By Olaolu Oladipo, Lagos
State Governors in the Southwest zone of the country have met in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital on Monday with renewed commitment to follow through the regional integrated plan for the development of the area.
The host governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, specifically called for commitment to the realisation of the rail project that will link all the states in the geopolitical zone.
Fayose in his welcome address at the opening ceremony of the meeting said the Southwest rail project will go a long way in changing the economic fortunes of the zone and usher in a new beginning pleading that “the project must not die.”
Governors who attended the quarterly meeting include Akinwumi Ambode (Lagos), Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun) Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo) and Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) who was represented by his deputy, Mrs. Yetunde Onanuga.
Fayose also called for a common education curriculum among all the states in the region and a security synergy to curb criminal activities across boundaries of the member-states and secure citizens and investment.
He condemned allocation to the Southwest in the 2017 budget of the Federal Government most especially on construction and rehabilitation of federal roads in the zone, water and irrigation projects.
Describing Southwest as “one of the least beneficiaries in the 2017 Federal Government budget”, Ekiti governor charged members of the Federal Executive Council and the National Assembly from the zone to always defend the interests of their people.
He said: “The federal government 2017 budget is about N7 trillion and the only
capital project allocated to Ekiti State is the Akure – Ado Ekiti road to which N250 million was earmarked.
“What can N250 million do on Akure–Ado Road that is begging for reconstruction? There is even no guarantee that the N250 million budgetary provision will be made available at the end of the day. I am sure this is applicable to other states too compared to other zones.
“We must therefore ask pertinent questions. How much did the federal government allocate to irrigation, construction of dams and storage facilities to boast agriculture in the Southwest?”
Preaching ideals of brotherliness among the Southwest states, Fayose advised leaders in the zone to respect political beliefs and opinions of others and never allow national politics to divide them.
He said: “Most importantly, it is not our own making that we are brothers from the same zone, and if we are serious about developing this zone, we have no option than to be our brothers’ keeper.
“Therefore, to move the Southwest zone forward, we must respect the political beliefs and opinions of others and we must not do anything that will undermine one another.
“To me, national politics should add value to us, and not divide us.
“Americans go about fighting their political battles without undermining the collective interests of their country, and that is the kind of spirit with which we must operate if the Yoruba nation must regain its pride of place in the Nigeria nation.
“We must constantly ask ourselves; where is the Southwest in the scheme of things in Nigeria?
Fayose also used the forum to adopt a common strategy to curb the menace of herdsmen to prevent the people of the region from being consumed by hunger consequent upon destruction of farmlands by cattle grazing.
He described the menace of herdsmen as a major impediment to the development of agriculture in the Southwest region.
Fayose asked: “how do we continue to encourage our people to embrace farming when their investments are being lost daily?”
He concluded: “I must not end this address without mentioning the rail project that we discussed in our last meeting. This project will go a long way in changing the economic fortune of the zone and this initiative must not be allowed to die.