Yoruba leaders meet in Lagos, Ibadan, insist on restructuring, unity, others

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THEIR divergent political agenda notwithstanding, two groups of Yoruba leaders, who met in Lagos and Ibadan yesterday found a common voice on the need to restructure Nigeria to ensure true federalism. However, while the Southwest leaders at the Lagos forum declared tacit support for the reelection bid of President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 polls, the Ibadan meeting accused him of marginalising the Southwest, the reason of which it would be difficult to support him. Present at the Ibadan meeting were Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; former governors of Ekiti Kayode Fayemi and Niyi Adebayo,  former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola; Chief Kola Daisi; Ambassador Olu Saanu; Senator Babafemi Ojudu; Senator Tony Adefuye, Pa Ayo Fasanmi; Chief Bayo Oyero, Senator Olabiyi Durojaye; Prof Akin Oyebode, John Ayoade, Demola Ariyo; Niyi Akinola (SAN); Others were Dr Goke Adegoroye, Hon Olawale Oshun; Oba Samuel Adegbola, Eleruwa of Eruwa; Oba Dr Ganiyu Adekunle Salawu, Aseyin of Iseyin; Chief Atila Adeniyi, Senator Bayo Salami, Senator James Kolawole, among others.

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The Lagos meeting was attended by leader of the Afenifere, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, PDP chieftain, Bode George, Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, Oodua Peoples Congress leaders, Gani Adams and Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Dr. Kunle Olajide and Col. Tony Nyiam (rtd).

Indeed, the Lagos declaration came through a post-National Conference Summit convened by the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, where participants drawn from the zone and some like-minds from across the country, hinged their support for Jonathan on his pledge to implement the recommendations of the National Conference.

Yesterday’s summit, which was the fourth and last in the series of parleys to sensitise the Yoruba public about the advantages inherent in the implementation of the National Conference reports, also highlighted the reasons why Nigerians should vote for Jonathan. Speaking of their alleged travails, which they said Nigerians must be reminded of to put Buhari in the proper historical perspective, former National Chairman of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), Chief Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa and Prof. Dupe Olatubosun, said the country should not be allowed to slip back into dictatorship. Akinfenwa, who said that he was incarcerated for 21 months at Agodi Prisons for being a commissioner in the Bola Ige administration in Oyo State when the civilian government was toppled in 1983, said he spent the period in “a terrible 12 by 12 feet enclosure with 27 other persons, including former Ondo Governor, Chief Adekunle Ajasin.”

The participants, who also appealed to the northern part of the country to allow Jonathan complete his two-term tenure so that “our brothers would have an uninterrupted eight years of presidency” which they said would be short-changed with a Buhari presidency, took turn to give credit to Jonathan for summoning the courage to convoke the national conference and for showing commitment to its implementation which according to the Minister of State for Works, Dayo Adeyeye, who also attended, was stamped by a Federal Executive Council meeting last Wednesday.

In his opening address, Mimiko said the series of meetings were aimed at setting an agenda of development for the Yoruba and Nigeria at large since the most crucial impediment to the country’s development is the imbalance in the structure of the federation.

According to him: “We have committed ourselves to the organisation of these post-National Conference summits due to our conviction that what our dear country Nigeria needs now is a structural transformation as provided for by the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference. We have therefore taken it upon ourselves to ensure that every south westerner, and indeed every Nigerian, understands that the resolutions of the 2014 National Conference are the necessary ingredients needed to emplace equity, justice and fairness to all Nigerians. “Over the years, successive leaderships in the country have been under immense pressure to address the country’s faulty federal structure. Of course, you will remember that for several decades, the Yoruba nation was at the fore-front of the agitation for the convocation of a National Conference.

“At some points, the agitations culminated in calls for Sovereign National Conference as many believed that it would resolve Nigeria’s myriad of challenges; needless to say that the agitation never yielded results until March last year when President Goodluck Jonathan convoked a National Conference. “It is important to remind Nigerians that the 2014 National Conference had given us the opportunity to appreciate the views of Nigerians in a non-partisan forum where ethnic, religious, political, economic and professional considerations melted into thin air and Nigerians decided to agree on what will unite and build Nigeria for the benefit of all Nigerians.

The over 600 resolutions of the conference, which were reached by the 492 delegates through consensus, touched most, if not all, the critical issues that had been listed as encumbrances to Nigeria’s rapid development and attainment of nationhood. “Among several other things, the resolutions include the practice of true federalism, devolution of powers, creation of additional states, adoption of modified presidential system of government that integrates the parliamentary and presidential systems, creation of state and community police; the introduction of independent candidates for election and in the economic domain, solid minerals that had been the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government since independence would now move to the concurrent list and states can now create employment and develop at their own pace.”

At the Ibadan meeting, the leaders, drawn from the south west states as well as Kogi and Itsekiri maintained that the race was too sophisticated to follow a leader who does not have the interest of the Yoruba nation at heart. They insisted that the zone has been greatly marginalised in the scheme of things by the present administration, saying rather than endorse a candidate by a few Yoruba leaders, the race should be bonded by a common developmental aspirations and values.

The event was a pan Yoruba summit convened by the retired army chief and elder statesman, Gen Alani Akinrinade. At the event held at the Parliament building of the Oyo State secretariat, speakers took turns to assess the position and state of the Yoruba nation since independence and how it has fared under the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration. Akinrinade, who set the tone of the summit said, the meeting was aimed at fashioning out the way forward for the race as the next political dispensation beckoned.

He lamented that the Yoruba nation has never had it so bad, saying ‘’our existence as a people has been particularly devastating especially when compared to the significant progress made by the race between 1954 and 1966.’’ The general specifically deplored the decay in major sectors particularly education, health, employment and infrastructural development, saying the time has come for the Yoruba nation to define its existence within ‘a Nigerian construct.’

He said Yoruba people are rightly concerned about their nation within the entity called Nigeria where power is too concentrated at the centre. ‘‘We have a Federal Government that is too powerful, overbearing and with many resources at its disposal than it has the capacity to manage. All the powers and authorities at the centre are now being used to hold the rest of Nigerians as slaves in their own country. This makes devolution of power a very important national issue and central to our demand.

We, the Yoruba people are too sophisticated to follow one leader or adopt one political belief.” The Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana, represented by the Ekerin Olubadan, Chief Eddy Oyewole sent tongues wagging when he declared his support for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and the Oyo State governorship candidate, Abiola Ajimobi. Oba Odugade said the duo should be supported in the forthcoming polls for the change earnestly yearned for to be actualised. In his welcome remarks, Ajimobi said despite our robust and profound historical antecedents, the Yoruba have become, in the words of Senegalese film director, producer and writer, Sembene Ousmane, hewers of wood and drawers of water in their land. In the statement issued at the end of the summit, the leaders noted that the Yoruba nation is in a state of disillusionment and despondency and must be repositioned to attain its true status within the entity called Nigeria.

In the statement signed by Akinrinade, the meeting resolved that the lives and destiny of the Yoruba people should not be trampled upon by ‘reprobates renegades, revisionists and impostors.’ It affirmed that the marginalisation of Yoruba people had attained the status of deliberate policy of the central government which has been intensified under the current administration by extending it to Yoruba kith and kin in Itsekiri land. It expressed concern that there are calculated attempts to invade and subjugate Yorubaland through covert, disguised and even official policies of the Central government, citing the recently concluded gubernatorial election in Ekiti and Osun states where fake and hooded combat ready militants were deployed under the cover of official security operatives .

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