Reflections on 64 years after the Western Region Self-Government attained on August 08, 1957
August 08 is the 64th anniversary of the attainment of self-government in Western Nigeria comprising Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Edo and Delta States. In this piece made available to Irohinoodua, The Referendum Committee reflects on the gains of the past, loss of the moment and future expectations.
August 8, 2021, marks the 64th Anniversary of the attainment of Self- Government by the Western Region which was the high-point of Yoruba intervention in the Independence struggles.
It will be correct to categorically state that we are all conversant with the current situation in Nigeria, regardless of how it is presented; we will therefore skip the details and launch into providing the answer to the question posed by the theme of this Press Statement which we proceed to do as follows:
- The Yoruba are a Nation by all available metrics and can therefore neither be turned into an expectation nor treated as non-existent. The same applies to all other Nations or Nationalities in Nigeria and this reality simply calls forth the nature of Governance for the various Peoples. This is the reason the Yoruba Referendum Committee is advocating for a MULTI-NATIONAL STATE to replace the current Nation-State paradigm, with the Switzerland Example of a Multi-National State, despite her coming into being within the European Nation-State experience.
- The perennial crisis of the Nigerian State is the consequence of the “Nation-State” paradigm where controlling the Center by a Nationality becomes the focus of political and electoral contestation, often characterized as “Zoning” or “rotation”, mainly of the Presidency, whose aim is only to ensure the dominance of one Hegemony or the other, which further entrenches inter-Nationality conflicts, and which has now reached its apogee with the Buhari Presidency.
- An ALTERNATIVE must therefore be established to address this continuing phenomenon as Nigeria cannot continue to do the same things repeatedly while expecting different results. This is also necessary lest Nigeria falls into the category of those who fail to learn from history, hence are doomed to repeating it.
- It is within this context that the YORUBA REFERENDUM COMMITTEE has redefined Nigeria as: “A Federal Nigeria, through a valid Federal Constitution, to be known as The Union of Nigerian Constituent Nationalities, with a Federal Presidential Council, whose members will be selected or elected from each of the Nationalities as Federating Units and from whom a Head of State will be selected or elected as the primus-inter-pares with an agreed term.” This, we believe will resolve the question of Hegemonic contests for controlling Nigeria.
- To achieve this objective, the YORUBA REFERENDUM COMMITTEE states, categorically, that ONLY the YORUBA REFERENDUM as we are canvassing will prepare the ground as well as serving the Yoruba Quest, for the following reasons: (i) the quest for Self-Determination and the right to its pursuit must start from the initiative of the oppressed entity without which such a right may not only be susceptible to manipulation by various forces but also implying a tacit vote of no confidence in their ability to organize themselves for their quest thereby vitiating such a right, ab initio, even if it is not apparent(ii) From this, it follows that the United Nations cannot be the first port of call, more so when the UK, a Permanent Member of its Security Council with a Veto Power is embroiled in agitations for Self-Determination from within.(iii) Beyond this, we must avoid conflating expressed or implied opposition to the Buhari Regime by any Western country or International Agency as an endorsement of Nigeria’s break-up or Self-Determination of any of the Nations within Nigeria. (iv) Therefore, our first task is to take our quest from the realm of “reasoning” onto the level of practical politics which is the only way to engage the International Community as we can see from the examples of Scotland and Catalonia. (v) This mandates the identification of the necessary social and political forces that will make this possible and which will guarantee possible international support. (vi) There are four such broad categories of forces in Yorubaland today, namely, the Chiefs/Obas/Elders, the “youths”, the intellectuals/Middle class, and the political leadership, each of which has its role to play, singly or in combination, on any issue concerning Yorubaland. (vii) There must be, within this classification, a driver of any process, and which must be anchored on a predetermined pathway, around which all actions must revolve. (viii) Whichever way Nigeria is characterized, the reality is that the control of the Central State Apparatus, that is, the Executive, Judiciary, the Legislature, and the Security Services is the driving force of Nigerian political leadership. (ix) The Yoruba, since the earliest period of the anti-colonial struggles, had never embarked on a Yoruba Hegemonic pursuit, rather it advocated for equal representation of the Peoples through the creation of more Regions to accommodate the Minorities and which laid the basis for our victimization, even when we had titular representation as Head of State or President. (x) Therefore, it is imperative for us, as victims of this Central State and any Hegemony controlling it, to ensure the denial of its perpetuity in its structure and conduct. (xi) This Central State, despite its flawed validity, enjoys a Legitimacy accorded it by the quest for order and stability by the International Community, hence the economic and political support it receives. (xii) Our quest must therefore counter this Legitimacy, hence our call for a Yoruba Referendum to be organized and conducted by the Yoruba States Houses of Assembly, since it is a part of the political leadership, a major component of one of the four broad categories of forces in Yorubaland, which will further establish the Legitimacy of our quest.(xiii) This also assures our Yoruba kin in Kwara and Kogi states that we are aware of their own demands for a REFERENDUM to choose where they want to belong.
