FORMER President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, yesterday, examined the issue of underdevelopment in Nigeria and declared that only federalism would ensure development and hold the country together. He also stated that poor leadership was responsible for the problem of urbanization in the country, lamenting that all state capitals ought to have been developed like Abuja.
The ex-President, who said these yesterday in Lagos, at a colloquium organized by the Centre For Values in Leadership, CVL, in recognition of the 85th birthday of Prof. Akin Mabogunje, noted that federalism was also contributory to the level of underdevelopment in Nigeria.
His words: “When you talk about Lagos mega city, the major cause of our failure is something that institutionally we cannot do anything about. You cannot dodge federalism if you want to hold Nigeria together. But then, it is the bane of development in a number of ways. It has also helped our development in a number of ways because when people say we could have had six Abujas, one in every geopolitical zone, we, in fact, should have had 36 Abujas. Not just six because each state capital should have been an Abuja. The point is that we failed to plan. Not that the plan failed. We failed to plan and because we failed to plan, we planned to fail. That is what has happened. “The truth is this, it does not matter what you do. In 30, 40 years to come, you will go from Lagos to Ibadan and you will be going through built up areas. There is nothing you can do about it. Federalism will not stop it, Lagos State will not stop it and Ogun state will not stop it. But then, we have stupidity, which we hang on to because of federalism. Today, Lagos and Ogun states are thinking of mass transit and there is no meeting place. They are not even talking to themselves. Lagos State wants to develop Lagos and they are going to the lagoon or the sea. Who will live there? “It is as a result of the lack of development in the rural areas that I established a farm so that people will not leave the villages. One of the things we need to tell our government is that they must embrace planning. Not just urban planning but rural planning. Rural planning and development are very essential. Whatever we do in the rural areas, there must be infrastructure for the rural areas.
There must be jobs. I do not know how the government wants to do it, but there must be jobs.” In his remarks, founder of CVL, Prof Pat Utomi, said: “Few have done more to shine the light on the phenomenon of urbanization in our part of the world than Prof Akin Mabogunje. I first encountered his ideas when in my readings as an undergraduate, I needed some back grounding of a report. His ideas of the pull and push factors in urbanization struck me. I would enjoy the distinct privilege of following his work as the call of National Development. In planning and implementation of the idea of a new capital for the federation, the giftings of Prof Mabogunje and others came to the fore.”
By Charles Kumolu & Kelechukwu Iruoma