By Clifford Ndujihe, Dapo Akinrefon & Anozie Egole
LAGOS — THE South-West geo-political zone was split, yesterday, as Yoruba leaders and elders were sharply divided over who to vote for in the March 28 presidential polls between President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Divided into two groups, the leaders held parallel summits in Ibadan and Lagos and took divergent positions on what the Yoruba should do in the coming elections with reasons. While those at the Ibadan gathering were mostly for Buhari, the Lagos crowd rooted for Jonathan.

Those at the event included Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana; General Alani Akinrinade (retd), Governors Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) and Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

LEFT: From left: PDP chieftain, Chief Bode George; Gen. Mobolaji Johnson (rtd); Afenifere Leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State; Senator Femi Okunrounmu; Prof. Dupe Olatunbosun and Founder of O’odua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr Frederick Fasehun, at the Post-National Conference Summit, in Lagos, yesterday. Photo: Bunmi Azeez.

In Lagos for President Jonathan were Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Dr Frederick Fasehun, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and Chief Olabode George among others.

Olubadan directs subjects to vote for Buhari

In Ibadan, the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana, took thousands of people at the Parliament Building in Ibadan by surprise when he openly directed all his subjects to vote for Buhari on March 28.

The 101-year-old monarch spoke at a pan-Yoruba summit convened by General Alani Akinrinade (retd) at the Oyo State Government Secretariat, Ibadan.

The Olubadan, represented by the Ekerin Olubadan, High Chief Eddy Oyewole, did not mince words as he called on all sons and daughters of the zone to cast their votes for the retired general.

The monarch was one of the three paramount rulers who President Goodluck Jonathan visited some weeks ago to seek their support for his second term ambition.

Though, Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Jimoh Oyewumi was not physically present at the summit, he sent his representatives. He was represented by Chief Samuel Otolorin and several others.

The summit which had a semblance of the earlier one convened by Governor Olusegun Mimiko about a month ago had so many people including the Itsekiri from Delta State led by Chief Sunday Rone, Chief Rita Lori-Ogbebor and representations from all the South-West states in attendance.

Other participants at the summit included the APC Vice-Presidential candidate, Prof. Mr. Yemi Osinbajo; host Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State; Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State; Dr. Kayode Fayemi, immediate past Governor of Ekiti State; Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governor of Osun State; Prof. Nesi Omatseye from Itsekiri; Aseyin of Iseyin, Oba Ganiyu Ologunebi; Oba John Bolarinwa, Onigboho of Igboho, Oba Samuel Adegbola, Eleruwa of Eruwa among others.

Why Yoruba need change –Akinrinade

The convener of the summit, Akinrinade said: “As a people, we have been assaulted, buffered by the vagaries of strange cultures and traditions. Our penchant to accommodate strangers with open arms has led to the bastardisation and in some instances total replacement of our culture, norms and values. Today, things we never thought could happen in the Yoruba nation are now the things we glorify. We have turned our core values on its head. We now have able-bodied Yoruba men and women begging on the streets or becoming ready tools for politicians to exploit as thugs”.

Rita Lori, who spoke on behalf of Itsekiris, said they were in support of the demands made by the summit and that the people in the zone should appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to protect the Itsekiris from Ijaws who allegedly unleash violence on them.

Oyinlola, who spoke in parables, advised all people from the zone to be united and should not allow politics to divide them.

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The demands

The five demands of the summit are: Yoruba land will not be an occupied territory; Yoruba must pursue their destiny in line with the development priorities and ambitions of her people; creation of a structural environment for effective devolution of powers to the country’s constituent units as a strategic development imperative; repeal of laws and policies that stifle the creativity of her people.

