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Yoruba leaders speak with one voice for new Nigeria
From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
Prior to the abrogation of the Federal Constitution in Nigeria in 1966, the South West had attained a firm foundation for development. Poverty levels were below 40 percent, education access and quality was also higher than the national average.
However, since military incursion into Nigerian politics in 1966, the South West has struggled to maintain the trajectory as a result of an over centralised unitary pull, which continues to bring the best down to the level of the rest, instead of taking the rest up to the level of the best, with the South West being the main victim of the tendency.
These were some of the arguments put forward by eminent Yoruba leaders on Thursday, September 7, 2017, at the main bowl of Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Adamasingba, Ibadan, Oyo State. It was at the Yoruba Summit/Grand Rally to demand the immediate political restructuring of Nigeria into regional lines.
The day opened a new chapter in the history of Nigeria and the title of the chapter will probably be “Ibadan Declaration on Restructuring of Nigeria,” and it will be recorded as a day the Yoruba people, supported by the Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Pan Niger Delta Forum, spoke with one voice on the restructuring of the country. The participants did honest review of the past, frank appraisal of the present and telescopic view of the future.
Dignitaries in attendance
The summit attracted Yoruba leaders, governors, traditional rulers, parliamentarians, socio-cultural groups, professional bodies, market leaders, youth groups and friends of the Yoruba nation.
Some of the royal fathers in attendance included Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II; Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Lekan Balogun; Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland, Oba Latifu Gbadamosi Adebimpe; Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Oyedokun; and the Bashorun of Oyo, Chief Yusuf Ayoola, who represented the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III.
Other dignitaries included Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; a legal icon, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN); President, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE); Chief Idowu Sofola(SAN) and former Minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran.
The roll call also comprised Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; former deputy governor of Ogun State, Senator Gbenga Kaka; former deputy governor of Osun State, Sen Iyiola Omisore.
Afenifere leaders, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, and Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, retired archbishop of Methodist Church Nigeria; former Nigerian Ambassador to Philippines, Dr. Yemi Faronmbi; founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) Dr Frederick Fasehun; National Coordinator of OPC, Otunba Gani Adams; Dr. Doyin Okupe, Dr. Kunle Olajide, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa; Amb Babatunde Fadunmiyo from Kogi State; Chairman of Elizade Motors, Chief Michael Ade-Ojo; Chairman Afenifere Renewal Group, Mr. Olawale Oshun; and many others.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, led a high powered delegation of South East, that included a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, and former Minister of Information, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, to the summit. Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Albert Horsfall, a former Director General of the Department of State Services, was also in attendance. Though the governors of Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ondo states were not in attendance, they sent representatives.
Chairman, Planning Committee, Dr. Kunle Olajide, who is the Aare Efon Kingdom, said the elders of Yoruba land, motivated by a burning desire to save the sinking ship of Nigeria state, put the planning committee together to arrange the historic event:
“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 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 rick and Nigerians from all parts of the country must rise up to halt the drift. All Nigerians must speak up, silence cannot be holden at these times, and silence in this time is crime against humanity.”
Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who chaired the summit, said: “I respectfully disagree with the few Nigerians who are opposed to restructuring. They are entitled to their opinion. The only change that can change the country and pave way for nationhood is the change that changes the structure of project Nigeria.
“No amount of sermon from the pulpit can change the country. It is that change that will bring about the necessary interest and determination to succeed. That change is the restructuring of the country.
It is restructuring that would curb over-concentration of power in the centre and reduce corruption, promote harmony and unity and make the country metamorphosed into a nation.”
He described that agitation for secession as an ill wind that does no good and advocated a sovereign national conference, “the outcome of which shall be the people’s constitution and shall not be subject to any amendment by any of the organs of the existing Senate or House of Representatives. If necessary, it may be referred to as a referendum.”
Ooni of Ife cautioned those moving the motion for restructuring: “My advice is that we should do the restructuring with honesty. We should not politicise it. Those of us in Nigeria, the youth constitute seven out of 10. With peace, we can get our rights.
“We should not be selfish. We should ask ourselves if we have come here to safeguard the future of Nigerian children. We should be patient and pursue our agitation in peaceful manner. What we do with peace is what God will involve Himself in. With peace, we can get all our rights. Yoruba people are leaders, God will not let us go backwards again.”
