THE gathering of all Yoruba speaking people last Thursday in Ibadan, Oyo State capital was unprecedented.
All roads led to the Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasingba where Yoruba sons and daughters from all walks of life converged for Yoruba Summit.
It was an avenue to come up with a standpoint on the growing calls for restructuring.
Indeed, the gathering lived up to its expectation because it attracted Yoruba leaders, governors, former governors, traditional rulers, parliamentarians, Yoruba socio-cultural groups, professional bodies, market leaders, youth groups and friends of the Yoruba nation.
Prominent personalities in attendance include the governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose; Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi II; former governor of Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko; former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel; former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae; Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; Chief Ayo Adebanjo, President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo; former Director General of the Department of State Service, Chief Albert Horsfall; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Sen Babafemi Ojudu; former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; former deputy governor of Lagos State, Sen. Kofoworola Bucknor and former deputy governor of Ogun State, Sen Gbenga Kaka.
Others are founder of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, Dr. Frederick Fasehun; National Coordinator of OPC, Otunba Gani Adams; Chairman of Yoruba Council of Elders, Chief Idowu Sofola, Sen Iyiola Omisore, Archbishop Ladigbolu, Sen Mojisola Akinfenwa, Dr. Doyin Okupe, ex-Senior Special Assistant to former President Goodluck Jonathan; Col Tony Nyiam (retd), Chief Supo Shonibare, Mr Wale Oshun, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, Professor Tunde Adeniran, Orangun of Ila, Oba Wahab Oyedokun, Oba Lekan Balogun, Otun Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Latifu Adebimpe, Ashipa Balogun of Ibadanland, Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, retired archbishop of Methodist Church Nigeria, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi who was represented by Bashorun of Oyo, high Chief Yusuf Ayoola, Mr. Babatunde Oduyoye, AD chieftain and Dr Yemi Farunmbi.
Unfortunately, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and five of the six governors from the region were, absent but the governors sent representatives.
Conspicuously absent were members of the National Assembly from the zone, who failed to send in any representatives.
It was gathered that some of the parliamentarians were not in support of the summit.
Also, ministers from the region, currently serving in President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, stayed away from the summit.
Chairman of the Planning Committee, Dr. Kunle Olajide explained that the governor of Oyo State, Sen Abiola Ajimobi permitted that the stadium be used for the summit at no cost.
It was also gathered that Osun State governor, Rauf Aregbesola, who was in Saudi Arabia for hajj, made regular calls to get updates on the summit.
The summit, which was later dubbed the Ibadan Declaration, was an opportunity for the Yoruba to reaffirm federalism as an effective and functional constitution for a multi-ethnic country like Nigeria.
Instructively, federalism has been the Yoruba position from the 1950 Ibadan conference.
Speakers took turns to air their views on restructuring which has elicited divergent views in the polity.
Sensing the possibility of some speakers engaging in mud sliding and name calling, it was advised that speakers should desist from castigating or casting aspersions on anyone.
Firing the first salvo, eminent legal icon, Chief Afe Babalola, who chaired the gathering said, restructuring would curb over concentration of power in the centre.
He was, however, interrupted by the crowd, who preferred he addressed them in the Yoruba dialect.
The legal luminary continued in his remarks but the moderators were quick to chip in that it was imperative he spoke in English because.
Babalola said:”The agitation for secession is an ill wind that does no good. No matter the motive of the conveners of Berlin Conference, we have lived together for over 100 years having been married by fiat of the Europeans. It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. No woman wants a dissolution of a marriage if the parties live in comfort and are prosperous. It is incumbent on the leaders to make the country so prosperous that nobody would agitate for recession.
Also on the ground was Dr. Awolowo- Dosunmu, one of the daughters of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
She threw her weight behind the zone’s agitation and noted that her father would have been proud of the gathering considering the fact that that it was what he agitated for till his demise.
The presence of the Ooni of Ife also added weight to the summit as he stressed the need for Yoruba leaders and elders to be united noting that it would be beneficial to the younger generation.
The Ife monarch, who addressed the gathering in Yoruba, said: “My counsel is for all of us to be united. If we want to restructure, let us do it with one mind, I want us to consider the future of our youths. With good health, we can get our benefits. I want us to be united in all we are doing. I hope all we are doing is for the benefit of all and not for selfish reasons.”
In his characteristic manner, Fayose blamed the current leaders of the race as being the architects of Yoruba problems.
He also warned that failure to adhere to agitation for restructuring may lead to the agitation for Oduduwa Republic.
Fayose, who spoke in Yoruba bluntly said: “You, our Yoruba leaders are the problems we have. You see those our forefathers like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Samuel Akintola, and others have done their best. It is now left for us to improve on the good legacy they left behind. If a leopard has dogs at its back like soldiers, it will fight and die like dogs. But, if it leads dogs, they would fight together and win. A good leader should be on the side of the majority of people.”
Also, former Aviation Minister, Mr. Fani-Kayode said: “Today’s fight is a real one. They have turned us into slaves in this country. Let us stop pretending. We, Yoruba, are very restrained, civilised, educated, very accommodating and liberal. But sometimes, that is used against us. We knew what happened to Awolowo, what happened to Abiola and Obasanjo when he was there. They brought Sharia, Boko Haram. It’s time for us to think again. We should do restructuring. If they say they don’t want to restructure, then we call for Oduduwa Republic, end of story.”
In his remarks, National Coordinator of the OPC, Otunba Gani Adams said it was imperative for people of the South West to understand what restructuring meant.
The President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nwodo, led a delegation from the South East, which included a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Senator Ike Nwachukwu, and former Minister of Information, Dr. Walter Ofonagoro, among others.
Nwodo, a product of the University of Ibadan, said he was glad to be back home.
He said: “With all humility, I extend the greetings of Ndigbo to Yoruba people. I have come with a very large delegation to emphasise our solidarity with you on this occasion. What is happening shows that democracy has begun to grow in Nigeria. Many people have tried to destroy restructuring and I am saying that it is a ploy by some Nigerians to monopolise the God-given mineral resources in Southern Nigeria. I think those who are doing this do not love Nigeria.”
Chief Albert Horsfall, who represented the South South said: “We of the South South have for several years run the economy of this country. We provided the engine room that runs Nigeria yet we are still expecting to have a privilege to run our own affairs. We do not want federation based on a unitary system. We are not mad. We are agitating for our rights.
Unanimously, it was agreed that there should be a return to the federal system established by the founding fathers of Nigeria in the 1950s.
Moving the motion for adoption of the communique at the forum, legal luminary, Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN) said Nigeria must take urgent steps to restructure the nation.
The communique, presented by Mr. Yinka Odumakin reads: “Yoruba insists that Nigeria must return to a proper federation as obtained in the 1960 and 1963 constitutions. This has been our position since the 1950 Ibadan conference and developments in Nigeria over the last 50 years reinforce our conviction.
‘’The position taken shall form the basis of negotiations with our partners in the Nigerian project for a united Nigeria based on justice, peace, and fair play.
“The greatest imperatives of restructuring Nigeria are to move from a rent-seeking and money sharing to productivity by ensuring that the federating units are free to own and develop their resources. They should pay agreed sums to the federation.