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Yoruba leaders demand return to regional govt

*At Ibadan summit

By Debo Adeoye, Ibadan

Prominent Yoruba leaders and South-West governors, on Thursday, led representatives from the Yoruba nation, including Kogi and Kwara states to demand a restructured Nigeria with emphasis on return to regional government as practised under the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions.

The demand was made at a well-attended summit of the Yoruba nation held at the Lekan Salami Stadium Adamasingba, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, where, unlike in the past, all Yoruba groups were represented and spoke in unison about the future of the Yoruba nation within the Nigerian federation.

The clamour to restructure the country and solve the myriad of crises occasioned its pseudo-federal structure had been louder in the South-West region with prominent Yoruba leaders at the vanguard.

At the Ibadan summit, the South-West governors, who had practically hitherto passed measured comments on the restructuring discourse, declared total support for the idea as well as a return to regional administration as was the case in the defunct Western Region under the premiership of the late sage, Chief Jeremiah Obafemi Awolowo.

Also in attendance at the summit which participants defied rain to attend were leaders from the South-East and South-South zones who declared they were in agreement with their South-West counterparts on all issues agreed upon at the gathering.

Speakers at the summit: Earlier, speakers took turns to submit that Nigeria, having genuflected before the gods of military and civil administration with no meaningful development for its people, needed to be steered away from a unitary political arrangement that had stifled progress and development.

Dr Kunle Olajide, in a welcome address, said the summit was put together to do a honest review of the past, an appraisal of the future as well as a telescopic view of the future

“The ship of the Nigerian State is floundering. It is in fact heading towards a titanic rock and Nigerians from all parts of the country must rise up to halt the drift. All Nigerians must speak up. Silence cannot be golden at these times and silence in this time is crime against humanity.

“This summit is not a gathering of a political party. It is not a religious gathering, but it is a gathering of Nigerian patriots of Yoruba extraction determined to give Nigeria a new lease of life. This gathering hopefully will be a breath of fresh air for a country suffocating in distress,” he said.

Aare Afe Babalola: Chairman of the summit and legal icon, Aare 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.

Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu: In her goodwill message, co-chairman of African Newspapers of Nigeria (ANN) Plc., Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, recalled the strides recorded by the sage, Chief Awolowo, during his seven-year premiership of the defunct Western Region and stressed the need to reclaim the constitutional provisions that made it possible for Chief Awolowo to record pace-setting achievements in government.

“We are here, therefore, to declare our resolve to regain our giant development strides, which were the envy of our compatriots in other regions of Nigeria and which were admired and, indeed, emulated by other developing nations who today have, embarrassingly, streaked past us into the modern age.

“Chief Awolọwọ never took a stand on any issue, particularly weighty matters like the Nigerian constitution, blithely, frivolously, or based on mere sentiment. He was always painstaking and rigorous in arriving at his chosen position. He always put such decisions to tests such as – is my position feasible? Is it right? Is it good? Is it in the best interest of all?

“Once he was convinced that the answers to these questions were in the affirmative, he remained fearless and resolute, no matter the size or weight of the opposition. Although he appeared to suffer defeat and frustration, repeatedly, in the course of his political career, he is today totally vindicated on all counts.

“His prescriptions for development have received endorsement in recent times even on the global stage. As a matter of fact, it is we, for whose future he sacrificed so much, who would be the ultimate losers if we fail to take up the baton he has passed to us and run with it,” she said.

The Ooni of Ife: Oba Enitan Ogunwusi admonished leaders to pursue whatever interest they had, including restructuring with honesty, peace and maturity.

“I want to appeal to us all to pursue restructuring with all honesty and in a manner devoid of politics and with focus on the future of our youths. This is because seven out of every 10 Nigerians are youth. It is also important that we guide our utterances to ensure that our call for restructuring should be done within the ambience of peace.

“With peace, we can successfully redeem our rights because we are leaders in all ramification. Nothing is impossible with patience,” he said.

Chief John Nwodo: 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.

In his goodwill message, Fayose urged Yoruba elders 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 to 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.

Communiqué of the summit: Co-signed by the summit chairman, Aare Afe Babalola (SAN) and chairman of the planning committee, Dr Kunle Olajide, a 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.

“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%, unemployment rate at 65% internal immigration and internal displacement, security threat in form of Boko Haram, herdsmen and organised crime.

Need for urgent steps to save nation: “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.

Federating units should develop their resources: “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.

Plebiscite to create states: “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,” the communiqué said among others.

“For Ogun State, Commissioner for Integration, Adebola Adeife, represented Senator Ibikunle Amosun; Commissioner for Special duties, Osun State, Ogunsola Toogun represented Mr Rauf Aregbesola, Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaicy Affairs, Bimbo Kolade represented Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, while Professor Wale Ademodu represented Mr Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State.

Professor Ademodu said the people of Ondo State under the leadership of Governor Akeredolu said without restructuring, Nigeria could be heading for rock.

“For us in Ondo State, yes, we welcome the idea of restructuring, if not we go for due process. The idea of restructuring and devolution is a great political idea but we can use economic process to achieve unity in Yorubaland.”

Delivering Aregbesola’s message, Ogunsola Toogun said the governor fully supported of regionalisation while Kolade, who represented Senator Ajimobi, said the people of the state under the administration of supported restructuring and regional integration.

Former Governor of Ogun state, Otunba Gbenga Daniel said government and the people of Nigeria must see restructuring as unique idea which today would determine the development and progress of the country.

He noted that irrespective of opposition to restructuring, it had become a national agenda, an idea whose time has come.

The president, Yoruba Council of Elders, Chief Idowu Sofola (SAN), called for a time to time meeting to discuss issues that concern Yoruba and not wait till such a situation to meet on issues.

He called for unity in harmonising Yoruba interests and also affirmed that the Council of Elders was totally in support of restructuring of the Nigerian state.

The retired archbishop, Ayo Ladigbolu cleared the air on the call by Yoruba people of the South-West that such call should not be mistaken for a war tone.

He said “Restructuring is compulsory but I emphasise that it is not a call for war. We are not fighting but we are talking and all we are doing is that we want restructuring. That should not be mistaken for war, we are just emphasising our demand in a polite society,” he said.

Personalities who attended the summit: At the gathering were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Professor Banji Akintoye, Senator Gbenga Kaka, Ambassador Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, Ambassador Yemi Farounbi, Chief Olu Falae, Chief Niyi Akintola SAN, Femi Fani-Kayode, Senator Kofoworola Buknor-Akerele, Dr Fredrick Fasehun, Chief Gani Adams, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, Chief S. K. Onafowokan, Chief Idowu Sofola, SAN, Chief Micheal Ade Ojo (Elizade).

Chief Segun Adegoke, Chief Kola Omololu, Chief Areoye Oyebola, Dr Doyin Okupe, Senator Iyiola Omisore, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, Dr Amos Akingba, Professor Remi Sonaya, Chief Tokunbo Ajasin, Honourable Wale Oshun, Dr Walter Ofonagoro, General Ike Nwachukwu, Dr John Nwodo, Chief Alex Anozie, Zik Obi, Representative of Akran of Badagary, Senator Okon Aniete, Dr Slyvannus Ebigwe, and many others.

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