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Restructuring and the Yoruba agenda

The submission of the former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar GCON on the restructuring of the Nigerian Political system is very instructive. Likewise are the submissions of Pastor Tunde Bakare, Lieutenant  General Alani Ipoola Akinrinade (retd.), Mohammed Haruna, Senator Musa Adede, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Femi Okunronmu, and others.

I  have read the four books by Colonel Tony Nyiam (retd), especially his 169-page book on True Federal Democracy or Awaiting Implosion?  I agree with his suggestion on the need for the creation for a National Institute for the strategic management of Nigeria’s Security. And those who know Nigeria well enough don’t joke with the views of Colonel Nyiam.

During the tenure of General Sani Abacha, leaders and Obas in Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ogun met on April 6, 1994. Ekiti State was yet to be created as at then. It was still part of Ondo State. The meeting took place in Abeokuta. At the end of  it, a draft memorandum was prepared by a committee. As a follow up of the Abeokuta meeting, a memorandum was prepared and approved at a meeting held on May 11 1994 in Akure. The memorandum was adopted by acclamation at the meeting. That memorandum represented the soul and authoritative views of all the Obas, chiefs, Leaders of Thought and the entire people of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The memorandum was signed by the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, the Ooni of Ife,ObaOkunade Sijuade, the Owa Obokun of Ijesha land, Oba Adekunle Aromolaran, Oba AdebolaOyedokun of Saaki, Oba Osuolale Adeyemi of Isheri,the Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba R. A. Adejugbe, the Alaaaye of Efon Alaaye, Oba Adesanya Aladejare, Chief  Isiaka Adeleke, Tunji Abolade, Soun of Ogbomosho, Oba Oyeyemi Oladunni Ajagungbade, the Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Wuraola Adeyeri, the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Emmanuel  Adegboyega Operinde, the Ayangburen  of Ikorodu, Oba  Afolabi Oguntade Salau Oyefusi,  the  Oluwo  of Iwo, Oba  OlatubosunTadese, the Akran  of Badagry  D.E.  Wheno  Menu  Toyi, Chief Segun Osoba, Dr. Femi Okunronmu, Dr. Sola Soiele, Dr. Festus Adesanoye, Osemawe of Ondo, the Deji of Akure, Oba Adebobaje Adesida, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, Chief Adebayo Adefarati, Chief George Akosile, Major General Adeyinka Adebayo, Chief Michael Ajasin, Chief IlemobajoAkinola, Senator RemiOkunriboye, Major General OlufemiOlutoye, Professor BiyiAfonja, Chief Owosina, Chief OluFalae, Chief AbiolaMorakinyo, Mrs. JumokeOlojede, Chief BisiAkande, Alaafin Of Oyo, Oba LamidiAdeyemi, Chief YusufuAyinla, AlhajUmoniAlade, Chief YesufuAyinla,theOwa of Idanre, Oba FederickAdegunleAroloye, Chief LadojuLadapo, Chief PekunAdesokan,Chief Bola Ige, Chief Akin Omojola, Oba AdesanyaAladejare in EfonAlaye, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, Chief A.O. Anjorin, Chief AdeyigaAjayi, Alhaji G. O. Dawodu, the Oba of Lagos, Oba AdeyinkaOyekan, Chief TOS Benson, Chief Odeyale, Chief AdeniranOgunsanya, among others.

