A preponderance of senior citizens and influential groups in Yoruba land, on Monday, backed the Sunday’s demand by South-West governors and traditional rulers for the implementation of the 2014 National Conference report, reopening of Nigeria’s borders and review of the nation’s security architecture after their meeting in Lagos.
Foremost nationalist, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, and a former Minister of Education, Professor TundeAdeniran, as well as leading pan-Yoruba organisations such as Afenifere and the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) spoke on the resolutions of the leaders, who included ministers from the zone, at a meeting held in Lagos with a delegation of the Federal Government led by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari.
Monarchs at the meeting included the Ooni of Ife, Oba EnitanOgunwusi; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba LamidiAdeyemi; Olugbo of Ugboland, Oba Frederick Akinrutan; Oba of Lagos Riwanu Akiolu; Olu of Ilaro, Oba Kehinde Olugbenle and Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Alabi. Also in attendance were the ministers and governors from the south west zone.
Coordinated by the chairman, South-West Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, RotimiAkeredolu, the meeting had in attendance Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State as host; Governors Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Gboyega Oyetola (Osun), Seyi Makinde (Oyo) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun).
FG should take immediate action on demands —Adebanjo
Speaking on the resolution of the South-West stakeholders at the parley, a leader of Afenifere, Chief Adebanjo demanded action that would result in the immediate implementation of those decisions by the Federal Government.
While commending the governors and royal fathers for their firm stand on restructuring, the elder statesman said that it was an issue whose time had come, and any attempt to delay its implementation would mean that the government was not serious about keeping the country together.
According to him, “Any delay in restructuring the country is an invitation to separation, and the idea which the Federal Government and Buhari, in particular, is encouraging.”
“Let the government act on them. They have taken the right step; let the government act on them. This one is better. The more they delay restructuring of the country, the more they allow a section of the country to cheat the rest of us.
“If the decisions are not immediately acted upon, then the Federal Government is not serious about keeping the country together; then the Federal Government is actually out to encourage those who actually wanted the country to separate.
“A delay in restructuring the country is an invitation to separation, and it is the idea which the Federal Government and Buhari in particular is encouraging,” he added.
On the demand for the implementation of the 2014 Confab report, the Afenifere chieftain lauded the governors and the traditional rulers for making the call, describing the document as a comprehensive report of previous conferences that addressed the challenges the country facing and the way forward.
He advised the government to call for the report, remove whatever it did not want and add whatever it wanted and implement the new document to move the country forward.
He charged President MuhammaduBuhari to immediately restructure the country “to dispute the fact that he is not an impediment to Nigeria’s unity.
“On call for implementation of the 2014 Confab reports made at the meeting, exactly, that’s the thing if they want to do anything. I doff my hat to them.
“The document (2014 Confab reports) is a comprehensive report of previous conferences. If there is anything the Federal Government does not want, they can take it out and if they want to add anything, they can add it and implement it and let’s move on. So, congratulations to the delegation,” Chief Adebanjo said.
Yoruba would have been disappointed if —Arogbofa, Afenifere gen sec
On his part, the secretary general of Afenifere, Chief SehindeArogbofa, who also spoke on the development, described the moves taken by the governors and others as a bold step towards tackling challenges confronting the country, stressing that they demonstrated that they hold sacrosanct the welfare and security of the people of the region and the unity of the country.
He said that their canvassing for special protection for the region’s economic interests and assets would go a long way in tackling the unemployment in the region and restoring the confidence of the people in the governors and other leaders from the region.
Arogbofa stated: “If they did anything less, we would have been disappointed but we feel really very proud of them and what they did and what they said, anything less would have been a great disappointment from those of us from this part of the country.
He, however, said that a meeting of leaders across the country would have been called rather than sectional or regional meetings. “To start with, what we are beginning to see is like a regional thing that started from the North. The EndSARS protest was not a local issue; it was a national issue and the government should have tackled it nationally, using all means possible. I don’t see any reason why all the regions should have their meetings separately and come out with some different positions, alienated other parts of the country or assaulted the demands of others. What we are having is a kind of reaction to what they did in the North. I expect the southern or eastern part of the country to do the same for long.
