Bulletin 19: 2023 ELECTIONS— A response To Prof Banji Akintoye

By Femi Odedeyi

i. The Yoruba Referendum Committee holds the position that this is not the time to prevaricate on the 2023 elections, despite the lackadaisical attitude of the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Osun, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly towards the Bill for Referendum already placed before them. We hold that this resulted from the lack of sustained pressure by socio-political groups like Afenifere and various self-determination groups to become part of the Yoruba Referendum Committee’s efforts at enabling Yoruba people to pressurize and drag the Houses of Assembly, kicking and screaming, if necessary, to pass the Bill into Law and conduct the Referendum.

ii. We reiterate that the Yoruba Referendum, as a template for Nationality Referendums in Nigeria, is the most peaceful and legitimate pathway towards the necessary Constitutional Re-Formation of Nigeria, the sine qua non of any appreciable economic, social, and cultural development for the Peoples of Nigeria.

iii. We assert that Self-Determination and Electoralism are not parallel but interconnected. Electoralism may become the springboard for self-determination just as self-determination can become the fuel for electoralism, as shown by our experience.

iv. The Egbe Omo Oduduwa was a self-determination movement, based on its anti-colonial pursuits and advocacy of Federalism for an Independent Nigeria. This was later taken up by the Action Group whose electoral pursuits were also based on self-determination for the Peoples of Nigeria, by which the Party was able to demand the creation of more Regions in recognition of the rights of the minorities. Therefore, the line recently drawn separating the two and admonishing them to keep each other at arm’s length, is antithetical to the political nature and context of the quest for self-determination and Yoruba political history.

v. This Manichean division invalidates the political import of Self-Determination itself, while, electorally, the people are potentially disenfranchised. This may result in making the land politically prostrate in such a manner that non-friendly forces will become powerful enough to dictate Yoruba Political trajectory.

vi. Yoruba self-determination does not necessarily need to lead to a Sovereign Yoruba Nation-State. Within the context of Africa’s most recent history, independence resulted in imposing the Nation-State paradigm of the colonial powers, driven by their own experience in Europe. However, its projection into Africa without the sovereignty of the Nationality as the basis for independence ensured all Nationalities were subsumed under the hegemony of a colonially preferred Nationality which has engendered internal conflicts and fueled continuous instability.

vii. Federalism, based on Nationalities, as advocated by the Action Group, was the response and continues to be the response to the colonial Nation-State paradigm, now culminating in a contest between the forces of Unitarism and Federalism, a battle yet to be settled, with 2023 providing another dimension.

viii. Therefore, a replication of the Nation-State paradigm cannot be the answer, but its opposite, the multi-National state, which was and still is, the counter to the Nation-State. It is our contention that setting up new sovereign states in Africa will be detrimental to the present and future of Africa in the sense that new Nation-States cannot emerge simultaneously or around the same historical periods, as each will be dependent on extant global necessities with consequences like those experienced by former Yugoslav Republics.

ix. This is further reinforced by the experience of various Sovereign States emerging out of the USSR, including the break-up of Czechoslovakia at the instance of “Glasnost” and “Perestroika” (Restructuring) introduced in the USSR aimed at re-Federalizing the State Structure of the then Soviet Union but which was mishandled by her military, and which eventually led to its dissolution. This was encouraged by the Western World because its primary enemy, the Soviet Union, had ceased to exist.

x. For Africa, the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 led to the establishment of a National Somali Government which was rejected by a segment which unilaterally declared its Independence from the central regime. Despite all the trappings of a democratic State, Somaliland’s independence is still unrecognized by either the United Nations or any country in the world. Similarly, South Sudan fought against the North (Sudan) for over 30 years before the intersection of competing National Sovereignties between the US and China eventually enabled the UN to mediate an Independence Referendum.

xi. The above examples show the necessity to transit from the Nation-State paradigm to the Multi-National State as the unfinished business of decolonization as it redefines the State anew, where, instead of one Nationality suppressing the other or becoming antagonistic towards each other, all Nationalities, as victims of colonial plunder, have the ability and capacity to come into being, on their own.

xii. Switzerland is an example, where it was able to overcome its history of inter-Nationality violence by the formation of the Multi-National State, despite its assimilation into western Liberal economic trajectory.

