By Ademola Babalola in Ibadan
“The Nigeria of our founding fathers’ dreams will elude us in our lifetime unless it is thoroughly restructured to allow for the devolution of powers and resources to the federating units.”
This was the position of eminent leaders of the Yoruba nation who gathered yesterday in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, less than two weeks after they took similar position in the city.
While calling for massive devolution of powers and resources from the centre to the federating units, the Yoruba leaders, under the aegis of Conscience of the Yoruba Race, with the theme: ‘Restructuring Nigeria: Options and Strategies,’ also harped on devolution of powers which must also involve decentralising responsibilities.
Present at the event held at the Banquet Hall, Premier Hotel, were the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Chief Olu Falae; Prof. Amos Akingba, former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel, former Speaker of Oyo State House of Assembly, Dr. Akin Onigbinde, Mrs. Dupe Ajayi-Gbadebo, Dr. Gbola Adetunji, Mr. Sina Kawonise, Senator Ayo Arise and Dr. Olu Agunloye.
Others were Prof. Wale Are Olaitan, Mr. Yomi Layinka, former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon. Kehinde Ayoola, Hon. Dipo Olaitan, Mrs. Bola Doherty, Mr. Dare Babarinsa and the Administrator of the group, Mr. Kole Omololu.
Falae who was the chairman at the event, maintained that while the present government might not be positively predisposed to negotiating the unity of the country, the ripples that the current debate about restructuring is generating have made it critical for it to be discussed if Nigeria is to have a future.
According to the elder statesman, while there are many options to restructuring, the future of Nigeria lies in the implementation of the reports of the 2014 National Conference.
Unlike what obtained in the old regional system, Falae stated that the regionalism being championed is to get to the grassroots where the bulk of Nigerians reside.
He said: “What we have come to discuss is a big subject in Nigeria. Not long ago, the new president, my friend said it was a non-issue and that the report of the National Conference had not been read. But that subject has become topical and like I said in my recent interview, the restructuring of Nigeria via the report of the National Conference is the future of Nigeria if Nigeria has a future. The options for restructuring are many. We went to Abuja for a regional agenda but on getting there, the Middle Belters were scared of it, but I am happy that in recent times, they are at the forefront for it. I called my friend, Jerry Gana, what has happened and he said they have a change of mind.
“Change must come but not the partisan change that has no meaning. Massive devolution of powers, responsibilities and resources must take place from the centre to the federating units. I want to add that the devolution will not stop at the old regional capitals of power. It must continue to the states created in the regions and the local government which is where our people reside.”
The administrator of the group, Akogun Omololu, said happenings in the country have called for the need for the Yoruba race to mobilise intelligence and ensure social justice for her members.
Omololu who noted that the group started as a social media group for the mobilisation of the people, added that the time has come to fashion out the ways to implement the resolutions reached at the 2014 National Conference where all groups were represented.
While noting that it smacks injustice for the government to state that unity of the country cannot be negotiated, Omololu recalled that even the colonial rulers allowed the negotiation of terms of governance.
He said: “As the theme of this gathering, ‘Restructuring Nigeria: Strategies and Options’ states, what is happening in Nigeria today is a recognition and clarion call that all is not well with the country.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said: ‘Nigeria’s problem is that we fight against the effects and not against the problem.’ The bane of Nigeria is the Decree 4 of 1966, enacted by the first military regime headed by the late General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi.
“Today, there is a sing song in some quarters that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. Even the British High Commissioner to Nigeria echoed this line a short while ago. But we say to all those who sing this song that they are wrong! By 2014, Nigerians had negotiated the country’s unity and reached some kind of agreement. At the 2014 National Conference, 607 resolutions were passed without acrimony. Now is the time to implement the resolutions.
“One of our key assignments here today is to fashion out how the agreements are to be implemented and to further identify areas that may need to be highlighted and acted upon.
“The Yoruba have historically been leaders. Leaders do not copy or imitate; they set the pace and provide the standards.
“We will leave here today and resolve to ensure that henceforth, the will of our people is not easily ignored by those who govern us.
“The principle of social justice is held dear by the Yoruba, but it is not exclusive to us, being a universal principle. Now is the time to push this principle to the front burner of the governing process in Nigeria and its observance at all times.”