“But what I expected from the government is to assemble and call a national meeting including the traditional rulers, governors, ministers and other stakeholders in this country to address the End SARS problem and not making it a regional affair.
“This is further polarising the country but I am proud of what our leaders from the South-West did, for coming out to speak on our behalf have done very well. But it’s unfortunate that we are already polarising this country.”
On the involvement of a federal delegation at the meeting, the Afenifere secretary general said: “We have said our minds and they have spoken for us and we have been saying all these things before but meeting all these things is another thing.We will continue to hammer them because we believe that whether we like it or not, a time will come when certain forces will bring it upon the country to listen to us, because these are the things we want; we have been talking loud and clear about these and why should we be denied those things if this is a true federal entity.
“What we are asking for like the state police, does it injure the feelings of anybody? These include allowing the governors to be freer in the management of their states; granting more initiatives for mineral resources in states to be exploited. Does it injure the feelings of anybody? All these things are what really make a federal structure strong.
“What we have now is unitary and we didn’t start with a unitary system. We started with a system, whereby there is a coordinate arrangement; mutual respect for governors as equal partners and the Head of State is just primus inter pares, first among equal; not a surrogate arrangement. If what we are asking for does not injure their feelings or stop them from doing their own things, why shouldn’t they allow us to do what we are doing? The governors and the traditional rulers did not say they want cessation.”
On their demand for the implementation of 2014 Confab report and the opening of the borders, Arogbofa said: “These demands are perfect, very beautiful and I am really happy that they came out this time like a body and most of what they are saying are what we did in the Confab. Why the Federal government is shying away from implementing this is disturbing and annoying.
“It is the inability of the Federal government to listen and respect that decisions that is responsible for some of the current issues on ground. We (delegates to the conference) came from all parts of the country and made those decisions. The government should have respect for the decisions. Why should the government refuse to listen or act on the 2014 Confab report which was organised by the immediate past President?
“The report should not be dumped into the dustbin. Why can’t the government make use of the recommendations that can make the country to move forward? If it had used the 2014 report, the recent #EndSARS problem should not have arisen because the solutions to these problems are contained in the report.
“They talked about the porous borders; answers were given to the issue; they talk about youth unemployment, economy and insecurity, answers were given to them, so what else are we waiting for?”
He, however, said that if the government failed hearken to the call of the South-West leaders, “People will keep on agitating, especially when they are convinced that they are being deprived of their rights; they won’t keep quiet.
“This is not a matter of master-servant relationship. Or how could a group of people in a heterogeneous society be saying that they are lords over others and behaving so with impunity? Others won’t agree but I think the earlier we started respecting each, the better for us all. We are Nigerians and must be given the same respect.”
I believe Buhari will take the outcomes with all seriousness it deserves —Adeniran, ex-minister
A former Minister of Education, Professor TundeAdeniran acknowledged the widespread clamour for devolution of power, restructuring and rejig of the security architecture in the country that formed the major highlights of the Yoruba leaders at the Lagos meeting.
He stated: “From what I could piece together from media reports, it was an impromptu meeting and those who attended apparently did not have sufficient time to consult widely enough and they were therefore very cautious in the positions they took.
“Nevertheless, I could deduce that they felt President Buhari was anxious to collate views from across the nation and the views expressed seem to have been made as a response to an immediate request.
“Without doubt, the clamour for a re-jig of the existing security architecture, power devolution and restructuring to achieve true federalism is nationwide with a varying emphasis.
“At least two things are good about it. Such development would promote good governance by ensuring opportunities for the actualization of potentials by various groups, communities and states through social justice, equity, the rule of law, healthy competition, and so on.
“Secondly, the fundamental issues have largely been dealt with by various conferences, especially the 2014 Confab at which highly distinguished and patriotic Nigerians, including the present Chief of Staff, met and agreed by consensus on all the contending issues relating to the way forward for Nigeria.
