Talking Point-OODUAPATHFINDER--Lifting up the standard

Talking Point

Bulletin #44 


                                          Open Letter to Speaker Obasa, Chief Wole Olanipekun, Afenifere et al

Mudashiru-Obasa-Speaker-Lagos-State-House-of-Assembly
 

The flurry of activities around Restructuring, flowing from heightened insecurity compounded by economic underdevelopment, etc., has led to calls for “state police” as an imperative in Restructuring Nigeria. This was followed by the reported agreement between the Central and State governments on working towards the modalities for achieving the same. At the same time, the National Assembly has, once again, established a Committee on Amending the 1999 Constitution just as some members of the NASS are championing a change from the current Presidential System to Parliamentary, all of which have formed the content of your interventions on the subject in the recent past.

Yet, we have been traversing this road since 1999 with nothing to show. To avoid a repetition of the same processes, the Yoruba Referendum Committee is appealing to you to use your influence to change the narrative on Restructuring from the merry-go-round of the past to a narrative embedded in ensuring that the voice of the people is made manifest through the instrumentality of the Referendum as the pathway towards Re-Federalizing Nigeria.

Our reasons are as follows:

i.It is instructive that the Lagos State House of Assembly is the first Institution in Yorubaland to make a categorical statement on the new attempt at amending the 1999 Constitution by demanding “State Police” as an imperative. It can, therefore, be assumed that the Lagos State House of Assembly, NASS, the President, and State Governors are oblivious to the calls by you and others that what is needed is not an amendment but a completely new Federal Constitution.

ii.Despite this, the Yoruba Referendum Committee acknowledges the emerging consensus on Restructuring/True Federalism among the cream of the Yoruba elite, of which you are a part, and which is also in tandem with the aspirations and expectations of Yoruba People. Yet, there is no inkling of any responsibility on the part of Yoruba people on this crucial existential necessity as it appears you have shunted the responsibility onto NASS.

iii.Yoruba people have not been placed in a position to be active participants in providing an effective quality of life for themselves, judging by what you have explicitly said, which is akin to repeating what we have experienced over time. We cannot continue doing the same thing repeatedly while expecting a different result. Furthermore, with the absence of the people, our heads would have been shaved in our absence.

iv.Our earlier experience with “zonal” conferences or legislative contrivance shows that the outcomes of such conferences were at variance with the people's expectations. We recall the IMF debates, Political Bureau, Niki Tobi's Constitutional review, Abubakar's Consultations, Obasanjo’s “Technical Review Committee,” Yar Adua’s Constitutional Review, Jonathan’s “Confab” APC’s Committee on Restructuring, all of which were carried out by way of “Zonal Consultations.” They all yielded no positive result because the Central Government ignored those conclusions. This was possible because these Conferences, through their various “Zonal Consultations,” had no roadmap/pathway for Legitimizing the conclusions of their “Zones” to which the central Government would be bound, which further enabled the central Governments to ignore those conclusions.

v.Your demands are anchored on a belief that the Constitutional Re-formation of Nigeria will be achieved through NASS, more so when some, like Aare Afe Babalola, placed the onus on NASS. At the same time, the rest of you have not specified any roadmap towards achieving the quest. Yet, NASS cannot perform this task despite any claims to its legitimacy as representatives of the People. While its members can rightly claim to represent the people by their being elected, it is equally true that the question of “State Police” or a change from the Presidential to the Parliamentary System cannot be solely decided by NASS without the imprimatur of the peoples of Nigeria.

vi.Moreover, “State Police” is a non-starter without prosecutorial and judicial powers. That is, a “State Police” formation must be empowered to prosecute offenders of State Laws without looking over its shoulders about possibilities of appealing judgements in its favor outside the judicial system of the State. Under this circumstance, we will be looking at 37 new judicial systems.

vii.This brings into sharp focus the expected development of Nigeria based on current state lines, considering that the current states were created to atomize cultural homogeneity and, in the process, reduce the quality of life, regardless of any humongous increases in the state's IGR such that adding the burden of a “State Police” onto the current economic situation will only compound matters.

viii.Hence, the first port of call is in reversing this atomization through the instrumentality of a Referendum to be conducted by the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo State Houses of Assembly, with a “YES” or “NO” question as to whether the six contiguous Yoruba states will agree to be merged into one Region or not. The result will also provide a special consideration for the Yoruba people in Kwara and Kogi states. This is crucial since the Yoruba believe that development and quality of life manifested in the period of Regional Government widely dubbed as our “Golden Era.”

ix.Your interventions also assumed that “reasoning” alone will lead to Restructuring, assuming that forces of Unitarization can see the logic in the demand and act accordingly, hence the expectation that "reasoning" will prevail. Reasoning has not prevailed, and it will not! Restructuring of Nigeria will begin to have practical meaning and impact when it is taken from the realm of "reasoning" and placed within the context of practical power politics, hence the importance of the Lagos State House of Assembly's institutional response to the new attempt at amending the 1999 Constitution. This is because the Referendum is to be conducted by the State Houses of Assembly, which mandates engaging them as to their foundational responsibility in ensuring combined and even development for Yoruba people in and outside Nigeria.

