Ohanaeze, Niger Delta leaders back Yoruba demand for regional govt
The umbrella body for the Igbo, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and leaders of the Niger Delta joined leaders of the South-West in Ibadan on Thursday, where they demanded a return to regional government in Nigeria.
The Yoruba Summit, held in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, was convened to deliberate on the position of the Yoruba on restructuring and the future of Nigeria.
The summit was attended by Yoruba leaders, South-West governors, traditional leaders, lawmakers, Yoruba socio-cultural groups, professional bodies, various Yoruba youth groups and leaders of various groups from the South-East and the South-South.
The South-South and South-East leaders and groups, who said they came to offer solidarity to the Yoruba’s position on restructuring, came in large numbers and added colour to the event with their traditional performers.
In the 16-point communiqué, dubbed Ibadan Declaration, which was signed by the summit chairman, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), and the Chairman of the Planning Committee, Dr. Kunle Olajide, and read by National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, the Yoruba elders stated that Nigeria must return to proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions.
They stressed that this had been the position of the zone since the 1950 Ibadan Conference.
The communiqué read, The “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 of restructuring Nigeria is to move from the money-sharing anti-development economy to productivity, by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources while they pay an agreed sum to the federation purse to implement certain services.
“The federating units, whether states, zones or regions must be governed by a written constitution to curb impunity at all levels. Nigeria shall be a federation comprising six regions and a federal capital territory in Abuja.”
The summit proposed that in the new arrangement, the Federal Government could make laws and only have power in relations to items specified on the exclusive list contained in the constitution of the federation.
It added, “Each region shall have its own constitution, containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent lists. Contiguous territory, ethnic nationalities and settlements shall be at liberty, through a plebiscite to elect to be part of a region other that the region which the current system has.
“The power to create state shall be within the exclusive power of the region provided a plebiscite is conducted following request by the agreed percentage of the ethnic nationality within the state.
“The power to create local government and assign functions to them shall be vested in the state.
“States shall be entitled to manage all resources found within their boundaries and the revenue accrued thereof. The sharing ratio of all revenues shall be 50 per cent to the state, 35 per cent to the regional government and 15 per cent to the federation.”
At the summit, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi, urged Yoruba elders to be honest and place the future of the youth 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 God forever. He made the Yoruba people leaders of human race.
“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 10 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.”
But the Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose, at the summit, alleged that Yoruba elders were the problem of the region because they failed in their duty to protect their own people.
He said, “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 were held in the past and which were attended by Yoruba elders, 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 M. K. O. 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.”
Fayose said 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 regionalism.
“You cannot blame the governors who are not here because our present leaders have turned themselves to Lions. When the governors want to talk, they roar at them to keep them quiet.”
In his own contribution, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, called on the Yoruba elders to prepare for an agitation for Oduduwa Republic if restructuring was not possible.
“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.
“We appeal to the Federal Government, all political leaders and all parties, let us restructure this country and devolve powers to the states. Give us the power to live our lives.
“Nobody can suppress the Yoruba people, nobody stops us; we are the sons of Oduduwa and we shall go forth.”
But the national coordinator, Oodu Peoples Congress, Gani Adams, noted at the summit that it would be dangerous to call for devolution of powers to the states, arguing that it could lead to the disintegration of the Yoruba states.
Adams said, “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.”
Among the Yoruba socio-cultural groups at the meeting was the Yoruba Liberation Command, which said restructuring was too late to save the nation. According to the group’s spokesperson, George Akinola, the Yoruba have been trampled upon in the Nigeria arrangement.
He believed that it was time to gain independence.
“We are serious about our demands. Every region has its agitation. Nigeria is the impediment to the development of the Oduduwa Republic.
“We had television before France and radio before South Africa. Look at where we are today. Restructuring is what we need and we are talking to our leaders,” he added.
Meanwhile, Nwodo, who led the South-East delegation to the summit, said Nigerians, especially, people in the Southern part, were being ruled with a set of documents 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.
The Ohanaeze president-general added, “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.
“Is it right to be ruled by a document that you are not a 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.
“The Netherlands is the 18th richest country in the world. Its agricultural export every year comes to $100bn. The 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 want to tell you that we support your motion for restructuring of Nigeria.”
Also, the leader of the Pan Niger Delta Forum, Albert Horsfall, said Nigeria’s structure was lopsided, stating that it gave undue advantage to a set of people to be at the saddle because of questionable population figure that remained unproven.
Horsfall stated, “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 federalism but based on unitary system of government.
“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.
“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.”