Firstly, we would love to register our profound joy and satisfaction that the conference is being accepted and viewed as a big opportunity for the various nationalities that make the Nigerian nation to meet, discuss and find the way forward for our dear country
We, members of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), a Yoruba socio-cultural and self-determination group, with members all over Nigeria and in the Diaspora, who are very dedicated to the unity, welfare, progress and prosperity of the Yoruba Nation, wholeheartedly welcome and support the opportunity provided by the convocation of a National Confab for the nationalities that make up the Nigeria nation. We believe strongly that if it is well handled it has the potential to correct all the anomalies that presently exist in the country.
Firstly, we would love to register our profound joy and satisfaction that the conference is being accepted and viewed as a big opportunity for the various nationalities that make the Nigerian nation to meet, discuss and find the way forward for our dear country.
While we have continued to view with every sense of caution the varying suggestions, thoughts, opinions and proposals being forwarded to the Dr. Femi Okurounmu-led National Conference Advisory Committee, we hereby urge other groups and nationalities who are yet to respond to do so now, as this is a rare opportunity for all of us display our often professed love and loyalty to fatherland.
Having said this, we want to note it that it is very expedient for all the people of Yoruba nation to ensure that never again would the sons and daughters of Oduduwa be relegated to the background in the scheme of things in the Nigerian federation. And for this reason, it is important that all Yoruba leaders and people in the states of the Southwest, comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States and Kwara, Kogi , Delta and Edo States join hands and form a united front in their proposals, position and demands before the National Conference.
As earlier stated, we are satisfied with the reactions that have greeted the idea. We are also sure and emphatic in our belief that the Conference will attempt to find solutions to the myriads of problems that have stunted the growth of Nigeria. However, we insist that the National Conference must comprise all the nationalities that make up the Nigerian federation. In that regard, we urge and appeal to the National Conference Advisory Committee to put in place machineries that will ensure that no nationality, group or stakeholder is left out of the Conference. Again we reiterate our belief that the National Conference we go a long way to fill the seeming gulf that has made Nigerians to see themselves as one people.
It is imperative at this juncture to delve a little bit into the history of Nigeria and its people. The different nationalities that make up the Nigerian federation had existed as independent and sovereign nations long before the arrival of the British. But their arrival, subjugation of the various nationalities and the forced marriage of the different nationalities into one country called Nigeria marked the beginning of a systemic and gradual loss of the identity and sovereignty of the various nationalities. Prior to this time, each of the nationalities had its own inalienable rights to its homeland. And we make bold to state that those inalienable rights remained while the British ruled us and even after they had long been gone. It was this singular factor that was responsible for the great progress and development that the Western Region experienced in the first republic because the leaders of the period worked believing that they were developing
their homeland. Unfortunately, subsequent administrations, especially after independence, and with the connivance of the British, have worked towards ensuring that those inalienable rights of the different nationalities are taken away, resulting in a gradual but sure degeneration of the different nationalities until they began to exist only in the minds of the people. To have their way, power was concentrated at the centre, leaving the regions, which originally comprises the different nationalities to become mere appendage that must go cap in hand every time to beg for funds from the almighty Federal Government.
It would be foolhardy for us to quickly forget or to drag under the carpet the fact that the deliberate effort to concentrate power at the centre has relegated the nationalities to the background has robbed Nigeria of the golden opportunity to fulfill its God-endowed potentials as a country that is richly blessed with both human and natural resources. But the damage did not stop there, as it has also resulted in a system of organized crime and deep-seated corruption that have left Nigerians at the mercy of handouts from an overtly corrupt government at the centre. As a result of this, Nigeria has become a reference point in matters of frauds, lawlessness, kidnappings, armed robberies and ineptitude all over the world. And to cap all of these, Nigeria is gradually becoming one of the most unsafe places in the face of the earth. It is more worrisome because all these are happening in peace-time. Every day, there is fear of religious and inter-ethnic clash
everywhere, with the resultant result that Nigerians in the Diaspora no longer have the confidence to come home, preferring to stay back and invest in their various country of residence. But we believe that a National Conference by all the nationalities that make up Nigeria can find a lasting solution to all these seeming intractable problems, and once again make Nigeria the envy of other nations across the world, a nation where things work, a nation we can all call our own.