Others are dismantling of all pseudo-security agencies that impede peace, harass and terrorise citizens in order to enforce pre-determined agenda that are not consistent with the wishes of Yoruba people and regional competitiveness should be the basis and indeed the key driver of growth and development of Nigeria, recognising that the creative spirit and latent capabilities of the country reside within the geo-political zones, that the effectiveness of the Federal Government of Nigeria lies on focusing on the critical issues of governance that are common to all components, like defence, national security, foreign affairs, currency and exchange rate, etc, while all other socio-economic responsibilities, especially that of resource control, devolve to the federating units and the removal of all bottlenecks in the way of provision of effective and efficient transportation system, electrical power, and petroleum refining infrastructure.

The summit also condemned erosion of Yoruba values, virtues and morals and affirmed that the marginalisation of Yoruba people had attained the status of deliberate policy of the Central Government of Nigeria.

“This has been intensified under the current administration by extending it to Yoruba kith and kin in Itsekiri land,” the elders said, alleging that there are calculated attempts to invade and subjugate Yorubaland through covert, disguised and even official policies of the Central Government.

Polls must hold as scheduled

From left: Former Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi, Convener, Gen Alani Akinrinade (retd); Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State during a Pan-Yoruba Summit with the theme “Yoruba people, our aspirations and demands from the central government of Nigeria” oraganised by Yoruba Assembly, in Ibadan, yesterday. Photo: Dare Fasube.

They restated that the 2015 general elections must hold as scheduled and must be free, fair, credible, and transparent, adding that given the fact that for the past 16 years, Yoruba people have suffered marginalisation within the Nigerian state, the Yoruba Assembly calls on Yoruba people to vote for leaders who have the interests of the Yoruba at heart.

Governor Ajimobi said that the “huge historical repertoire has suffered immeasurably. The Yoruba people, who used to hold their own in the compass of where Nigeria was heading, have been relegated to the background considerably, especially in the hands of the PDP-led Federal Government. We have been subject of brazen marginalization and deliberate attempt to whittle down our historical contributions to the development of Nigeria.

“It will interest you to note that, in the wheel of power at the centre, there are only two Yoruba people. Indeed, out of the 50 most powerful men and women in the executive, legislative, judicial and even security components of power in Nigeria, there are only two Yoruba people. These are the Chief of Staff to the President, whose choice was almost an afterthought and the Accountant-General of the Federation.

“Never had the sons and daughters of Oduduwa been treated with such ignominy and disregard by a country their forefathers shed their blood to make a shining sun under the heavens.”

In Lagos, Yoruba leaders endorse Jonathan

The atmosphere at Oranmiyan Hall of Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja was astir as Yoruba leaders who gathered for a Post-National Conference Summit became jubilant on hearing that the Federal Executive Council, FEC, has approved immediate and full implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 national confab.

Drawn from all parts of the South-West geo-political zone, the leaders at the event themed: ‘’Tomorrow begins today,’’ were in joyous mood when the Minster of State for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, disclosed that the FEC had approved implementation of the recommendations of the confab, adding that the recommendations would be forwarded to the National Assembly for minor touches.

On that note and drawing from the comments of many leaders including Chief Ayo Adebanjo and Governor Olusegun Mimiko among others, they said there is need to re-elect President Jonathan, to enable him implement the recommendations of the confab and restructure the country into true federalism.

Other dignitaries at the event, who unanimously agreed that Jonathan deserved Yoruba votes for a second term in office included Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, Chief Abiola Ogundokun, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Chief Olabode George, Dr Kunle Olajide, Dr Femi Okurounmu, Senator Mojisoluwa Akinfenwa, Prof. Dupe Olatubosun, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and Otunba Gani Adams.

The leaders, in a communique read and approved by the gathering commended President Jonathan for convening the National Conference based on the agitation of the Yoruba for many years.

The summit applauded the successful conduct of the confab as well as what it described as the laudable recommendations, which would allow creation of additional nine states among others.

The summit also canvassed that Lagos must be given support, while each state must be allowed to have its constitution and that the Presidency should be rotated among the six geo- political zones of the country among others.

Jonathan remains Yoruba’s best candidate –Mimiko

Speaking at the event, the convener of the summit, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, commended Jonathan for his courage in convening the confab, which made 653 recommendations at the risk of his political career.

