Sovereign National Conference: Yoruba delegates reject provocative and divisive document being pushed by the North

By Kamarudeen Ogundele

Yoruba young delegates from the South-West on Tuesday rejected an "offensive document" circulated by their northern counterparts.

The delegates expressed dismay about the document titled, 'Issues before the northern contingents.'

Rising from an emergency meeting in Abuja, the Yoruba young delegates said the document was "provocative and divisive."

Their spokesperson, Chief Bisi Adegbuyi, said the document was predicated on "assumptions and outright falsehood."

Speaking on Tuesday night, Adegbuyi said the Yoruba might be pushing for a confederal arrangement in Nigeria.

He said, "In the light of what is happening particularly the provocative, highly incendiary and a disuniting document distributed by northern delegates to all the delegates who are working at the committee level, it is important to say that the Yoruba may be pushing for a confederacy in Nigeria.

"This is predicated on assumptions and lies contained in the document."

Adegbuyi said the front page of the document contained a Nigerian map purportedly apportioning 80 percent of the Nigerian land mass to the North while the whole of the South-West, South-East and South-South occupied just 20 percent.

"We have thought that the essence of this conference was to foster unity and find solutions to the problems confronting the Nigerian state.

"It is extremely provocative for the North to be circulating document purporting that the whole of the South does not matter claiming the North is the backbone of Nigeria."

Adegbuyi said events at the committee level showed that any proposal by Yoruba delegates had met stiff resistance "no matter the merit and benefits."

"There is a mindset and collective decision to oppose it," he added.

He said the parliamentary and state police demanded by Yoruba delegates had been opposed by a voice vote as against the rule set for the conference.

Adegbuyi said there were issues coming up that might make the Yoruba young delegates at the conference to take a hard decision.

"Yorubas have never pushed for secession in the Nigerian state, we have always labored for unity. Our leaders, starting from the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was imprisoned, the late M.K.O Abiola that won the presidential election was not allowed to rule and was murdered," he said.

Continuing, he cited Chief Olu Falae, Gen. Alani Akinrinade, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Olaniwun Ajayi, the late Bisi Onabanjo and the late Bola Ige, among Yorubas that had paid heavy sacrifices for the unity of Nigeria.

"We are going to respond to the inaccuracies and sometimes outright falsehood contained in the incendiary document.

"The content of the document is divisive and will likely undermine the search for unity in Nigeria.

"The essence of this conference is to put our heads together and imbibe the spirit of give and take so that we can have a very strong, indivisible and progressive country that will cater to the needs of the people.

"A country that will be safe. A country where school children will not be abducted or kidnapped."

Adegbuyi warned that the incident at the conference might tear the country apart if not immediately addressed.

Recalling that a consensus had been built on devolution of power, he stated that the Committee on Devolution of Power had only been able to remove six of the 68 items on the Exclusive List of the 1999 Constitution.

He said, "The problem with Nigeria is that the center is by far too strong. If we don't devolve power as agreed upon, that means this conference might turn out to be a waste of time."

He stated that about 70 percent of Nigerians that submitted memorandum asked for restructuring in governance.

"The committee on restructuring have retained the existing 36 states as the federating units. Are we in anyway restructuring Nigeria by that?" he queried.

He said the conference must consider devolution of power and state police as a minimum irreducible condition.

He asked, "If we can't achieve state police, we can't achieve fiscal federalism, devolution of power, restructuring of Nigeria, then why are we at the conference?"

Calling for regionalism, he said the presidential system currently being practiced in Nigeria encourages corruption and impunity.

"Regionalism is very crucial to us. If some parts of the country don't want regionalism, those of us that want it should be allowed to pursue it.

"We demand for self- determination within Nigeria. Failure to do this, the Yoruba nation would push for self determination.

"We don't want Nigeria to take us back, we have suffered enough. We will push for the right of people to secede from Nigeria if they so desire because if people don't have their wishes and aspirations met, they have the right to pull out. The United Nations guarantees that."