Yoruba leaders and South-West governors have led representatives from the Yoruba nation to insist on restructuring Nigeria with emphasis on return to regional government where all regions are empowered to govern their people and control their resources at their own pace.
The demand was made at a well-attended summit of the Yoruba nation held at the Lekan Salami Stadium Adamasingba, Ibadan, the Oyo State, where all Yoruba groups were represented and spoke in unison about the future of the Yoruba nation within the Nigerian federation.
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 also came to offer solidarity to the Yoruba’s position on restructuring. Traditional and opinion leaders, politicians, and other dignitaries from all walks of life attended the event.
In a 16 point communique which has been adopted as the Ibadan Declaration, the leaders insist on reconstituting Nigeria into six main autonomous regional zones, with Abuja the FCT maintaining status quo.
Co-signed by the summit chairman, Chief Afe Babalola and chairman of the planning committee, Dr Kunle Olajide, the communiqué issued at the end of deliberations and read by Afenifere spokesperson, Mr Yinka Odumakin, warned that the country “is careering dangerously to the edge of the slope” and required urgent remedial actions to restructure it from a unitary constitution to a federal constitution as was the case at independence in 1960. The communiqué read:
“Summit recalls with nostalgia, the great strides made by the Yoruba nation in the years of self- government up until the abrogation of the federal constitution in 1966 evident in mass literacy, novel infrastructural strides and giant leaps in all spheres of human development.
“Summit noted that the crisis of over-centralisation has led to mass misery in across the country with poverty levels at 72 per cent, unemployment rate at 65 per cent internal immigration and internal displacement, security threat in form of Boko Haram, herdsmen and organised crime.
“Summit convinced that Nigeria is careering dangerously to the edge of the slope except urgent steps are taken to restructure Nigeria from a unitary constitution to a federal constitution as negotiated by our founding fathers at independence in 1960, it was resolved as follows:
“That 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.
“That the greatest imperatives of restructuring Nigeria is to move from a rent-seeking and money sharing anti-development economy to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation purse to implement central services.
“That the federating units- whether states, zones or regions must themselves be governed by written constitution to curb impunity at all levels. Nigeria shall be a federation comprised of six regions and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“The Federal Government shall make laws and only have powers in relation to items specified on the legislative list contained in the constitution of the Federation. The Regions shall in turn be composed as states.
“Each Region shall have its own constitution containing enumerated exclusive and concurrent legislative lists regarding matters upon which the regions and the states may act or legislate.
“Contiguous territories, ethnic nationalities or settlement shall be at liberty through a plebiscite, to elect to be part of any contiguous region other than the region in which the current geo-political zone or state boundaries places them.
“The power to create states shall be within the exclusive powers of the region which shall be obliged to create a state provided a plebiscite is conducted, following a request by an agreed percentage of the residents of the ethnic nationality within a state.
“The procedure for conducting a plebiscite and the percentage of any ethnic nationality shall be out in the regional constitution. The power to create local governments and assign functions to them shall be vested in the states.
“That these agreed positions of the Yoruba taken today shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a United Nigeria based on Justice, peace and fair play.”
Chairman of the summit and legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, noted that Nigeria witnessed its greatest and fastest economic, political and educational development during the self-government and the First Republic.
“Each of the regions was fairly autonomous and could legislate over a number of items which have today been taken over by the Federal Government.
“None of the constitutions fashioned out by the military reflects the ideals which informed the making of the 1954, 1960 and 1963 Constitutions. What the military did to those constitutions weaken the component states, destroy or impair their power to develop and sustain themselves.
“It is therefore correct to state that the military and their civilian apologist either by design of by accident have planted the seeds of national disintegration and disharmony,” he said.
Speaking 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. He 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.”
In his goodwill message, Fayose urged Yoruba leaders to be wary of voices of dissent on the restructuring discourse from the South-West, stressing that the some Yoruba leaders had always constituted stumbling block to the achievement of collective goal.
“I am here tom speak to speak the truth. They can only throw away my submission, but not my person. All former Yoruba leaders, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, late Chief Ladoke Akintola and Chief Adegoke Adelabu, did their best to ensure Yorubaland attains greatness. It is now left for us to pick up the challenge from where they stopped.
“Some of our leaders are selfish in thinking and even agitation. A Yoruba leader who had the privilege to rule Nigeria failed to honour late Chief MKO Abiola. The man who died for the cause of Yoruba.
“Lets look back, I am afraid if he would not come out tomorrow to speak against what we are gathered here to discuss.
“There is no alternative, no part two to restructuring. We have to go back regional administration. One of our leaders once threatened us that we should not speak about regional government. That is why I maintain that we should not blame some governors who are absent here. There is limit to governors’ powers. The president is like a lion. If he does not want governors to speak on a matter, he roars and that is it,” he said.
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode also called on the Yoruba leaders 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 regions. 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,” Fani-Kayode said.
President General of the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze, and leader of the South-East delegation to the summit, Chief John Nwodo as well as the leader of the South-South delegation, Chief Charles Horsefall, declared support for restructuring and a paradigm shift from unitary to a truly federal structure.
Nwodo cited the successes of Netherlands and California as examples of what would happen in the country if states are allowed to develop at their own pace and utilise the resources within their territories.
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.
“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,” Horsfall stated.