The Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), a faction of Afenifere, Yoruba socio-cultural organisation has said that South-West played a significant role in keeping Nigerians united.
While Speaking in Ibadan, the Oyo capital, during a summit on ‘Yoruba nation’ chairman of the ARG, Wale Oshun, said the country is at a crossroads, and the federal government needs to consult the Yoruba on ways to move the country forward through a review of the constitution.
According to him, the 1999 constitution needs to be reviewed to make provisions for federating units, rather than a federal government at the centre.
“Nigeria is at a crossroads, and we the Yoruba people have always bear the brunt and burden of nationhood. And we are paying a disproportionate price for keeping the country united, and we think that there is a need now to start introspecting, listening to the voices of the ordinary Yoruba persons on what they ordinarily want in Nigeria. Is it being part of the country or not?” Oshun queried.
“What would they like to see as changes because the present constitution cannot sustain any development mode. So, is it restructuring? But you also realise that people have also been advocating for restructuring since 1992. So, people are now saying 29 years down the line, what is the sense in keeping and asking for the same thing that nobody is listening to?
“So, we want to find out among ourselves, ‘what is the way forward? And as you can see from the interactions that we are actually at a crossroads. But something will emerge and an idea will evolve.
“You look at great countries where you have multi-nationalities. What you see is that unless the issue of federation is settled and settled equitably, where it is not settled equitably, a price has to be paid.
“I don’t think anybody in his right sense will say what we need to continue to do is to continue in perpetuity to be paying a price of inequality and underdevelopment.
“Why are people running away from having a constitutional dialogue with their fellow Nigerians? Why is the north insisting that it does not need to talk to anybody anymore?
“One thing is clear; Yorubas, as a people, as a race, have always being fair-minded people, tolerant and willing to co-exist.
“We can go back to the pre-independence constitution of 1959, wherein what we had was a true federation, in which it is not a question of devolution of power but a question of the federation units donating parts of their powers to the centre — federating units exploiting resources in their backyards and paying taxes to the centre.
“If we have got to a situation that the centre makes all money, takes all the money and then allocate to the federation units, it is inequitable.”
At the summit, Lai Olurode, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), opposed the calls for secession by some groups in Nigeria, saying the nation is stronger as a unit.
In his remarks, Kunle Olajide, secretary-general of Yoruba Council of Elders, said Yoruba youths are being wrongly led to believe that the time to secede is now.
“For me, I believe this country can still be salvaged. Yorubas as an ethnic group have made the largest investment in the Nigerian nation — largest investment both in human and material resources. Therefore, we must not allow anybody to allow our youths to commit mass suicide.
“We feel for our children and we know that the future appears bleak for them, but it is better to have a fairly bleak future because one can always have other hope in the future rather than to be crushed with bombs and so on.”