Yoruba elders from different political shades put aside beliefs and beefs to articulate a common agenda for the forthcoming national conference in an unprecedented summit last Monday. The elders reconvene today in Ibadan to ratify the decisions adopted at that encounter.
BY DAPO AKINREFON
Many would have been shocked at the sight of some of the most politically opposed Yoruba leaders chatting last Monday.
A national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Bola Tinubu had led the pack of those that opposed the initiative and he was easily followed by almost all APC leaders from the region.
Tinubu and his coterie of APC admirers were opposed by mainstream Afenifere leaders and others in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP who saw the conference as an opportunity to address and redress historic issues that have been canvassed by some of the region’s leading lights.
The presence of close associates of Asiwaju Tinubu such as Mr Ayo Afolabi, Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG Chairman, Wale Osun led many to believe that the APC leader may have changed his mind on the dialogue.
Leaders sheathe sword
At the Isara-Remo meeting which had Afenifere leader Chief Reuben Fasoranti, as chairman, the leaders decided to sheathe their swords as they adopted a common agenda for the conference. It was also an avenue for them to reconcile and adopt some of the positions taken at meetings held in Ibadan, Abuja and Asaba, Delta State.
At the same time, other far-reaching decisions were also taken.
Tongues had been wagging over the mode for selection of delegates to represent the region, but the issue was, however, resolved last Monday with the decision that each of the six states should produce two delegates each, while the remaining three delegates would be conceded to the Yoruba leaders to decide.
Notable personalities at the meeting included former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, members of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) which organised the Ibadan, Oyo State capital meeting, some prominent members of the APC, including its Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande.
Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi; former Ekiti State governor and Interim Deputy National Chairman – South-west of the APC, Chief Niyi Adebayo also attended.
Others that were present included former Managing Director of Punch Newspapers, Chief Ajibola Ogunsola, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, Dr. Kunle Olajide, former Minister for Power and Steel, Sarafa Ishola, Chief Dapo Durosinmi, Mr. Tokunbo Ajasin, Oladipo Olaitan, Prof. Kunle Ade Wahab, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Mr. Fola Adeola, Erelu Abiola Fernandez, Supo Sonibare and Gen. Alani Akinrinade.
Chief Gani Adams, former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Iyiola Omisore and Chief Rafiu Jafojo.
Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko and former Ogun State Governor, Gbenga Daniel, were represented at the event.
Some of the decisions taken, which would be subjected to ratification by the Yoruba National Assembly during a meeting scheduled for today in Ibadan, Oyo State, include the right to secession proposed by the ARG, which was adopted.
Besides, it was also agreed that the Yoruba federation should maintain its six state structure with boundary adjustment to accommodate Ekiti in Kwara to join Ekiti State, Igbomina and Ibolo in Kwara to join Osun State.
Leaders at the meeting, also proposed the Westminster parliamentary system of government, power devolution from the central to federating units, resource control and revenue allocation to be reviewed in accordance with the devolution of power, and that derivation should rather be based on the total revenue accruable to the Federation Account and not based on a single product as it is currently practised.
Furthermore, it was proposed that immunity for elected officials should be limited to civil cases only.
On the issue of regional police, it was resolved that it should be given clearly defined roles and relationship with the federal police, “while defence is to remain the exclusive responsibility of the central government.”
But military commands, which are to consist mainly of indigenes of the region, are also to be headed by the indigenes of the region.
To harmonise the Yoruba position, the leaders will reconvene in Ibadan today during whcih a pan-Yoruba position on every segment of the region, is expected to be taken ahead of the conference.
We must not sell out—Adebanjo
A bigwig of Afenifere, Chief Adebanjo, who has been in the forefront for the agitation of a national conference, said, “We cannot afford federal character as a modality to choose the delegates to represent us at the conference. It is not possible, the minorities we saved during the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo cannot come and enslave us now. Should we go for another election on the basis of 20 local councils in Lagos and 40 local councils in Kano State? The Yoruba have more advantages on regionalism.”
He, however, sounded a note of warning that any delegate that betrays or sells out on the interest of the Yoruba at the conference “would be exposed”
Our position must be firm—Falae
Chief Falae, stated the need for the Yoruba to take a concrete position over what they want to achieve at the conference, saying, some minority groups who are still eyeing the Presidency are determined to ensure that the present presidential structure continues.”
We must fight together—Durojaiye
On his part, a chieftain of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, urged more Yoruba people to support the conference. “It is now a common cause we must all fight together.”
Durojaiye said the Yoruba people must not be afraid to assert their position at the conference. “Those who planned this conference now have their reason. It is not possible to finish the conference within three months. In this wise, if the situation arises, we should press for adoption of the 1960 Constitution.”
“We must look out for quality, educated and tested representatives, it must not be based on religion and we must emphasise that the delegates must swear to an oath they would not betray our collective interest”, Durojaiye stated.
We want self-autonomy—Gani Adams
Also lending his support, National Co-ordinator, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Gani Adams, said it did not matter whatever any other region wants, “what is critical to the Yoruba is self-autonomy and others.”
But spokesman for Afenifere, Mr Yinka Odumakin, said “ if the minorities want the presidential system to continue, two things have happened to us. We have been lumped up together for too long, which has been impeding our development. From the report I am hearing, it is most likely the Yoruba alone will be strong on regionalism and parliamentary system. We must therefore be determined and this is where the issue of who and who will represent us matters.”
Odegbami wants delegates selected circumspectly
Meanwhile, the Conveners of the Yoruba Constitutional Conference have urged all stakeholders who are to nominate delegates to the forthcoming National Conference to be cautious before endorsing anyone as a delegate.
In a letter signed yesterday on behalf of the conveners by Nigeria’s former national team captain, Chief Olusegun Odegbami, the group advised that would-be delegates must not “trivialize the forthcoming National Conference or reduce it to a platform for canvassing esoteric interests at the expense of all-inclusive national interests.”