x.As a major part of the Yoruba elite, you can, individually or collectively, engage and influence the Houses of Assembly in Yorubaland as the Legitimate institution through which the Yoruba will validate their wishes and aspirations, thereby legitimizing the voice of the people through the instrumentality of the Referendum as the pathway through which the various peoples of Nigeria will validate their wishes and aspirations. Other contiguous Nationalities can emulate this Referendum pathway, while non-contiguous societies can use any mechanism that will serve the same purposes.

xi.Towards this end, the Yoruba Referendum Committee has defined our expectation of a new Federal Nigeria as a Multi-National Nigerian State in the following manner: 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”.

xii.The advantages of this form of State include but are not limited to, permanently taking care of the North/South and Christian/Muslim divides by representation of the “Zones” or Nationality in the Presidential Council, confining “monetization” and Nationality/Religious questions within cultural and social boundaries in existence within the zones/Nationalities and from where resolutions can be advanced, etc.

xiii.In passing, it is noted that what eventually saved American democracy on January 6, 2021, was that the “electors” were the states whose decisions were to be confirmed by US Congress and which the “storming” of Congress tried to prevent and did not achieve. The confirmation of the “electors” from the States is a major pillar of Democracy in the United States. Comparably, the Federating Unit will become the “electors” to select or elect its representatives to the Federal Council, whose decisions cannot be overturned except by the Federating Unit itself.

xiv.So, the onus is now on you, as a critical section of the Yoruba elite, to engage our State Houses of Assembly on the need for the Referendum to achieve True Federalism. Towards this end, the Yoruba Referendum Committee has sent a Bill for a Referendum to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly. We are hoping you will join us in this quest.

Editorial Board

Yoruba Referendum Committee
 











Bulletin #43

On Chief Bisi Akande, General Babangida and Nze Chidi Duru

Coming on the heels of the Armed Forces Remembrance Day, held on January 15 every year, former military president, Ibrahim Babangida hit the nail on the head by unequivocally saying that “failure to achieve True Federalism is one of the aberrations of military regimes” which also “countered the democratic process”.

The first of these military regimes came into being on January 15, 1966, through a military coup, repeated on December 31,1983, and reinforced on November 18, 1993, after the annulment of the “June 12” democratic elections. The resistance to the military regime, with NADECO in the forefront, ushered in the current democratic dispensation with emphasis placed on Re-Federalization of Nigeria.

On his part, Chief Bisi Akande, APC’s deputy Chairman of the ruling APC Party, advised the members of the National Assembly to dump the 1999 Constitution written by the military leaders and adopt the 1960 Constitution for Nigeria to move forward, while Nze Chidi Duru, APC’s deputy National Organizing Secretary and a member of the Party’s National Working Committee said the Party is working towards the implementation of the El-Rufai Committee Report on True Federalism. All of them are united in anchoring their pursuit of True Federalism on “devolution” as a general principle from which other issues would be addressed.
AKANDE


The Yoruba Referendum Committee adds its voice to the calls made above, with the following additions:

