OFFA: A RECIPE FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
The demise, recently, of Oba Mustapha Olawore Olanipekun II, the Olofa of Offa, after 40 years on the throne, marked the end of a chapter in the history of Offa community, Kwara State. The era saw the town transform from a dusty settlement known only as a stopping point in the busy South-North railway route to a modern town of national reckoning.
The emergence, after a seamless selection process, of Lagos businessman, Alhaji Mufutau Gbadamosi, as his successor also opened a new phase in the development of our town. It is our hope that the era will consolidate on the achievements of the departed Oba and usher in a more improved lease of life for the people of Offa. He apparently has this in heart, as he has already started on a sound footing.
His unity drive, as evidenced in his series of speeches and actions so far, is an impressive pointer to what is expected from Oba Gbadamosi, the first graduate traditional ruler of the ancient town. It is also our hope that the new Olofa will leverage on his deep pockets and wide contacts to bring monumental development to the community.
Peace is key to the advancement of any society. A single dose of conflict can turn a hitherto blossoming community into a desolate field. We read in papers and watch on TVs the aftermaths of communities visited by strife. Like any plural society, we have had our own fair share of unsavoury uprisings.
One cannot forget in a hurry the gory experiences of the May 2000 indigene-Polytechnic students crisis, the Imamship tussle of the 2003/2004 and the Offa/Erin-Ile communal feud of 2005, all in the last one decade, with the first and the last especially leaving people dead and millions of properties destroyed. It is our hope that the relative peace we enjoy now will be sustained, even as we give commendations to all and sundry for the peaceful manner in which the selection of a new traditional ruler was conducted.
Classical development theorists like Roy Harod, Evsey Domar, Arthur Lewis, and Paul Rosenstein-Rodan all identified massive investment drive as sine qua non to the development of a society. We cannot ignore this, even at the micro level. The Offa man may not know any Lewis or Harod, but his wisdom has guided him to identifying the role of investment in the growth of his society. This perhaps explains why Offa people have not waited for the government to do the developing for them.
Most of the developmental efforts in the community are driven by private entrepreneurs. Even in the face of government failing to provide social overhead capital (SOC) like roads, hospitals, power and other support infrastructure, these men and women have not been discouraged. The two biggest institutions in the community, the Federal Polytechnic and the Naval School of Health Sciences, even if government-owned, were provided at the behest of sons of the soil holding top positions in government, lending credence to the argument that the community could have been in complete government neglect if its sons had not worked their ways into high positions of authority, especially at the Federal level. These efforts of the sons and daughters of the community must be sustained and even improved if we must take the big leap in the growth of our community.
I have said it elsewhere and I still consider it worthy of imputing into my growth model here that our traditional opposition politics has done more harm than good for us. Despite being geo-politically recognized as North, we have failed to see ourselves as one. In the First republic, we went for Western region's Action Group, while Sarduana's NPC held sway in the northern region where we were classified.
At the centre, NPC forged alliance with Zik's NCNC, making us orphan in all of these arrangements. The implication of this was that we were not able to benefit from Awo's AG's welfarist programmes, notably free education, and at the same time, our rebellion made Sarduana's people-centred policies elusive to us too. We lost at both ends. The same story repeated itself in the second republic, when we pitched tent with UPN, making us minority in the NPN-controlled Kwara State and at the centre.
The story was not different with the return of civil rule in 1999, when we found ourselves as voiceless minorities again by going for South-West's Alliance for Democracy in an APP-controlled state. This is not an attempt to fault our ideological identification with the Yoruba -speaking west which we share history and tradition with, my point is that we do not appear to have a political stronghold to give muscle to our opposition bend and challenge the ruling system for our share of the famed cake.
This seems to me our albatross in civil dispensations. Our best shot at development came from military government, ironically the much derided IBB regime. As a people, it is our collective responsibility to devise ways of moving our community forward and better the lot of our folks. Offa boasts of a galaxy of high flyers in all aspects of human endeavour, so we have no excuse to remain in the abyss of underdevelopment. We must not relent on these self-help efforts. It is for the good of everybody. We owe it a duty to put our community in the global map, and for the right reason please!
Suraj Oyewale writes from Island, Lagos.