To me, the views represent till today the authentic views of the Yoruba people on the issue of restructuring. They declared: ”We are convinced that the cause of Nigeria’s federalism will be well and truly advanced if we return to the pre-1996 evolutionary path: a balanced federal structure which recognizes fully the legitimate claims of all ethnic groups for self-determination and where no single entity among the federating units will be strong or powerful enough to hold the others to ransom, but where each of the federating units is large enough, both in terms of size and population as well as of resources, to be viable, self-reliant and dynamic. Other relevant factors include the homogeneity of each federating unit, geographic contiguity among the units of a region and demonstrable willingness to be together. In pursuance of the principle of self-determination and in the interest of the sustainability, any state or community shall have the opportunity to decide, through the democratic process, the region of its choice in the light of these criteria. In the light of the foregoing criteria, we propose the restructuring of Nigeria into six federating units to be known as Regions. The six regions shall be Western,Eastern, Southern, North-Western, North-Eastern and Middle Belt Regions. The Western Region will group together the following States: Lagos,Ogun,Ondo,Osun and Oyo and all other Yoruba-speaking communities wherever they may be in the Federation. The states that will constitute the other regions will be decided by their people subject to the observation of the principle of self-determination”. With the restructuring into six viable and potentially dynamic and prosperous regions, individually and collectively serving as a countervailing force to the centralizing tendencies of the centre, Nigeria will be constituted a Federation of six regions. Each would have the power to prepare its own constitution and determine its political structure, its legislative organs and the structure of its executive, provided that nothing in the constitution of the Regions conflicts with the fundamental tenets of federalism and with principles of the federal constitution.

“The function of the Federal Government must be clearly spelt out. Residual powers must lie with the Regions. The Federal Government shall have no power to interfere in or take over any function of the Regional Government. Similarly, it shall have no power to interfere with the operations of any Regional Government. Each Region shall determine the number functions and power of its constituent institutions.

“The National Assembly shall be bi-cameral: House of the People and the Upper House. Members shall be elected or designated for a period of four years with the possibility of re-election. Membership of the House of the People shall be by universal suffrage with constituencies delineated on the basis of population,contiguity,homogeneity and territorial expanse. Each Region shall send an equal number of representatives to the upper House, one-quarter of whom must be traditional ruler from within that Region. Each Region will be free to determine the basis and method of election/selection of its representative to that House.

“The Head of Government shall be the Prime Minister who shall be appointed by the President. The person, to be so appointed, shall be the leader of the party or of a coalition of parties which has the support of the majority of the members of the House of the People. Whenever he loses such support, he shall resign or be dismissed. The Prime Minister shall be free to form his Government which must receive the immediate endorsement of the House of the people through a vote of confidence. The Prime Minister shall resign or be dismissed whenever the majority of the House of the People withdraws its support.

“There shall be provision for power-sharing in the Constitution. Power configuration shall be accorded a zoning status on rotational basis. For this purpose, five key portfolios(such as Internal Affairs and Petroleum) in addition to the office of the Prime Minister, shall be identified in the Constitution and be assigned to five Deputy Prime Ministers drawn from the five Regions, other than Region from which the Prime Minster hails. For avoidance of doubt, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers and all members of government shall be elected members of the House of the People.

“The principle of derivation in which each Region will retain an overwhelming share, if not all, of the revenue accruing from the tax imposed on the natural resources within its territory, shall apply. Revenue from the exploitation and custom duties shall be put in distributable pool account to be shared between the Federal and the Regional Governments in accordance with an agreed formula, but with special consideration being given to the Region(s) where the facilities for their collection are located. Every effort must be made o achieve self-reliance in mobilizing resources by all the Regions and the Federation. In particular, no Region must take proportionally more than what it contributes to the Federation financially. There shall be no direct Federal allocation to State Local governments. With regard to the power of personal and direct taxation, such as personal income tax, capital-gains tax, sales tax and property tax, governmentsshall have the right to levy them that provided that, in order to ensure efficiency, a uniform tax base should be applied and tax rate split between the Federal and Regional Governments. The rate of tax can differ from region to region so that regional revenue can be enhanced to respond to the special needs of a particular region and in accordance with the ability and willingness if the citizens to pay higher taxes.”

These were the views expressed 22 years ago. These views are still being re-echoed today because they are important and vital to our co-existence as a nation. The question is no longer whether restructuring is desired or not; we have passed that stage. The issue is when and how it will be implemented without amending the present presidential constitution that is in use. Will the present legislators and the executives allow for such an amendment knowing fully well that the present system benefits them?

 

Teniola,  a former director at the presidency, stays in Lagos.