Yoruba re-awakening: When Adebanjo rallied Yoruba leaders on issues of common interest

Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, last Wednesday, at his Lekki, Lagos, home played host to an array of Yoruba leaders from various groups and organisations to brainstorm on how to move the Yoruba nation forward in the Nigeria federation. BOLA BADMUS examines the implications of the critical stakeholders’ meeting which was a continuation of the call for Yoruba renaissance and restructuring of Nigeria.

LAGOS, the former capital city of Nigeria, on Wednesday played host to Yoruba leaders from all walks of life who gathered to brainstorm on how to further the new moves for unity in the Yoruba nation and ensure that the region gets its deserved recognition as a critical partner in the Nigeria enterprise.

The parley, which took place at the Lekki residence of a chieftain of Afenifere, a Yoruba socio- political group, Chief Ayo Adebayo, who is also one of the strong disciples of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, recorded an impressive attendance by Yoruba leaders who came to represent their groups, including the Afenifere, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF), O’dua Progressive Congress (OPC), Coalition of Oodua Self Determination, Yoruba Assembly, Voice of Reason, Awori Group, Association of Lagos Indigenes, Yoruba Patriots Movement (YPM), among others. Leaders, who did not represent any group, due to the interest the meeting stood to serve were also in attendance.

Personalities at the meeting, apart from the convener, Chief Adebanjo, include Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; General Alani Akinrinade; Senator Femi Okunrounmu; former governor of Ogun State, Chief  Segun Osoba; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Chief (Mrs.) Kofoworola Burknor- Akerele; Professors Banji Akintoye and Bayo Williams; Dr. (Mrs.) Olatokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, Chief (Mrs.) Nike Akande and Chief Goke Omisore.

Others are, Chief Kehinde Sofola (SAN);  Dr. Femi Olajide; Chief Oladosu Ladipo; Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa; Chief Supo Sonibare; Dr. Amos Akingba; Chief Gani Adams; Mr. Yinka Odumakin, among others.

The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, had no communique, but a brief of what it was all about was given by Mr Odumakin, spokesperson for the Afenifere group.

Odumakin, while making it clear that the parley was not about a particular group in Yorubaland, but involving all the groups and organisations as well as individuals that came to attend and those that were yet to come or be invited, said the leaders and the various groups and organisations met to chart a way forward for Yoruba nation and also to step up the struggle for the restructuring of the country under a federal system of government.

The three-hour meeting, which started at 12noon and ended at about 3p.m, according to Odumakin, resolved on the need for the Yoruba to step up the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria by ensuring unity among those in attendance and those that were yet to be brought together in order to be able to speak with one voice and one vote on issues of common interest.

“It’s a meeting of Yoruba leaders, who have come together to look at the state of Yoruba nation within Nigeria. You can see the people; the who is who are here and we resolved on the need for the Yoruba to step up the struggle for the restructuring of Nigeria, to work on our unity among those who are here and to bring in those who are not here so that Yoruba can stand as one and to pursue the economic growth in Yorubaland,” he explained

Odumakin, however, hinted that the Yoruba meeting, which took place last Wednesday was a prelude to a larger and all-embracing  Yoruba summit, which will be held soon and which would accommodate more leaders,  groups and organisations to pursue a common agenda for the race. He did not give details of when and where the parley would be held.

“And towards this, Yoruba would be having a summit where all shades of Yoruba people that are not even here will gather.

“This one is not a meeting of any group. It is not a sectional meeting, it is a meeting of all Yoruba leaders, who have resolved that time has come for us to speak with one voice, with one vote and to navigate our way to a properly structured Nigeria, and we want to live under federalism,” he said.

Last Wednesday’s meeting came several weeks after some Yoruba leaders met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to hold a National Colloquium convened by a political movement, the Yoruba Patriots Movement (YPM), led by Chief Oladosu Ladipo.

It was a forum where Yoruba leaders, including former National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, Chief Ladipo, Dr. Frederich Fasehun, Dr. Olajide, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Senator Femi Lanlehin, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Dr. Saka Balogun, Gen Raji Rasaki and Senator Ayoade Adeseun, among others, gathered and re-soundly restated the call for the restructuring of the polity to reflect true federalism.

Others at the meeting were Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Olalekan Alli, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Dr. Busari Adebisi, Dr. Soji Adejumo, Chief Adegboye Onigbinde and former president of the Central Council of Ibadan Indigenes (CCII), Chief Bayo Oyero.

Dr Olajide, who was amongst the speaker at the colloquium, lamented the situation of things in the country, such as insurgency in the North-East, religious crisis in the North-West, herdsmen invasion of communities and agitation for self-rule or secession in the South-East, as well as kidnapping in and alleged marginalisation of the South-West, demanded a new order, contending that the existing order in the country is no longer acceptable to the citizens.

According to the YCE chieftain, the government  has failed the citizenry with its inability to rescue the situation. For instance, power generation, he said, has remained substantially low in spite of huge resources spent on the sector while inflation rate is at an all-time high.

“Everywhere around us, there is evidence of government failure: power generation for a population of 170 million people is below 2,000 megawatts, inflation rate is at an all-time high at 18 per cent, while mass unemployment of able bodied youths is a time bomb waiting to explode. The state of the nation is simply and squarely unacceptable to the Yoruba nation,” he said.

Olajide, while calling for restructuring, said the YPM believes that there are in abundant diverse resources in each of the six zones making up the country, but that the zones are constrained by a dysfunctional federal structure and a perverse system of government, which encourages corruption.

He further lamented that the current civilian dispensation midwifed by the military in 1999 imposed a quasi-federal constitution on the country, noting that the Yoruba nation suffered inevitable collateral damage from the twin evil of military intervention and oil boom, and military politics, characterised by politics without principles, ideology and character.

“Hence, the colloquium was aimed at deliberating a new agenda for the Yoruba nation, starting from where we are today, where we want to be and how we want to get to where we want to be,” he said.

It will also be recalled that last July in Ile- Ife, Osun State, one of the leaders of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, who also attended the Wednesday’s meeting at Lekki, Lagos, had urged Yoruba leaders to shun individualism and think about how to collectively advance the interest of the race.

Okunrounmu spoke at a colloquium entitled, “The Life and Times of Oba Okunade Sijuwade (Olubuse II)” organised by the Institute of Cultural Studies, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), to commemorate the one year anniversary of the demise of the monarch, noting that the Yoruba race had not developed the way it should have been despite its gifted people, who he said were ranked among the best in the world.

“We Yoruba are specially gifted people. Intellectually, we rank among the most talented people in the world. Collectively, when it comes to protecting and advancing the interest of the race, we rank poorly. This, in my view, is because of too much individualism and too little sense of corporate responsibility to the race. We loathe yielding leadership to others, in the collective interest of all,” he said.

With all these issues, which are about advancing the cause of Yoruba nation in Nigeria and with the conclusion of the Yoruba summit convened by no other personage than Chief Adebanjo, analysts are of the view that time is now ripe for a positive resolve on the part of leaders to assert their position on what best form of government would profit the Yoruba nation and the Nigerian federation.

It cannot be at any other time giving the array of leaders that have assembled at both Ibadan and Lagos recently to call for unity and collaboration amongst themselves irrespective of the groups or organisations that individuals might belong.