What Yoruba want in Nigeria - Elders




Gbenro Adesina/Ibadan

Yoruba people of South West, Nigeria, defied the heavy downpour on Thursday at the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasigba, Ibadan for a Yoruba summit tagged, “Restructuring:The Yoruba Agenda 2017”

It was organized by the Yoruba Summit Committee

At the end of the summit, Professor Banji Akintoye declared that the summit would be referred to as “Ibadan Declaration of Yoruba Nation for Restructuring in Nigeria.”

A communique was adopted by those in attendance. According to the communique, the Yoruba resolved as follow:

”That Yoruba insist that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. That this has been our position since 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last fifty years reinforce our conviction, that Yoruba are clear that restructuring does not mean different things to different people other than that a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria can only know real peace and development if it is run only along federal lines, and that the greatest imperatives of restructuring Nigeria is to move from a rent-seeking and money sharing anti-development economy to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation purse to implement central services.

“That the federating units-whether states, zones or regions must themselves be governed by written constitution to curb impunity at all levels, Nigeria shall be a federation comprising six regions and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the Federal Government shall make laws and only have powers in relation to items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the Federation, the regions shall in turn be composed as states, each region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate. And contiguous territories, ethnic nationalities or settlement shall be at liberty through a plebiscite, to elect to be part of any contiguous region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone or state boundaries places them.

“States as presently comprised in the geo-political zones into which they fall, which shall become regions, shall continue to exercise the executive, legislative and judicial functions currently exercised at that level of government, the states with a region shall determine the items on the legislative lists in the regional constitution for the purpose of good government and the administration and provision of common inter-state social, economic and infrastructural requirements. Residual powers shall be vested in the state, the power to create states shall be within the exclusive powers of the region which shall be obliged to create a state provided a plebiscite is conducted, following a request by an agreed percentage of the residents of the ethnic nationality within a state. The procedure for conducting a plebiscite and the percentage of any ethnic nationality shall be out in the regional constitution and the power to create local governments and assign functions to them shall be vested in the states.

“States shall be entitled to manage all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accruing there from. The issue of the entitlement of littoral states to offshore resources and the extension of such rights from the continental shelf and rights accruing to the federal government shall be determined by the National Assembly, the sharing ratio of all revenues raised by means of taxation shall be 50 percent to the states, 35 percent to the regional government, and 15 percent to the government of the federation.

“For a period of 10 years from the commencement of the operation of the new constitution (or such other agreed period to be enshrined in the federal constitution) there shall be a special fund for the government of all minerals in the country. The government of the federation shall raise this sum by way of additional taxation on resources at a rate to be agreed by the National Assembly. The National Assembly shall set up a body to manage the funds with equal representation of nominees from each of the regional governments and shall also set out and specify the guidelines for the administration of the funds exclusively for this purpose. The president of the federation shall appoint a chairperson for the entity so formed and that these agreed positions of the Yoruba taken today shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a United Nigeria based on justice, peace and fair play”.

The event did not go without a hitch as no fewer than two lives were lost and many people were seriously injured in the fracas that ensued between two factions of Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, led by their leaders, Dr Frederick Fasheun and Otunba Gani Adams, who were both present. Some vehicles were also destroyed and it took the intervention of the policemen present to stop a faction of the group from burning a Golf car with registration number, Lagos JJJ 784 AS, which had already been vandalised.

Those present could not hide their grievances over the way they have been treated since independence as some of the speakers veraciously pointed out that should restructuring fails, Oduduwa Republic should be immediately declared.

Fuming, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who called on the race to reject the position of slavery and second class citizens they are currently occupying said, “We know what happened to our forefathers and former leaders like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola. We can’t forget so easily what they did to our fathers and leaders. They killed them, they maimed them, and they jailed them. If we don’t have regionalism, let us prepare for Oduduwa Republic. We call for restructuring as the first step. Give us power to rule ourselves but if this request can’t be granted, then let there be Yoruba Nation”.

Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, who acccused Yoruba elders of being the major problem of the Yorubas, said that there was no unity of purpose among the Yoruba elders. He said, “After we might have taken position here, you will now see one of the elders saying, “We don’t need restructuring. How can we have a president from the South West for eight years and that man will not honour Chief MKO Abiola for what he suffered for us. Abiola paid the ultimate price for what the nation is enjoying today. The man I am referring to, which I believe you know is the cause of our problem. Yoruba has entered one chance. There was a time we had a conference and the person I am talking about said that we should not talk about regional government. At this point, I want to say that regionalism or regional government is not negotiable. I support regional government completely”.

Other South West Governors represented by their commissioners of various portfolios, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Akinwumi Ambode and Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Lagos and Osun States also unequivocally endorsed regional government.

