National Conference: Yoruba Groups Call For Cautious Optimism Amidst Flawed Modality

By Segun Balogun
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The first reaction of Yoruba people to the modality for the proposed National Conference is that it reeks from the sublime to the ridiculous. The nation remembers the Independence Day broadcast of President Goodluck Jonathan that heralded a rekindled hope of a genuine National Conference, the hope that enjoyed mammoth support of Nigerians, the hope that this proposed modality has just slaughtered.

President Jonathan promised specifically that there would not be any "no go area" and that he will not tamper with the entire process. With these, Nigerians expressed profound desire for a new Constitution that would only be ratified through referendum. However, since the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Dialogue, led by Senator Femi Okurounmu, submitted its report, we have witnessed catalogues of disappointments. We are now presented with a conference, whose modality, in many ways, is incongruous with the President's promise and the expectations that Nigerians exhibited through and during the public sittings.

Being a consistent and strident advocate of National Conference, Yoruba people had expected socio-political, cultural and ethnic organisations to be the main, if not only, stakeholders at the conference, not a potpourri of "interest groups" that did not even deem it fit to make public presentations to Okurounmu's committee. For example, there would be five delegates representing five National Academies and we are still wondering what national interest these academies are pursuing that is not already covered by their parent ministries and by extension the Federal Government. The President would nominate six Judiciary delegates but the Nigerian Bar Association is allowed just one delegate, while the nomination of 24 delegates is ceded to civil society groups which have no known umbrella or regulatory body. These examples are cited without prejudice to the fact that any Nigerian is qualified to be a delegate.

However, after wide consultation with our people, which is still ongoing, we have decided to continue with the same cautious optimism we expressed when this initiative was unveiled. The Yoruba people will participate in the Conference, believing it may be the step that will take this process back to the sublime. We hereby enjoin all Yoruba individuals and groups to participate in the Yoruba Constitutional Conference coming up on Feb 12 in Ibadan at the House of Chiefs, Secretariat, where we shall gather to discuss the future of Yoruba nation and our approach to the National Conference.

To President Jonathan, we say it again that this conference will make or mar your tenure. This trend of gaining public support and losing it all too quickly is becoming characteristic of this administration and he needs to consider where his allegiance lies - whether as a statesman thinking of the next generation as he espoused in his Independence Day broadcast or as a politician thinking of the next election.

To the would-be delegates, we urge you all to draw inspiration from the 55 delegates that wrote a new Constitution for the USA. Nigerians have no business with poverty, unemployment, corruption, religious extremism, nepotism and other vices threatening the sovereignty of the nation. We will continue to clamour for Nigeria to be restructured based on a true federal structure that will allow viable federating units to unleash their creative and developmental potentials under an unfettered political structure.

As a people, we are ready to work with all stakeholders to ensure that the Conference meets the aspirations of Nigerians for a new country anchored on a new Constitution. However, Yoruba people reserve the right to take our destiny in our hands if the current effort yields no desirable fruit.

Signed by:
Afenifere Renewal Group
Coalition of O'dua Self Determination Groups
O'dua Nationalist Coalition
Afenifere Youth Movement
Segun Balogun
Programme Officer
Afenifere Renewal Group
23, Fola Jinadu Crescent,Gbagada, Lagos.