Party af­fil­i­a­tion de­stroys re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion in Nige­ria

Business Day (Nigeria) - - FRONT PAGE - OBINNA EMELIKE

Go­ing by the fast pace of de­vel­op­ment in the First Repub­lic, it was ob­vi­ous that the lead­ers of the re­gional gov­ern­ments made ju­di­cious use of the re­sources sourced mainly from the re­gions.

The har­mony and co­he­sion among the com­po­nents that con­sti­tuted the re­gion was also laud­able as all hands were on the deck by each re­gion to out­per­form oth­ers.

Sadly, the col­lapse of re­gional gov­ern­ment and in­tro­duc­tion of fed­er­al­ism brought an end to the healthy ri­valry among re­gions across the coun­try.

But in re­cent times, ef­forts are be­ing made by the politi­cians to re­unite, form blocs and work for the in­ter­est of their once-cher­ished re­gions.

There have been quiet eco­nomic and re­gional ag­i­ta­tions from blocs such as BRACED, the South-south re­gional in­te­gra­tion bloc of Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Cross-rivers, Edo and Delta states; De­vel­op­ment Agenda for West­ern Nige­ria tagged The DAWN Com­mis­sion; South­East Nige­ria Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion (SENEC), North­ern Nige­ria

Gover­nors Fo­rum, and Mid­dle Belt Fo­rum.

How­ever, po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests and party af­fil­i­a­tions have been top among chal­lenges to suc­cess­ful re­gional in­te­gra­tion and con­se­quent de­vel­op­ment since the col­lapse of re­gional gov­ern­ment.

While the South West Nige­rian bloc un­der The DAWN Com­mis­sion seems to be do­ing bet­ter than other blocs, es­pe­cially with the suc­cess­ful for­ma­tion of Op­er­a­tion Amotekun, its re­gional se­cu­rity out­fit, to ad­dress in­se­cu­rity across the re­gion, po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion had ear­lier threat­ened the in­te­gra­tion of the re­gion.

It would be re­called that dur­ing the Oluse­gun Obasanjo’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, La­gos State was denied fed­eral al­lo­ca­tions due to the cre­ation of ad­di­tional lo­cal gov­ern­ments by Bola Tin­ubu, the then gov­er­nor.

The sce­nario that played up then was be­cause Pres­i­dent Obasanjo was in the rul­ing party PDP, while Tin­ubu was in the op­po­si­tion party.

How­ever, the South West bloc seems to have over­come its dif­fer­ences by unit­ing in the estab­lish­ment of Op­er­a­tion Amoteku de­spite the fact that a gov­er­nor be­longs to the op­po­si­tion party, fights among gover­nors in the rul­ing party to be closer to pres­i­dency and god­fa­thers.

Of course, the North­ern Gover­nors’ Fo­rum has been a force in the north­ern part of Nige­ria, fight­ing and in­sist­ing on de­vel­op­men­tal in­ter­ests of the north.

In spite of their strength and unity, the north has not fared bet­ter in terms of de­vel­op­ment, when com­pared with other re­gions.

Yet, is­sues such as re­li­gion, in­se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially in the North East, the killings in some states and ban­ditry have pitched some gover­nors against oth­ers, breed­ing dis­cord like in the case of South­ern Kaduna, Plateau and Taraba.

Of course, the BRACED bloc is mak­ing ef­fort to rise, es­pe­cially in mak­ing de­mands for the de­vel­op­ment of their oil-rich re­gion, but po­lit­i­cal will, al­le­giance to party af­fil­i­a­tion and self­ish in­ter­ests have made the bloc to make lit­tle progress since its for­ma­tion.

The bloc is still fight­ing to get the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment to stop de­duct­ing the 13 per­cent fed­eral deriva­tion at source be­fore the rev­enue is shared out.

But the off-and-on na­ture of the bloc has made it a seem­ing tooth­less dog as Fed­eral gov­ern­ment al­ways throws bait to the bloc, to at least, de­lay dis­cus­sions or change its focus.

In one of the meet­ings, when the bloc was re­ally ag­i­tat­ing for its rights, Ifeanyi Okowa, gov­er­nor of Delta State, the host of the meet­ing, said: “We need to stress that in any al­lo­ca­tion that is be­ing done, 13 per­cent deriva­tion must first be taken out of the funds that come from oil rev­enue be­fore the rest of the funds is shared out. This 13 per­cent is sup­posed to be for the oil-pro­duc­ing states and that has not been the sit­u­a­tion for a very long time.”

