Dissecting the Yoruba Position on Restructuring


Monday Discourse

At no time in modern Nigeria have the Yoruba people of the South-west been more unanimous in their quest for a restructured Nigeria than now. Shola Oyeyipo and Ademola Babalola who attended the Yoruba Agenda summit held in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, report

Last Thursday, Yoruba leaders in the South-west region converged on the Adamansingba Stadium, Ibadan, Oyo State for a summit tagged ‘Restructuring: The Yoruba Agenda 2017’ held to define the region’s position on the topical issue of restructuring.

Despite the heavy down pour from the early hours of the day, participants kept trooping into the main bowl of the stadium in what was regarded as the largest gathering of the Yorubas in recent time.

Heavily armed security operatives provided security cover in and around the stadium premises. There was vehicular gridlock for several hours at the city’s business commercial district area at Dugbe which was few metres away from the venue of the programme.

The Ayans (Yoruba talking drummers) were joined by their Igbo traditional counterparts to keep the event alive all through.

The event was largely a successful one save for the skirmishes recorded by rival Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) members who clashed outside the stadium.

The combined efforts of security operatives saved the day as rival OPC members engaged in gun duel. A factional leader, Shina Akinpelu of New Era, an arm of the congress was badly wounded and taken to police clinic at Eleyele for medical attention.

Another report said, an OPC member, was gunned down at Queen Cinema Dugbe axis when the Lagos contingent were leaving Ibadan.

Among other decisions, the summit arrived at a consensus that the Yorubas prefer that Nigeria returns to regional government in the interest of peace and national development.

At the event chaired by renowned legal luminary, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), Yoruba leaders of note drawn from across party divides and various walks of life, raised many important issues but at the end of all the debates, they took the position that unless the country returns to a federal system of government as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitution, the crisis associated with over-centralisation of power would never stop and that national development would remain stunted.

They attributed  the ravaging poverty which experts said stood at 72 percent, the high unemployment rate put at 65 percent, internal displacement, security threats in form of Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen – farmer clashes, organised crimes and other anti-social vices to the haphazard structure created by the unitary system of government, 

One after the other, all the speakers in their presentations reached one conclusion: the rejection of the current federal arrangement. 

Not only were the people resolute that Nigeria is moving dangerously on the edge of the slope and that it required urgent steps to restructure it into a true federal constitution, the summit, in a communique signed by the duo of Babalola and the chairman, planning committee of the summit, Dr. Kunle Olajide and read by the National Publicity secretary, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, reiterated that the Yoruba nation remained convince that only a federal system could  sustain the country.

Importantly, the thrust of the communique was “that Yoruba insists that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions” as this has been the position of the region since 1960 Ibadan conference and also because developments in the country over the last fifty years have reinforced that 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 imperative for 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’s purse to implement central services,” the communique stated further.

The Yoruba people therefore suggested among other things that the federating units be it states, zones or regions should be governed by written constitution to curb impunity at all levels, Nigeria should be a federation comprised of six regions and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), that the federal government should make laws and only have powers in relation to items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the federation while each region should have in its constitution enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists and that nationalities or settlements should be at liberty to elect to be part of any region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone places them.

Other issues identified as panacea for unity, justice, peace and fair play were that states should determine items to be included on the legislative lists in the regional constitution, powers to create state should be within the exclusive powers of the region while powers to create local governments and assign functions to them should be vested in the states, that 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 federal government and that for a period of 10 years from the commencement of the operation of the new constitution there shall be a special fund for the development of minerals in the country.

Where these see the light of the day, states will be managing all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accruing therefrom. The issue of 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. 

Earlier, Babalola who was the chairman of the summit had advocated peaceful resolution of the issue, stressing that dialogue should be the best way to go.

He said: “The agitation for secession is an ill-wind that does no good. No matter the motive of the conveners of Berlin Conference, we have lived together for over 100 years having been married by fiat of the Europeans. It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. No woman wants a dissolution of a marriage if the parties live in comfort and are prosperous. It is incumbent on the leaders to make the country so prosperous that nobody would agitate for recession.

So, to him, it is in the interest of Nigeria that the outcome of the National Conference is implemented because “what we need today is the implementation of outcome of the conference 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 a referendum. It is my view that the people’s constitution should be in place before we attain 60 years after independence”.

According to him, it is restructuring that would curb over-concentration of power in the centre, reduce corruption, promote harmony and unity and make the country metamorphose into a nation.