“It was therefore in order for those who met in Lagos to have requested for the implementation of the 2014 Confab report. They raised the issue not just because its abandonment has so far been costly to Nigeria in terms of security, peace and development but also because Professor Gambari was part of the patriotic efforts that produced the 2014 Confab report and would have the courage to get President Buhari to address the lingering issues, those to be carried out through Executive Orders and those to be packaged for legislation by the National Assembly. “The issue of reopening the borders is, of course, an issue that now enjoys the endorsements of prominent Economists and experienced professionals in Customs management.
“With the present situation in the country, tension and trust deficit between the people and the government, I have no doubt whatsoever that the President will take the outcome of the various consultations with the seriousness they deserve. Led by President Muhammad Buhari, Nigerian governments at all levels presently have unique opportunities to address issues relating to the EndSARS protests and others militating against national unity, peace and progress. We should keep prompting them not to miss the unique opportunities.”
Our obas have stepped up people’s collective interest —Shonibare
Similarly, a legal luminary and national chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief SupoShonibare supported the action of the leaders of thought in Yoruba land for their multiple demands towards fixing the country.
He said: “Consistently, at times of unresolved critical National issues affecting the general wellbeing of the people of the South-West, a majority of our credible leaders; irrespective of their political parties, have always associated themselves with the aspirations of the people. The Yoruba Agenda, adopted through the Ibadan declaration in 2017, which had the participation of all the state governments and legislatures and obas of the South-West, even went much further than the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference recommendations. It recommended sic regional structures, unicameral National Assembly and the retention of existing states within the regions, with the states retaining at least half of all revenues generated within their boundaries. It also recommended creation of states as being an inalienable right of any nation or ethnic group within a Region. It recognises states as a critical tier for economic development.
“It recommended Local government, State, regional and federal Police. It recommended transforming the Police to be apolitical, with the present provisions in the Police Act, conferring operational responsibilities of the Police on the President, to be abrogated. That function is recommended to be conferred on both the Head of the Police at the various tiers with the various Police Service Commissions (PSC) being checks & balances on the execution of the operational functions.
“The commission is also the organ the Yoruba Agenda saddled with the responsibilities to recruit and enforce discipline. The 2014 Confab report was really a compromise & the minimum demand for a workable & productive federal entity.
“Our leading traditional rulers have stepped up to the plate to represent the collective interests of their people, by their support of the restructuring agenda. This is, however, consistent with precedent.
“We may recall that in 1953, during self-government and the agitation leading to Independence, Oba AdesojiAderemi- the Ooni of Ife, and Oba LadapoAdemola- the Alake of Egbaland, who were both the nominated members representing Western Nigeria, in the Federal House of Representatives, took the position to support the motion for Independence, in spite of the threats of the British government.
“When the motion was stunted by Northern Peoples Congress’ dilatory maneuvering, the Action Group and NCNC members walked out of the House in protest. The Ooni and the Alake, were the only traditional rulers in the House of Representatives, who also worked out in solidarity with the yearning of their people. The British governor- General had insisted that they could not be nominees of the Sovereign of the United Kingdom & at the same time support the motion for Independence. They both promptly submitted their letters of resignation. Our traditional rulers are following this legacy.
“We also welcome the collective decision of all the South-West governors, to also associate themselves with the agitation for devolution. It’s the only prescription that will enable rapid economic development and better security of life and property in their respective states. This is the raison d’être of any government. Restructuring and the urgent need to immediately devolve powers to the federating units- which at the moment are states, with drastically reduced exclusive legislative list for the Federal Government, is the way forward. This is the panacea to our multifaceted economic, political and security challenges.
“The 2014 Confab report need not be as controversial as some people are mischievously making it out to be. It’s simple an amalgamation of past constitutional reforms recommendations, which will deepen democracy and ensure good governance. It also contains new prescriptions for Constitutional reforms, as a panacea to the many mischief and misgovernance that has rendered the military constitution which we presently operate, as being irreparably defective. The insistence on continuing with the unitary system of government, ostensibly purported to be a Federal system, is a recipe that will ensure the collapse of the Nigeria entity.”
A good move but we must tread with caution —YCE
While backing the demands of the traditional rulers and others at the meeting the YCE through its general secretary, Dr Kunle Oliaji, however called for caution so as not to play into the hands of some forces that do not mean well for the system.
