Soon, the 31-kilometer redline passengers rail service from Oyingbo in Lagos State to Agbado in Ogun State will become operational. Infact, information coming out of both state government houses say that the operations on the rail line are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2023.
Both states recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding for this rail project.
Secretary to the Ogun State Government (SSG), Tokunbo Talabi, noted the project is a significant achievement in the series of developments engendered by the Lagos/Ogun Joint Commission.
He added that the development was an achievement from the robust understanding and synergy between the governors of Lagos and Ogun states in taking advantage of their proximity to better their economies and the lives of their citizens.
As an Igboman from South Eastern Nigeria, I have on multiple occasions argued amongst friends and family, that we can harness the enterprising spirit of the Igbo person and turn the South East into a thriving economic block that can stand and negotiate its own economic path with the Nigerian federation and other states of the country, and even with other nations.
After all, States like California in the United States of America do go out to negotiate it’s economic interests with other countries and foreign corporations, despite being a part of the United States.
A close look at the concentration of industries in Nigeria clearly shows that Lagos and Ogun States are in a league of their own. Data on Foreign Direct Investment into the country confirms this fact in numbers.
The government of these states know this, and are both actively trying to widen that gap between them and the others, thus positioning themselves as the most preferred location for industries in the country.
Yes, one can argue advantages Lagos has as the commercial capital of the country and the rubbing-off of those advantages on Ogun State. It is a valid argument, but also an excuse for a State that is bereft of visionary leaders.
The city of Detroit in the State of Michigan in USA at the turn of the 20th century was the heartbeat of the American automobile industry, it was infact called Motor City. The city had since gone into decline owing to competition from other States. As it declined, California rose.
The State of California is now seeing an exodus of businesses (eg. Tesla Inc.) and residents, many of whom are moving to Texas and Florida. Texas and Florida are not attracting these Businesses as a result of their complaints and lamentations, they are doing so by their policies and improvement of business environment, while being aided by Californian laws that residents and businesses are frowning at.
Coming back home to Nigeria, Ogun State is already planning to extend the train services beyond Agbado to other parts of the State such as Ijoko and Kajola, among others.
The Ogun State Commissioner for Transportation, Engr Gbenga Dairo stated after the signing of the MoU that “the two states are already taking advantage of the significant investment of the Federal Government through the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) along the Lagos/Ibadan standard gauge railway infrastructure to ensure transportation is effective and efficient to serve the economic needs of Lagos and Ogun as the commercial nerve and industrial hub of the nation respectively.”
We, the Igbos of the East pride ourselves as the ones holding the economy of the country, and the most enterprising, why then can’t our states give Lagos & Ogun a run for their money. Afterall, don’t we have Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi commercial centers, great agricultural capabilities in Abakaliki and Arochukwu, refined administrative and academic cities of Enugu and Owerri?
Let us agree to some extent on the marginalisation of the South East, but then, we have a popular saying that “Onye ajuru ajụ anaghị ajụ onwe ya.” “He that is rejected does not reject himself” is a very wise phrase passed down to us from our forefathers, but we seem to have rejected ourselves, and even pride ourselves with the rejection of ourselves.
How difficult could it be to build an Eastern Economic Block? It has been done before, according to stories we were told while growing up.
Golden Guinea Breweries, Premier Breweries, Modern Ceramics, Nkalagu Cement etc all rose in the East just as the sun rises in the East.
As Lagos and Ogun sign their MoU, it should set off self assessment and debate in Igbo land. A debate devoid of name calling and saboteur tagging, an honest debate on where we are as a business oriented people and where we want to go.
Why not a MoU signed by the 5 South Eastern states on an Eastern Railway corridor; Onitsha – Awka – Enugu – Abakaliki – Arochukwu – Umuahia – Aba – Owerri – Nnewi – Onitsha?
Nnamdi Maduakor is a Writer, Investor and Entrepreneur