  1. Having experienced various calls for True Federalism since 1999 without a specific pathway towards achieving it, it is now mandatory for the discourse to shift from merely calling for it, as was done by the three personalities named above, (and others before them) to devising the mechanism for actualization. The three Statesmen represent their various political constituencies in the quest for Re-Federalization, with Gen Babangida, though retired, clearly an active participant in military politics since 1966 thus would be considered an important voice in the military, while Chief Akande and Nze Duru clearly spoke on behalf of their political party.
  2. The military, having “countered the democratic process” with a Constitution that is now expected to be discarded cannot be expected to provide the pathway, either directly through another military coup or indirectly through sustenance of its aspirations expressed through the 1999 Constitution, itself derived from legitimizing previous military coups through its many Constitutions, all aimed at homogenizing all the Peoples of Nigeria into one. This is administratively pursued through the atomization of the various Peoples into states which are made dependent on the central administration from where the ability and capability for the aspirations and expectations of the various Peoples are “packaged and managed”.
  3. The National Assembly is not likely to simply dissolve itself by dumping the 1999 Constitution and adopting the 1960 Constitution. Even if it does dissolve itself, it cannot simply reconvene and convert itself into a Constituent Assembly to adopt another Constitution because it would have, by the dissolution, lost its Legitimacy and a new election into a partisan or non-partisan Constituent Assembly will be farcical and a waste of time and resources. Moreover, the 1960 Constitution can only be valid as a guide, with its general principles as the basis for further Constitutional negotiations. The El-Rufai Committee’s Report placed emphasis on the Constitutional Amendment expected to be conducted by the National Assembly to actualize its recommendations. The Amendment exercise was conducted without reference to the Committee’s recommendations.
  4. From the above, and despite the attraction of “devolution” as the expectation of True Federalism, a major impediment is in the assumption that “devolution” as a cure-all is expected to be handed down to the Peoples of Nigeria by a benevolent authority (Presidency or National Assembly), which is tantamount to shaving our heads in our absence and which has become the obstacle in actualizing any of the aspirations and expectations.
  5. Experience in other climes shows that “power devolved is power retained”, hence, “devolution” is dependent on the authority or power behind it. Therefore, “devolution” is not the first port of call but the recognition of the power or authority behind it which is to be found in the Federating Units, and who, by virtue of their being the Federating Units, decide what is to be retained and what is to be given. States, as Nigeria's "Federating units" were imposed by military fiat and declared as such as a function of atomization of the Peoples hence they are, at best, administrative entities. This is one of the consequences of the aberrations of military rule.
  6. Whether the Federating Units are called "states” or "Regions" is immaterial. A Federating Unit can be ethnic, as in Nationalities within a contiguous territory or territorial, as is the case with many Nationalities in Nigeria; the major point being that each Nationality/Federating Unit should be able to decide its preferences based on their historical and cultural considerations, which will allow them to take the fullest advantage of “devolution” by retrieving what they had lost during the previous dispensation.
  7. Insecurity as currently on the rampage provides a good reference point. Security is primarily a "confidence" question. That is, the people should be able to have confidence in the security personnel working on their territory. With this as a consideration, most of the personnel will be indigenous thereby increasing intelligence gathering, investigations will tend to rely on such confidence, itself driven by the "doctrine and architecture" of not only the security forces but also the political entity it represents, to wit, self-recognition as a Federating Unit. On the contrary, a security doctrine and architecture grafted onto existing “states as federating units” will only compound the existing problems within the states, almost all anchored on internal power relations which will ultimately affect security/insecurity.
  8. It can be said that Devolution’s “punch list” as stated by the three statesmen mentioned above, to wit: state police, more resources, and powers to the states, etc. are quite well known and accepted by advocates of True Federalism and all that is needed is to put them in place.
  9. The Yoruba Referendum Committee does not share this view because the question arises as to why had these not been put in place since its advocacy since 1999? To put this failure at the altar of bad leadership is to wave a flag at the problem. Rather, we posit that this inability is because the beneficiaries of the “punch-list”, the people as Federating Units have no say in the development of the “punch-list” hence have no means of ensuring its application. This is why we advocate “Nationality Referendums”, and in the case of the Yoruba, a “Yoruba Referendum” to be conducted by the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly. Similar Referendums can be conducted in culturally contiguous territories, while a mix of Nationalities within a territory can conduct theirs via their cultural and/or community institutions, mediated, if necessary, by the Houses of Assembly in the territories. These Referendums will be the Legitimate, Valid and Legal representation of the “punch-list” and cannot be traded away. This will provide the foundation for actualizing Re-Federalization of Nigeria.
  10. Therefore, the first steps to True Federalism and avoiding the past problems are in naming and recognizing the Federating Units. This can be done in several ways, to wit: there are recognizable and recognized Nationalities in currently existing states; the Yoruba, for example, whose historical and cultural existential realities demand a “regional” structure while Nationalities in the Middle Belt or Niger Delta/South-South can arrive at a workable structure within themselves without being limited to any forced relationships with any other. At the end, a new Federal Nigeria will be a mix of contiguous Nationalities and territories derived from a mix of Nationalities.                  

Editorial Board,

Yoruba Referendum Committee











Bulletin # 42

oba-group

Open Letter To Yoruba Obas Forum

Your Royal Highnesses,

The Yoruba Referendum Committee welcomes your direct intervention in the efforts to Restructure Nigeria. The Communique at the end of your Annual General Meeting held on Monday, November 27, 2023, provides a good basis for an engagement with the aim of arriving at a practical road map that will usher in a Restructured Nigeria of our dreams.

Your Communique demanded, among others, the following from the Federal Government: (A) to have specific constitutional roles for all traditional rulers in the country as a fourth tier of the government, (B) immediately expedite action granting Local Government Autonomy to Local Government authorities (C) create a special intervention fund for security which would be administered by the traditional rulers as a way to improve on the spate of insecurity in the country.(D) to critically look into the suggestions proffered during the last Constitutional Review Conference and (E) the Local Government Authorities and Traditional rulers as well as the States to have better control of resources within their domain.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee humbly responds to your Communique as follows:

