If you call the DAWN Commission an advisory body, on Development issues, for the South-West Governors, you wont be wrong. This is because DAWN stands for Development Agenda For Western Nigeria.
When it was set up in 2013, the founding fathers wanted it to engender co-operation amongst the 6 South- West States, namely Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun & Oyo States.
They believed that a composite Regional Integration and Development Agenda for the Southwest was urgently needed to fulfill the immense potential of the Region. According to their thoughts, Yorubaland had always been known as hubs of economic growth, demonstrators of good governance and bastions of sophisticated culture for the entire African region. And they believe that latent capacity remains and has indeed grown bigger. All of these were contained in the strategy Roadmap document that was launched.
They were also worried that the impact of governance in all spheres of life was abysmally low. They felt the South West Region was fast losing its competitiveness and falling short of its economic and social ambitions. This scenario needs to be urgently arrested, they believe. They feel a fundamental change is required, not just in economic and social performance, but in retrieving its lost heritage, values, norms, and future. Their answer was for western Nigeria to go back to what worked in the past and adopt the strong dimensions of it in the present context.
So, the purpose of DAWN is to simply foster regional cooperation and integration among South-West states. This would provide incentives to become a more competitive and efficient economy, and to require more policy and budgetary discipline.
DAWN is also essentially an Agenda for Good Governance. According to the Roadmap. It takes into consideration the following:
*The development of the Southwest along regional lines, i.e. Integration.
*The Region is an economic block, and as such, a regional approach will be cost-effective and economically viable especially in the areas of infrastructure, industrialisation, commerce, the environment and agriculture-naming some possibilities.
*The exploration of mutual potentials, using historical and contiguously feasible platforms, transcending immediate sub-regional confines. Edo, Delta, Kwara, Kogi and the Diaspora present such prospects in varying dimensions.
According to the founders, DAWN provides a Roadmap upon which Governments, Development Partners, the Private Sector and Civil Society can ride on to drive a development agenda. It indicates the focus of the Yoruba development agenda, what needs to be done to get there, how to do it, the cost of the journey, as well as financing options. Ultimately, the strategy provides a short, medium and long-term framework for achieving the Region’s development goals and aspirations.
The Development Agenda seeks to encourage the Southwest States to develop a common set of integrated development strategies that enable the Region and its citizens to experience a well-managed process of development, across all spheres of existence. It also encourages the pursuance of a political (and possibly constitutional/legal) consensus and framework across the Southwest Region, with possible collaboration with the national government, to enable its unhindered implementation and actualisation.
This proposed strategic direction or redirection suggested through the DAWN Framework was developed through a rigorous process, led and supervised by the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG). This process has been inspired by the Yoruba people themselves, who clearly in public and private conversations, and indeed through their votes at the April 2011 general elections, and the ones preceding them in 2007 (rigged, but revalidated through the courts), determined and defined their obvious ideological preference. The political leadership has also clearly demonstrated a determination to advance the development of the Southwest Region and infact the old Western Nigeria, including Edo and Delta transcending political lines, where necessary, to launch a composite development agenda for the Region.
On September 23, 2010, the Yoruba people gathered at a Yoruba Development Agenda Summit, organised by the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) in Ibadan, and resolved, among others that;
(a) The Yoruba electorate must rise up as one nation under one God, and ensure the emergence of political office holders who will truly serve the people, and espouse the ‘Omoluabi’ ethics and values true to our heritage as a people.
(b) We reiterate the call for True Federalism to enable the constituent parts of the country develop at their own pace, and in accordance with their God-given potentials and capabilities, guided by their needs, peculiarities of their history, cultural norms and inclinations.
(c) We call for immediate steps towards Regional Cooperation and Integration among the States in Yorubaland to boost social and economic development.
(d) It has become imperative more than ever before for a composite Yoruba Development Agenda that will drive and guide our developmental process.
The ARG took a cue from all of the above, with the process culminating in the development of the DAWN Framework. This framework itself feeds largely from a commissioned study submitted to the ARG by the Yoruba Academy, set up to provide the much-needed intellectual backbone for Yoruba development in all spheres of life, provided the basis upon which further actions were carried out.
At a Retreat held on the 22-24 July, 2011, at the University of Ibadan Conference Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State, and attended by a conglomeration of some of the best brains, expertise, intellectuals, technocrats and professionals in Yorubaland, the composite DAWN Framework, which also provided a Roadmap for action was developed.
DAWN focuses on the development of a Yoruba identity drawing, upon it’s Heritage, History, Values and Talents.
It is an Agenda for Social Transformation using well-defined Pillars of Development to create scenarios that ensure sustainable and better living standards for our people irrespective of status, gender, demography or religion.
