The Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Hon. Olawale Oshun, spoke on the criterial for national unity and peaceful co-existence at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of self-government in Western Nigeria organised in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, by Atayese, a socio-cultural group.
As demanded by the significance of this event, I should have been here with you but for prior personal commitments. However I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending that the views and content that will be thrown up today by the erudite Lecturer, Prof. Adebayo Williams be food for thought for all Yoruba leaders – political, traditional, sociocultural, religious and professional levels.
What we are commemorating today stands still as perhaps the most productive, progressive, welfarist and proficient administration the world has ever known in terms of human development indices.
Comparing France and Nigeria today, who would have believed that we Yoruba people were availed of television broadcasts before the French?
But here we are today commemorating what was and lamenting what could have been.
I contend sincerely, and I believe everyone of you here do, that Yorubaland would have been boasting of similar rankings as today’s developed nations, had the Government of Western Nigeria survived for another twenty years under the Independence or Republican Constitutions of 1960 or of 1963.
But today, Nigeria rubs shoulders with failed states on all globally acceptable rankings on human development, and Yorubaland and people are dragged into that cesspool.
Who would have believed that the subversion of Yoruba developmental trajectory and of Yoruba leadership was triggered just two years into Nigeria’s Independence, with an insidious and conspiratorial plan by the other two majority nationalities to subjugate Chief Obafemi Awolowo and dominate Yoruba people, hence the connived trial of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other leaders on November 2, 1962 and the violation of democratic and parliamentary tenets engineered in the legislative house in Ibadan at that time.
The short time between Independence and the subversion should be instructive to us as a people. Perhaps, it was the reason history was initially taken off our schools curriculum! The subversion did not happen because of any breach of democratic principles and or Law by Chief Awolowo and or his Party, the Action Group but because, I dare repeat, the Federalist Constitution which created cooperating and equal partners was unacceptable to the then Coalition government led by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi completed the task when he enacted Decree 34 in 1966 to turn Nigeria into a unitary state. However at that time the falcon could no longer hear the falconer, the North irritated by the affront of the coup, the killing of prominent political and military officers of northern extraction and the fear she now could be victim of domination violently reacted. But the same North using the military and collaborators have effected with perfection and subterfuge what General Ironsi sought to do with his Unification Decree.
Politics of subversion and domination has played out in different forms in the last 57 years, consolidating the 1999 Unitary Constitution and whilst we may even have some of our own people benefitting from the anomaly to contend with, it is the duty of all Yoruba people to push and ensure that the true Federalist Constitution is reinstated in our country. And here we should not leave this gathering without endorsing Chief Bisi Akande’s recommendation that Nigeria returns immediately to the 1963 Constitution, pending an acceptable constitutional making process. The latest attempt by the NASS at constitution making remains a farce and should be treated as such.
For the Yoruba people, our position is simple, clear, and unwavering: we wish to live in a country where every component ethnic nationality is respected and given its autonomous space to pilot its development affairs, while we all cooperate and collaborate to build a strong, united Nigeria.
I conclude with these three statements:
- As long as the ethnic nationalities would not respect each others’ rights and would not see themselves as cooperating partners in the development of Nigeria, there will never be unity.
- In the absence of unity, development will remain a permanent mirage
- In the absence of growth, development and unity, why continue to pretend with nation building, deeply embedded in waste and the destruction of the fortune of younger and yet unborn generations?
If the three statements above continue to hold true for any country, the only viable option is the dissolution of that country.
I hope these statements will be taken as food for thought by all well-meaning Yoruba leaders.
- Oshun is Third Republic House of Representatives Chief Whip