B. CALL FOR A FEDERATION WITH A LOOSE CENTRE
i. Practicable Federating Units
Be reminded that long before Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the Yoruba nation had always been in the forefront of the search for a workable roadmap that would make the emerging federation a strong, prosperous and united one.
The then leading organization of the Yoruba nation, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa was not left out of the search for the best system. In 1949, the Egbe Omo Oduduwa came up with a position in a paper that has widely been regarded as the most realistic blueprint for a stable, strong and united Nigerian federation. More than six decades after, several attempts have been made to have a blueprint that can ensure the unity and development of the country, but with little or no success.
The most recent attempt was made in 2005 when the President Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration convened what it tagged a ‘Political Reform Conference’. And like in previous conferences, Yoruba people of diverse political and professional backgrounds stood to be counted in their presentations, all with the sole aim of working out the best formula on how the various nationalities that make up the Nigerian federation can live together as one united people.
At this juncture, let us state it clearly that the Yoruba nation, like in the past, requests a Nigerian federation in which the different ethnic nationalities, irrespective of size, would be given adequate recognition in the constitution. We want a Nigerian federation where justice and fair play shall be the bedrock of our constitution and existence irrespective of ethnic nationality, religious or professional background.
It should, however, be noted that our stand is based on our belief that a federation with a loose centre will not only resolve the ‘do or die’ war of attrition among our politicians in the battle to capture power at the centre, but will also go a long way to avail each of the nationality that make up the federation the opportunity to manage whatever resources, both human and natural, in their homeland and to develop at their own pace without any hindrance from other nationalities, as witnessed between 1952 and 1960.
We therefore propose a rational federation based on the nationalities, respecting the integrity of each nationality, and preserving each nationality intact in the state to which it belongs. To this end, we propose the following order of federating units in the Nigerian Federation – a total of six regions based on the current six geo-political zones:
The six regions shall consist of the following:
• SOUTH EAST (Comprising Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia states.
• SOUTH SOUTH (Comprising Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross-River and Akwa-Ibom states
• SOUTH WEST (Comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, parts of Kwara and Kogi states
• NORTH CENTRAL (Comprising Plateau, Nassarawa, Benue, Niger, F.C.T and parts of Kwara and Kogi states
• NORTH EAST (Comprising Taraba, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe states
• NORTH WEST (Comprising Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano and Jigawa states
ii. Devolution of Power in the Nigerian Federation
The other facet of the principle of rational federation demands that the excessive powers taken away from the federating units of the Nigerian federation and loaded onto the Federal Government by the successive military dictatorships (from 1966 to 1998) should be reviewed.
1. We need to give back to the federating units of the Nigerian Federation the powers that the Regions had at independence in 1960.
2. We need give back to the federating units the duty of developing at their own pace as this will engender positive competition among them. In fact we should know that no federal government anywhere in the world can develop all regions and localities of its country. We need to return our federation to the kind of internal balance of powers and responsibilities that it had by 1960.
3. We need to make the Local Governments of each federating unit part of the development machinery of its federating unit again – as it was in 1952-66.
4. We must equip the government of each federating unit with its own internal security and police system.
5. We need to review resource control and revenue allocation systems to harmonize with the share of powers and responsibilities in the federation.
6. We need to eliminate by law the power, hitherto exercised by the Federal Government, to interfere with the legitimate functioning of the authorities of the federating units or to declare emergencies in the federating units, suspend their governments and appoint emergency administrators over them. 7. Each Federating Unit shall make its own constitution.
8. Elections to the governments of each Federating Unit and its Local Governments shall be the responsibility of the electoral body established by the constitution of the Federating Unit.
iii. System of Government.
