By Kayode Ajulo
*IT IS DEAD ON ARRIVAL,
*IT LACKS NATIONALISTIC FLAVOUR
*IT IS THE ABURI ACCORD IN DISGUISE
*SECCESSION IS THEREFORE IMMINENT-
Zik: “Let us forget our differences….”
Ahmadu Bello~ "No, let us understand our differences. I am a Muslim and a Northerner. You are a Christian, an Easterner. By understanding our differences, we can build unity in our country.”
One reads with shock and dismay the position of the recently constituted the Yoruba Group named Yoruba Assembly on the National Conference.
I am further bewildered when one considers the galaxy of brains and personalities that make up the Assembly vis-a-vis the contradictory, unpopular and unworkable positions adopted to be canvassed for at the National Conference which is expected to start next month.
The Assembly made up of various Yoruba groups, which were previously working at cross roads dwelled on the right to secession and also agreed to maintain a six regional state structure with some boundary adjustments to accommodate persons of Ekiti stock in Kwara State to join Ekiti State, while those who are of Igbomina and Ibolo stock in Kwara State are to join Osun State.
Among others, the British parliamentary system of government was recommended.
The Assembly rightly agreed that the devolution of power from the centre to the federating units, while resource control and revenue allocation should be reviewed in accordance with the devolution of power.
The Assembly further agreed that derivation should be based on the total revenue accruable to the Federation Account and not on a single product as it is currently practiced.
On the issue of immunity for elected officials, the Yoruba leaders opined that immunity should be limited to civil cases only: “Where a prima facie criminal case is established against an elected officer by a court of competent jurisdiction, such officer shall vacate office during the trial,” the group said.
The body also advocated regional police with clearly defined roles and relationships with the federal police, while defence will remain with the central government. But military commands, which are to consist mainly of indigenes of the region, will be headed by the indigenes of the region.
Having briefly summarized the key positions in the preceding paragraphs, I beg to take the following critical stance as most of the issues as resolved above and adopted, to say the least, will not fly at the National Conference in Abuja. They are in the Nigerian context, dead on arrival, and as such will not get across the Lokoja end of the River Niger on its way to Abuja for consideration.
In holding this opinion, I speak as Citizen Olukayode Ajulo a Yoruba from the South West of Nigeria who has in the past 25 years lived in the North, (North East, North West and North Central) and the South (South South and South East) and whose inalienable right to speak out is guaranteed by our extant Constitution as amended and other statutes of the realm.
Also, as someone who has followed among others, the late Premier Ahmadu Bello's wise counsel, that we need not forget our differences but should understand them to build a united Nigeria. I speak too as a member of Afenifere and as someone in an opportune position to have an idea of the position of the other 35 States and FCT.
The Yorubas need not hide behind one finger while our body is exposed to all. A partisan and parochial position on an issue such as defence and military commands would mean that instead of bringing proposals that are forging Nigeria ahead in terms of a united and nationalistic agenda, we are receding backwards into ethno-centric, rationalistic and divisive formulae in key policy areas.
Yorubas and other ethnic nationalities need to understand the modalities of the Conference before throwing punches as resolutions can only be arrived at by consensus or by 75% majority within a national platform.
It is against this background that late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the undisputable and authentic Asiwaju of the Yorubas subscribed to the Presidential System against the Parliamentary system presently canvassed by the Yoruba Assembly. It is a well-known fact that Chief Awolowo further did make efforts (twice) to rule the Country under the presidential arrangement.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo fully supports Federalism with devolution of powers to the component states against the Regionalism which will only lead to Confederacy in our polity.
I cannot imagine how Nigeria, with such a huge population and low level of development could be better administered under a confederacy, as opposed to the Federalism ( skewed as it may be), which we practice at the moment. If we consider the sheer size of our population, the geographical spread, our cultural and religious diversity, our varied languages and traditions, common sense dictates that we agree that True federalism (to be evolved within a period of time) is the most viable and less contentious system of government that can best satisfy the peculiarities of this great nation. This will make it easier to harness our great human resources, easy administration of government, and would also ensure the protection of our unity in spite of our diversity through component states. The clamour for autonomy in the area of resource control and administration is a yearning that will be satisfied over time as true federalism evolves.