- The “Omoluwabi Ethos” demands that our quest must be situated within our Cultural matrix, which is coded in the aphorism, to wit: “our heads cannot be shaved in our absence”(the essence of Independence from colonial rule) the negation of which has characterized our experience within the Nigerian Post-Colonial State, and which is now being further promoted by the recent engagement of our Governors and Attorneys-General with the SW Caucus of the National Assembly as part of the Constitutional Review objectives of the National Assembly.
- The Yoruba Referendum Committee makes bold to state that, although the Governors and National Assembly members from the SW were elected by Yoruba people, the political party formations which engendered their candidacy did not and still do not represent Yoruba aspirations. Rather, the formation, registration, and regularization of the political parties was and still is dependent on factors outside of the purview, experiences, and aspirations of the Peoples in Nigeria and which has propelled a quest for Hegemonic control of the political construct of the Nigerian State. To drive this point home, there is absolutely no reason for a Political Party contesting elections in Lagos, Yorubaland to have offices in Sokoto or Port Harcourt.
- Therefore, when our Governors and Attorneys-General embarked on this engagement with the SW Caucus of the National Assembly, our expectation was that it will be based on a corresponding input from the Constituents; that is, the Yoruba People in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti States as well as the Yoruba in Kogi and Kwara States, who have been continuously denied their aspirations by the Nigerian Post-Colonial State.
- Our Governors and Yoruba members of the National Assembly must therefore endeavor to answer the yearnings of Yoruba People because their call for “True Federalism” must be based on the TRUE REFLECTION of the wishes and aspirations of the People they represent.
- The SELF-EVIDENT TRUTH (which the Yoruba refer to as “aarun oju”) is that all of Nigeria’s Constitutions since 1979 shaved our heads in our absence; the main reason for the societal dysfunction being experienced in Nigeria and the only way to remedy the situation is for the Yoruba Nation and People to, in a REFERENDUM WITHIN YORUBALAND, determine the framework for their aspirations and self-actualization which then become the foundation for the TRUE FEDERALISM being advanced by the SW APC and our Governors.
- Asking us to look forward to some legislation or Constitutional Amendment from the National Assembly towards True Federalism will be waving a flag at the problem; for, the current Constitution they seek to amend is the problem that must be resolved.
- The National Assembly’s pursuit of a “Constitutional Review” denies the faulty foundation of the 1999 Constitution; it is an attempt at filibustering the quest for True Federalism; grab domestic and international headlines, while promoting itself as “representatives of the Nigerian People.”
- The process of amending the 1999 Constitution abridges the right of Self-Determination or Autonomy and therefore True Federalism in that the required concurrence of 24 states already denies Self-Determination, for, these states may or may not share similar existential or administrative prerogatives.
- The Yoruba Referendum Committee initiated a Petition directed at our Governors and Houses of Assembly, to drive home the point as to the necessity for this Yoruba Referendum. It has now garnered over 10,000 Signatures and counting. We delivered the Petition and the Draft Bill for a Referendum, to them, first, on March 2, 2021, when we had 5,000 signatures, and lately, on July 28, 2021, when we got over 10,000 signatures.
- We are now using this opportunity to ask our Governors and Houses of Assembly to, in the TRUE spirit of Self-Governance, act on the Petition. There is no other way to ascertain the TRUE wish of Yoruba People other than this Yoruba Referendum. They cannot fail the Yoruba Nation and her People.
- We once again thank all of those who have signed, and encourage those who have not, to do so, as this Petition is our LEGITIMATE route towards our demand and allows us to directly engage our political leaders as to our demand.
The Yoruba Referendum Committee