A teleconference meeting of members of Yoruba nation in diaspora was hosted by the Ekiti Focus Group,USA on Sunday, November 4, 2012. In attendance as guest speaker was Mr. Yinka Odumakin, a prominent Yoruba patriot, and Nigerian nationalist; , Professor Banji Akintoye a prominent Chief Obafemi Awolowo lieutenant and Pan Yoruba patriot, along with eminent and patrioticYoruba in diaspora.
The meeting was called to further inform members ofthe Yoruba in diaspora with the current status of the Yoruba nation and what rolesand options are available to the Yoruba in diaspora in moving the Yoruba nationforward.
Mr. Odumakin briefed the group about the current state of the Yoruba nation politically, structurally and culturally. He addressed the need for the Yoruba nation to look inward and to fine-tune strategies to restore the “ancient landmarks” which ourfathers haves set especially at this time when the Yoruba race as seemingly receded into the background of political and developmental relevance in the scheme of things in Nigeria. Mr Odumakin expressed disappointment that 14 years of civil rule in Nigeria probably accelerated the increase in poverty among Yoruba people and at a rate that has never been experienced before, even though the poorest state in the region is richer than some West African countries. He therefore challenged the participants to come up with ways of re-assessing the state of affairs in the region within the context of the struggle for political freedom and economic emancipation. In that wise, he alluded to a statement made by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his last visit to Ibadan before his death in 1987 that “obetiase, kosie ni to ma gbeka’na” literarily interpreted as the lackof people to maintain the standards set. Mr Odumakin further stated that historically among the Yoruba,power resided with the people and not politicians and stated the imperativeness of having a system in place to monitor and evaluate the performance of Yoruba politicians for good governance. He also suggested the need for the Yoruba nation to ensure that educated professionals are at the helm of affairs. Having the best to represent us politically is necessary in order to preventthe growing influence of ‘political leaders without pedigree, credentials, and/or commitment to Awo’sidealsand traditions’. He further averred that it is important for the followers to ask questions from time to time and that leadership must be demonstrated by examples and not by dictates and nepotism, in order to check the growing intolerance being presently exhibited by Yoruba politicians.
The Yoruba nation, being a free market place ofideas should engage leadership at all levels, and the best and brightest should be allowed to express themselves at all levels, by politicians regardless of the political party and affiliations of the leaders. He stated the need to ensure issues of development in the region are not politicized and the Yoruba people should be ableto prove to those that desire to lead them, that they do not worship individuals and/or money. He concluded his address by stating his desire to rub minds with the people in diaspora in order to get everybody apprised and informed from time to time.
Mr Odumakin emphasized the need for probity, as well as the need toask questions to ensure that leadership issues in the race are not based on who you know; god-fatherism or money. He believed that taking these steps will ensure that the right people aspire to, and become leaders in the Yoruba nation.
On the issue of regional integration, Mr Odumakin stated the need for itand that the region need not have a single party for integration to take place. He gave the examples of the South South, SouthEast and North in Nigeria where the Governors do not all belong to the same political party but still meet and provide leadership to meet the needs of the people at the regional level. He said that the most important thing is for the leaders to provide services that meet the yearnings of the people at the regional level regardless of party affiliation. He mentioned past attempts at integration where late Professor OlikoyeRansomeKutiand Professor Wale Omole headed committees on Health and Agriculture respectively. However, the papers they wrote were not implemented. In answer to a question from the teleconference, he stated that the first shot at integration was mooted by GovernorMimiko himself when GovernorsAregbesola and Fayemi visited him. He personally believes that Dr Mimiko supports regional integration as long as it is not hijacked for personal and political aggrandisement. .
In response to questions about the assessment of the current leadership in the states in the region, while he claimed there is not yet enough time to evaluate Osun, Oyo and Ogungovernors in the current dispensation, he mentioned Mr Fashola’s and Mimiko’sachievements in education, urban-renewal, health-care etc. He further cited the model schools in Ondostate whichhe described as “World class” and that the idea was to make schools attractive to students to attend. He also quoted figures on the percentage of students that passed WAEC with 5 credits including English and Math in both Lagos and Ondo states vis-a-vis student enrolment in public schools in both states and found Ondo better. He also stated plans by the Governors of Osun and Oyo states on health care which he described as commendable and should be areas where integration and common interests should be shared.
Mr Odumakin affirmed to the group about the need to build the Yoruba nation, and this should be of greater concern before the question of building Nigeria. A sick Yoruba nation will not be in a position to heal a sick Nigeria nation. He talked on the need to first build Yoruba solidarity in order to negotiate the Nigerian unity since the Nigerian project is a more complex issue. He also gave an example of how the minority leader in ACN, was picked from the home state of the Senate President when there was a more qualified person in the person of SenatorGaniyu Solomon.
Professor BanjiAkintoyebriefed the group about the political history of the Yoruba nation,and related it to the current status of the Yoruba nation today. He highlighted the characteristics of the Yoruba as seen through the prism of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his lieutenants. These characterizations are as follows:
1. Respect: Yoruba want to be respected and anyone that would aspire to lead them must respect the Yoruba people. If the Yoruba people observed that they are being disrespected, they always fight back to the chagrin of the “lords.”
2. Organization: Yoruba people are very organized and they always appreciate good organization.This was one of the attributes that put Action Group, and later the UPN at advantage over other political parties in the region.
3. Achievement Oriented (Visionary): Yoruba people are achievers and they only appreciate any leader that set up goals for them to aspire.
4. Principle: Yoruba are principled people and desire principled and loyal leadership.
Professor Akintoye concluded that the current leadership at all levels of governance are more interested in their personal interest rather than the common interest of the Yoruba race.
Need for continuous healthy debate about the status of the Yoruba nation.
Continuous open line of communication between the Yoruba people in Nigeria and diaspora. This should include the development of framework to evolve collaboration between Yoruba people in the homeland and those in diaspora in order to build consensus for the Yoruba nation.
Encourage the Yoruba leadership at home and abroad to unite behind the leadership of Afenifere under Pa Fasoranti to allow for continuity and transfer of mantle whenever such time arises to the appropriate leadership.
Yoruba as a nation should use Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s four cardinal ideals (Respectful Leadership; Good Organization; Achievements Oriented; and Principle) in picking and rallying around their leaders.
There is a need for integration of the region, and it is the opinion of the group that the current DAWN put more emphasis on development based on past ideas and capabilities rather than available present and future concept and technological knowhow.
It is imperative to always get the best candidates from the region contesting and contending for political power by liberalizing the political space and developing a strong multi-party system in the Yoruba nation in order to increase competition.
There is a need to articulate the main Yoruba agenda, which is the restructuring of the country into true federalism and this should be the single most important agenda for any would be Yoruba leader. This should always be the deal breaker for any Yoruba collaboration with any group in the formation of government in the country.
Efforts should be made to re-orientate the Yoruba youth towards the importance of indigenous Yoruba norms and culture which is based on the “Omoluabi”— Good character based on “Charity begins at home concept.”
Kola Onifade (USA)
Akin Babatola (USA)
Debo Awosika (USA)
Jide Akinola (USA)
Sam Ola Rotimi (USA)
Adebayo Adejuwon (CANADA)
Taiwo Soetan (CANADA)
Mike Akinola (USA)
Daniel Adeleye (USA)
Tolu Olugbamila (USA)
Samuel Ayodele (USA)