Yoruba leaders unite, demand true federalism

• Pastor Bakare: North’s opposition to restructuring, betrayal of its founding fathers

Leaders of the Yoruba race, on Friday, insisted on the structuring of the country as any further delay on the issue would pose grave danger to the unity of the federation.

The leaders, who used the opportunity of the 50th remembrance anniversary of the great hero and martyr, Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, to make their demand, said the defect in the current structure was crippling the stability and progress of the constituent units.

The occasion was unique as it brought together Yoruba from all walks of life and regardless of political affiliations with the multiple award-winning, world class scholar, Professor Niyi Osundare, delivering a lecture entitled “Adekunle Fajuyi and the Politics of Remembrance.”

Leaders in groups such as the Afenifere, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), Yoruba Assembly, Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and others were present at the well-attended event.

In a communiqué signed by retired General Olufemi Olutoye, who is also the Alani of Idoani on behalf of the leaders at the event organised by a new group, Yoruba Think-Tank, the Yoruba leaders decried the “terrible poverty that has become the lot of millions of our people as a result of the crisis of Nigeria’s structural defects, which have made it impossible for most of our states to meet their obligations to their citizens or even to pay basic salaries to their state workers.

They also “frown upon other effects of the unitary economy, especially its assault on Nigeria’s federalism which has now created the absurd situation whereby the Federal Government treats the states like beggars, and doles bailouts to them with stringent conditions from the resources which actually belong to them but which the Federal Government uses its unitary fiat to corner away from them”

“We particularly reject the situation whereby our Yoruba nation’s welfare ideology has become practically impossible to implement in the context of the terminal crisis that Nigeria has now plunged into economically.

“To get out of this crisis, we insist on the restructuring of the Nigerian federation so that the federating units would be able to develop and harvest their resources to revive development and economic prosperity for our people,” they stressed.

“Yoruba people express unhappiness with the damage that has been done to our cultural and economic life by the unitary governance structure which has been foisted on Nigeria gradually since independence, and which has drastically limited and constrained our civilization. Many young Yoruba people below 30 years of age have either faint or no idea of historical figures like Fajuyi because Nigeria has stopped the teaching of History in our schools, thereby repressing our culture. There is nothing Nigeria can offer us that can compensate for the relentless erosion of our rich culture which we are proud of and which deserves to be cherished eternally.

“To repair this damage we resolved as follows:

“Our state governments are duty bound to restore the teaching of history in our primary and secondary schools, and conduct regional examinations, and issue certificates, on it for our students. Yoruba Language should be a compulsory subject in our schools, and our Houses of Assembly should use it as is now done in the Lagos State House of Assembly.

The Yoruba renaissance will be difficult to achieve without re-enacting the indigenous cultural heritage of the people. Participants resolve that Yoruba language be made the language of instruction in all subjects in all public and private primary and secondary schools in Yoruba territories. That the entire South-West should in the next one decade work to ensure that Yoruba language becomes the grandnorm in cultural, political and economic relations in all Yoruba States.

Yoruba people frown at the terrible poverty that has become the lot of millions of our people as a result of the crisis of Nigeria’s structural defects which have made it impossible for most of our states to meet their obligations to their citizens or even to pay basic salaries to their state workers.,” they said.

In a lecture entitled Adekunle Fajuyi and the Politics of Remebrance, Professor of English, Professor Niyi Osundare, said Nigeria was “extraordinarily lucky” not to have disintegrated in the face of the various “ethno-regional and religious eruptions bedeviling it.

Osundare, a United States varsity don, therefore, tasked President Muhammadu Buhari not “to wave off the lingering call for a restructuring of the country” as doing so would be tantamount to “suicide through denial.”

“As yet, Nigeria has no ‘unity’ to negotiate or not to negotiate, which is why President Muhammadu Buhari must not only read the reports of the 2014 national confab; he owes himself and the country a critical duty to read, digest, deliberate on, and identify its implementable parts- beyond all partisan and ethno-regional considerations.

“To wave off the lingering call for a re-structuring of this country is to risk the possibility of suicide through denial,” he said.

Convener of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) and founder of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, lamented that the country was yet to recover from the “structural anomaly” of a unitary system of government foisted on it by the Aguiyi Ironsi military junta.

Bakare warned against downplaying the call for re-structuring “by certain interests. Mostly northern, upon the claim that the current pseudo-federal structure suffices.”

“Any anti-restructuring position taken by the North would bring to the courts of historical opinion the sincerity of the motives of the perpetrators of the countercoup that led to the death of Adekunle Fajuyi.

“The elders of the North who, today, are opposed to the call to restructure Nigeria have deviated from the ideals of the founding fathers of Northern Nigeria- the likes of the Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa; leaders of our nation who were forerunners of Fajuyi in the Nigerian hall of martyrdom.

“Lest we forget, these Nigerian leaders from the North made it clear in the series of constitutional conferences that heralded Nigeria’s independence that true federalism with regional autonomy was the only condition under which they would exist within a Nigerian nation.

“…The main reason the northern leaders and counter coupists who took the lives of Aguiyi-Ironsi and Fajuyi demanded a reversal of the unification decree and a return to the federal system of government.

“Consequently, to oppose restructuring now, fifty years after, is to confirm the words of Aesop, that “the injury we do and the one we suffer are not weighed in the same scales,” Bakare said.

Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, in his own remarks, noted that restructuring of the country is an idea whose time has come and which cannot be wished away.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included General (Oba) Olufemi Olutoye and his wife; General AlaniAkinrinade; Sir Olaniwun Ajayi; Pa Ayo Adebanjo; Dr Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu; Chief Cornelius Adebayo; Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN; Chief Supo Shonibare; Dr Kunle Olajide; Emeritus Professor Ayo Bamgbose; Chief Seinde Arogbofa.

Others were the representatives of Oyo, Ogun and Ekiti governors respectively, Alhaji Olalekan Ali (SSG), Chief (Mrs) YetundeOnanuga (Deputy Governor); and Mr JideEgunjobi (Information Commissioner); Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila; Professor BanjiAkintoye; Mr YinkaOdumakin; Mr Dele Alake; Mr ToyeArulogun; one scion of Fajuyi, Mrs DesolaOlajuyigbe; Chief Yemi Elebuibon; Mr Muyiwa Aduroja SAN; Chief TokunboAjasin; Mr RemiAjayi; Professor Abiodun Ilesanmi; Mr Jimi Agbaje; Dele Adesina SAN; Professor (Mrs) Dupe Adelabu; representative of OhanaezeNdigbo, African Region, Oliver Akubueze;  and others.