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Restructuring: APC must listen to the voice of the people

Homogeneity in heterogeneity

Chief Olanipekun reviewed the clamour for restructuring the Nigerian State, citing numerous prominent voices as well as socio-cultural groups. He also argued for restructuring and devolution of powers, touching on the greatness and usefulness of the 2014 National Conference, which has unfortunately been maliciously cast into the so-called archive.

President Muhammadu Buhari

LADIES and gentlemen, since the organisers of  this event gave me the liberty to pick a topic of my choice for this lecture, I deliberately zeroed in on the topic of today, bearing in mind the fascinating, encouraging, leading, enchanting and endearing position of Aremo Osoba within the Yoruba nation.

He stands tall amongst our leaders; and to me as a person, we have been so closely knitted since my youth corps days in Kwara State in 1976/77, when he was already the General Manager of the Kwara State Publishing Company, the publishers of the Nigerian Herald. At the core of Chief Osoba’s heart is Yoruba survival and revival; and it would not be out of place to let this audience into the secret of what happened recently, leading to the rapprochement between the Yoruba political leaders generally, and particularly, of the APC extraction.

Some accomplished Yoruba men approached me to convey a meeting of leading Yoruba politicians and try to forge reconciliation amongst them in the interest of the Yoruba Nation. We penned down names, top of which was that of Aremo Osoba, and I was assigned the task of contacting him. I put a call across to him which he immediately answered, informing him that some of us would like to see him at his residence, and I intimated him of our mission. He responded that he would want the meeting held at my residence, and that he would be in attendance.

True to his word and character, Chief Osoba showed up in his ‘boyish’ appearance at my residence at about 10: 30pm, and the meeting commenced, lasting till the early hours of the following morning. At the end of our ‘conference’, Aremo Osoba asked us, “What do you guys want me to do?” We gave him ‘instructions and directives’ that we wanted him to go and meet with ‘XYZ’ and forge a reconciliation.

Without hesitating or demurring, he said “I would do as you have directed and report back to you within the week.” Again, true to his word as an Omoluabi, he went to each of those people and reconciled with them. What manner of man is Chief Segun Osoba? A gentleman of gentlemen; a role model; a teacher; an anchor; a mentor; a foremost nationalist and patriot; an administrator extraordinaire; a bridge builder; a good looking and fashionable persona; a rare totem; an exemplary family man; an iconic leader; a surefooted man with high integrity; an embodiment of unadulterated humility; and a truly  distinguished achiever, both professionally and on all fronts.

 I have heard it said that the APC leaders from the South West did not fund President Buhari’s election in 2015.72 Since I am not a member of APC or any political party, I would not know how much the Yoruba APC leaders contributed to the election of President Buhari in cash. However, let me use this opportunity to reiterate the point that through Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a formidable team of Yoruba lawyers under my leadership was assembled to attend to, tackle and professionally manage all the pre-election cases filed against the then candidate Muhammdu Buhari in different courts and jurisdictions in Nigeria.

The members of the team include myself, Prince Lateef Fagbemi, SAN; Chief Akinlolu Olujimi, SAN; Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN; Kola Awodein, SAN; Chief Charles Uwensuyi-Edosomwan SAN; Professor Taiwo Osipitan, SAN; Emeka Ngige, SAN; Abubakar Malami, SAN; SAN; Femi Atoyebi, SAN; Femi Falana, SAN, Funke Aboyade, SAN etc. All the very serious, complex and challenging cases were effectively handled by the team, including, in particular, United Democratic Party & Ors. v. INEC,73 which was a serious challenge to the use of the card readers by INEC and Nnamdi Nwokocha-Ahaaiwe v. INEC & Ors,” wherein President Buhari’s qualification was challenged, and on which we managed to secure an order for stay of proceedings on March 25, 2015, three days to the election. In actual fact, I was already in Akure on 24th March, 2015, preparing for an event which I was to chair on 25th March, 2015, when Asiwaju Bola Tinubu put a call across to me at about 7: 30pm, profusely pleading with me that I must be in court on 25th March, 2015, to personally attend to some of the cases filed against erstwhile candidate Muhammdu Buhari, including Nnamdi Nwokocha as he perceived that my absence in court might be detrimental to the interest of the APC and its candidate. He there and then promised to make a chartered flight available to me at the Akure airport first thing in the morning of 25th March, 2015; a promise which he dutifully fulfilled, as at about 7: 15am of the said day, the private jet with the pilot and crew, as well as Kola Awodein SAN and Femi Atoyebi SAN were already at the tarmac of the Akure Airport.