Fayose, said: “What they asked us to talk about, it is either they want the truth or the lie. But as for us, we will say the truth. They can throw the words away, they can’t throw s away. Our fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ladoke Akintola and other Yoruba leaders, have tried their best for us.
“But you elders of Yoruba are the problem that we have. We are our problems. We gave had good meetings like this one attended by elders and kings of Yoruba. Aftermath of this summit, you will see some so-called Yoruba leaders saying on television that; ‘We don’t need restructuring.’ To me, those words do not make sense. There is no alternative, we will go back to regions.”
Former Minister of Aviation, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, said: “If Nigeria is not restructured, if we do not have regional restructuring, I will tell you this for free, let us prepare for Oduduwa Republic, end of story. That is the feeling of majority of our people.
“For us here today as leaders, we call for the restructuring of Nigeria as the first step. We appeal to the Federal Government, we appeal to our political leaders and all parties, let us restructure this country. Give us power from the centre, give us the power to live our lives. Nobody can silence the Yoruba, nobody can hold us down, we shall go forth in power in the name of Jesus.”
Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, daughter of the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, noted: “There is absolutely nothing in the campaign for restructuring or federalism or devolution of powers that portend any form of negative outcomes for our other compatriots or, indeed, for Nigeria.”
The scion of former governor of Ondo State, Adekunle Ajasin, Tokunbo, noted that Yoruba nation should think of Oduduwa Republic.
Ambassador Babatunde Fadunmiyo, who led a delegation of Yoruba people in Kogi State to the summit, said in calling for restructuring, his people in Kogi should be restructured to join their people in Kwara State.
Otunba Gani Adams, said: “Whenever we are talking about restructuring, we should always emphasise on where we stand. The kind of restructuring that can favour us is for us to go back to regions, the way our fathers got independence from the white men. Anything short of that is slavery for Yoruba land and that is very dangerous, not even only for Yoruba.”
Representatives of Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ondo States governors said in restructuring Nigeria, each of the six geo-political zones should be recognised as region. More powers should be taken from the central to the federating unit, and lawmaking should be part time as contained in the 1963 Federal Constitution. They added that self-determination should be part of the ongoing constitution amendment in the country.
Leaders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo,
Pan Niger Delta Forum speak
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, who led a high powered delegation of South East, that included a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, and former Minister of Information, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, to the summit, said: “With all humility, I extend the greetings of Ndigbo to Yoruba people. I have come with a very large delegation to emphasise our solidarity with you on this occasion. What is happening today shows that democracy has begun to grow in Nigeria.
“Since 1963, the people of Nigeria have never been allowed to write a constitution that would determine the way that they are ruled. Is it wrong to have a say in your country? Is it right to be ruled by a document that you are not party to? What you are saying day is that the people of Nigeria must have a say in the way that they are governed. It is not only the Yoruba nation that is saying it, we the Igbo are saying it loud and clear.“Many people have tried to destroy restructuring and I am saying that it is a ploy by some Nigerians to monopolise the God-given mineral resources in Southern Nigeria. I think those who are doing this do not love Nigeria.
“I want to give two examples for the benefit of our argument. The first example is the country called Netherlands. Netherlands is the 18th richest country in the world; its agricultural export every year comes to a hundred billion dollars. The entire oil revenue of Nigeria has never reached a hundred billion dollars in any year that we know.
“The world is moving away from minerals to human capital development and agriculture. In a restructured Nigeria, only those who can till their land, only those who can produce food will be rich and every part of Nigeria is endowed with agricultural resources, is it not so?
“The second example is California, which is the sixth largest economy in the world. It is only one state in the United States of America. Netherlands has 34,000sq/kilometres, and can export hundred billion dollars of American produce. Nigeria will export one million times more, won’t it?
California has given birth to Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Google, and California has given birth to Apple in the stock exchange in the United States. These companies are the richest. They all grew out of the University of California, which means, if you give people the power to develop themselves the way they find fit…
“I am a product of the University of Ibadan, and I drank from your (Yoruba) waters. Education knows no boundaries. If that is so, every area in Nigeria that has relative advantage will export its advantage to the rest of Nigeria, is that not so? I want to tell you all that we support your motion for the restructuring of Nigeria.”
