By BASHIR ADEFAKA
Peeved by the spate of disunity which haseaten deep into efforts of moving the Yoruba race forward, leaders of the race converged in Ikenne, Thursday, to chart a way out.
The leaders were however not happy that the governors of the six Yoruba states of the Southwest were neither in attendance nor represented at the first-of-its kind Pan-Yoruba Conference meant to discuss issues affecting the entire Yoruba people. Only Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, was duely represented by his deputy, Alhaji Alli Olaganju Olanusi, who said the governor was unavoidably absent at the conference because he went for an assignment in Abuja.
The absence of the governors generated discomfort as many traditional rulers in attendance berated their attitude. They were however given excuse as it was anticipated that they would show up in subsequent meetings.
In his comment, Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the Yoruba people had suffered much and that time had ripened to find solution to the cause of the suffering, instead of apportioning blames. He however expressed dissatisfaction that incessant misunderstanding among the Ooni of Ife and Alaafin of Oyo had defied solutions, adding that the Pan-Yoruba Conference which just kick-started could not be seen as successful without the Alaafin of Oyo on seat.
“The problem facing Yoruba people is much. How to put a stop to it should be our major concern. So those people that we are saying should be at this meeting, we should talk to them one-on-one. The reason they didn’t come is that many of them didn’t want to be relegated to nothing and we must take note of that,” said Adebanjo who, observing due respect, tasked Ooni of Ife to ensure that he and the Alaafin should resolve their problems and unite, saying that the much desired Yoruba unity and strength can be achieved.
“Without this,” he said, “nothing can be said to have been done. Before we can say this meeting is a success, no Yoruba son must be left out.”
Many of the traditional rulers and other eminent Yoruba leaders, who spoke, made it explicit that the meeting was not political. They were unanimous in urging all Yorubas in politics to ensure that they put Yoruba interest first in anything they do, saying the main reason for Yoruba’s marginalisation in national leadership was the noticeable disunity among them. They then called on President Goodluck Jonathan to address the grievances of the Yoruba race quickly.
Earlier in his opening speech, Oba Sijuade, agreed that there was the need for every warring Yoruba person to sheath his sword and settle for better things for the singular reason of moving the Yoruba race forward as a people.
His words: “If we can forgive and forget each other’s shortcomings and join hands together, we will all nurture Yoruba land to an enviable nation flowing with honey and milk within the country as bequeathed to us by our late heroes.
“We appreciate the fact that all Yoruba people cannot be in the same party but whichever party we may be or in any organisation we may find ourselves, let us think of the Yoruba race first and how best we can make the whole area to be developed for the benefit of our children,” Ooni of Ife submitted, while also seizing the opportunity afforded him by the conference to thank the Afenifere Group and other Yoruba leaders “especially both Sir Olanihun Ajayi and Chief Ayo Adebanjo for their significant efforts by going round within the last two years to broker peace between the traditional rulers and they were able to achieve this about three months ago,” he informed.
Oba Okunade Sijuade said that no matter how terrible the situation of Yoruba race might have become, there would always be light at the end of the tunnel.
“I implore all of us to be our brother’s keeper, for there is always strength in unity and with love, we can jointly pursue solving our problems because it is not completely a hopeless one,” he said.
In a communiqué signed at the end of the meeting by Mama Hannah Dideolu Awolowo and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade but read by former Minister of Transports, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, the Yoruba said they believed their seeming neglect could only be addressed through the proper placement of ethnic groupings in national affairs. Details of the communique were stated out:
“The conference discussed extensively the affairs of Nigeria, particularly as they relate to the socio-political existence of Nigeria within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. For example, it has been observed that it now appears that there is a definite move to isolate the Yoruba nation from national leadership.
“The Yoruba people can no longer continue to watch events in Nigeria with careless attitude, particularly when an insult to the integrity of the Yoruba nation is being systematically carried out. The time to address the situation is now,” the communique said.
It went on: “The conference unanimously approves that a top delegation of the Yoruba people should meet with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on the plight of the Yoruba nation.
“The delegation is to draw the immediate attention of the president of Nigeria to these problems and urge him to use his good office to put a stop to the injustice to which the Yoruba people have been exposed to in the distribution of political offices in Nigeria.
“The conference appeals to the Boko Haram people to stop the bombings and allow the Federal Government of Nigeria to provide solutions to all the problems confronting the organisation. The conference also appeals for calm and religious harmony in Plateau State and calls for the immediate end to ethnic disagreement in the crisis.
“ The conference notes that the Yoruba nation will no longer continue to close its eyes to the sufferings of the Yoruba people in the state. Enough is enough,” the meeting stated.
Apart from the committee raised to engage in dialogue with President Jonathan, a 50-man standing committee was also constituted to oversee and continuously address the unity and socio-economic problems facing the Yoruba and report to the conference.
The conference was graced by many prominent Yoruba figures including Mama Hannah Dideolu Awolowo; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae; first elected governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lateef Jakande; former Chief of General Staff, Lt. General Oladipo Diya; Leader of the Afenifere Group, Chief Reuben Fasanranti; Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, who stayed briefly and left and Group Managing Director, Global Fleet, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim.
Others were Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Alli Olaganju Olanusi; former Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Senator Kofoworola Burknor-Akerele; former Nigerian Ambassador to Cuba, Senator Segun Bamgbetan; former Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Alhaja Salmat Badru; former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Senator Iyiola Omisore; President of Nigerian Press Council, Alhaji Alade Odunewu; Founder of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr. Federick Fasehun and OPC National Coordinator, Otunba Gani Adams and others.
Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, while addressing pressmen said he in his own capacity, would make any contribution required of him to the newly charted developmental process of the Yoruba race.
His words: “I think a lot can be done in the Southwest and the Southwest has a lot of resources. So we will have to make sure that our views are coordinated so that we can move together with Nigeria.”
Asked what he felt about the absence of the governors, he said they could still meet up with the process in future meetings. “It’s not in one meeting that all will attend. This is just the beginning, the governors will attend another meeting and the governors are not that very important. Many people are here and the governors are just political appointees. They come in and go out. Some are there today and another will be there tomorrow and so things will begin to move forward,” he said.
In the words of Chief Olu Falae, the conveners of the meeting should continue with the work of reconciliation.
“We should continue with the work of reconciliation so that the next meeting will be more inclusive and then, we can begin to tackle our problems. Our problem is basically at the national level. We are considered as being disunited and so, they think they can treat us any way they like because if I say ‘A’ somebody else will say ‘B’. And so, they can afford to ignore Yoruba land. Once we are reunited, that problem is over,” Falae said.