by Wale Odunsi,
The Yoruba Assembly, an umbrella platform for sociopolitical groups in the South-west, has asked the federal government to conduct referendum to enable nationalities constituting Nigeria decide if they still want to remain together or separate.
The group led by Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd), comprises leading groups including Afenifere Renewal Group, O’dua Liberation Movement, Yoruba Council of Youth, Coalition of O’dua Self-determination Groups, O’dua Nationalist Coalition, O’dua Peoples Congress Reformed, O’dua National Congress and Agbekoya Reformed Society, among others.
In its five-page communiqué issued on Monday, Yoruba Assembly said it was compelled told hold an emergency meeting due to the rising tension in the country.
It said, “The current agitation lies the altruistic effort to establish a development-oriented and sustainable governance structure for Nigeria on the one hand and on the other hand, the objectionable attempt at sustaining Nigeria’s unitary constitution by the ruling clique that desire to permanently control the leverage of power in Nigeria for egoistic reasons.”
“The modern concept of sustainable development “is a process that must begin with the active consultation and participation of the people – therefore the need for a referendum is imminent.”
The leaders rejected a statement by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, that the unity of Nigeria was not negotiable and argued that the Nigerian unitary governance system “is outmoded”.
“In this age, every federating unit must be able to pilot its own development affair in accordance with its pace and socio-cultural peculiarities and uniqueness. This is unity that is negotiable.
“The on-going methodology of stemming the crisis by the presidency, whilst commendable for at least opening a fresh chapter in crisis management in Nigeria, has not provided any window of redress, as it seems only interested in affirming the worn cliché that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable.
“That statement cannot hold true under a civil setting or democracy. Nigeria’s unity is negotiable. We can negotiate it to remain together or otherwise. If however we choose to remain together, the terms of engagement must be clear and acceptable to all Nigerians.
“The Yoruba nation is and has always been in thought-leading position on nationhood and we will continue with this leadership behaviour, especially at times like this. Hence we will not condone, nor engage with any recklessness that is against our core values and essence as a people.
“We reiterate the need for restructuring of Nigeria’s governance structure as our minimum demand. In our view, restructuring is desirable and currently inevitable. This must be restructuring on the terms that are attractive to all ethnic nationalities and if necessary, fought for.
“At least, we can say so for Yoruba people, but if our reaction had been sublime that would not be to underestimate its consequence couched in some of the desperation and quest exhibited by the Igbos and the high charged ultimatum given by the Hausa/Fulani”.
Yoruba Assembly decried the inability of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) “to stay true to its manifesto tenets on restructuring which is not helpful as it raises questions about their trustworthiness and of this government in itself, regarding adherence to principles and fundamental values and ethos.”
It also rejected a directive by the National Assembly for the executive to present to it the 2014 Constitutional Conference report and declared that a true federal constitution “has to be put together for Nigeria, which is beyond the purview of the National Assembly. Piecemeal amendments of the 1999 Constitution are no longer acceptable.”
The assembly further called on the governors of all South-west states and Houses of Assembly to take proactive steps by initiating dialogues and consultations among their people.
“We are watching them and when the time of reckoning comes, we shall know those who for selfish reasons and love of office refuse to stand by their people”.
“As it is our culture, the Yoruba Assembly will begin a consultative process with all Yoruba people including conducting an internal referendum and their decision will determine the next steps.
“We will take this proactive step to avoid the senseless war mongering. It is our position and advice that all other ethnic nationalities conduct similar consultative and engaging process among their peoples.”