  1. The Federal Government cannot be asked to have specific Constitutional roles for all traditional rulers in the country as a fourth tier of government because there is no such tier in any Federation. A Federation is a system of coordinate jurisdiction between the Center (National) and the Federating Unit(sub-national). Therefore, asking the Federal Government to make traditional rulers a fourth tier of government already neutralizes the concept of Federalism.
  2. Traditional rulership is culture specific, especially in a Multinational and Multi-cultural country like Nigeria. As Yoruba Obas, you represent a specific culture within the Nigerian context, therefore, your role in governance of Yorubaland ordinarily should have no input from the center as the Yoruba and their Obas have, over the centuries, during pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial periods, established proven relevance and authority of the Oba, in their varied good, bad, and ugly components. Hence, for the Yoruba, our political space is also a cultural space with time-honored values. This historical and contemporary reality cannot be surrendered to the Federal Government. Besides, were the Federal Government to accede to this request means already the quest for Restructuring is already defeated because it presupposes that the existing STRUCTURE is a given; that is, the question to be answered is no longer the STRUCTURE of the Federation but merely the reconfiguration of its mode of governance.
  3. Similarly, “Local Government Autonomy” is anti-Federal in the sense that the Autonomy will depend on funding from the center. The entire quest for Local Government autonomy is anchored on its separation from the State Government with the excuse that the Local Government is nearer to the people and such autonomy will advance development without being hampered by the excesses of the State Government.
  4. We know, from our experience in the Western Region, that development, local or Regional, was not a function of the distance from the people, but the result of definitive policies geared towards development, with relevant agencies by both the local and Regional Governments. Hence, the Obas played pivotal roles in the development and application of the free primary education policies, local councilors played their roles in agricultural extension services, etc. These were neutralized by the various military interventions through which Local Government Administration became centralized via the Dasuki Reform recommendations and which has now led us to where we are, today.
  5. The problem created by the continuous centralization of Local Governments cannot therefore be resolved by vesting the same central Government the authority to have direct funding, and therefore control, of Local Governance. Flowing with this will be the annexation and subordination of local security by the Center because it will control the utilization of the said funding. Our contention is that if the center will disburse special intervention funds for security, it also reserves the power to interfere and intervene in the execution of any security policy that will be put in place. The institution of the Oba will become an appendage of the political forces controlling the center at any point in time thereby removing them further away from their primary cultural constituency, comprising the people they govern as Oba. This is further reinforced by your demand on the government to critically review the solutions proffered during the last Constitutional Review Conference.
  6. The Conference avoided taking any decision(s) on the most fundamental issue before it, to wit: the nature of the Federation as well as control of the resources which was shunted to another time. Incidentally, one of your demands centered on resource control by “local governments, traditional rulers and states”.
  7. Based on the above, the thrust of the message we want to pass to you is that reviewing the conference is not necessary as it negates everything related to Federalism. What is needed is another approach towards achieving a Truly Federal Nigeria.
  8. We begin by acknowledging the major roles played by Yoruba Obas in the founding and activities of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, founded by Chief Obafemi Awolowo in London, England, in 1945 and formally launched in Ile-Ife in 1947. One major reason stated at the Egbe’s formation was “the propagation of the ideal of a modern Yoruba State and Federal State of Nigeria through the agency of reliable persons who share our ideals”.
  9. Towards this end, the Egbe, through its memo to the Regional Committee on the amendment to the Richards Constitution established by the then Governor MacPherson, advocated the “grouping of Nigeria into various Autonomous States or Regions purely on ethnical basis” and that Regional Autonomy should be the prerequisite for a Central government and that if there was any area in which the colonial government wanted to experimentin giving Nigerians complete control over internal affairs, that area should be in the Regional Administration.
  10. Chief Obafemi Awolowo drew extensively on the global models of shared governance between National and sub-national governments in arriving at this Federalist option. Yet, the Conference relegated this global imperative to the background in its conceptualization by denying Nationalities the freedom to choose who to speak for them at such an important meeting. This method of selecting or appointing delegates alienated most delegates from the Nationalities whose direct voice was needed on such crucial aspect of Restructuring the polity in Nigeria. None of the delegates represented any of the Peoples of Nigeria, hence were not bound to defend any imperative of the Nationality from which they were selected. Hence, the Conference could not align itself with the hopes and aspirations of the People which was supposedly the raison d’etre for organizing such Conferences in the first instance. It merely provided the ammunition to further unitarize Nigeria, thereby entrenching the country’s foundational crisis, which was against what the Yoruba had always advocated as being the basis for Federalism.
  11. The Conference did so by assuming the singularity of the geo-political space called Nigeria and all its solutions to its problems were relegated to maintaining that singularity while turning issues of Federalism into an administrative convenience even when it is obvious that the problem is exactly in that singularity. That is why the Conference promoted the ridiculous position that “states are Federating Units”. States, as we have them in Nigeria, are administrative entities, which were not even created by the residents but by military fiat. A country can have any form of administrative unit, which was why Aguiyi Ironsi replaced the Regions with “groups of provinces” which are now more or less the “states”.
  12. Every Union or Federation in the world is based on a Union of Peoples which may be administered either as states (as in the US) or Regions as in Germany. For a Federation or Union to exist, therefore, the Peoples inhabiting a geographical space must make that decision. That the Conference refused to see this point underscored the confusion in its understanding of the concept of Federalism in a post-colonial State like Nigeria.
  13. When the case is made that the current states are now a reality which we cannot run away from, the short answer to that is, Yes, we can run away from it, in the sense that the political and economic circumstances that make for their creation is the root cause of Nigeria’s problems today, such that their retention or changing can only be by the Peoples affected themselves and not by fiat from the Center. Thus, the Yoruba may decide to make every Yoruba town or city an administrative center—that will be our choice based on our economic and political imperatives. While the Conference floated the idea of merging of States that may wish to, it did not prescribe the methodology for doing so and it could not have.
  14. The above, and more, are the reasons the Yoruba Referendum Committee is proposing, for your consideration, the pursuit of a Legal, Valid and Legitimate mechanism that will aggregate Yoruba demands as the way forward. The mechanism is what we have called the “Yoruba Referendum” which will address the lack of political integration preventing the establishment of a Yoruba Regional entity and identity that will drive Yoruba economic, cultural, and social imperatives.
  15. Towards this end, the Bill for a Referendum has been submitted to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly, to be passed into Law and conduct the Referendum.

It is our candid hope that you will throw your weight behind this endeavor.

