria will be greater than we can expect and this will save Nigeria a lot of resources and make it a developed nation.

This piece was sent in by Olufemi Oyedele who is a Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of the State of Osun.

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