All these cases were handled pro bono, and without this eminent and crack team of lawyers, the elections would not have held. I wonder if all the millions or billions contributed for the elections by any other group or groups of people could have matched or compensated for the legal input and intervention of the team, assembled by a Yoruba leader, comprising majorly of eminent Yoruba lawyers. This point is to underscore the unquantifiable and unmatchable contributions of the Yoruba nation to the ascendancy of President Buhari, from the legal angle. Be it noted that the controversial card reader issue on which we secured an order for stay of proceedings was eventually resolved and settled by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, starting from Ambode v. Agbaje/5 Shinkafi v. Yarl,” and Wike v. Peterside.77 It was held in each of these cases that the card reader was yet to be part of our electoral jurisprudence, and, therefore, could not be used to challenge the outcome of an elections.

In other words, had the order for stay of proceedings not been obtained 72 hours to the elections in respect of whether or not INEC should/could go ahead to use and deploy the card readers, and INEC was restrained from using and deploying the card readers at the elections of 28th March, 2015, the elections could not have held; and if it was eventually held without the use of the card readers, the APC/Buhari might not have won.

 Aligning the topic of this lecture with the position of APC as a party in respect of the Nigerian project, particularly the nagging issue of restructuring or restoration of our federalism, the APC owes the Yoruba nation a duty to frontally address, rather than beg the issue.   An occasion like this, where and when we are celebrating one of the very best, dutiful, eminent, prominent and trustworthy Yoruba leaders, whether living or dead, in person of the enigmatic Segun Osoba, demands of all of us, using him as a point of contact, to impress it on the APC, and the Yoruba leaders within the APC in particular, that the running of Nigeria and governing of the entity called and styled Nigeria, cannot and should not be as usual. The government and the political party in power must listen and hearken to the voice of the people and their. legitimate requests and demands. After all, despite God’s omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience, and notwithstanding Prophet Samuel’s premonition and reservation, God hearkened to the voice of the Israelites when they demanded a King, like other nations”. The point must be made, and emphatically so, that the identity of the Yoruba nation can only be redeemed in a properly structured Nigeria, or a Nigeria where true federalism is restored and practiced.

 Let me seize this this opportunity to commend the Yoruba governors within the South Western geo-political Zone of Nigeria for coming together to forge and endorse regional identity, cohesion and economic integration. For the first time, Lagos State has now joined the Oodua Group of States and become part and parcel of the Oodua conglomerate.

The impressive and dutiful Governor of Lagos State, Akinwumi Ambode, has so far attended two meetings of the Oodua States at Ibadan and Ado-Ekiti, respectively.” This is heart- warming, and a celebration of the homogeneity of the Yoruba race in the heterogeneity of the Nigerian State; heralding the redemption of the Yoruba identity. Further steps should be taken, particularly as suggested by different Yoruba groups at their meeting held in Ibadan on Thursday, June 29, 2017, whereat they called for lasting unity among the Yoruba race and people.

Venerable Yoruba leaders, including but not limited to Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Chief Reuben Fasoranti, Chief Olu Falae, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, Aremo Segun Osoba, General Alani Akinrinade, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Professor Banji Akintoye, Dr. Kunle Olajide, and a host of others should urgently put heads together at ensuring the redemption of the Yoruba identity within the coalition of nationalities that make up Nigeria.  Before I resume my seat, may I appreciate the Centre for Culture and Historical Awareness, the organisers of this epoch-making event for deeming me fit to deliver this lecture in honour of this septuagenarian, a fine specimen of humanity, our brother, friend, mentor and role model, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, to mark his 78th birthday. We wish the Aremo a happy birthday and many happy returns of the day.

The Yoruba have a saying apt for an occasion like this, when one is celebrating his birthday, that is, ‘igba odun, odun kan’ literally meaning that 200 years will translate to one year. In effect, Aremo is yet to clock the first year until he makes 200 years. The point being made is that our very dear Aremo will surely live long!

Being the text of a lecture delivered by CHIEF WOLE OLANIPEKUN on 14 July 2017 at Ibara, Abeokuta, Ogun State, to mark the 78th birthday of his Excellency, AREMO OLUSEGUN OSOBA  

Thanks for the audience.

Thank You.

Chief Wole Olanipekun, OFR, SAN, LL.D., FCIArb, FNIALS. Abeokuta, July 14, 2017.

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