Thank you, sirs,

Editorial Board,

Yoruba Referendum Committee








Bulletin #41
Response to Aare Afe Babalola on Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure (4)

Afe-babalola

Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure (10), By Afe Babalola

In continuation of his published series on “Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure,” Aare Afe Babalola further proposes the following as critical to the quest: (a): Single six-year tenures for the office of the President and Governors, noting thatmany of the most progressive governments in the world have enjoyed continuity and stability in leadership which allows officeholders to consolidate and implement development programs without frequent policy reversals that are associated with frequent change of government or leadership. (b) Streamlined qualification and remuneration for political office holders so that competent, qualified people with a great sense of humility, responsibility, and absolute commitment to service seek leadership positions. (c) Need for clear party ideology since elections in Nigeria are largely organized and decided by party affiliations. However, several of the political parties in Nigeria are non-ideological and serve a diversity of incoherent interests that often change like weather and(d) electoral reforms.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee responds as follows:

  1. Continuity, stability, coherence, and sustained governance result directly from the established political traditions or institutions which serve as fuel to economic policies. These, in turn, are derived from a “foundational imperative,” that is, the recognition of the reason(s) for the existence or establishment of the State. The State is the highest expression of this “foundational imperative;” hence, all its apparatus and paraphernalia are geared toward ensuring its sustenance. Therefore, a “transformational leadership” is the product of the “foundational imperative.” To arrive at such a juncture, the historical, cultural, and contemporary experiences of the citizens must come into play. This is not the case with Nigeria and other African countries.
  2. Hence, the tenure of political officeholders may not be the only issue. Since Nigeria is part of the global economy, whose ebbs and flows, inflation, depression, trade wars, etc. affect Nigeria’s economy, any government in power will be affected by any of these such that putting a term limit will be detrimental to the office holder, more so, when global downturns can persist during much of the office holder’s term.
  3. Nigeria’s economy, like most economies in Africa, is a negation of the human development of their peoples because the political superstructure is built on an economic structure purposely designed to under-develop the society in favor of the colonial economy, often forcing the society to adjust to its dictates and impetus.
  4. Hence, the problem is not in the lack of ideology but in the type of ideology currently in practice and its relevance to development. Ideologies are a function of the “foundational imperatives” that determine the road toward economic development in the sense that certain measures, arising directly from the Federating Unit’s needs, must be taken to ensure competitiveness within the global economic order. This order is determined, largely, by the Bretton Woods Institutions whose main mandate is to ensure that economic competition among the major powers does not descend into wars, and which made it possible to enroll former colonies into their economic orbits.
  5. Hence, the ideologies of the political Parties flow from this reality, and because the State through which the ideology is manifested is almost a carbon copy of the colonially inspired State, the parties’ ideological disposition cannot but follow the trajectory laid down by the colonial powers.
  6. The major reason the Action Group stood out was precisely its recognition of the above and its determination to construct a different type of State from the colonial imperative. This was foundational to the AG as it formed the basis for its advocacy and pursuit of Federalism.
  7. Therefore, rather than say there is a lack of ideology, we say the ideologies in operation are not capable of addressing the fundamental issues of development and underdevelopment; hence, what is needed is an ideological shift to upend Bretton Wood’s philosophical and cultural dominance while simultaneously engaging it in the quest for development.
  8. The above is possible only when the Nationalities in Nigeria re-establish themselves as the Federating Units where all their deficiencies can be cured. This is the crux of the quest for Nationality Referendums. With this, issues on electoral cycles will be determined by the conscious efforts and necessities of each Federating Unit that will also become empowered to make further determinations as necessary.

Yoruba Referendum Committee

Bulletin #40                                                                     
 Response to
  Aare Afe Babalola on Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure (3)

Chief-Obafemi-Awolowo

Sir,

As part of our continuous engagement with you on Restructuring/True Federalism which you have published as a series on the “Afe for Vanguard” weekly column, we hereby address the issues arising from the “Manifesto for Transformational Leadership”, your latest column, more-so when you unequivocally declared your public commitment “to continue to advocate for transformational leadership in Nigeria.” This declaration came on the heels of your being the third recipient of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo Prize for Leadership in 2019, after Professor Wole Soyinka in 2012 and Thabo Mbeki in 2014.

There is no doubt of your leadership qualities in Nigeria in general and Yorubaland in particular, thus making the following proposal worth considering.