Former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who described the event as a watershed in the history of the nation’s political evolution, said that Yoruba is only asking that they should be properly involved in the governance of the nation, which is not too much. He said, “The cry for proper restructure is an idea that should be lauded. Restructuring is not about secession but sine qua non for development and progress in Nigeria”.

While Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu said, “Restructuring is a must because it is time to reject slavery.” The Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group, Hon. Wale Oshin said, “We are not ready to leave Nigeria or drive anybody out of the West but we are concerned with our welfare. Regionalism gives room for each region to develop at its own pace. We want old western region. We are not slaves”.

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Representatives of Kogi and Kwara States who claimed that Yorubas are the majority in the states said that when regional government is achieved, they would go with the South West. Ambassador Babatunde Fadunmiyo from Kogi said, “We are about 800,000 Yorubas spread across six local governments in Kogi State. We are omo Oduduwa. Restructuring to us is to get Okuta State but if that is impossible, we want to join Oduduwa Republic and be fully part of Oduduwa Republic”.

However, Ooni of Ife, His Royal Majesty, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja ll, who spoke on behalf of the traditional institution endorsed restructuring of the country but urged that whatever demand being sought for in the South West should be devoid of politics and selfishness. He added, “We should guide our utterances but be poised to achieve our dream in a peaceful atmosphere. Whatever we want from the Federal Government should be peacefully and patiently pursued”.

President-General of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and former Minister of Aviation, Chief John Nnia Nwodo from South East said, “I express our solidarity to the Yoruba people on their demand. What is happening in Nigeria shows that democracy has began to grow in Nigeria. Since 1963, majority of Nigerians have not been allowed to be involved in the writing of the nation’s constitution. Our constitution is written by few people and that is why the constitution does not represent the reality on ground. People must have a say in the way they are governed. This is what Igbo is saying loud and clear. It is wrong for anybody to term restructuring as a way for the southerners to monopolise the nation’s resources as being espoused by some people. By and large, I want to tell you that we Igbos support your motion for the restructuring of Nigeria”.

In the same vein, the first Director General, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, and former Director General, State Security Service, SSS, Chief Albert Korubo Horsfall, representing South South said that the people of Niger Delta are happy that the entire South is now joining in the crusade of restructuring the nation. He said, “We people of the Niger Delta are the first to clamour for restructuring. People call me Mr. Resource Control. We are the engine room for the running of Nigeria and we are not allowed to run our affairs. We reject entirely a situation whereby somebody produces resources and another manages it. Restructuring means resource control to the people of Niger Delta. The nation must be restructured”.

OPC National coordinator, Otunba Gani Adams, in his view, said that Yorubas are not asking for devolution of power in restructuring but are demanding for regional government.

The Summit Chairman, Aare Afe Babalola, in his opening remarks titled, “Nigeria in Search of a Nation”, traced the evolution of the Nigerian State which culminated in the eventual attainment of independence on the October 1st 1960.

He, however, noted that Nigeria witnessed her greatest and fastest economic, political, social and educational development during self government and the First Republic. “Each of the regions was fairly autonomous and could legislate over a number of items which have today been taken over by the Federal Government. It was during the period that each region began its own regional developmental efforts. There were mutual healthy rivalries to compete for development”, Babalola said.

He listed some of the pioneering efforts by the Western Region Government under the leadership of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo to include: Africa’s first Western Nigeria Television Station/ Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, the 25 storey complex Cocoa House, the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Western Nigerian Development Corporation, Western Nigeria Marketing Board, National Bank of Nigeria, and Liberty Stadium. Continuing, he said, in the Eastern Region, the government established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which also has a teaching hospital, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation and many others; the Northern Region had: the Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the Bank of the North, and the famous Groundnut Pyramids of Kano.

The chairman noted that the misrule and unbridled brigandage of decades by the military brought Nigeria to the state of comatose she has found herself stressing, “The emergence of the military on the political scene and their uneventful stay for about 30 years dealt a fatal blow to the existing federal structure in Nigeria. None of the constitution fashioned out by the military reflects the ideals which informed the making of 1954, 1960 and 1963 constitutions”.

The erudite lawyer lamented that the military and other civilians either by design or by accident have planted in the constitution the seed of national disintegration and disharmony which has led to the allegation of maginalisation and the clamour for confederation. He lauded the organisers of the summit for taking the bold step to hold the summit in other to address the problems which are traceable to the infamous Berlin Conference, the abandonment of 1960 and 1966 constitutions which were designed for gradual emergence of the artificial creation of 1885 into a nation and the mismanagement of the economy by the military.

