Yoruba Nation to Nigeria: Let’s restructure or we have Oduduwa Republic
Since the struggle for the actulisation of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola, Yoruba leaders, irrespective of their political beliefs had never been this united on an issue, as was seen in Ibadan last Friday.
In unison, they spoke with one voice, demanding that the Yoruba nation is for immediate restructuring of Nigeria along regional lines and a federal constitution as against the 1999 constitution, which they described as “unitary” and the root cause of socio-political and economic crises bedeviling the country.
Though some interest groups would have loved the agitation for a Yoruba Republic to commence, but the majority, who canvassed restructuring into regionalism that will weaken the centre, suffocated advocates of secession.
The large turn out at the summit held at Adamasingba Stadium Ibadan underscored the seriousness of various political and interest groups in Yoruba nation in their quest for a restructured Nigeria, which they reasoned was long over due.
The summit was devoid of politics and religion. It was a summit that brought the Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, sitting beside former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and they exchanged banters; Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose’s position was not different from that of Governor Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Governor Ibikunke Amosun (Ogun), Governor Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Governor Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and that of Governor Aminwunmi Ambode (Lagos), who sent representatives to the summit.
Besides, the Summit brought together over 30 monarchs led by Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye, the retired Archbishop of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Reverend Ayo Ladigbolu and Sat Guru Maharaji, Odua factional leaders, Dr Frederick Faseun and Otunba Gani Adams, Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Fasonranti and leader of Afenifere Renewal Group, Dr Wale Oshun.
The convener of the summit, Dr Kunle Olajide who marveled at the large turnout of people at the summit expressed concerns that Nigeria is drifting towards precipice if patriots did not stand up for a thorough surgical operation to give a new lease of life to the country.
He noted: “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.
“In a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, nation building is an unending process of negotiation. Our elders in Yorubaland motivated by a burning desire to save the sinking ship of Nigeria State put the planning committee of this summit together to arrange this historic event.
“I want to thank our elders for their patriotism and commitment to building a just and equitable Nigerian State. “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, Nigeria has 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 plenary leaders and members of the planning committee are under no illusion that this struggle for change will be easily achieved; we realise it may be a long haul but we are prepared for it.”
The summit predicated its demand for restructuring of Nigeria on the southward trend of development in the Yoruba nation since 1966, when the military struck and suspended 1963 constitution, which they described as true reflection of the wishes and aspirations of different ethnic groups that made up the country.
It noted that prior to the abrogation of the Federal Constitution in 1966, the South West had attained a firm foundation for development. Poverty levels were below 40 per cent, education access and quality was higher than the national average.
The summit also known as Ibadan Declaration noted: “However, since military incursion, the South West has struggled to maintain this trajectory as a result of an over-centralized 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 South West being the main victim of this tendency.”
To the Yoruba nation, the fundamental reason for restructuring is to allow conducive environment for “sustainable human, social and economic development.”
The chairman of the historic Summit and an avid agitator for restructuring, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) said: “The truth is that today there is a strong wind of restructuring blowing over the country. It is not just strong a wind, it is a hurricane restructure. The loud voice of those who desire a united and strong country, which would Deo volente metamorphose into a nation is that the country should be restructured.”
The octogenarian who disagreed with those opposed to the clamour urged them to see reasons with the agitation for restructuring in the interest of peaceful coexistence of all Nigerians.
He said: “Some suggested that what we need is change of mind. I disagree. It is the constitution that created the environment under which the operators find it easy to derail the economy of the state and render the local governments impotent.
“The only change that can change the country and pave way for the 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 restructuring.”
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye urged the Yoruba to embrace peaceful dialogue in achieving their desire in the federation. He said, Yorubas are not known for violence and urged the leaders to be truthful and not use the agitation for restructuring to for fight their selfish and personal agenda.
The National President of Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo who was accompanied by Chief Walter Onafogoro, Chief Ndubisi Kanu and General Ike Nwachukwu said the leadership of South East came in large number to support the Summit because since 1963 Nigerians have not had the opportunity to produce their own constitution.
He cautioned that the agitation for restructuring should not be seen as a Southern Agenda, but should be regarded as a way for a peaceful coexistence of all Nigerians and to fast-track development. He noted that many countries in the world developed without oil and mineral resources.
He said: “We are in support of the Yoruba motion for restructuring. What we are saying is that Nigerians must have a say in the way they are governed. It is not the Yoruba alone that is saying it; the Igbo are unanimous in our calls for restructuring. Many have opposed it because of their misconceptions that the South wanted to monopolise the mineral resources, but they are wrong. They do not love this country.
“The Netherlands is the 18th riches country in the world. It has no oil. Its Agricultural export is over $100b every year. It has landmass of 34,000 square kilometers, but Niger state has 73,000 kilometers. If Netherlands could export $100b agric produce, which Nigeria never earned from oil in a year, then we can do better in Agriculture.
Chief Albert Horsefall, who represented the South South leaders at the Summit said the region was in support of the motion to restructure Nigeria because that had been the position of the region since their clamor for resource control started.
He noted that the South South is tired of producing the wealth for the nation without having any commensurate development to show for it.
In her goodwill message, Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosunmu said she was elated to see that the Yoruba nation is taking a decision on the way forward and recalled how her father, the late political sage was able to achieve much in seven years of being Premier of the Western Region.
She said the late Awolowo was one of the major advocates of regionalism and the arrangement at that time was conducive for him to lay a solid foundation for the development of the South West. For Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, the major problem Yoruba nation has is leaders who do not share the same vision with them.
He recalled that a similar Summit was held when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was President, but he cowed all the governors not to speak about regionalism, but they should only speak about their states.
Fani Kayode, who said the Yoruba had suffered too much under the present arrangement said instead of agitating for restructuring, his kinsmen should be talking of creation of Odududwa Republic. He hoped that leaders would be courageous to heed the demands of the people.
He said, “If we cannot have regional restructuring, let us prepare ourselves for Oduduwa Republic. That is the thinking of the majority of our people, but as a first step, let us demand restructuring.
Retired Acrhbishop of Methodist Church of Nigeria, Reverend Ayo Ladigbolu said the call by Yoruba people of South West should not be mistaken for war.
He said: “Our call for restructuring is to help solve crisis facing this country. We are not calling for secession, we are not declaring war against our nation, but we want a better arrangement that will make all ethnic nationalities co-exist peacefully without suspicion.
After an exhaustive deliberation on the subject matter, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) moved the motion, which was greeted with resounding affirmation by the plenary before Chief Fasonranti seconded the motion.
Part of the 16-point communiqué read by Yinka Odumakin stated: “That the states shall be entitled to manage all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accruing therefrom. The National Assembly shall determine 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.
“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.”
Besides, under the proposed constitution, the Summit also agreed that the power to create states shall be within the exclusive powers of the region and the power to create local councils and assign functions to them shall be vested on the states.
The Ibadan declaration also agreed that Nigeria should be a federation comprised of six regions and the federal capital territory Abuja.
For Yoruba leaders, “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”