The Yoruba Assembly stated this in a statement signed by retired General Alani Akinrinnade.
The Yoruba ethnic nationality will back a united Nigeria based on true federalism as part of its considerations at the proposed national conference, the Yoruba Assembly, a broad-based socio-political organization, which said it was speaking for all Yorubas in Nigeria, said Tuesday.
To ensure the conference achieved the goal of a single Nigerian state, overt partisan participation involving political parties must be disallowed at the exercise, the group said.
“That a national conference convened to work out a better structure for the survival of Nigeria as one territorial entity characterized by peaceful co-existence of the Nigerian nationalities should not be subject to the stresses of partisan political party confrontations, and that the organization of the conference should be devoid of any direct participation by any of the existing political parties, as political parties, in the country,” the group said.
The Assembly said the “most credible” conference in Nigeria’s present circumstances is one with sovereign powers to transform the current pseudo-federal constitution to a truly federal constitution.
“On behalf of the Yoruba nation, therefore, and in respectful cognizance of the expressed demands and desires of the Yoruba people, and of countless organizations, leaders and fathers of the Yoruba nation, the Yoruba Assembly welcomes the opportunity hereby offered by President Jonathan for Nigerian nationalities to confer and design Nigeria as a federation wherein each of Nigeria’s federating nationalities shall be protected from domination by any other Nigerian nationality, and wherein each Nigerian nationality shall be able to develop its economy at its own pace within the framework of a united Nigerian Federation or Nigerian Union.”
The demands, listed in a statement by the group’s leader, Alani Akinrinade, a former chief of army and retired Lieutenant General, are the first from any organized ethnic nationality ahead of the conference approved by President Goodluck Jonathan.
The president inaugurated a committee on Monday to develop details and procedure for the talks.
While many Nigerians welcome the dialogue, its lack of clear details as of yet, has also stoked fears the exercise may well yield too little after all. Many supporters want the talks be sovereign, meaning its decisions will not be subject to any existing political structure.
But critics reject that proposal, arguing that existing state structures, including the national assembly, already represent the instruments of a sovereign state. They also fear a limitless national conference may tamper with Nigeria’s unity.
President Jonathan dispelled that fear on Monday while swearing in the members of the committee.
“I will therefore like to allay the fears of those who think the conference will call the integrity of Nigeria into question,” the president said. “This National Discourse will strengthen our union and address issues that are often on the front burner, and are too frequently ignored.”
The Yoruba Assembly said while the sovereign status of the conference was not yet clear, the move by the government was welcomed regardless.
The group called for the reschedule of the planned national census until after the ratification of new constitutional provisions emanating from the national conference. It also urged that the conference be based on the consideration of linguistic nationalities as Nigeria’s fundamental components.
“That the primary interest groups in the Nigerian multi-ethnic state are the linguistic nationalities and that the conference should be a conference of representatives of the mono- and multi-linguistic nationalities freely chosen by the nationalities,” the statement said.
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