How to Make the Southwest the Economic Hub of Nigeria

By Damilare Daniel

In recent times, there have been calls that the country reverts to the regional government of the old. This agitation seems to be loudest in southwest Nigeria. Many Nigerians who witnessed the regional government before the 1966 coup d’etal claimed that the regional parliamentary governance engendered aggressive development in all the regions. Indeed, some believe that the southwest region’s performance was better than the other regions. Perhaps this prestige and confidence contributed to why the regional agitation seems to be loudest in that part of the country.

Mr Mapaderun Babatunde (a development economist based in Lagos) believes that the dominant approach of development employed by the Nigerian government is the bane of the country’s developmental challenges. He considers the participatory development paradigm used by Awolowo in the 1940s and 50s as the key to development. He is optimistic that the Southwest will become the economic hub of Nigeria if the region can redeploy the participatorydevelopment strategy of Awolowo. According to him, “regional economic integration will help the southwest region approach the Awolowo way-participatory development”.

Mapaderun believes the Southwest region will do well economically if the leaders can drive its economic model on regional economic integration, quality education, security, agriculture, electricity and technology, The Trumpet gathered.

He says, “the governors of Southwest region need to provide enabling environments for thepopulace, and the people will become job creators. This will also alleviate poverty, crime, and social vices. No doubt, economic activities will resume in Southwest, and our narrative will change for the better.”

Mapaderun thinks the government does not have business building housing units for civil servants, subsidising fuel prices, supplying electricity to every home in Nigeria. He believes these are all dominant paradigm of development that makes the populace passive in developmental activities.

Lawrence Ibukun (A Security consultant based in Akure) believes security is one of the factors that can boost the economic fortunes of the Southwest. He claims that the region is the most secure in Nigeria today. “As regard security, I think the performance of the southwest security operative (Amontekun) is impressive. Who wants to establish a business in an environment that is not secured?” Ibukun believes that the Southwest governors do not need rigorous ‘marketing’to woo investors. “Every business person and institution wants the security of life and property. Therefore, if we are serious about the economic surge project, we must be ready to make our region unbearable for criminals.

Hubert Ajare (A Business Lawyer based in Abuja) believes the Southwest needs to have a clear and achievable business strategy that will attract people to establish their business in the region. He asserts, “it has to go beyond rhetorics; they need to work the talk and let people see it, test it and believe it by experience.” He believes if the governors of the Southwest must be political about the ease of doing business in the region, then the politics should be about harmonising the economic plans of all the six states of the area. Ajare reveals, “For instance, we all know that one of the fundamental economic challenges of Nigeria is the lack of reliable and affordable electricity supply. But in The Redemption Camp (Mowe, Ogun State), three Power Turbines supply electricity for at least twenty-three hours daily.” I think there is a need for the six Southwest governors to find out how the religious institution achieve this”.

Ajare believes the government does not need to empower the people via the so-called empowerment programmes that give them money to do business. After one week, the beneficiaries of such funds cannot account for it. “Undoubtedly, it is not easy to empower people in entrepreneurship by providing capital for such enterprises. The governors of the six states should prepare the people, especially the youths, for business by providing what will make their business and entrepreneurial activities thrive. No doubt, it will be a win-win for everyone.”

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David Oti (an Agric/Economics extension specialist based in Ibadan) believes Southwesterners are not supposed to lack food. They should not be poor either, considering the quantity and the quality of land and the volume of rain in that part of the country every year. According to him, the massive movement of youths from the fertile farmlands of the Southwest to the modern Lagos city is not civilisation. Indeed, it is one of the fundamental anti-development activities of the populace. “Everyone wants to reside in Lagos even when the city cannot offer them the quality of life their rural communities would deliver them. They abandoned agricultural wealth on the farm, only to come to Lagos and start hunting for jobs that are not available, just because they want to give the impression that their status has changed from rural dwellers to urban settlers.”

Oti further explains that “the decision of the united nations to name poverty and hunger as the first two targets of sustainable development goals (SDG) was not an error. The Yorubas say, “Ebi ko nwo inu, ki oro omin o wo”, meaning when you are hungry, you can’t concentrate on anything else”.Funny enough, these two are closely related, and they are clear indicators that an economy is not doing well. He believes agriculture will drive the region’s economy and make it the country’s economic hub.

Oti said, “we cannot drive the economy in the twenty-first century without technology. In Businesses, farming, manufacturing, education and others, we need technology to guide us. For instance, “we waste many farm products because we do not have the modern appliances to process them. Also, rural farmers use much energy to do little work on the farmland instead of little effort from the machine. Many rural farmers do not have access to banks to account for their business activities properly.” Hence he suggests that Southwest governors should provide technology in urban and the remotest settlements so that everyone will participate in the economic and development activities of the region.

The proceedings have shown that the agitation of Southwest for regional governance may not solve the region’s challenges if it is all about regional independence. Hence, the self-governance struggle should have a realistic structure to help the populace develop individually and boost the region’s chances to experience total positive change.

Undoubtedly, if the region must achieve these objectives, it has to improve its economic power by first becoming the economic hub of Nigeria. The reactions of some financial stakeholders suggest that this regional economic project is achievable if the leaders can look inward and formulate a regional economic plan that will revolve around security, agriculture, education,conducive environment for business, electricity and technology

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