Bulletin #44: Open Letter To Speaker Obasa, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Afenifere Et Al

By Femi Odedeyi

The flurry of activities around Restructuring, flowing from heightened insecurity compounded by economic underdevelopment, etc., has led to calls for “state police” as an imperative in Restructuring Nigeria. This was followed by the reported agreement between the Central and State governments on working towards the modalities for achieving the same. At the same time, the National Assembly has, once again, established a Committee on Amending the 1999 Constitution just as some members of the NASS are championing a change from the current Presidential System to Parliamentary, all of which have formed the content of your interventions on the subject in the recent past.

Yet, we have been traversing this road since 1999 with nothing to show. To avoid a repetition of the same processes, the Yoruba Referendum Committee is appealing to you to use your influence to change the narrative on Restructuring from the merry-go-round of the past to a narrative embedded in ensuring that the voice of the people is made manifest through the instrumentality of the Referendum as the pathway towards Re-Federalizing Nigeria.

Our reasons are as follows:
i.It is instructive that the Lagos State House of Assembly is the first Institution in Yorubaland to make a categorical statement on the new attempt at amending the 1999 Constitution by demanding “State Police” as an imperative. It can, therefore, be assumed that the Lagos State House of Assembly, NASS, the President, and State Governors are oblivious to the calls by you and others that what is needed is not an amendment but a completely new Federal Constitution.

ii.Despite this, the Yoruba Referendum Committee acknowledges the emerging consensus on Restructuring/True Federalism among the cream of the Yoruba elite, of which you are a part, and which is also in tandem with the aspirations and expectations of Yoruba People. Yet, there is no inkling of any responsibility on the part of Yoruba people on this crucial existential necessity as it appears you have shunted the responsibility onto NASS.

iii.Yoruba people have not been placed in a position to be active participants in providing an effective quality of life for themselves, judging by what you have explicitly said, which is akin to repeating what we have experienced over time. We cannot continue doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. Furthermore, with the absence of the people, our heads would have been shaved in our absence.

iv.Our earlier experience with “zonal” conferences or legislative contrivance shows that the outcomes of such conferences were at variance with the people's expectations. We recall the IMF debates, Political Bureau, Niki Tobi's Constitutional review, Abubakar's Consultations, Obasanjo’s “Technical Review Committee,” Yar Adua’s Constitutional Review, Jonathan’s “Confab” APC’s Committee on Restructuring, all of which were carried out by way of “Zonal Consultations.” They all yielded no positive result because the Central Government ignored those conclusions. This was possible because these Conferences, through their various “Zonal Consultations,” had no roadmap/pathway for Legitimizing the conclusions of their “Zones” to which the central Government would be bound, which further enabled the central Governments to ignore those conclusions.

v.Your demands are anchored on a belief that the Constitutional Re-formation of Nigeria will be achieved through NASS, more so when some, like Aare Afe Babalola, placed the onus on NASS. At the same time, the rest of you have not specified any roadmap towards achieving the quest. Yet, NASS cannot perform this task despite any claims to its legitimacy as representatives of the People. While its members can rightly claim to represent the people by their being elected, it is equally true that the question of “State Police” or a change from the Presidential to the Parliamentary System cannot be solely decided by NASS without the imprimatur of the peoples of Nigeria.

vi.Moreover, “State Police” is a non-starter without prosecutorial and judicial powers. That is, a “State Police” formation must be empowered to prosecute offenders of State Laws without looking over its shoulders about possibilities of appealing judgements in its favor outside the judicial system of the State. Under this circumstance, we will be looking at 37 new judicial systems.

vii.This brings into sharp focus the expected development of Nigeria based on current state lines, considering that the current states were created to atomize cultural homogeneity and, in the process, reduce the quality of life, regardless of any humongous increases in the state's IGR such that adding the burden of a “State Police” onto the current economic situation will only compound matters.

viii.Hence, the first port of call is in reversing this atomization through the instrumentality of a Referendum to be conducted by the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo State Houses of Assembly, with a “YES” or “NO” question as to whether the six contiguous Yoruba states will agree to be merged into one Region or not. The result will also provide a special consideration for the Yoruba people in Kwara and Kogi states. This is crucial since the Yoruba believe that development and quality of life manifested in the period of Regional Government widely dubbed as our “Golden Era.”

ix.Your interventions also assumed that “reasoning” alone will lead to Restructuring, assuming that forces of Unitarization can see the logic in the demand and act accordingly, hence the expectation that "reasoning" will prevail. Reasoning has not prevailed, and it will not! Restructuring of Nigeria will begin to have practical meaning and impact when it is taken from the realm of "reasoning" and placed within the context of practical power politics, hence the importance of the Lagos State House of Assembly's institutional response to the new attempt at amending the 1999 Constitution. This is because the Referendum is to be conducted by the State Houses of Assembly, which mandates engaging them as to their foundational responsibility in ensuring combined and even development for Yoruba people in and outside Nigeria.

x.As a major part of the Yoruba elite, you can, individually or collectively, engage and influence the Houses of Assembly in Yorubaland as the Legitimate institution through which the Yoruba will validate their wishes and aspirations, thereby legitimizing the voice of the people through the instrumentality of the Referendum as the pathway through which the various peoples of Nigeria will validate their wishes and aspirations. Other contiguous Nationalities can emulate this Referendum pathway, while non-contiguous societies can use any mechanism that will serve the same purposes.

xi.Towards this end, the Yoruba Referendum Committee has defined our expectation of a new Federal Nigeria as a Multi-National Nigerian State in the following manner: 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”.

xii.The advantages of this form of State include but are not limited to, permanently taking care of the North/South and Christian/Muslim divides by representation of the “Zones” or Nationality in the Presidential Council, confining “monetization” and Nationality/Religious questions within cultural and social boundaries in existence within the zones/Nationalities and from where resolutions can be advanced, etc.

xiii.In passing, it is noted that what eventually saved American democracy on January 6, 2021, was that the “electors” were the states whose decisions were to be confirmed by US Congress and which the “storming” of Congress tried to prevent and did not achieve. The confirmation of the “electors” from the States is a major pillar of Democracy in the United States. Comparably, the Federating Unit will become the “electors” to select or elect its representatives to the Federal Council, whose decisions cannot be overturned except by the Federating Unit itself.

xiv.So, the onus is now on you, as a critical section of the Yoruba elite, to engage our State Houses of Assembly on the need for the Referendum to achieve True Federalism. Towards this end, the Yoruba Referendum Committee has sent a Bill for a Referendum to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly. We are hoping you will join us in this quest.

Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee