Nigeria was recently in the news as the Central Bank announced that while GDP is on the upswing, the amount of people living in absolute poverty is also increasing. The economic story of Nigeria is filled with false starts and rapid backtracking into overwhelming poverty. This story is the same across the states, albeit to varying degrees, with the notable exception of the Action Congress of Nigeria- (ACN) led Lagos State.
The recent good governance fueled economic growth in Lagos State has inspired the southwestern region of Nigeria to elect governors who seem like clones of Mr. Fashola. This is all encouraging. A new proposal to create long-lasting economic growth through economic integration for the southwestern states is making its way across policy circles. The idea is expressed in the DAWN (Development Agenda For Western Nigeria) document that can be found HERE and HERE.
DAWN explains the initiatives and lays down the necessary framework for Southwest Nigeria to become “the first place of choice to live, work and visit”. The document states that the corner-stone of the successful implementation of true regionalism and an integrated developmental platform is dependent on all citizens of Yorubaland being equal beneficiary of all opportunities. This is something I can agree with. Yorubaland comprises of various states in southwest Nigeria. The citizens of the states share a common history, culture, language and even recently a common political party.
The document concerns itself with nine pillars of development, each with efficient strategies, the implementation of which is hoped will result in the economic development of Yorubaland. The nine pillars are: Economic Development, Commerce & Industries, Human Capital Development, Infrastructure Development, Security & Law enforcement, Culture & Tourism, Environment & Climate Change, and finally Civil Service & Good Governance.
These pillars and corresponding key strategies are necessary to development and similar to the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the World years ago. The thoroughness of DAWN’s evidence based policies is commendable. The document makes a very strong case for true federalism, regional integration and above all, presents a roadmap for moving forward. Regional developments are as imperative to national development as any, and all bottom-up solutions are more sustainable in the long run.
Apart from some negligent grammatical and formatting errors, there is not much to criticise in the document. However, there are some gaping omission and worrisome ideas in the proposal that must be addressed.
The health section would need extensive review in later columns, however, the glaring omission of Maternal Newborn and Child (MNC) health, as a key strategy in improving human capital development was shocking. Health a basic right that should be enjoyed by all people and MNC is a major part of that right. This is an internationally accepted ideal. The two sentences dedicated to MNC in the document is not acceptable. Thus, it is reasonable to state that DAWN is seriously lacking as a result of this omission. A suggestion to the authors of the document would be to include a comprehensive reform of the MNC system as the foremost strategy of improving the human capital of Yorubaland.
Politics is a tool of governance and it does not belong in a proposal for development especially when the region does not enjoy political homogeneity. It will encourage more commitment by the leadership of the states if the sole focus is economic integration and human development. I cannot overstate the importance of making DAWN greater than the shortsighted need for political gain.
The policy history of Nigeria is littered with policy proposals that are never implemented, and if implemented, is done so inefficiently that it becomes another stone on the neck of the civil service. Thus to make DAWN work, we would need complete buy-in by the citizens of Yorubaland. The document needs an extensive review by experts of the nine pillars. I call on the civil society and committed Nigerians to help review DAWN and to make it the roadmap to the development of the Southwest and other regions in the Nigeria.