Leader of Pan Niger Delta Forum, Chief Albert Horsfall, noted: “I am a son of the South South. When we are talking about restructuring, we of the Niger Delta started it long ago. You will recall the agitation for resource control; you can call me Mr. Resource Control because the whole issue of restructuring depends on control of what your soil produces.
“We of the South South have for many decades run the economy of this country. We have provided the engine room that runs Nigeria, yet we are still expecting to be given that right and privilege to run our affairs. That is the restructuring that we are talking about. So, the rest of us in the South have just only caught up with agitations, which we thank you for because we’ll all now speak with one voice.”
Giant strides under defunct regional system
The history of Nigeria is replete with the incontrovertible fact that the country witnessed her greatest and fastest economic, political, social and educational development during self-government and the First Republic. Each of the regions then was fairly autonomous and could legislate over a member of items, which have been taken over by the Federal Government.
The defunct Western Region recorded firsts in many aspects. It included the first television station in Africa, Nigerian Television Authority; first university in Nigeria, University of Ibadan; first skyscraper in the country, Cocoa House in Ibadan; Liberty Stadium now Obafemi Awolowo Stadium in Ibadan; University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan; free education policy and many others.
Babalola added: “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 constitutions fashioned out by the military reflects the ideals, which informed the making of 1954, 1960 abd 1963 Constitutions. What the military did was to by that constitution weaken the component states, destroy or impair their power to develop and sustain themselves.”
The motion, communique
The summit was rounded off with a motion and a communique. The motion, moved by Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), was to adopt a unified Yoruba agenda from submissions of various South West based organisations, Yoruba leaders, elected representatives, from Yoruba groups from Kwara, Kogi and Itsekiri people from Delta State. A 16-point communique entitled: Ibadan Declaration on the Restructuring of Nigeria, was issued at the end of the summit. It was read by Mr. Yinka Odumakin, an Afenifere chieftain.
The communique, signed by Afe Babalola and Kunle Olajide, in part:
“Nigeria is careering dangerously to the edge of the slope, except urgent steps are taken to restructure Nigeria from a unitary constitution to a federal constitution as negotiated by our founding fathers at independence in 1960.
“The summit resolved that Yoruba insists that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. This has been our position since 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last 50 years reinforce our conviction.
“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. 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.
“The federating units, whether states, zones or regions must themselves be governed by written constitution to curb impurity at all levels. Nigeria shall be a federation comprised of 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.
“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 states.
“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.
“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 therefrom. 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 ration of all revenues raised by means of taxation shall be 50 per cent to the states, 35 per cent to the regional government and 15 per cent 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 development 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.
“These agreed positions of the Yoruba shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a united Nigeria based on justice, peace and fair play.
“It is believed that Nigeria needs to be negotiated or restructured along the lines that promote unity, equity and justice for the benefit of its diverse people, not for the purpose of break-up, for it is better for all Nigerians to hang together so that none will hang separately.”
A professor of International Relations at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Williams Fawole, at a recent media parley in Ibadan organised by the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) Commission under the leadership of Mr. Seye Oyeleye, the Acting Director General, noted that the existence of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, for about 400 years as a single country, came up for negotiation recently through a referendum by Scotland. He added that Canada, another former British colony, has separatist agitations, whilst Spain is currently “grappling with Basque and Catalonian nationalism. In what ways is Nigeria, another multinational conglomerate state, different form these other countries?”
After the Yoruba summit, the Presidency said what the country needs is restructuring of the mind and not political restructuring because it would not put food on the tables for the people. Afenifere, however, replied that the Presidency might be ignorant of the importance of restructuring.
Fawole also expressed his view: “However, let no one be deceived to imagine that restructuring is the sole panacea to the country’s many ills, such as failed state institutions, collapsed infrastructure, massive youth unemployment, harsh economic recession, pervasive insecurity across the land exemplified by the Boko Haram insurrection, unchecked armed robbery, relentless kidnappings, ritual murders and so on, but it is an inevitable part of the solutions we must embrace at this historical conjecture.
“Ethnic hurt needs to be assuaged, rather than ignored. Nigeria is much better a single country than if it is divided. All the agitations for and threats of secession are unhelpful.”