By Willy Bozimo
As the tempo of political activities in the country gather greater momentum, two zones out of the six came to Asaba, the capital of Delta State, on Sunday, May 12, 2013 to fashion out a common ground for economic and political integration. At the end of the deliberations of the 10 governors, except Edo State, they issued a communiqué on what they perceived as the state of the nation and other topical issues confronting our maturing democracy. They commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his focussed leadership, bold and result-yielding transformation agenda which deserves the unwavering support of all Nigerians.
They mentioned the laudable achievements of the administration in strengthening democracy, stabilising the polity, growing the economy and improving the quality of life of all citizens.
For the host governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was overwhelmed by his colleagues from the two zones, he had never had it so good as the rapprochement between the South-south and South-east was like the coming together of two former regions - Eastern and Midwest regions - and he felt the need to strengthen the mutual ties between South-south and South-east states for the purposes of realising their full potentials in the areas of their comparative advantages.
If the oil rich South-south is linked economically and infrastructures-wise to the industrially active South-east zone, the mutual benefits that would accrue to both zones could better be imagined.
One of the issues that emerged from their communiqué was similar to what the BRACED states of the South-south had done in the past, where they pledged economic and political cooperation between the zones.
The governors from the South-south and South-east agreed “on economic and political integration of the old Eastern Region and Midwest regions, now the South-south and South-east. The governors pledged to strengthen cooperation across the board with particular focus on development of infrastructure linking the region, particularly federal roads.”
The governors also called on the federal government to rehabilitate all rail lines linking the states in the region as well as embark on the construction of railway links between all the states.
One area of concern to the governors is the development of all the ports in the region, including the Abia Dry Port and called on the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to facilitate the achievement of this objective.
In between these encounters as the governors jaw jaw over their pressing needs, they hard sweet words for the president, commending him for the rehabilitation and modernisation of all airports across the country, particularly ‘Port Harcourt, Owerri, Calabar, Uyo, Asaba, Benin and Enugu those in our zones’.
The governors also called on President Jonathan to establish cargo airports including Owerri and additional deep sea ports in the regions including Ibaka, Escravos, Agge and the dredging of the Calabar Port.
The governors further agreed to work tirelessly to revive agro-allied industries of old, particularly palm estates and rubber plantations to exploit the comparative advantages in both regions. In addition, they called on the federal government to facilitate the full implementation of free trade zones amongst the states in the two zones.
The spiralling state of insecurity in the country was another issue that they gave vent to in their communiqué when the governors of the two zones pleaded with Nigerians to adopt dialogue and peaceful means to resolve issues affecting the country. They also on their own agreed to cooperate regionally to stem the spate of kidnappings, arson, and armed robbery and even pipeline vandalism and secure the two zones for the foreign investors to come and do business.
The governors of the two zones were entirely unhappy about the way and manner some Nigerians and their evil collaborators are assaulting the collective psyche of the nation “by waging various acts of terrorism” on the governors of the South-south and South-east and commiserate with the president and all the governments of the affected areas, the victims, their families and majority of the peace-loving Nigerians, but salutes the resolute stance of the president to confront terror wherever and whenever it occurs in Nigeria.
On a final parting note, the governors of the two zones genuinely sympathised with their South-east colleagues on the passing on of the world acclaimed Professor Chinua Achebe a literary icon and international cultural ambassador of Nigeria.
The import of the coming together of these two zones, south of the country, had a big lesson in unity and brotherly love that should be emulated by all other zones; that in spite of the political differences and different party affiliations, the two zones thought it wise to move closer together for the benefit of their peoples in particular and the country in general.
The rapprochement by these two zones is a sign of better things to come and a most reassuring template for the overall development of the country, in spite of who is temporarily in power at the centre. That we should not play politics with economic and infrastructural development is the lesson from the two zones.
And for the greater effect, in these highly politically explosive times, the governors at the forum were Uduaghan of Delta, Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, Liyel Imoke of Cross River, Sullivan Chime of Enugu, Peter Obi of Anambra, Theodore Orji of Abia; Chief Martins Elechi of Ebonyi and Rochas Okorocha of Imo. Tele Ikuru represented Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers. Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole was the only governor absent from the meeting.
All in all, unity fashioned out at the recent meeting of the two zones had gone a long way in reassuring the president of his focused efforts to confront the detractors and terror merchants ravaging parts of the country.
Any president or head of state of Nigeria had always had issues of security and we cannot forget in a hurry what led to the 1967 - 1970 civil war and the resultant effect which could have possibly led to the breaking of the country into many breakaway republics.
All the current distractions of terrorism from Boko Haram or kidnappers shall come to pass and Nigeria would outlive terrorists. I salute the courage and patriotism displayed by the governors from the South-south and South-east states. Nigeria’s unity and peace is not negotiable and two former heads of states - Ibrahim Babangida and Olusegun Obasanjo - are my witnesses; both of them had played roles to bring the country back from the brink of disintegration during the civil war years as Obasanjo collected the Biafra surrender papers from Gen. Phillip Effiong, late Gen. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu’s second in command, while Babangida succeeded in smoking Col. Bukar Dimka from Radio Nigeria in Ikoyi during the assassination of Gen. Murtala Mohammed in another coup d’état. Since those dragon-ridden days, both leaders had permanently signed a pact to keep Nigeria as one political entity. With the rising Boko Haram insurgency, they had jointly issued statement to the effect that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
*Bozimo, a veteran journalist, wrote from Asaba