The legal luminary pointed out that the agitation for secession is an ill wind that does no good for the nation pointing out that Nigerians have lived together for over 100 years having been married together by fiat of the Europeans. “It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. I respectfully disagree with the few Nigerians who are opposed to restructuring. They are entitled to their opinions”, he said.

He advocated for a sovereign national conference or referendum of which the outcome would be the people’s constitution and which shall not be subjected to any amendment by any of the organs of the existing Senate or House of Representatives.

Babalola concluded that restructuring would bring about that change that would make citizens to be proud of what they earn from their sweat as against the wealth acquired from stealing public fund. “It is restructuring that will enable the component parts of the country to develop their resources, provide employment, eradicate poverty, and make one proud of being a Nigerian. It is restructuring that will enable each state to control its population, set internationally acceptable standard for admission to tertiary institutions and bring back the glory of quality education from our universities. Above all, it is restructuring that will curb over-concentration of power in the centre and reduce corruption, promote harmony and unity and make the country metamorphose into a nation”, he said.

Earlier, in his welcome address, the Chairman, Summit Planning Committee, Dr Kunle Olajide said, “We are gathered to do an honest review of our past, frank appraisal of the present and a telescopic view of our future. Yoruba from pre-independence era have laboured along with other Nigerian patriots to build this potentially great country. Has Nigeria’s potential been realised? No”. Centrifugal tendencies have often threatened to tear this country apart but the Yoruba people, our founding fathers and patriots at all times have always risen to the occasion to stem such tendencies. The ship of the Nigerian State is floundering. It is in fact heading towards a titanic rock and Nigerians from all parts of the country must rise up to halt the drift. All Nigerians must speak up, silence cannot be golden at these times, and silence in this time is crime against humanity”.

He described nation building as an unending process of negotiation. He said that the committee in charge of the summit had painstakingly prepared a document which captured the essence of Yoruba aspiration for a progressive, peaceful and just Nigerian society. According to him, the summit was not a gathering of a political and religious party stressing, “It’s a summit of the brightest and best in Yorubaland, political leaders of all ideological persuasion, academia, labour leaders, students, artisans, market women, and essentially, the proletarians. This is a coalition of Yoruba interest groups who are committed to championing the birth of a new Nigeria. Presently, by the fake constitution we are operating, Nigerians have been put in a consumption mode, sharing, and sharing and not baking the cake. We are determined to move Nigeria from this consumption mode to a productive mode. Change is often the most difficult scenario to achieve because human beings generally resist change even if it is good for them. We are here gathered to begin the process that will put a halt to this drifting”.

The organising committee members include: Chairman, Kunle Olajide, Secretary, Yinka Odumakin, Oba Adedapo Popoola, Mrs. Abimbola Oguntunde, Adeniji Sheriff, Aluko Alafe, Ayo Afolabi, Bolaji Ogunseye, David Atteh, Mrs. Doherty, Dominic Adegbola, Dotun Hassan, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja, Femi Adefila, Folu Olamiti, Kunle Famoriyo, Muyiwa Olaipo, Oladipo Olaitan, Olayemi Omisore, Olufemi Adegoke, Otunba Ayodeji Oshinbogun, Samuel Oloyede, Segun Balogun, Sesan Ekisola, Simon Daramola, Sola Lawal, Supo Shonibare, Tanimowo Babajide,Tokunbo Ajasin, Mrs. Tokunbo Sholu-Ekukinam, Tunde Amusat, Tunji Bello, Willy Thomas, and Wole Agboluaje

Among the notable Nigerians at the occasion were: Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, and Akran of Badagry, De Aholu Menu-Toyi I, represented by their high chiefs, Oba Senator Lekan Balogun and other traditional monarchs in Ibadanland, former Minister, Foreign Affairs, General Ike Omar Sanda Nwachukwu, Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Presidency, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Dr Federick Fasheun, Chief Ayo Banjo, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosumu, Professor Banji Akintoye, former Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae, Professor Nelson Fasina, former Governor of Ondo State, Chief Bamidele Olumilua, A former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippine, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Senator Akin Odunsi, Deputy Comptroller General of Nigeria Immigration Service, Chief Segun Adegoke, Otunba Kola Omololu, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Professor Kunle Wahab, Tokunbo Ajasin, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, former Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Modupe Adelaja, former Minister of Information, Walter Ibekwe Ofonagoro, Baale Ekotedo, Dr Taye Oyerinde, Senior Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Doyin Okupe, Oba Akran, Idowu Sofolahan, SAN, the founder of the One Love Family, Sat Guru Maharaji, former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore, former Governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, former Editor, Daily Times of Nigeria, Areoye Oyebola,