Ooni Sues for Peace

The Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, who was also at the forum urged the elders of Yoruba race to be honest and place the future of the youths ahead of every consideration. He said it was the only way to preserve and strengthen the Yoruba race.

The monarch said, “I thank God for this forum. He is the one that leads man. He is God forever. He made the Yoruba people leaders of human race. The Yoruba leaders are here today and I thank them for this. My appeal is that we should all approach restructuring with honesty. We should separate politics from it because of the future of our youths. Out of ten people in Nigeria, seven are in the youth brackets. We should be firm in our pursuit and let peace reign in our agitation.

“With peace, we can get what we want. Patience can earn us everything we want. We should place the future of Yoruba youths in front and not selfish interest. Whatever we want from the Federal Government, let us pursue it with peace. I thank the Yoruba leaders and all leaders from other parts of the country for creating this forum.”

We are Together, Says Ohanaeze Ndigbo 

The President-General of Ohanaeze, Chief John Nwodo, who led the South-East delegation to the summit, said Nigerians, especially, people in the Southern part, was being ruled with a set of document they were not party to. According to him, it was time for every region to dictate its level of development as it was in the regional system of the past.

“I am here with a large delegation to emphasise the Ndigbo solidarity with 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 will determine the way 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 we are saying today is that the people of Nigeria must have a say in the way they are governed. It is not only the Yoruba that are saying it, we the Igbo are saying it loud and clear. Many people have tried to destroy restructuring by saying that it is a ploy by Southern Nigeria to monopolise the God-given mineral resources in the area. Those who are doing this do not love Nigeria.

“Netherlands is the 18th richest country in the world. It’s agricultural export every year comes to $100bn. The entire oil revenue in Nigeria has never reached that figure any year. The trajectory of the world is moving away from mineral to human capital development. Netherlands has 34,000 square kilometres but Niger State in Nigeria has 73,000 kilometres. If Netherlands can export $100bn worth of agricultural produce, Nigeria should be able to do more in million folds.

“In a restructured Nigeria, only those who can till their land and produce food will be rich. All parts of Nigeria are endowed with agricultural resources. California is the largest economy in the world, yet, it is only one state in the United States. California has given birth to richest companies in the world whose founders grew from universities in California. If you give the people the power to develop themselves, they will do well.

“Education knows no boundaries, I was thought by Yoruba professors and today, I can mimic the Yoruba intellectual powers. I drank from the water and if that is so, every area in Nigeria that has relative advantage will export its advantage to the rest of Nigeria. I want to tell you that we support your motion for restructuring of Nigeria,” said Nwodo.

South-south also in Alignment 

Also leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Albert Horsfall, said that Nigeria’s structural was lopsided and that it gave undue advantage to a set of people to be at the saddle because of questionable population figure that remained unproven.

Horsfall said, “The whole issue of restructuring depends on the control of what you or your soil produces. We in the South-South have for several decades provided the engine room that runs Nigeria but we are still expecting to be given the privilege to run our own affairs. That is the restructuring that we are talking about.

“The rest of us in the South speak with one voice over restructuring. We believe in one Nigeria but every country must do something and contribute something to the nation. We do not want a system called federation but based on unitary system of government.

“What is happening now and which we reject is that somebody produces the resources, some other persons, because of population that they claim but not proven, manage and run the resources. For that reason, if you go to the Niger Delta today, despite the fact that we lay the golden egg, our people are still agitating. We are not mad, we are agitating because history repeats itself. Civilisation came to Nigeria through the South-South.

“The issue of restructure must start with resource control. That is what we believe. We support the Yoruba motion in its entirety. The sage, Chief Awolowo is closely related in politics with my father who was also a leader of the Action Group. We have affinity with the Yoruba and that is why we are here to speak in acknowledgment of what the Yoruba people are doing today.”

Fayose Admonition of Yoruba Leaders

The Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, said at the summit that Youruba elders were the problem of the region because they failed in their duty to protect their own people.

Fayose, who took a swipe at the Yoruba leaders for not taking up the restructuring struggle frontally, expressed displeasure over the antics of some unnamed leaders in the region whom he accused of standing against the people in the demand for a better structured Nigeria.

He said, “I can only tell the truth in a forum like this. People can only discard my voice but they cannot throw me away. Our forefathers in Yoruba land tried their best but the present Yoruba elders are our problem. This is our fathers’ land and they must defend it.

