The DFID have been an agent of development for Nigeria and Africa in general. Partnering with DFID is the best thing that will happen to the Forum. And we believe that with the linkage we have established will help us to fasten the track of development
THE Director General South East Governors’ Forum Secretariat, Prof. Simon Ortuanya, has hailed the partnership of the Department for International Development (DFID), as a kicker in the development of the South East.
At the end of a two day (September 22 and 23) induction course, at the Nike Lake Resorts in Enugu, for the staff and directors of the recently inaugurated secretariat, Ortuanya recognised the DFID as an agent of development and noted that “partnering with DFID is the best thing that will happen to the Forum.”
According to him, the whole idea of the induction course, organised by DFID Perl-Arc, (the Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, and the Accountable, Responsive, and Capable Government), “is to familiarize the secretariat with steps to take and how they can function optimally and effectively.”
(Transcript of the interview with the Director General)
How will the induction improve on the workings of the secretariat?
We are led into the internal workings and we try to set the vision as well as the mission and the core values that will guide the Forum and the Secretariat as well. We try to set an agenda and develop a strategic plan and also set out the next steps in the course of this training. So we are clearer now on our mandate and on things we need to do and how we can function better to support the governors and make them excel as well as promote the economic objectives of emancipation, economically for the South East zone. And also for regional integration as it were. So the entire approach by the facilitators was to open up the space for us.
With the DFID partnership, what roles do you see the Secretariat playing in terms of the actual development of the zone?
The DFID have been an agent of development for Nigeria and Africa in general. Partnering with DFID is the best thing that will happen to the Forum. And we believe that with the linkage we have established with DFID, Perl, Arc, they will help us to fasten the track of development that we are envisioning in and for the South East.
The whole idea of the South East Governors Forum is to promote regional integration and economic development. And we believe that we can’t do it alone. We need foreign partners, we need international partners, we need the World Bank, we need those that can fund and finance our projects, we need to raise funds internationally and the DFID is one of those agencies we think that can support us financially. This is because we don’t expect that the south east development will come only from the governors. We that in this age of recession, the finances of government are becoming leaner every day. So government need to be supported from multinational companies, from international donor agencies, from private persons that want to participate, from investors and industrialists. So that is why we think that it is good and important that we have reached out to DFID and we are hoping to get other international donor agencies to support the South East.
What did the Secretariat learn from its recent fact-finding tour of the South West?
We were at the Cocoa House that is the headquarters of the DAWN Commission, which is the equivalent of the South East Governors Forum, representing the South West. And they have done what they call a development agenda for western Nigeria, which is DAWN Commission. They have been there for four years and so we needed to seek their cooperation and also try to learn from them what they have been doing. And the result of that cooperation is that we had two working days at the commission, we spoke and interacted with them and we agreed we will continue to cooperate. We were able to pick a couple of things from what they have been doing over the past four years in terms of their establishment, their engagement with the governors and whole populace and in terms of their whole economic agenda for the South West. But again we too have ideas of our own insofar as what applies there might not completely apply here but we believe we have taken the best of what we learnt from them and we are trying to adapt to our own place.
How would you reconcile the Forum’s development agenda with the manifestoes of the different political parties in the zone?
Development does not have a political language; it doesn’t speak to a particular political party. Development is the same whether it is Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), All Progressives Congress (APC), or All Peoples Grand Alliaance (APGA). What we are saying is that as a forum and as the secretariat of that forum, we are apolitical. We are aware that the present governors come from different political parties, APC, PDP, or APGA. But the job of the secretariat is to harness the aspirations and goals of our people as captured by their governors, and put it into public use. And development is what we are aiming at for our people, and fortunately, the governors have come together and they have agreed that irrespective of parties, they are interested in developing our people. The party members I believe do not want to know who built the road, the important thing is that there is a good road to be used. The important thing is that there are industries, market, the important thing is that the people can have access to stable electricity supply. So, if we have stable power supply, good roads, good health care facilities, and there is a functional educational system, the question of party becomes irrelevant to our people.