In the more than five decades of our nationhood, Nigerians have gone through two different systems of government, starting off with the British-styled Parliamentary System in 1952. For example, in the case of the Nigerian House of Representatives, elected parliamentarians will go on to elect the Prime Minister on the floor of the parliament, while in the case of the Regional or State House of Assembly, elected Parliamentarians elect the Premier. The Prime Minister or Premier then nominates his ministers from among his colleagues in the parliament. The simple logic in the system that both the Prime Minster and Premier are mere ‘First among Equals’, ensuring a solid mutual respect between the Prime Minister/Premier and other Parliamentarians. On the other hand, under the American-styled Presidential system of government, the President, as presently practiced in Nigeria, is an all-powerful god, leaving the ministers and other elected officers at his
whims and caprices.
The differences between these two systems are glaring. For example, in the parliamentary system, the Council of Ministers considers and approves the plans and programmes of each minister, making sure that each programme serves the overall interest of all the stakeholders. Also, the ministers in a Parliamentary system of government are viewed as having a ‘Collective Responsibilities’, a situation that ensures that if one minister fails, the entire government has failed, and must go. Whereas, in a presidential system, the activities of each minister can only be controlled by one person- Mr. President, who often than not is seen as being above the law and every other person. Hence, the Yoruba refers to the President as ‘Apasewaa’ (one who decrees with ferocious authority).
You will recall that the descent into the abyss of authoritarianism began in Nigeria in 1966 after the military took over power. And it continued to get worse steadily with each successive military administration. It is therefore not surprising that an attempt by Nigerians, under a heavily-influenced military government to choose a system of government for the country in the second republic, opted for the very expensive American-styled Presidential system.
The resultant effect of the system on the polity has been that our politics has been monetized, making the political process, with countrywide political campaigns very expensive. Little wonder that our politicians now go to the banks to get loans with which to prosecute elections, leaving them with no other option than to steal as much as they can lay their hands on the moment they get into office.
The huge capital involved in elections in Nigeria has also ensured that elected officers like the Presidents, Governors and legislators in both the National Assembly and State Assemblies see themselves as investors in a business venture who must recoup their investment at all cost, thereby leading to corruption and ineptitude in governance instead of serving the people.
On the whole, the expensive Presidential system of government has contributed in no small measure to the destruction of quality of governance in the country.
With the foregoing, we hereby propose that the Nigerian federation be restructured and returned to a parliamentary system, with a loose centre and a federating units that would be responsible for making its own constitution as they find fit for their culture and tradition. For instance, the contentious issue of religious laws, like the Sharia law, mostly suitable for Muslim-dominated North, would be resolved.
C. MODALITIES OF THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE
i. Selection of Nationalities’ Delegations
Each of the ethnic nationalities that make up the Nigerian federation has its own distinct culture and tradition, which largely form the basis of their existence as human beings. Therefore, we are of the opinion that it is be wrong and awkward to lump all the nationalities into one single uniformed mode of election.
ii. Production and Submission of Nationalities’ Positions
Concerning the production of the position papers of each nationality, we propose the same procedure that we propose above for the selection of delegations. It will be recalled that in 2005, the Yoruba position presentation to the Obasanjo Political Reform Conference was produced by Yoruba leaders of various political affiliations and persuasions working together. The same can, and will, happen for the Yoruba nation for the current Conference, and should happen for all the other nationalities too.
iii. Duration of Conference
The processes of the National Conference started from the day President Jonathan swore in the Okurounmu Committee. From that date, the Conference should complete its work in not more than five months. This should consist of one month for the Committee to do the preparations, and four months for the Conference to meet and produce the draft constitution for Nigeria.
iv. Payment of the delegates
The conference is called by the Federal Government. Therefore, it should pick the bills for the payment of emoluments for the delegates as it deems fit, and also ensure that a suitable atmosphere is put in place for proper and useful deliberations.
iv. Final Report
The work of the National Conference should be deemed completed after the Conference has produced a Draft Constitution. The Conference should pass a resolution making the result of the Conference a sovereign decision. Such a procedure would affirm and underline the sovereignty of the nationalities and of their Conference. The Constitution should then pass through the same process as the 1963 Republican Constitution – which would involve passage by the National Assembly and proclamation by the President of Nigeria.
This position of the Oodua Peoples Congress was signed by Otunba (Dr.) Gani Adams, National Coordinator; Lasun Ogunfowokan, Geneal Secretary; and Mudashiru Habeeb , National Treasurer.