  1. At a critical point in the anti-colonial struggles different forms of combatting and engaging the colonial authorities were deployed, from civil disobedience to labor strikes as well as cultural determinations, alongside global political and economic realities resulting from the effects of the 2nd world war which compelled the colonial powers to address the question of independence for their colonies.
  2. For Nigeria, it was the period for direct political engagements via universal suffrage and elections. This was the point at which Awo was faced with some options, to wit: (a) the Nigerian Youth Movement, which was already “dead” thus requiring too much energy to revive (b) the Nigerian National Democratic Party formerly led by Herbert Macauley which had virtually become restricted to Lagos and affiliated with Nnamidi Azikiwe who was keen on destroying any independent Yoruba platform (c) the Egbe Omo Oduduwa which was primarily a cultural organization which would not be effective for the required political Party.
  3. Awolowo decided that the formation of a new political party was the way to go, hence the formation of the AG as a pan-Nigerian party combining the best of capitalist development and its social imperatives with a decidedly Yoruba worldview without dissolving into Nigerian generalities. This trajectory eventually led to the AG’s victory at the 1951 Western Nigeria Parliamentary Elections, thus providing the political foundation for what we now describe as the Yoruba “Golden Era.” Restructuring/True Federalism will be a mirage unless we create the political foundation for its actualization.
  4. With due respect, sir, this foundation is neither in “a transformational shift in the manner in which leaders are elected, the demand and expectations of the electorate, as well the priorities and focus of government programs” nor in inviting “all current and future leaders of Nigeria to uphold and commit to the following principles of transformational leadership” but in the current elite, or parts of it, taking a critical examination of current choices from which the road towards actualization is to be chosen.
  5. The elite are aware of the “Principles” you enumerated, to wit: (a) True Federalism is a necessary pre-condition for growth in Nigeria(b) Full Constitutional Restructuring in Nigeria is a National Priority because they have, at various times, participated in the conferences aimed at arriving at those principles, at least since 1999. The intellectuals and academics among the elite are not found wanting either, just as the people have also demonstrated their fidelity to those principles that enabled the AD to sweep the entire SW in 1999 and have been aligned with any Party that seems closest to that paradigm. Yet, it is also true that hopes in the direction of actualizing those principles have been dashed.
  6. We cannot put this down to the “badness” of the human element or a flawed leadership, for doing so will be waving a flag at the problem. Rather, we posit that the elite, in its different dimensions, was unable to determine a point of departure as Awo did. This stems from non-recognition of epochs and the necessary choices that must be made. The Yoruba elite, unable to chart a pathway for itself, resorted to acquiescing to prescriptions of the militarized "Federalism,” attended or participated in all their conferences to "restructure," even when they dictated or imposed their criteria and directly or indirectly chose delegates while asking "them"-- whoever "they" are-- to do this and that, ranging from "return to the 1960/63 Constitution" to implement the 2014 Confab, to "restructure" etc. Thus, Awolowo recognized the epoch, that is, previous efforts only led to catastrophe, and for his True Federalist dream to materialize meant creating the political vehicle for it.
  7. We are literally in a similar situation. As we stated in Part 2 of our response, there is no agency of the State that can or will compel any electoral candidate to run on any “Principle,” unless such an agency has been predetermined and which would have vitiated the entire quest for True Federalism. Furthermore, each candidate will have his/her definition of True Federalism which will even make it difficult or impossible for voters to decide without introducing extraneous issues deriving from what will be considered as the “badness” of the candidate.
  8. Yet, these problems can be overcome, once a path towards True Federalism is chosen, hence, the first step towards True Federalism or either of the “Principles” is not contesting elections on such principles but reversing the atomization of Yorubaland and other Peoples into different contiguous and non-contiguous states, thereby neutralizing the Peoples as Federating Units and replacing them with state administrations.This has resulted in the dilution of the political and economic power of the Peoples in favor of political parties whose centers of gravity do not reside within their societies, with the attendant effect of inter and intra-party squabbles with no direct correlation with the development of the Peoples.
  9. For the Yoruba, to address atomization and its attendant negative consequences which have brought us to this sorry past requires a Referendum to Federate Ekiti State with Ogun State, Osun State, Oyo State, Ondo State, and Lagos State and constitute the same into Oduduwa/Yoruba Region of Western Nigeria, within the Federation of Nigeria.
  10. To achieve the above, the Yoruba Referendum Committee proposes that the current elite can jumpstart the process, especially with your declaration to advocate for transformational leadership in Nigeria. This is because leadership emerges directly from topical political, economic, and social contradictions that exist. Hence, monetization of elections will be greatly reduced once no one will have to campaign for the office of the president all over Nigeria or all over a state for Governor. That is a Parliamentary System where the locality will be the electoral ground for contests will not only reduce monetization but will also throw up leaders responsible to their communities because they will be voted for only by them.
  11. The above, and others, have been incorporated into the Bill for a Referendum we have sent to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, and Ondo State Houses of Assembly to be passed into law. The Bill is attached for reference.
  12. We believe that, as a respected Elder in Ekiti State, along with other elders like Chief Wole Olanipekun (who recently called for Nigeria’s name to be changed which is impossible without a constitutional change), Prof Bolaji Aluko, whose True Federalist credentials are legendary, Governor Oyebanji and others can jointly initiate the process of passing the Bill into law by the Ekiti State House of Assembly. Governor Oyebanji can further influence his colleagues in the SW Governors’ Forum just as the Ekiti State House of Assembly can initiate similar procedures with their colleagues, more so when collaborative legislative sessions exist between the Assemblies.

It is our sincere hope that the above proposal will be given some consideration as you proceed in the noble efforts of finding pathways to true federalism in Nigeria.

Thank you, sir.

Leye Ige

Yoruba Referendum Committee

DRAFT BILL FOR A REFERENDUM LAW

A Law of Oyo State House of Assembly, Ogun State House of Assembly, Osun State House of Assembly, Ekiti State House of Assembly, Ondo State House of Assembly and Lagos State House of Assembly for the holding of a Referendum on the proposal to Federate Ekiti State with Ogun State, Osun State, Oyo State, Ondo State and Lagos State and constitute same into Oduduwa Region of Western Nigeria, within the Federation of Nigeria.

A: REFERENDUM ON FEDERATION OF EKITI STATE WITH OGUN STATE, OSUN STATE, OYO STATE, ONDO STATE AND LAGOS STATE AND CONSTITUTION OF SAME INTO ODUDUWA REGION IN A FEDERATION OF NIGERIA.

