The Yoruba Agenda demands a re-structuring of the Nigerian federation into regional autonomy or an outright dissolution of the federation
Even with a number of reservations, Yoruba leaders have agreed to be part of the planned National Conference with a focus on pushing the “Yoruba agenda” at the conference.
This was the consensus reached on Wednesday at the Yoruba constitutional conference held at Western House, Ibadan.
The conference commenced with a Yoruba nation anthem that was passionately repeated twice.
Various groups from the South West led by the Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, all agreed that the region must select its ‘best 11’ to be delegates to the conference where it must drive the Yoruba agenda.
The agenda, which was formulated in 1998 and modified in 2012, demands a re-structuring of the Nigerian federation into regional autonomy or an outright dissolution of the federation, a return to parliamentary system of government, creation of state/municipal police, and local government autonomy.
Leading the call was the chairman of ARG, Wale Oshun.
In his opening speech, Mr. Oshun said “we disagree with many of the modalities for the conference and we affirm our resolve that Yoruba delegates are representing the ethnic Yoruba nationality.”
“Yoruba’s demand at the national conference is mainly regional autonomy by re-structuring Nigeria and we will not mind being pushed out of the union if a true federalism is impossible,” he stated.
Mr. Oshun warned Yoruba delegates, despite the platform that brings them to the national conference to push for the “Yoruba agenda”.
“All the Yoruba delegates should know and be fully aware that whichever platform that throws them up, the consequences of betraying the Yoruba course is very dire.”
“Restructuring of Nigeria is the main Yoruba demand at the national conference. It is the irreducible minimum accepted by Yoruba people,” he concluded.
Unity of Nigeria is negotiable
One of the leaders, Alani Akinrinade, in his remark recalled how the Yoruba agenda has stood the test of time since its creation in April 1994 at the Awujale of Ijebu’s palace in Ogun State.
“The Yorubas’ do not have any other option because it is agreeable and respected by all.”
“The national conference must examine the pros and cons of the agenda,” he said as he appealed to President Goodluck Jonathan to “consider more seats for ethnic nationals because it is their conference and they must be given more seats.”
The retired general also demanded that the ‘no-go area’ must be expunged from the conference talks.
“The unity of Nigeria is negotiable and we must create a country where each region is happy in its own separate region way and not by oppression,” he said.
The guest speaker at the event, Kayode Samuel, in his lecture titled ‘What Nigeria and its federating units will gain by restructuring’ called on the Yorubas’ to be ‘forward thinking’ because they are fast losing their competitive edge with other regions.
“Yorubas’ must not be scared of one day being pushed out of Nigeria,” he warned.
He said that restructuring will enhance healthy competition amongst the regions as it was during independence and “nobody will be labelled a parasite by owners of oil. We will move from being a consuming economy that oil has turned us to.”
Mr. Samuel lamented the loss of Yoruba’s economic clout to the likes of Dangote (Africa’s richest man) and Muhammad Pate, a former Minister of state for health, who recently resigned from office to pick a research role in an American University.
“That used to be us (Yorubas),” he lamented.
He said a recent enquiry revealed that only three out of the seven members representing Ogun State at the House of Assembly have been to the university while nine out of 11 members representing Bauchi have been to the university.
“We must now be very-very articulate with our forward thinking by looking at the end game and be extremely attentive to all the last minutes politics.
“We must anticipate anything at the conference,” he warned as he enjoined Yoruba delegates to the National Conference to champion issues such as restructuring the country, better taxation, because “it is only when people are taxed properly that they will ask question as seen in Fashola’s Lagos.”
Mr. Samuel said the Yorubas must demand the development of the Olokola deep sea port, in Ondo state, which he claims is the “deepest sea port in the country and will dock heavier vessels that what obtains at Apapa and Tin Can island ports.”
“For too long we have run this country with the lowest Common Denominator (LCM), now we must move to Highest Common Factor (HCF).”
A host of other groups made presentations that were in consonance with the dictates of the Yoruba agenda.
Adopt 1960 Constitution
Another Yoruba chieftain, Biyi Durojaiye, advocated for participation in the conference but said that the three months scheduled for the national conference is a ruse.
“No constitution can be written in such a time,” the elderly lawyer, who recalled that a constitution formulated during a similar conference in the Babangida regime, took over a year to produce-1988 to 1989.
The Senator suggested a reversal to the 1960 Constitution because the general elections are just 12 months away.
He said it is the only Nigerian constitution that recognises regional government.