Sat, 23 Mar 2024 Feature Article

Southwest: Beyond the toga of statism

Southwest: Beyond the toga of statism

The Lagos State Government recently endorsed a food production agreement with the Niger State Government. The partnership, known as the ‘Produce for Lagos Initiative’, is aimed at ensuring a steady flow of agricultural products to the end consumers. Interestingly, this agreement is coming at a time Sheik Ahmad Abubakar Gumi is warning the Federal Government of Nigeria that unless it negotiates with the terrorists and bandits, recent attacks will be “the tip of the iceberg”.

Well, irrespective of what Gumi stands to profit from this threatening statement, it is obvious that insecurity in Nigeria is spreading and no region is immune from its fatal fangs. It is a statement of fact that, in this existential situation, nobody is safe. Sadly, Nigeria is beginning to look like a failing state and it is as if the terrorists are winning. Against the concept of the Peace of Westphalia which midwifed what we now call a modern state, what we are having is a direct challenge to the state. That 17 military personnel were murdered in Delta State by some yet-to-be-identified men could only be likened to a declaration of war on Nigeria’s sovereignty. To get things right therefore, one major step will be the fortification of the ‘Amotekun’ security outfit. The Southwest has to find a way of containing the spread of this madness before it’s too late. But, as it is, can an ‘Amotekun’ operative bear a rifle of the AK 47 brand? Therefore, President Bola Tinubu as a federalist must use his authority to evolve an Executive Bill that’ll devolve internal security mechanisms so that ‘Amotekun’ can be strengthened and its operatives properly trained to become Special Forces that can fight in the forests.

Just as the late Rotimi Akeredolu spearheaded the establishment ‘Amotekun’ in the security sector, time is also ripe for the establishment of an ‘Amotekun’ in the agricultural sector by setting up a public-private partnership of Commodities Exchange before the end of this year. The governors should sit down with the likes of Akinwumi Adesina, currently of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and other agronomists from the Southwest and in the Diaspora with a view to lighting up an immediate, short-, medium- and long-term agricultural rejuvenation for the region. Fortunately, the states have the capacity to crowd-fund in a way that can link research with finance and export markets.

During the campaigns, Tinubu as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to establish a National Commodity Board if elected into office. So, how far has his government gone with making the promise become a reality? In my considered opinion, the president should encourage the sub-nationals to set up Commodities Exchange with the minimum farm gate guarantees to modulate prices. In this way, the farmer produces more because he has the guarantee of selling all his farm produce. This system no doubt increases production. The Commodities Exchange provides storage facilities and increase markets. With these, everybody gains: the farmers produce at guaranteed prices and, because of the increase in production, the economies of scale makes it cheaper for the end-user.

Still on Agriculture, the best analysis is still the speech given by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the Leader of Government Business in the Western House of Assembly, introducing the motion for the establishment of the Cooperative Bank. The Cooperative Bank was set up in 1953, not as a Bank per se but to modernize agriculture in Western Nigeria - to move it from subsistence to commercial farming. But where is the Cooperative Bank as of today? Why wasn’t it recapitalized like Rabobank in the Netherlands and Crédit Agricole CIB in France, interestingly the two banks that have now become major pivotal lending forces to agricultural development in the two countries? Unarguably, Rabobank is one of the key reasons the Netherlands is the world’s 2nd largest exporter of food and agricultural products, in spite of its having exactly the same land mass as Ekiti State.

Now that we have allowed the Cooperative Bank to go down, what are we going to use to revive it? Are the Southwest governors going to bring back the Cooperative Bank or are they going to start off another Bank to modernize agriculture because farming in the region is still primitive? Awolowo’s goals succeeded to an extent! But what instruments do we have today? Time it was in Nigeria when the Western Region was setting the pace. Now, where is the region in the scheme of things? Once upon a time in Nigeria, Western Region’s warehouses in London were edifices to behold. Where are they now? What has become of the Cocoa Warehouses at Ikeja and Apapa? From the look of things, Awolowo is just a slogan used to win elections. Once that is achieved, our politicians forget about ‘Awo’, until another election cycle. Is it any wonder why the Awolowo family doesn’t take them seriously again?

Statism in this context does not translate into abolishing the state. Instead, it is about preaching the coming together of the state governments for regional aggregation for modernization. What we are saying here is that the states do not have the capital base or technical capacity to make a forward advance on their own. In other words, there is nothing wrong with statism except that we now know that the states do not have the fiscal mechanism to become real sub-nationals. So, they must come together to start with two or three key issues, starting with the modernization of agriculture and education to make Yorubaland competitive again.

Let it be noted that nobody is advocating the abolition of the Yoruba State because it’s not going to happen! However, it is a fact of life that statism as a political system has set the Yoruba nation back. Indeed, this is the weakest ebb the Yoruba has ever had since the treaty that ended the Kiriji War. Basically, the treaty that ended the 16-year civil war triggered a renaissance, especially in terms of education, agriculture and others in Western Nigeria. Had successive Yoruba leaders been diligent in their responsibilities, the Yoruba nation would by now have been ways ahead of other regions. So, why not invoke the spirit that led to the massive development of the Western Region and the building of a modern Yorubaland based on modernized, value-addition agriculture? After all, there is no alternative to working together!

As the pioneer Administrative Secretary of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) and an active participant in the efforts that led to the publication of the ‘Development Agenda for Western Nigeria Strategy Roadmap’, aka DAWN Document, yours sincerely can attest to its richness in solutions to the challenges confronting Yorubaland. But how many of our governors even have copies of that Document for regional integration, let alone digest its contests? Again, this is where we have been failing as a nation and people.

It is unfortunate that the leaders of the Yoruba nation have become too complacent. It is also sad that Yorubaland has been reduced to a loaf of bread with the privileged clique and entrenched interests taking as many slices as they please, thereby leaving the mass of the people pathetically deprived. Ours has become a land with so much divinely-deposited assets but languishing in inexpressible poverty. It is the reason an Ogbomoso indigene is not interested in what happened between Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola. It is also the reason an Ijebu man sees an Ogbomoso man as his enemy without bothering to dig up the reasons for the bitter politics that ultimately succeeded in putting the two families on the path of permanent acrimony.

May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

*KOMOLAFE writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State, Nigeria ([email protected])