But noth­ing has hap­pened since then.

Dur­ing the sec­ond An­nual Gen­eral Meet­ing of the Fo­rum of SouthSouth Cham­ber of Com­merce, In­dus­try, Mines and Agri­cul­ture(fossccima) in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Deputy Se­nate Pres­i­dent, Ovie Omo-agege noted that ‘’For the South-south re­gion, the need for eco­nomic growth calls for eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion that would help set the en­tire re­gion on a more pros­per­ous growth path. I wish to make it very clear, how­ever, that the eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion of the SouthSouth is not a short term an­swer to the cur­rent so­cioe­co­nomic prob­lems of the re­gion.”

Omo-agege also pointed out that ‘’The quest for re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion in the South-south is not new. Over a decade ago, the gover­nors of the re­gion floated the same idea and sought to forge closer eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and in­te­gra­tion among the six states of the South-south geo-po­lit­i­cal zone namely Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-ibom, Cross-river, Edo and Delta (BRACED).

‘’The BRACED states sought to deepen their col­lab­o­ra­tion in the ar­eas of ed­u­ca­tion, hu­man ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment, in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy, in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment, agri­cul­ture and in­vest­ment.”

‘’Re­gret­tably how­ever, this bold at­tempt at re­gional eco­nomic in­te­gra­tion aimed at pool­ing of re­sources to­gether, stim­u­lat­ing pro­duc­tion, trade and in­vest­ment which would have al­le­vi­ated poverty failed as the BRACED Com­mis­sion es­tab­lished to drive the process re­mained in­ef­fec­tive,’’ he said.

Com­par­ing The DAWN Com­mis­sion and BRACED, the for­mer is more co­or­di­nated and for­mi­da­ble in its de­mands or else the Op­er­a­tion Amotekun would have been a mere dream.

How­ever, the prob­lem lies with the South East bloc, which seems to be the least in terms of se­ri­ous­ness with the in­te­gra­tion, set­ting agenda and pres­sur­ing gov­ern­ment to get its in­ter­ests met de­spite ne­glect of the bloc.

The South-east Gover­nors Fo­rum has never been a co­he­sion force, and the South-east Nige­ria Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion (SENEC) take­off has not been as an­tic­i­pated at the launch of the fo­rum.

But the re­gion, which has suf­fered set­back from the Civil War should have been at the fore­front of in­te­gra­tion in order to lift the re­gion, ne­glected over the years for ob­vi­ous rea­sons.

The poor state of in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment in the zone re­flects the un­der­ly­ing lack of co­or­di­nated eco­nomic, in­sti­tu­tional and in­fras­truc­tural de­vel­op­ment, which the eco­nomic fo­rum or bloc should or­di­nar­ily ad­dress.

So, far the South-east bloc has been un­der same po­lit­i­cal house for a long time, hence party af­fil­i­a­tion has lit­tle to do with their lack of har­mony and in­te­gra­tion.

How­ever, Rochas Oko­rocha, a for­mer gov­er­nor of Imo State, never agreed with his folks at the South East Gover­nors’ Fo­rum be­cause of his party af­fil­i­a­tion, so also, Hope Uzod­inma, the present gov­er­nor of the state, and the only APC gov­er­nor in the bloc.

But David Umahi, gov­er­nor of Ebonyi State, and chair­man, South East Gover­nors’ Fo­rum, has sev­er­ally been ac­cused of tilt­ing more to­wards APC de­spite be­ing a PDP gov­er­nor, a de­vel­op­ment that has al­legedly af­fected fruit­ful dis­cus­sions for in­te­gra­tion. The Anam­bra gov­er­nor also does his things dif­fer­ently, ne­glect­ing the bloc, which Peter Obi, his pre­de­ces­sor, up­held even while in an­other party.

Obi be­lieves in the in­ter­est of the re­gion no mat­ter the party a gov­er­nor be­longs.

Well, as party af­fil­i­a­tion mat­ters a lot to politi­cians, in­te­gra­tion is only pos­si­ble when gover­nors up­hold state and re­gional in­ter­ests above party’s de­mand. Un­til then, only blocs that are ‘united in di­ver­sity’ can make progress, and the South West bloc seems to be the lead­ing light.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.