Seye Oyeleye is the Director General of the DAWN Commission with an office at the Cocoa House, Dugbe in Ibadan. It is the commission that has brought the 6 South-West states to work together. Many don’t know he is a Strategic and Human Resource Management expert who has worked in senior management positions both in the public and private sector in Nigeria and Europe for over 25 years.
He has served in various capacities in the United Kingdom Civil Service and Local Government ranging from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Department of Work and Pensions at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and London Borough of Hackney.
Seye has served in managerial capacities at Omatek Group, Bluehall Management Consultants and Leadership Academy and the TY Danjuma Foundation as the Group Head, Human Resource and Corporate Strategy and later Head of Homeland affairs at DAWN Commission in 2013.
He’s currently the Director General of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission, the organisation set up by the six States in Southwest Nigeria to manage their regional development cooperation, a position he was appointed to in 2018.
He attended his early primary education in England and Alafia Nursery/Primary School in Ibadan, Loyola College Ibadan for his secondary education, Oyo State College of Arts and Science Ile -Ife.
Being a lover of knowledge, he proceeded to obtain his first degree in History at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife Nigeria; a Master’s Degree in European International Relations and Strategic Studies from the University of North London; a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Capital Management from London Metropolitan University and a Law degree from the University of East London.
He has also attended various courses in Strategic Management, Human Capital Management and Human Capital IT both in UK and Nigeria. He recently attended a course on Creating Public Value with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Massachusetts, USA.
Last week, he spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about the achievements of his commission across the South-West.
Below are excerpts.
What was the Vision of the founding fathers of DAWN Commission and how far have you gone in achieving the vision?
That is a good one. The DAWN Commission took off officially in July 2013, here in Cocoa House, Ibadan, when the South West Governor’s came in and it was inaugurated. Prior to 2013 July, around 2010, 2011 and 2012, a group of businessman, intellectuals, academicians had been coming together, and they were organising several meetings & seminars, retreats.
The theme generally was: Western Nigeria Beyond Oil. The thinking then was, Hang on, This is Western Nigeria. Assuming there is no Oil tomorrow morning, what is going to happen to this region. It was a collection, it was a motley crowd, initially, and it thinned out to about 50 people who constantly met, over a 3 year period at several venues, in Nigeria on similar aspects of Development.
It could be Economy today, it could be Health tomorrow, or Security. They were meeting constantly and all the meetings were documented and it culminated in 2012 in what they now called Western Nigeria Roadmap For Development.
So, they produced this Roadmap for Development and said in the area of Railway, this is what has been agreed to be done. In Culture, this is what we have agreed to be done. In Agriculture, this is how we can reenact our lost glory. In Education, in health, in several areas.
They put them together into a Roadmap, in late 2011, going into 2012 that the Roadmap was produced. They said now that we have produced this Roadmap without any funding from government.
Let’s take a step forward. Those who funded it then were the likes of Jimi Agbaje. There was a group that was putting these people together then. It was called Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) led them by Hon. Wale Oshin. It was a collection of Academicians, industrialists, politicians and many professionals.
They now came together with a common goal of assuming we don’t have Oil tomorrow morning what is going to happen to Western Nigeria? Are we just going to fold up and go away?
It was that idea that made them beg in to think that, is the past, under the old Western Region, what were he things that worked then, that we did, despite the fact that we had 36 states today, we can recreate to re energise, the region, because the region we realise was one that was only living on Lagos glory and past glory, that all the surrounding states are poor.
It was that Roadmap that they took to all the governors over a few months. By the end of the consultations all the Govenors bought into it and said it was something good, it was something we have to do. Why not? They all agreed to meet and came together at Lagos City Hall in 2012 March.
Coming together they launched what they called The DAWN document which is a Strategy Roadmap. They agreed that this should be the template for future development in those regions.
They said, let us set up a body that will implement those lofty ideas, because Oyo State cannot do it alone, Ogun cannot do it. Let us have an independent body that can sit and talk business and midwife what we now call an integration process.
That was what gave birth to the Dawn Commission. So, it was at that 2012 meeting that they now pronounced that they will have an organisation that will midwife this and they said there is no other name than to be called The DAWN Commission because as at that time, the document had been given a name, Development Agenda For Western Nigeria.
So, they all agreed that, well, lets have a commission called The DAWN Commission that will help to midwife this working together process. It was a no brainer anyway that the headquarters had to be in Ibadan, been the political capital of the old Western Region.
So, the idea really was to try to find out how the Western Region can be sustained, in terms of Development. This is because the Federalism that we are playing is what I call, all the time, Almanjeri Economics, where every month the states will go cap in hand to the Federal government.
The Accountant-General will fly to Abuja and ask where is our share. They will come back and share it. The proper Federalism that I know is where the constituents parts are sustainable. There are so many states, giving Western Nigeria as an example that if federal allocation dries up tomorrow, they won’t be able to pay salaries.
So, it is trying to change that narrative that, the Governors said to themselves, Hang on, we shouldn’t be fully dependent on funds from the centre to sustain us. We have done this is the past, down the road from here the late Obafemi Awolowo governed 8 states. It was then 8 states before Midwest was taken away, to become Delta & Edo. The region was sustainable, it was viable.
So, the idea was, let us find a way to run Western Nigeria in a better way. We are not scrapping states. No. We are not creating our own independent region. But lets find a way of working together to have a sustainable development, because it was agreed that the government that we have at the moment is not sustainable. It scares me that we are too much tied to Oil at the moment.
Projects will stop in a state when they can no longer get Oil money or so once Oil prices dip, the states are comatose. So, the idea behind the setting up of the commission like ours was, hang on, your job is to find a way for us to have sustainable growth and development so that even if tomorrow we don’t have Oil, we would still continue to run and we won’t miss it.
We won’t miss the Oil if it dries up. There are so many countries in the world that don’t have Oil and they are doing quite alright. So, that was the idea behind the setting up of DAWN Commission. They novel idea came from the people, and they sold it to the Governors and they accepted. So, what we have done since then has been in phases.
The first part was in making sure that in the states, we removed any iota of doubt or suspicion from the states that where are we coming from. And over the years, one can start seeing the steps, and the success in our ideas. I like to flaunt some areas all the time when you are talking of Developments that we here done to show that we are working together.
One of it is the Rice Milll project by the Lagos State government. Last year Lagos wanted to build a Rice Mill in Imota. Lagos does not have the Land. They were buying their rice from the North like Kebbi. The then Governor muted the idea can’t we get the Rice done in this Western Nigeria region. So, it was our job as Dawn Commission.
What we did was to go round the states, with a few benchmarks and we were told that no matter the type of rice we can grow it here, particularly in this region. Upland and Lowland rice. Lagos State has land. So, what we did was to go round the neighbouring states, (5 States) to tell them that Lagos State has bought a 32 Ton per hour Mill and they need to feed the Mill. We went round, over a 3 to 4 month period. We midwifed the process and at the end of the process.
4 states. (because Ogun didn’t join initially) decided to lease land. They signed MOU’s and we leased out 42,000 hectares, in total. So, that if tomorrow morning, the Mill is ready, the farmers in those states will be the ones planting the rice, and Lagos will be the off taker. For their Mill. For us, that was regional co-operation because the governor that signed on behalf of Ekiti was not in the same party with the Lagos governor, when he signed. All he saw was opportunities for the farmers in Ekiti to sell their rice. That was Economic co-operation at its highest. It was the DAWN Commission that midwifed it.
Lets talk about the issue of Amotekun. Today, everybody talks about Amotekun. That is another kind of co-operation, because when insecurity was at its highest last year, the Governors came together and said something had to be done. Because if nothing is done our way of life was about to be altered.
The Governors decided that rather than sit and fold their arms they should do something. They mandated the Commission to come up with ideas on how we can secure ourselves. It was as simple as that. So, last year, we had a 4 day summit, we called in the experts, over a 4 day period, and they came up with Short term, Medium term, Long Term solutions to the issue of Security.
And all the Governors signed up for it. Part of the solutions was let us even start with a security outfit that will be region wide. The idea behind it was we are neighbours. We spak the same language. Our territories are contiguous. That means our problems and challenges are the same. Luckily again one of the governors is not even in the same parties with his colleagues. But he and the other governors agreed to work together. That is Regional co-operation at its highest. That is the meaning of security.
Another example is in the area of Agriculture. We did a long research and with the help of our partner DFID we came up with a report on how to revatilise Cocoa industry here in Western Nigeria. It was a comprehensive report that we called The Do Cocoa Report.
Its all about how we can revitalise the production of Cocoa in this region. And thankfully, 2 of at learst the states, picked it up and we can see the benefits. What I am trying to say here is that what we are producing here is a regional thing. If you want to do Cocoa now, the report is there for you to pick up. So what we have been doing over the years is basically to engender development. We have done a lot in Education, Sports and many other sectors.