  1. On the…………. Day of ……… 202… a Referendum shall be held in Ekiti State, Ogun State, Osun State, Oyo State, Ondo State and Lagos State of Nigeria on: (i) Whether the Governments of Ekiti, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo and Lagos States should negotiate with each other with a view to forming a FEDERATION of STATES to be known as the ODUDUWA REGION OF WESTERN NIGERIA and (ii) whether the said REGION should negotiate with the Government of Nigeria and the remaining 30 states or any group of states that have also agreed to Federate and the administration of the Federal Capital Territory to achieve AUTONOMY/SELF-DETERMINATION for the said REGION within a Federation of Nigerian Constituent Units.(ANNEXURE)
  2. The questions or propositions to be voted on in the Referendum and form of the ballot paper to be used for that purpose are to be in the form set out in the schedule herein contained.
  3. Those entitled to vote in the Referendum are the persons who, on the date of the Referendum, would be entitled to vote as electors at a local government election in the electoral area/ward of the State in which they reside and/or carry out business.
  4. The Governor of Each State shall appoint a Chief Electoral Officer who shall appoint an electoral officer for each Local Government Area.
  5. Each Local Government Electoral Officer shall (a) Conduct the counting of votes cast in the area under his/her authority in accordance with any directions given by the Chief Electoral Officer and (b) Certify the number of ballot papers counted by him/her and the number of votes cast for each question/proposition.
  6. The Chief Electoral Officer must certify:
  1. The total number of ballot papers counted for the whole of Each State and (b) the total number of votes cast for each proposition/question for the whole of the State.
  1. The result of the Referendum shall constitute the entire position of the people of Ogun State, Oyo State, Osun State, Ekiti State, Ondo State and Lagos State (WESTERN/ODUDUWA REGION OF NIGERIA).
  2. In the event of a YES vote on the Referendum, the Governors of each State shall appoint members into a Constitutional Council of Western/Oduduwa Region.
  3. The Constitutional Council of Western/Oduduwa Region shall include not more than twelve (12) other members chosen at random throughout the Region and four (4) members from Kwara and Kogi States.
  4. The Constitutional Council of Western/Oduduwa Region shall be vested with powers to present and represent the views of Western/Oduduwa Region and negotiate on behalf of the Western/Oduduwa Region with all the agencies of the Nigerian Government, non-Governmental organizations and the international Community involved in the process.

B: The short title of this Law is “Referendum Law of Ekiti State, Ondo State, Osun State, Oyo State, Ogun State and Lagos State”.

                                                                                                       SCHEDULE

FORM OF BALLOT PAPER: Ekiti State House of Assembly, Ondo State House of Assembly, Osun State House of Assembly, Oyo State House of Assembly, Ogun State House of Assembly and Lagos State House of Assembly, have decided to consult the People of Each State on this ………. Day of ………, 202 on the proposal to Federate the Government of Ogun State, the Government of Osun State, the Government of Oyo State, the Government of Ekiti State, the Government of Ondo State, and the Government of Lagos State with a view to constituting a REGION of Western Nigeria within a Federation of Nigeria.

THUMBPRINT in the box containing: (YES)

  1. I AGREE that the Governments of Ekiti State, Ondo State, Oyo State, Osun State, Ogun State and Lagos State should negotiate with each other with a view to forming a FEDERATION of STATES to be known as the ODUDUWA REGION OF WESTERN NIGERIA which shall negotiate with the Yoruba persons in Kwara and Kogi States, whether they want to be part of the ODUDUWA REGION or not; shall further negotiate with the Government of Nigeria and the remaining 30 states and the administration of the Federal Capital Territory to achieve AUTONOMY/SELF-DETERMINATION for the said REGION within a Federation of Nigeria.

                                                                                                                            OR

(NO)

  1. I DO NOT AGREE that the Governments of Ekiti State, Ondo State, Oyo State, Osun State, Ogun State and Lagos State should negotiate with each other with a view to forming a FEDERATION of STATES to be known as the ODUDUWA REGION OF WESTERN NIGERIA which shall negotiate with the Yoruba in Kwara and Kogi States as to whether they want to be part of the ODUDUWA REGION or not, and further negotiate with the Government of Nigeria and the remaining 30 states and the administration of the Federal Capital Territory to achieve AUTONOMY/SELF-DETERMINATION for the said REGION within a Federation of Nigeria.

                                                                                                                       ANNEXURE

  • 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.
  • Western/Oduduwa Region shall be a Constituent Unit of the Nigerian Union.
  • Western/Oduduwa Region shall adopt a Parliamentary System of government.
  • The Central Government of the Union shall have no power to interfere nor intervene in the affairs of the ODUDUWA REGION, save as shall be agreed to by three quarters of the members of the Region’s Parliament.
  • There shall be a Division of the Federal Armed Forces in the Region, 90% of which personnel shall be indigenes of the Region. The Divisional commander shall be an indigene of Oduduwa Region.
  • The Judicial power of the Region shall be vested in the Supreme Court of the Region, Court of Appeal, High Court, Customary Court, and Other lower courts as the Parliament may establish. There shall be a Court of Appeal in each of the provinces. There shall be, in each province, a High Court from which appeals shall lie to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court of the Region.
  • Western/Oduduwa Region shall have its own internal security system.
  • Each Constituent Unit of the Nigerian Federation shall control primary interest in its own resources with an agreed Tax Model for the Federation.