He said: “The president took a very big risk to organise the confab because there was the possibility of the outcome of the exercise being against his personal political interest. He should be commended for putting the interest of the country over and above his personal interests.”

Given his sincerity in organising the conference, Mimiko said the President remained the candidate of the Yoruba irrespective of propaganda from people he called Yoruba irredentist.

According to him, for several years, the Yoruba had been in the struggle for liberty and freedom as championed by the late sage, who he said advocated for a truly federal constitution and recognition of the rights of the minorities in the country.

He noted that full implementation of the recommendations of the Confab recommendations such as devolution of powers, establishment of multi-level policing, states having power to create local governments, etc, is the surest way to develop the country.

Against this backdrop, Mimiko said it would be in the interest of the generality of Nigerians to renew President Jonathan’s mandate to enable him implement the confab recommendations which he described as panacea to Nigeria’s problems.

Why Jonathan deserves Yoruba votes —Adebanjo

Afenifere elder, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, who chaired the summit, in his speech, went down the memory lane to remind the Yoruba why they must back restructuring of the county.

He said: “What Jonathan did about the confab was in tandem with the age-long yearning of the Yoruba nation. It would amount to betrayal of Yoruba’s collective cause if any Yoruba person votes against Jonathan on March 28.”

One of the few surviving frontline Awoists, however, said they were not backing the PDP but President Jonathan.

“We are not voting for the PDP. We are voting for Jonathan because of his determination and zeal for better tomorrow for Nigeria,” said, noting that the president convened the National Conference despite numerous opposition and the belief in some quarters that the exercise was going to end in chaos.

Happy with Jonathan’s promise to implement the 653 recommendations and the FEC’s Wednesday’s approval for immediate implementation of the recommendations, Adebanjo, who was also a member of the National Conference, said: “I am not supporting Jonathan because he is Jonathan, I am supporting him because he is championing the cause that is in the interest of Yoruba.”

The Afenifere chieftain declared that it was in Jonathan’s presidency that Yoruba’s interest would be better served, warning that the Yoruba should shun those he called revisionists who wanted to draw the race backward in pursuit of their personal and selfish interest.”

Yoruba have found their voice –Daniel

Former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, said the quality of attendance at the summit is an attestation that the Yoruba Nation had eventually found its voice.

He said it is a tragedy that the minority has continued to oppress the majority in Yorubaland, adding that the quality of participants at the summit has shown that the Yoruba Nation has decided to take her destiny in her hands.

Daniel insisted that the Yoruba Nation had nothing against the Hausa/Fulani, adding that this was fully demonstrated by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo when he made Muhammadu Kura his running mate in the 1983 elections.

He said that Jonathan remained the candidate of the Yoruba in this month’s election and called on the Yoruba to support the President to enable him implement the resolutions of the national confab, adding: “Our future lies in that election, we must not fail, if we are to realise true federalism which President Jonathan represents.”

Jonathan has uncommon credential –Olajide

On his part, Olajide said Jonathan has an uncommon democratic credential, which many did not know. According to him, people are eager to collect their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) because they now know that under Jonathan votes must count because he has allowed the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to operate freely just as he did with the National Conference in which he did not interfere.

There is need to restructure Nigeria –Adeyeye

Speaking at the event, the Minister of State for Works, Prince Adeyeye, said there is need to restructure the country, noting that if the recommendations of the confab were fully implemented, they would bring about a better country run under a truly federal system of government.

“Let us face it, the way things are today, there are fundamental structural problems and we need to restructure the country. This is a clear issue. Having gone through the recommendations myself, I believe the National Conference did a wonderful job and I think if we faithfully implement the recommendations, we would have a better Nigeria, a more federal system, a system that allows for rapid development of the country, a system that allows each geo- political zone, each of the states, even each of the local governments to take their destiny into their hands, a system that will free us from the excessive concentration of powers at the federal level and a system that fully accommodates the diverse nature of this country. We must recognise that. This is what the Confab has done,” he said.

 

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