The only thing that is absent in harnessing the strength of this conceptualization is the existing faulty structures. Without a doubt, Federalism as it is presently being practiced in Nigeria is not the ideal but it is our submission that if some key faulty structures like lack of State Police, the Judiciary, the oppressive legislative lists, the huge Federal strength are dealt with, then Nigeria will be on its way to a truly federal nation and fiscal autonomy will be achieved in due course.
Until the situation in the faulty structure is repaired and brought in line with the conceptualisation of a true federalism then our case will continue to be that of the proverbial case of a bad workman quarrelling with his tools.
In a Research conducted by Egalitarian Mission for Africa under my supervision, the following were developed, upon their findings, as the immense benefits that may be derived in a true federal state of Nigeria:
I. Federalism in Nigeria will aid sound decisions and policies because of commitment to their autonomy, challenge of survival and development election, policing, developing natural resources.
II. Federalism will aid advancement in technology and human resources as states will compete for their individual progress.
III. Federalism will relieve the federal government of burdens and government will be more focused where it is most needed.
IV. Federalism in Nigeria will help to cushion the effects of bad government policies felt nationwide with serious impact on the economy as against a bad policy of a state which will be felt only in that state without much implication to the nation.
V. Federalism in Nigeria will foster for diverse and pace development according to component state capacity and commitments – a state that want to grow and develop will do and those that want to lack behind will do to their own detriments without shifting blames to Federal government. This will create a state of responsibility born out of autonomy.
VI. Federalism in Nigeria will make the Federal Government to be more focus in administering the country externally while component states take charged of internal administration of government. This division in task and administration will aid speedy development through quality policies in the administration of government in general.
VII. Federalism in Nigeria should be seen to operate as ‘’separation of duties as against separation of powers and the federal government will not have to fear of losing its sovereignty to states because the ultimate powers of coercion and engagement will still be vested in the Federal government in the area of defence, Law making, the supreme court decision will continue to override those of component states and the federal government will continue to formulate policies for the federation.
A cosmic look at the positions adopted by the Yoruba Assembly will reveal that what they are calling for in essence is the return of the Aburi Accord and Araba slogan of the 60’s.
Yorubas without a doubt, are a principled, educated, sociable, straight forward and sophisticated people, but with due respect, it is sad to note that these positions are too egoistic, ego-centric, partisan and utopian which are not practicable in the present Nigerian polity.
Imagine the adoption of the Parliamentary System in Nigeria and its attendant serial "votes of no confidence" on the government of the day engineered by corrupt super-humans and money-bags that are in abundance in Nigeria. Imagine also the removal of the immunity clause for criminal offences and asking a sitting Sovereign to step aside in the event of any criminal proceedings against their persons. Pray tell me, what do they plan to do about the mischief makers and nay-sayers who would constitute themselves into a malignant opposition to any government in power? It is no gain saying that certain criminal minded elements of the opposition will go to any length to unseat any government if given the chance including fabrication of spurious, untrue and unfounded criminal allegation against the incumbent.
Such provisions as stated above would lead to a high turnover of heads of government that would make Nigeria a laughing stock of a banana republic.
Let it be known that three months is too short for any tangible surgical operation on Nigeria's political structure. Certainly we cannot use the conference to achieve all that we want but we should look for the common agitations of the states and be ready to enter into negotiation with other groups that make up the heterogeneity that is Nigeria. Then, we should go for the win-win situation to move Nigeria forward.
Let it also be known that the Yorubas are not the only ethnic nation going for the negotiations at the National Conference, hence there is no need to be parochial.we therefore need to be sensitive and look out for the positions of others.
Finally, whose Yoruba's Agenda are these so called Assembly pursuing?
Yoruba Ronu o.
(Ajulo is an Attorney-at-law and Chairman, Egalitarian Mission for Africa (EMA))