“We have had great meetings like this that was held in the past and which were attended by Yoruba elder, but after the meetings, the so-called elders would approach the media and said we do not need restructuring. This does not make any sense. The war against Yoruba land is from within. We have selfish elders in the land. Through the period when one of our elders ruled Nigeria, he never deemed it fit to honour Chief MKO Abiola who died fighting the cause of Yoruba people.

“We are fighting for a just cause now but this man will appear on the television and say restructuring is not the way. He put us in the position we are today. In the Bible, Jonah was thrown into the sea because he was perceived as the problem of the ship he was travelling in. By His grace, all Yoruba enemies will be thrown into the sea. Many do not understand restructuring. We are already in slavery. Awolowo was put in jail because he said the truth, but anyone that is against me will not have peace.”

Fayose said that he supported the position of the forum and that there was no alternative to a return to regionalism.

He said, “I align myself with what our elders have said but they must fight without fear if we have to move forward. God will help you. There is no alternative to regionalisation. When we had one of our elders in power, people clamoured for it but he threatened us. He said we can only discuss states and not region. You know the person I am talking about because I will not mention his name.

“You cannot blame the governors who are not here because our present leaders have turned themselves to Lion. When the governors want to talk, they roar at them to keep them quiet. But I will talk because they cannot stop me. God will save us from a leader that the people do not want.”

Also worthy of note were the representatives from Kwara and Kogi states at the summit. They came with one message whih is that the Yoruba-Okun people in the West senatorial district of Kogi State and their counterparts in Kwara South and other parts  partitioned with the North-central prefer to be reunited with their kinsmen in the southern part of the country. 

A Note of Caution from Gani Adams

Meanwhile, leader of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Gani Adams, noted at the summit that it would be dangerous to call for devolution of powers to the states because it could lead to disintegration of the Yoruba states.

Adams noted that, “Today is historic in the life of Yoruba race because it is a day that we want to tell the whole world where the Yoruba nation belongs in Nigeria. Other zones have known where they belong and we must decide our own too when we talk about our position on restructuring.

“To devolve power to the states is dangerous for the Yoruba states. This is because if for example Lagos has the power to be on its own, after having its own constitution, police and other things, it will one day tell Ogun State that it does not want anything to do with it since it already has what it wants. This can also apply to other states in the region. What we want is to go back to regionalism. From the beginning of history, Yoruba has always been pacesetter. They should not set us backward. What we need is restructuring based on regional line.”

There is Also a Call for Secession 

Among the Yoruba socio-cultural groups at the meeting was the Yoruba Liberation Command, who said restructuring was too late to save the nation.

 According to the group’s spokesperson, George Akinola, Yoruba had been trampled upon in the Nigeria arrangement, saying that it was time to gain independence.

He said, “Our position is that it is too late for restructuring in Nigeria. In 1962 there was a problem in Nigeria when Awolowo was arrested. Several other crises in the country led to a coup. Yoruba has been losing its footing on the ground since then. In 1993, the June 12 election won by MKO was annulled. See where we are today. We are not for restructuring or national conference but Oduduwa Republic.

“We are serious about our demands. Every region has its agitation. Nigeria is the impediment to the development the Oduduwa Republic. We had television before France and radio before South Africa. Look at where we are today.”

It was indeed an occasion that attracted many notable leaders from the region and among them were the Ooni of Ife, Oba Eniitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi; Afenifere leaders, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, former Minister of Education, Mr. Tunde Adeniran; fomer Minister of Information, Mr. Walter Ofonagoro; former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, former media aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Doyin Okupe, former Leader of the Alliance for Democracy, Chief Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa; daughter of  Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Olatokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu; former governors of Ogun and Ondo States, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.

Also in attendance were Senator Gbenga Kaka, President, Yoruba Council of Elders, Prof Idowu Sofola, Mr. Wale Oshun, Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Oyedokun, Oba Lekan Balogun, Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Latifu Adebimpe, Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, retired archbishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who was represented by Bashorun of Oyo, high Chief Yusuf Ayoola, Mr Babatunde Oduyoye, AD chieftain, Dr. Yemi Farunmbi, foremost Yoruba leader, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Chief Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), leader, Oodua Peoples Congress, Chief Gani Adams; Iyaloja of Ibadanland, Chief Labake Lawal, Otunba Adebola Olaife represented Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor and former deputy governor of Ogun State, Sen Gbenga Kaka and several other respected leaders of the Southern part of the country.