He said: “YCE calls on the South-West governors to tread softly in swallowing hook line and sinker the deceitful game of some northern leaders masquerading as Nigerian leaders
“YCE appeals to our revered traditional rulers to do all in their power to maintain the sanctity of their thrones which the entire Yoruba nation hold in very high esteem. We urge Nigerian youths to remain calm while patriotic Nigerians address through constitutional means the problems of this country.The 1999 unitary constitution cannot take this country to any Eldorado; unending amendments of this constitution cannot save this country
Genuine Nigerian patriots from all parts of the country must come together to seek all legitimate means to rescue this country which has the potential of an elephant still creeping like an ant sixty years post-independence.
“The different peoples of Nigeria have varying interests and priorities. Therefore, no one group must seek to impose its interests on others; there must be a spirit of give and take and compromise in the interest of the progress and development of Nigeria.
“The security architecture of Nigeria requires a total reform to reflect the diversity of the country and boost the morale of officers who might have been disillusioned by the retaining of officers who ought to have retired years ago to make room for fresh ideas.”
He was curious about the role of the role of the federal delegation, especially the police top hierarchy in the country.
He noted: “The Inspector General of Police was also at the northern leaders meeting the question arises is the IGP northern IGP or Nigerian IGP? Ditto CoS, and so on. The views the Federal Government delegation canvassed at Sunday’s Lagos meeting, were they northern leaders’ views or Federal Government views? How do we differentiate? Recall these leaders had appended their signature or lent their voices to a communique issued at the northern leaders meeting indicting the South for the crisis of the last one month in the country.
“Is the Federal Government persisting in dividing the country into their imaginary North and balkanising the South into South-East, South-West or South-South to be able to perpetuate dominance of political power in the north? And the South as the conquered people?
“The YCE believes in a united federal Nigeria, where there is equity, justice and fairness; we do not believe in the balkanisation of Nigeria; the YCE questions the sincerity of the current administration which, on one hand, mouths one Nigeria and on the other hand, deliberately balkanises the country by using divide and rule in the South and preaching unity in the North.’
Demand, evidence that obas are in touch with their people —Odumakin
Also speaking, the publicity secretary of Afenifere, MrYinkaOdumakin noted that the demands of the traditional rulers and others at the meeting that they were on the same page with the people on pertinent issues concerning the country.
According to Odumakin, “It was a clear sign that they are in touch with their people to stand that firm when it was clear that those who see themselves as the colonial masters were only interested in cleaning up their crimes by getting endorsement for their murder of young people. The Obas in particular remind of the years Oba like AdesojiAderemi stood firm with forces seeking independence.
“The South-West was not made to include the social cultural leaders possibly to manage it but the truth cannot be buried even with traditional rulers on the major issues afflicting Nigeria from the Yoruba point of view.
“The position of the Yoruba on these issues were well-thought-out in national interest. A worthy patriot, Prince Tony Momoh asked me to send him a copy of the Yoruba Agenda when we launched it in 2005.He called me later to ask why we called the Nigerian Agenda Yoruba own. I told him it was our perspective but it explains why we are Afenifere (the good we want for ourselves that we want to be others.
“The call for the implementation of 214 report was rationale as it was after a rigorous process by leaders across Nigeria. Nigeria would have been on different path now if those reports were not locked in some wardrobe gathering the dust.
“It is only those who don’t have the love of the country that would present that the way out of crisis for Nigeria is not clear at this stage. What we are currently doing, that is, running Nigeria from Abuja, is the surest path to disintegration and we should be bold to recalibrate.
“The call for the reopening of the border, especially the Benin border, has become punitive for a section of the country when we have a good idea of what is going on in Niger border that remains open. Nigeria is even planning to construct a road to Niger. So, the demand for the reopening is most rational, and doing so will show even handedness in government.
“The security agencies should check any criminal activity at our borders. Closure here and opening there reinforces the complaints of the lack of a sense of fairness in the way the country is presently being run. And not heeding the demands by the authorities can only fuel the perception of government as not being responsive and that all they want is the preservation of the status quo that robs Nigerians.”
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