IN this column last week, I stated the case for the very definite demand of our nation, the Yoruba nation, for immediate change in the making and management of Nigeria. I hereby complete the first part of this series. Inevitably, some parts of last week’s article are included here. Yes, so important is what we are dealing with that we must emphasize and re-emphasize aspects of our demand. We have passed the point where we can continue to wait for Nigeria to start to put its house in order. We can no longer wait. Some leaders of our delegation to the 2014 National Conference in Abuja made the following statement on our behalf, “Regional autonomy now or nothing”, and “Our autonomy, with or without Nigeria”. At a civic event in Akure some weeks ago, one of the fathers of our nation proclaimed, “No restructuring, no Nigeria”. That is now our resolve.
All in all, our Region was the leader, and the pace-setter, in virtually all spheres of development and modernization in Nigeria – until 1966. We the youths of the Western Region proudly called our Region “First in Africa”. We were proudly confident that we were going to become a highly developed part of the world – and that we would contribute mightily to the development and prosperity of Nigeria.
But since the independence of Nigeria in 1960, we Yoruba people, like most other peoples of Nigeria, have been continually robbed of initiative and progress – as a result of the vicious manipulations and distortions of Nigeria’s affairs, the senseless accumulation of power and resource-control in federal hands in this country of many different nationalities, and the deliberate obstructions of Regional and local initiative by the all-powerful Federal Government. We have been relentlessly pushed backwards and downwards. Most of our roads (especially the so-called “federal” roads) have disintegrated, and so have water installations in most of our towns. To pull us back, the Federal Government seized our cocoa economy and put it in charge of a federal board, resulting in the collapse of the government support systems that had served our cocoa farmers so well. Discouraged and denied their usual profits, most of our coca farmers abandoned their cocoa plantations, and our cocoa economy virtually died for years – and has never fully recovered. Similar disasters were made to befall other export crops in the other Regions – palm produce in the East and Midwest, groundnuts in the North, gum-arabic in the Northeast, etc.
Local and Regional initiatives would have boosted electricity supply across our country; but in the perverse interest of centralization, that has been refused – and, as a result, our country has been suffering abominably from lack of electricity and from declines in entrepreneurial and business development. Because of low and inconstant supply of electricity, even the most successful industries in Nigeria are forced to operate at low capacity; most of the industries in all parts of Nigeria at independence in 1960 have shut down; and most Nigerians desiring to embark on businesses are discouraged out of their dreams.
Educational standards in our schools in the Southwest, once our great source of pride, have declined horribly. Our Regional university which we built at great expense and with great love and care at Ife, was taken over by the Federal Government and, under insensitive or even hostile federal handling, has been made to decline in every respect. Our Yoruba pride and morale, and our confidence in our ability to achieve and develop, is being continually assailed in Nigeria. We now live in a degree of poverty that is alien to us and that we do not deserve.
Our youths used to hurry back home after studying abroad, because of abundance job and professional opportunities, especially in our Region. Now, most of our educated youths are unemployed and hopeless, and large numbers of them are fleeing abroad daily. In total desperation, many of our youths even embark on walking across the Sahara Desert and continuing across the Mediterranean Sea in smuggling boats, in their attempt to reach Europe – and very many of them die in such attempts. Many others fall for various foreign job scams and end up in various kinds of slavery abroad.
We can easily see that these disasters which we and most other peoples of Nigeria have been suffering, are welcome to the controllers of the Nigerian Federal Government, whose sole interest is to control all peoples and all sections and resources of Nigeria. In fact, from Nigeria’s all-powerful federal authority, perverse ideas have been generated to the effect that the nationalities of Nigeria must be subdued and destroyed, so as to make way for the building of a united Nigeria under sole federal control. Among many other things, federal interferences in the curricula of schools have subtly prohibited the teaching of the histories and languages of most of Nigeria’s nationalities – a step designed to speed up the death of most Nigerian nationalities. Unlike nationalities in other multi-nation countries all over the world, we the peoples of Nigeria are watching our children being robbed of the knowledge of the history of their nations, and being perversely guided into shunning their indigenous languages. The Indian Union, with many nationalities too, recognizes twenty-two official languages, and supports the teaching of these in the schools of the regions where they are indigenous languages; and the Union of South Africa has followed suit with eleven official languages. These countries recognize that the cultures of their various nationalities are treasures that must be preserved and enhanced; but Nigeria sees the cultures of Nigerian nationalities as evils that must be subdued and eliminated.
For us Yoruba nation, and for most other Nigerian nationalities, the above is the heritage of Nigeria in our lives. Some persons may respond that we have not been without some gains. Yes, we have had some gains, but not nearly as much as we could, and should, have made if our various peoples have been able to advance in their own ways and at their own paces. The perpetual resistances, inhibitions, and outright push-downs by Nigeria’s federal authority have hurt us and are hurting us. Our losses have been horrendous – in the level of development, development pace, the quality of life, morale, confidence, focus, momentum, quality of leadership, and pride.
We Yoruba now want to stop our decline and our pains. We want to propel ourselves upwards and forwards again. And we are not asking for favours from any Federal Government; we demand the regional and local autonomy that will empower us to achieve progress in our own way and at our own pace in Nigeria. We know that other Nigerian nationalities want the same for themselves too. That is how successful federations all over the world are organized and run. We want to revive success and progress in our lives; we want to revive our capability and ambition as a people to succeed and prosper; we want to revive the spirit of service among the leaders of our Yoruba nation.
The resistance of some Nigerian nationalities to the perpetual federal obstruction and disruption of their lives has produced violent confrontations for decades. Horrendous violence is going on now in parts of Nigeria. We Yoruba have preferred to resist in peace, and we will continue to make our resistance peaceful. But we will recapture success and progress now – “with or without Nigeria” as our 2014 National Conference leaders put it. We very seriously demand of President Buhari, whom we voted for as President of Change, to respond expeditiously and forthrightly to our needs and demands. We have lost too much already. The slippage must stop now. It will stop. We will stop it.