xiii. With the above, it is clear that, within current circumstances, pursuit of Yoruba Sovereignty is inimical to Yoruba self-determination in the sense that the first crucial step towards any form of self-determination is yet to be taken to wit: the reversal of the atomization of Yorubaland and other Nationalities into different contiguous and non-contiguous states, thereby neutralizing the Peoples as Federating Units and replacing them with state administrations.

xiv. This has resulted in the dilution of political and economic power in the Nations in favor of political parties whose centers of gravity do not reside within the Nations, with the attendant effect of inter and intra party squabbles with no direct correlation with the development of the Nations.

xv. Therefore, rather than equivocate on the 2023 Elections, the Yoruba Referendum Committee says this is the time to make the resolution of the National Question, that is, self-determination, an electoral necessity.

xvi. This is because the Presidential category of the 2023 elections has, once again, brought into focus the National Question in Nigeria, and the necessity for Re-Formation of Nigeria, preferably through Constitutional and non-violent means. This is not only because the three major contenders for the presidency are from the three major Nationalities but also because it marks a continuity with elections since 1959 where the electoral landscape was represented by the three major Nationalities. In 1979, this was increased to five, with each political party largely representing a major Nationality, to wit: UPN(Yoruba); NPP(Igbo); GNPP(Kanuri); NPN(Fulani); PRP(Hausa).

xvii. Despite the reduction of political parties into two by the time of the June 12, 1993, election, the National Question also became an issue because the major contenders from both parties were Yoruba and Kanuri, that is, M.K.O Abiola, Babagana Kingibe(SDP) and Bashir Tofa(NRC). This may partially explain the motive for the annulment.

xviii. Peter Obi of the Labor Party has openly stated that there is nothing wrong with the 1999 Constitution. The Labor Party has thrown its weight behind the amendment to the 1999 Constitution which neutralizes natural indigenship with a 5-year residency as the primary requirement. With the influx of non-Yoruba into Yorubaland and the looming prospects of a 2023 census, it is safe to assume that a demographic change in Yorubaland is in the offing, to be legitimized by the Census.

xix. On its part, the PDP has danced around “devolution” over a period of time. Despite this, the party refused to yield power to its members from the southern part of Nigeria. This made Governor Seyi Makinde (PDP) of Oyo state to lament the impossibility of a party unable to restructure itself being capable of restructuring Nigeria.

xx. Besides, “devolution” is an anti-thesis to Federalism because whoever devolves power also retains the capacity to take it back. It further negates the necessity for the self-expression of the various Nations in Nigeria who had to be “pacified” with whatever the center wishes to hand out. Federalism is the other way round, to wit: the Nations decide what powers and responsibilities to yield to the center.

xxi. This is the reason the Yoruba Referendum Committee defines a new Nigeria as a “Federal Nigeria, through a valid Federal Constitution, to be known as The Union of Nigerian Constituent Nationalities, with a Federal Presidential Council, whose members will be selected or elected from each of the Nationalities as Federating Units and from whom a Head of State will be selected or elected as the primus-inter-pares with an agreed term”.

xxii. As for the APC and its presidential candidate, the resolution of the National Question has taken the back seat, despite the Rufai Committee Report on True Federalism. History may be about to repeat itself vis-a- vis the APC, with a Yoruba/Kanuri Ticket, whose potential victory may be upended either by a real or contrived PDP or Labor Party victory, failing which there is another possibility of an annulment or a contrived crisis leading to a declaration of a Doctrine of Necessity to usher in an Interim Government as being canvassed by some prominent persons.

xxiii. To avert any of these, the Yoruba Referendum Committee calls on the entirety of Yoruba People, regardless of any “self-determination” or electoralist ascription, to support Asiwaju Tinubu’s candidacy while simultaneously demanding that the Houses of Assembly in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States, as presently constituted, pass the Bill for Referendum into Law. If the Referendum cannot be conducted before the 2023 elections, the Law must be grandfathered into any incoming Assemblies.

xxiv. This is the best guarantee to prevent Yorubaland from being dissolved into another round of agitations were history to repeat itself.

Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee