Bulletin #23: On “Yoruba Nation Now” (1)

By Femi Odedeyi

The Yoruba Referendum Committee is of the view that it is imperative to address the entire question of “Self-determination/Autonomy/Sovereignty”, for the benefit of “Yoruba Nation Now” followers. This is more so because of misleading conclusions being advanced by the “Yoruba Nation Now” leadership. All claims are easily verifiable, especially by those in the Yoruba Diaspora, whose verified assertions could be passed on to the generality of their supporters at home. That they are not making this effort only shows that a portion are being led through a path that will not do the Yoruba at large, any good.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee therefore proceeds as follows:

(i) Self-determination/Autonomy/Independence/Sovereignty is a natural right by virtue of human existence. This right neither requires nor need legal validation because it is natural. By this, it can be achieved by its purveyor’s ability to entrench it, if abridged, within the human community, often by force of arms, which enables it to ascertain and sustain itself. This has been the history of sovereign human evolution since ancient times, up till date. Even when diplomacy is interjected, its success depends on the balance of forces at play, which is directly related to the overriding force of arms, on, in diplomatic language, balance of power. “Yoruba Nation Now” cannot, therefore, be an exception to this reality.

(ii) When legal validity is sought or required, it mandates the observance of any existing legal order. The legal order is also often the preserve of those able to impose their sense of order on the rest. This is why the United Nations and its related agencies become the last resort of those agitating for Self-determination, and why the United Nations itself established its parameters for Self-determination.

(iii) These parameters are divided into two, to wit: (a) those territories under foreign or colonial rule and (b) those entities within established States(countries) and subjected to various forms of discrimination based on their Nationality or Indigeneity. Hence, the “Yoruba Nation Now” takes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People to Self-determination (UNDRIPS) as its reference point.

(iv) The territories under colonial rule obtained their independence in the early to mid-60s, hence it does not apply to them. There are other territories, which were “re-colonized” after the original colonial power left. One of these “recolonized” territories is Timor Leste (East Timor) which was recently used as an example to propagate “Yoruba Nation Now” by their leader. It is therefore necessary to summarize the East Timor example to discover its relevance or otherwise to the “Yoruba Nation Now” quest.

(v) East Timor was a former Portuguese colony. Portugal itself was considered the “poorest and most backward country in Europe” with large colonies. A military coup in Portugal, on the heels of anti-colonial movements’ activities, fast-tracked the decolonization process. This was “orderly” in Mozambique and Guinea Bissau but disorderly in Angola and East Timor. Hence, East Timor declared its Independence just as MPLA did in Angola. South Africa invaded Angola. Cuba and the USSR provided weapons and soldiers to fight off South African invasion and Africa, led by Nigeria, refused to be coerced by the US—some will recall Murtala Muhammed’s “We are no longer your servants” OAU speech in 1975.

(vi) Indonesia invaded East Timor. The closest geo-political power to East Timor and Indonesia, Australia, did not intervene, unlike how Cuba/USSR did in Angola. The East Timor anti-colonial movement did not give up and their activities eventually led to a change in Government in Indonesia. The new government agreed to a Referendum on the future of East Timor. The result favored Independence for East Timor.

(vii) The quick intervention of Angola’s international friends ended the South African adventure, hence no need for UN intervention. Australia’s lackadaisical attitude led to continuous conflicts ultimately ending in UN intervention. From these, it is clear that East Timor was still under foreign occupation when international action became inevitable. Neither the case of Angola nor East Timor apply to the Yoruba.

(viii) Yet, it can still be said that the “Yoruba case” need not be a complete replica because her case can be made on its own merit. If that were to be the case, such a merit must also meet the existing international standard, which is the reason for “Yoruba Nation Now” reliance on UNDRIPS.

(ix) The UNDRIPS document shows that there is nowhere the UN encouraged or supported, directly or indirectly, sovereignty for Indigenous People. Rather, all references to Autonomy, self-determination are in relation to the continuous existence of the State and not its negation. Going by the document, the existential condition of the Yoruba in Nigeria today does not even qualify for “Indigenous people”. While the Yoruba are naturally indigenous to present-day Nigeria, and may have been on the “win some, lose some” range of the contestation for power, these hardly qualify for victimhood as Indigenous People within the context of the UN document.

(x) For example, since the pre and post-Independence period, the Yoruba have not been excluded from governance in Nigeria as Indigenous Yoruba people and have not been denied, in whole or in part, any of the rights mentioned in the UNDRIPS document. In today’s political climate, we have not been excluded from participation in the on-going electoral contest; indeed at least 3 Yoruba are contesting for the Presidency on different political platforms. Only “Yoruba Nation Now” advocates are opposed to the election, for their own reasons. All of these show that the “Yoruba case” cannot rest on the legality of a UN Declaration.

(xi) Furthermore, Article 46(i) of the Declaration states as follows: “nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent states”(emphasis ours).

(xii) Of course, pursuing or advocating a sovereign Yoruba State is an act of secession or “dismembering, totally or in part, the territorial integrity and political unity of the sovereign and independent state”. In this instance, Nigeria.

Unless the” Yoruba Nation Now” is kidding itself or all of us. (To be continued)

Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee