Practical restructuring – The Nation

…proposed ring road in the South East is a huge step towards a productive federal Nigeria 

States, in the South East geo-political zone are planning a 430-kilometre ring road, to link all five states, thus giving the region closer economic integration and swifter movement of people and goods. This is a very good idea, and these five governments, with their governors, deserve commendation. The swifter this intent morphs into reality, the better.

Dave Umahi, governor of Ebonyi State and chair of the South East Governors’ Forum, announced the plan in Enugu, after the group’s meeting. ”The South East Governors’ Forum at its meeting,” he disclosed, “discussed extensively on the possible strategies towards economic development of the South East; and at the end of the meeting resolved to undertake the construction of a ring road, covering a total area of 430 kilometres, that would connect all the states of the South East.”

Also at the meeting were host governor, Enugu’s Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Abia’s Okezie Ikpeazu. Eze Madumere, deputy governor of Imo State, was also there. Only Anambra’s Willie Obiano was absent.

For such a ground-breaking idea, the high level of gubernatorial attendance and representation — 80 per cent — is heart-warming indeed. It suggests some unanimity, over a common regional good, laudable and recommendable to other regions. Yet, Anambra’s Obiano’s absence and lack of representation was rather puzzling. Nevertheless, the forum should swiftly avail the Anambra State government of the full details of the plan. Let the region strike when the iron is hot, when the idea is fresh. It is imperative that everyone is brought on board. The region would be far better for it.

Latterly, there has been a clamour for restructuring, even in the South East which hitherto appeared rather cool to the idea. That is a welcome move, for Nigeria would not attain its manifest destiny or realise its full economic and human potentials without breaking down the vast country into workable and productive economic dynamos, each specialising in its own sphere of competence, in a vibrant competition to feed the centre. That would be a departure from the present practice, when the states live on dole from Abuja.

But while the legal framework and political compromises to make that productive utopia possible are still in the works, it is initiatives like a South East-wide ring road, that well and truly domesticates and demonstrates the beauty of the new imperative: changing Nigeria’s lot from a bloated centre feeding hungry regions to thriving and spritely states, in regional baskets, feeding the centre. It is a practical example, which benefits would further help to mainstream the idea — as it is currently being done — but also race to its implementation. Time, after all, is of essence!

Besides, such regional economic hubs, thoroughly domesticated, would further push the gospel of value. Now, there are sundry allegations that state authorities often divert money from the centre; but roast the Federal Government in front of their own people, just because Abuja is too far away. Even if these allegations are true — and a good many of them may not be — states combining to deliver value would more and more be subjected to higher scrutiny by their own people. If they pass the muster, they earn their people’s respect, and stand a better chance of widening the local tax net, to fund further development. That is practical “restructuring”, which other regions would do well to embrace.

Good enough, the South West already has its Development Agenda of Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, pushing such a regional and integrated developmental philosophy. The South-South has a similar body. The South East is joining. Other regions too should look inside to facilitate intra-regional infrastructure, to fire regional development nationwide.

That states are engaged in free inter-state economic cooperation, with Lagos doing business with Kebbi (LAKE Rice) and Lagos and Kano are involved in the Lagos-Kano Economic Summit, are happy bonuses that would issue from such a glorious change of economic paradigm.

That is the practical “restructuring” everyone needs. Because it is win-win, the political and legal ratification would follow in a matter of time. Still, the South East governors must know that starting, no matter how crucial, is nothing. Only a glorious conclusion matters, in the final analysis. That is why they should move fast to consummate this wonderful idea.

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