South-east, South-south Adopt Ibadan Declaration for Restructuring

  • Afenifere commences engagment with ACF,
  • NEF Middle Belt leaders already understudying document

Gboyega Akinsanmi

Afenifere, a pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, wednesday disclosed that both South-east and South-south geo-political zones had adopted Ibadan Declaration as an instrument of negotiation for a restructured Nigeria.

While the leaders of the Middle Belt are currently understudying the document to enable them take a position, the organisation also revealed that it had started engaging the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders Forum (NEF) in order to build consensus on how to restructure Nigeria.

The National Treasurer of Afenifere, Chief Olasupo Shonibare, and its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who separately spoke with THISDAY wednesday, noted that the Yoruba agenda 2017 transformed to Ibadan Declaration on September 7 after the Yoruba Summit held in Ibadan.

If the Middle Belt leaders finally come up with a position adopting the Ibadan Declaration, it will bring the number of geo-political zones that have bought into the declaration to four with the exception of North-west and North-east.

The declaration recommends the devolution of 25 items on the Exclusive List in the 1999 Constitution, ranging from customs duties to exchange control, currency, coinage and legal tender, arms, ammunition and explosives, and citizenship, naturalisation and aliens among others.

To pull Nigeria from the brink, outlined 13 proposals, describing as a summary of contributions of Yoruba groups and as the irreducible minimum to create a just and equitable federation where all nationalities and peoples in Nigeria would live.

In summary, it canvasses the need for a people’s constitution delineating the structure of the federation, the scope and limits of the powers of the central government vis-à-vis the federating units, the form of government, taxation system that conforms to fiscal federalism, policing in Nigeria and the structure of the courts including the need to create a Constitutional Court.

In a telephone conversation with THISDAY wednesday, Odumakin disclosed that both South-east and South-south geo-political zones “have already adopted the Ibadan Declaration,” which he said, was the irreducible minimum to restructure Nigeria.

He disclosed that the Ibadan Declaration “has been sent to the presidency, All Progressives Congress (APC), foreign missions and embassies in Nigeria, political parties, professional bodies, religious leaders, socio-cultural organisations, youth leagues, traditional rulers and all leaders of thought among others.”

With diverse discontent among ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria and abysmal records of governance, Odumakin noted that the need to restructure Nigeria “is imperative in the interest of national unity and peaceful coexistence.”

In a separate interview, Shonibare explained that the Yoruba agenda “is a document adopted to become the Ibadan Declaration. Basically, they are the same document. The South-east has seen it. The zone has equally adopted it. The South-south had looked at it, and its leaders are in support of a negotiated restructured Nigeria.”

He also noted that the southern leaders “have presented the Ibadan Declaration to the Middle Belt groups. We met in Abuja penultimate week between the Southern leaders and the Middle Belt leaders. The Middle Belt extends beyond the present North-central states. Already, they are looking at it.”

Aside, Shonibare disclosed that there “is a committee too, which intends to engage the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Northern Elders’ Forum and other groups from the North. We are working to building groundswell consensus on the way forward. It is obvious that we can no longer depend on crude oil.

“The suggestion to restructure is what will make the North to survive. It is what will make the South survive as well. We need to diversify our capacity to produce. What is being suggested will encourage production in all parts of Nigeria. It will allow the states to keep most revenues they generate within their territories.”

Contrary to views in some quarters, Shonibare said the Ibadan Declaration “protects states and links states with the power they presently have. They are entitled to have other functions they may wish to have. The states will determine what the regional structure, functions and powers should be in coordinating common services.

“Even the judicial system will be structured in a way that certain cases terminate at the regional level. Certain cases will still terminate at the state level. But inter-state issues should terminates at the regional level.
“It should just be agreed that litigations on the exclusive legislative list that remains with the federal entity are adjudicated upon by Federal Court of Appeal or Supreme Court. Constitutional matters should go to the Supreme Court so that we can decongest the volume of cases. With this, we will fast-tract the delivery of justice.”

He, therefore, allayed fear arising in some quarters about the nation-wide campaign for a restructured Nigeria, noting that even the North would accept the recommendations contained in the Ibadan Declaration as a good way to proceed and restructure Nigeria.

Citing different examples from other political climes globally, Shonibare explained that there “is no multi-ethnic country in the world that has not already devolved powers as a nation where you see some reflections of each ethnic group that has survived the unitary system. They have all collapsed.”

He added that what the southern leaders “are suggesting is a truly federal system. It is only truly federal systems that will enable this country survive. Look at the United Kingdom, some parts of country that are homogenous like Liverpool or Manchester, the central government is devolving power to them.

“Already, they are having local government in those areas. They have been devolving more powers to another structure to ensure that the delivery of social and economic services can be determined by the people in the area. That is what we are asking for.”

He, thus, warned that Nigeria might disintegrate if the present leadership fails to listen to the people and restructure Nigeria. There are secessionist groups pulling us apart already. They are not just in the South-east. They are even in other parts of the country.

“I believe those secessionist tendencies are in the minority now. But if we do not do the needful, the blame of not being able to provide jobs will automatically be put on those operating the unitary system. That will bring about ethnic discontent. And ethnic discontent leads to an unstable polity,” he explained.