It is pleasing to see demonstrations of mutual commitment by the leadership of the States in the Region, indicated by the establishment of a 21-member Technical Committee, as well as dedicated Ministries and/or Special Offices for Integration in some of the States. These are optimistic indications of progressive buy-ins.
Last week, the DG of DAWN Commission, Oluseye Oyeleye told City People his success story. He revealed his experience in the running of the commission.
He says it has been a roller-coaster journey.” I took over as acting Director General in 2017, when my predecessor Dipo Famakinwa passed on. Then, I was confirmed in 2018 as the substantive DG.
I said it has been a roller-coaster journey for so many reasons. In the sense that when you are working with 6 states it takes a lot to manage that relationship. And here, we call them, The 6 independent states. It is not the easiest of tasks trying to get them to work together. You have a lot of egos to massage. You have a lot of what I call artificial obstacles to contend with and overcome. You have a lot of pushbacks as well, like people who say whats Dawn all about? We are not bothered, we would do our thing, our own way”.
“So, its my job to try and go round the states to convince the bureaucrats. Surprisingly, we don’t need to convince the Governors. They have been so co-operative. The Governors are so keen on it. They work easily together. But the Bureaucracy is the biggest challenge we face. Having to go round the Bureaucracy, is a tough job. If you can’t win over the bureaucracy you are wasting your time, because they will pass the memos to the governors. Initially, it was tough”.
“By 2017, when we were just about 3 years old some state officials viewed us with a bit of skepticism. You will hear statements like: Haa! Why do we have to work together? Or they will tell you there are no go areas. Yes. We can work together in Culture and dancing, but tell them some critical areas and they will frown at those areas”.
“Eventually for us, what really opened the door and made my job easier was our collaboration with DFID (UK). They have been working with DFID (UK) over the years and when they started seeing us doing things with (DFID, UK) that removed suspicion to a large extent, that this is not just a body trying to take our jobs or trying to scrap our states. But we tell them that what we are set up to do is to fast track development and engender cooperation in other for development to be fast.
Many don’t know that I started out as a pioneer staff in 2014. I was Dipo’s assistant. I started with him. The first 3 to 4 years of Dawn was more or less spent trying to build confidence in the states, to build confidence that the Dawn Commission was set up for development purposes only, not to get involved in politics.
It has nothing to do with politics and it was not set up to reduce the powers of the permsecs or directors in the states. We had to explain to them that all we are trying to encourage is to share best practisces. See what Lagos is doing very well that your own state can copy and that will foster and fast track development.
By the time I took over in 2017, yes, we spent the first 3 years trying to build confidence, then from 2017 upwards we started building blocks on the foundation that has been laid. Yes, it hasn’t been rosy, without a doubt, but you can see that the Trust and I keep using that word Trust, because without Trust this thing cannot work. The Trust they have in us, now opens the door”.
“The doors that I might have been knocking for like 20 times before it opens, once I knock it once or twice now, the doors will open. I can say yes, that has been the experience. Initially, it was difficult, but gradually things eased off”.
“One of the things that must have helped also was the recession we faced in 2015 and states were looking at several ways to generate more revenue. And because we were coming up with what we call Innovative Solutions to how states can maximise or optimise what they have, we suddendly started becoming the Go-To-Place for the 6 states. Whatever they want to do they will refer to Dawn Commission for help. At a point we were scared that their expectations were becoming too high. But hey it is a testament to the work we have done. I must emphasise that what has helped us is the fact that genuinely they saw that this is a commission that does not play partisan politics. I can assure you that if we had aligned, I can assure you that there would have been no commission today. The 1st thing was that when we took off all the governors were not in the same party then”.
“Ex-Gov. Mimiko of Ondo was in a different party. Then we had ex-Gov Fayose in a different party in Ekiti. But they also worked together and also because the governors gave us a free hand. One thing they don’t do and I say this all the time, is that they don’t interfere in the day-to-day running of the commission. So, we are run purely like a technocratic institution that comes up with expert ideas and brings the states together to implement.”
How is that done? he was asked.
“We have a lot of experts. The Western region is lucky particularly that it has a high collection of retired experts in so many fields.”
“They are in this region, the Western region. Coincidentatlly, a lot of them live in Ibadan”.
“They are retired. We all know why. It’s because U.I is the foremost university and we all have all the research centres and institutes concentrated here. We have a lot of people who are from Western region who have gone all over the world to work in the US, ECOWAS, OAU, and they walk in here and they want to offer advice. Majority of them do it probono. They don’t charge us a dime
So, in several fields, we have the experts who come up with ideas. When we have a little idea, they know where we are going with it and run with it. And it has helped us in our relationship with the states”.
– Seye Kehinde