Diran Apata's Sunday Message
South West: Challenges of regional integration (1)
IN the past few years, the governments of the Yoruba Southwest have hoisted the banner of Regional Integration for the Yoruba Southwest. Naturally, because that is the sensible and realistic way to achieve real progress in the Southwest, most of us, citizens of the Southwest, have been considerably excited about it. Why do we see it as the sensible and realistic way to achieve real progress in the Southwest? There are many reasons, but because of the constraints of space, we shall here make just a brief statement of those reasons. What we now call the Southwest is the bulk of the homeland of one people – the Yoruba people. It is the heartland of the civilization of the Yoruba nation – the most urbanized civilization in tropical Africa long before the coming of European colonialism. It is bound together by one indigenous culture, and the same culturally determined desires, expectations and group behavior. A big chunk of this one homeland was separated from the rest by European colonial adventurers in the last years of the 19th century, and now constitutes parts of the Republics of Benin and Togo. And then the rest, which fell under British colonial rule, was also split into two – the larger part now constituting our Southwest, and the smaller section constituting the Yoruba provinces that are in Kwara and Kogi States. Throughout the British colonial times (1900 to 1960), this bulk of the homeland of the people and civilization of the Yoruba developed as one state and people in Nigeria. It was first, the Lagos Colony and Protectorate. Then, it became the western provinces of the Republic of Southern Nigeria. And then, when the British finally came to the idea of structuring Nigeria into a federation, this main bulk of Yorubaland became the bulk of the Region known as the Western Region. The Yoruba people, both of the Western Region and of the Yoruba provinces included in the Northern Region, made strong attempts to become unified into the Western Region. But it suited British designs at the time to keep them so split up. In 1963, the non-Yoruba provinces of the then Western Region were sliced away and made into a separate Region, the Midwest Region, as a result of which the Western Region became a homogenous Yoruba Region.
In the circumstance, the main bulk of the Yoruba homeland now known in Nigeria as the Southwest has had the luck of staying together as one piece of territory – with one direction and purpose – for most of the years of the Yoruba membership of Nigeria. Even when the Yoruba kingdom of Lagos, because it held the seat of the government of Nigeria, was designated Federal Territory, the direction of its development was harmonious with the direction of the development of the Western Region. This whole Yoruba Southwest of Nigeria became the home of the most ambitious and fastest modern development, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole of tropical Africa. It is the Yoruba people of this Southwest that established the first Free Education Program in Africa, the first television station, the first African-owned industrial estate, the first stadium, most of Africa’s earliest scholarships for higher education in universities in the wider world, the corporation that owned the largest aggregation of African-owned investment capital on the African continent – Odua Investment Corporation. Most major towns of the Yoruba Southwest established modern water supply systems. Across the face of the Southwest, well constructed modern roads were built. Impacted by all these forward-looking achievements in modernization, Yoruba civilization modernized itself and flowered in the Southwest. In the Southwest, school education became a regular, indeed a normative, feature of the raising of children. The people of the Yoruba Southwest became the most literate people in Black Africa. The people of the Southwest, consuming more and more of manufactured products, became a great modern market. They developed a powerful class of international businessmen, manufacturers, bankers, professionals. The ancient cultural and ingrained readiness of Yoruba people to accept and include foreigners turned the Southwest into the primal territory in Nigeria for trading folks from all over Nigeria to migrate to, and the primal territory where security, peaceful life and success for such traders are most guaranteed. Unfortunately, since the independence of Nigeria,with Nigeria’s directionincreasingly informed by nebulous or even chaotic structuring of the Nigerian federation, the Southwest has been ultimately broken into six states. The Yoruba people of the Southwest are culturally inclined to be very demanding of their rulers and, therefore, they have tended to be very critical of their state governments – even though, in reality, in the general collapse of decent and purposeful governance in Nigeria, the Southwest has managed to keep at least a little ahead in development in the country. It is this strong desire of the Yoruba people of the Southwest to advance faster and faster that has, happily, generated in recent years the idea of Regional Integrated Development of the Southwest. Among the generality of the large and highly educated Yoruba Diaspora all over the world, as among Yoruba people at home, the current governments of the Southwest have been, and are being, highly commended for accepting, promoting, and assigning priority to, Regional Integration. Most Yoruba people in the Southwest agree that integrating our development efforts is the best direction for the Southwest. And it is symptomatic of our widespread acceptance of it that a civic organization among us quickly put together an impressive guide-book for Integrated Development – the guide-book titled “Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN)”. I belong to very many Yoruba Diaspora organizations in many parts of the world, and there is not a single one of them that does not believe that the proposals in the DAWN booklet, though by no means perfect, are nevertheless a laudable package for the development of our Southwestern Nigeria today. I am also aware that, as should be, there are other Yoruba organizations that have been thinking of adding their own contributions to our thoughts on the needs and processes of Integrated Regional Development of the Southwest. As I see our circumstances today, I identify the following among our needs for smooth Regional Integration now. First, we have six states as of now – with a possibility that the number of our states could extend beyond six.
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