That we have a new ministry with this name reflects the priority of the Ondo State Government when it comes to linking up with our fellow Yoruba states, with shared geography and language.
We have many things to gain when we look beyond political confines to what the people would stand to gain. We are stronger together.
The commissioner in charge of the new ministry, Prof. Bayonle Ademodi, according to a report in The Nation, is “a teacher at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Prof Ademodi is a strong progressive politician in Ondo East.
“He has exciting records. An activist, the university don is also the Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG).”
With such a pedigree, it seems clear that the Ondo State Governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, wanted someone with intellectual acumen to handle such a ministry.
There are different matters of possible cooperation among the states of the southwest. For example: in the areas of Agriculture, Transportation, Industry Tourism etc.
The agricultural resources of the different states in the southwest are fairly similar.
What regional integration can do is ensure that the different agricultural produce are pulled together for food self-sustenance in the region. We can collaborate to set up research institutes towards finding solutions to different agricultural problems.
The southwest model can then become a template for integration across the country, where we should lay aside our differences, whatever that is, and pull resources together so that we move in the same direction and not at cross purposes.
The Ministry can also serve as the base for the resolution of any conflict that might arise among states rather than things becoming swept under the carpet, wounds covered up until they fester into something egregious.
We should not allow politics and politicians with their different agendas, create unnecessary angst. No one has anything to gain if there is rancour.
There are road projects that would serve the different states in the region, and when we speak with one voice when dealing with the Federal Government, we would make a stronger case in anything we want.
And what about speaking with one voice in the National Assembly?
There are specific laws that we need to get passed by the National Assembly and also things we want put in the federal budget for federal attention which concerns all of us. In all these, we need a united front.
When what concerns just one state is regarded as a concern for all, then “we achieve more together” would not just be a fanciful phrase but something seen in action.
Also, we can present the whole southwest as a single marketplace for investors, when they want to do something that involves the whole region.
It would really be attractive for potential investors, who would not have to go from state to state. And rather than have to pay taxes in multiple places, some tax returns can be filed once for all, saving them cost.
Regional integration can also involve looking at areas in which other states are advancing to learn from them, not in a copy and paste manner but to see how what works in other places can become domiciled.
Another possible area of partnership is security. The southwest states should share security information freely among themselves so that one criminal chased from state would not find an haven in another.
The southwest rail project has been muted for sometime. It is time for something to be done about it. The ease of movement among states would definitely speed up the rate of development, open up different places and create a corridor for the smooth movement of goods.
With that, the wealth of one can be the wealth of all, and moving from one state to the other for business will be easier and would increase interaction among the people of the concerned states.
The ministry should create a platform to deliberate on matters that have to do with our shared history, past legacy and concerns.
Another issue is tourism. Branding the whole southwest as a tourist destination is the way to go. Our festivals and traditional legacies are similar, and we should create a tourism timetable that includes the traditional spectacles in the states and tour of historical legacies for foreign exchange earning for the whole southwest.
If the southwest can come together, then the nation can come together and forge a common future.
We can leave behind the divisive rhetoric and incitive statements and posturing, leave behind the past and chart the path to the future.
We are better together. Are we not? But we need terms of engagement that takes everyone into consideration, that works for everyone, leaving none behind.
Though we are linked together by what people have regarded as an accident of history, it is time for us to stop looking behind and look ahead, emphasise what works and leave behind that does not.
As Onyeka Onwenu sang: One Love keep us together.
Integration is definitely better than disintegration. With integration we multiply our effectiveness, but “disintegration”, disunity, involves wasteful dissipation of energy, in suspicion and unwarranted acrimony.
It’s time we embrace what brings us together and refuse to pay attention to the smear campaign of the few fanning the ember of division and primordial sentiments, generating unwarranted conflict, flogging the dead horses of history, seeing demons behind every standing bush, living in fear of people who are different.
While it is not good for matters of infractions on other people’s rights to be disregarded, forums like the Ministry of Regional Integration should provide veritable platforms for jaw-jawing.
And if the police are doing their jobs well certain things would have been nipped in the bud before they become a festering wound, costing much more in time and energy to attend to.
We are better working together than working at cross purposes. Is that not so?
To have a ministry that is constantly thinking of regional integration is certainly the right way to go and we can make faster headway.
With that, we can begin to think in the context of “us” rather than “we versus them”; not think in a way to take advantage of others or to be taken advantage of, but mutual advancement and cooperation, what would be to the benefit of the people and not for the benefit of a few.
The decision and actions taken under the auspices of the Ministry of Regional Integration should, as much as possible, be removed from political consideration.
If not, whatever gains that would be made now, might be upturned when the political landscape changes at anytime in the future.
In the bid for regional integration, we should not have one state subservient to the other but we should hold one another in mutual respect and pull our strength together and with that the whole will be much more than the sum of the parts.
The ministry should build on the labours and legacy of past administrations in the state.
It is a good thing that the ministry is taking off. It would give impetus to whatever vision those in the past had, as we build on that and emplace a culture of cooperation in the region.