Bulletin #39                                                                      
 Response to
  Aare Afe Babalola on Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure (2)

afe_babalola


Our response to Part 7 of your published series covered some of the issues you have raised in Part 8; hence this response is an addendum because of the two options introduced.
We therefore proceed as follows:
(i) You propose an “Executive Bill to the National Assembly to be presented to the National Assembly by the President of the country, asking the Senate to pass a law for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference, SNC… SNC itself will be made up of elected representatives of the Nigerian people. To ensure fair and effective representation, the SNC should be convened and constituted to include two to three members from each state of the Nigerian federation, who are elected on zero party basis, as well as representatives of professional bodies who will be distinguished personalities with unimpeachable records.”
(ii) The above calls the concept of such a Sovereign National Conference into question. For it is generally assumed (and accepted) that Sovereignty resides with the People. In which case, the question of who the “People” are, must be answered for a Sovereign National Conference to be meaningful or even necessary.
(iii) Inability or unpreparedness to answer or address this question was one of the reasons previous Conferences fell flat on their faces, even though they were not Sovereign. Those Conferences forced  the people to literally surrender their inherent capacity to advance the quest for self-actualization because they are either absent or absent-minded when crucial decisions were being made, despite being represented by either political or “socio-cultural” leaders and organizations supposedly selected by those in charge of the country’s central government that has appropriated to themselves, the authority to take decisions reflecting the general expectation of the People(s), thereby making it possible for the central government to discard, disregard or ignore any agreements as has been the case through the various conferences.  
(iv) A major reason for this lies in the denial of our multinationalism, multilingualism, and multiculturalism, which has led to the architecture of the State as a direct competitor of, and in opposition to, the aspirations and expectations of the people/citizens. Nigeria’s Constitution describes the country as “a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory,” as if the people occupying the states do not exist. Hence, “National Sovereignty” often translates into attempts at suppressing ethno-nationalism by a dominant nationality via the State. 
(v) Yet, other Federations did not fail to recognize their Peoples. Even the United States, which is a Federation of territories—for reasons of her coming into being—started by acknowledging “the people” with its Preamble. Russia and China recognize their multinational nature as foundational to their existence, recognized, and constitutionally guaranteed. The Russian Federation is described as consisting of “republics, krays, oblasts, cities of federal significance, an autonomous oblast and autonomous okrugs, which shall have equal rights as constituent entities of the Russian Federation whose multinational people are the “bearer of sovereignty and the sole source of power in the Russian Federation,”.  China describes itself as “a unitary multi-national state built up jointly by the people of all its nationalities,” whilst recognizing “Regional autonomy in areas where people of minority nationalities live in compact communities; organs of self-government are established for the exercise of the right of autonomy. All the national autonomous areas are inalienable parts of the People's Republic of China.”
(vi) Yet, the Nigerian State already assumed the singularity of the geo-political space called Nigeria, and all its solutions to its problems are relegated to maintaining that singularity while turning issues of Federalism into an administrative convenience even when it is obvious that the problem is undeniably in that singularity. That is the reason for the ridiculous position that “states are federating Units”. States, as we have them in Nigeria, are administrative entities, which were not even created by the residents but by military fiat. A country can have any form of an administrative unit, which we experienced when the Regions were abolished and replaced with “groups of provinces” which are now more or less the “states”.
(vii) The Richards Constitution was rejected because the principle of a Union or Federation is based on the Peoples and not on administrative units. Indeed, every Union or Federation in the world is based on a Union of Peoples which may now be administered either as states (as in the US) or regions as in Germany. For a federation or Union to exist, therefore, the People inhabiting a geographical space must make that decision.  When the case is made that the current states are now a reality that we cannot run away from, the short answer to that is, Yes, we can run away from it, in the sense that the political and economic circumstances that make for their creation are the root cause of Nigeria’s problems today, such that their retention or change can only be by the Peoples affected themselves and not by fiat from the Center. Thus, the Yoruba, for example, may decide to make every Yoruba town or city an administrative center—that will be our choice based on our economic and political imperatives. 
(viii) With the above and more, it can be concluded that rather than proceed on another round of “electing representatives” to a Sovereign National Conference, the best way out is through the Nationality Referendums which would have Legitimized, Validated, and Legalized the aspirations and expectations of the Peoples, and which will lead directly to a Conference of Nationalities out of which a new Federal Constitution to usher in a Federal Multi-National State will be established. This will be a Multi-National State capable of addressing the “Leadership Question” in Nigeria because it ensures that the Nationalities are active participants in the process of their development.
(ix) The National Assembly’s role will be limited to legislating on convening of the Conference of Nationalities, after the State Houses of Assembly have passed their Bills for Referendum into Law. Such Referendums are to be conducted by the various State Electoral Commissions or in the case of smaller Nationalities, by their preferred methodology.
(x) As an alternative to a Sovereign National Conference, you proposed a “Transformational Election to evolve a national awakening and decision that the next election will be a restructuring election. That is, the sole criterion for selecting the next crop of leaders in this country – across executive and legislative arms at federal, state, and local government levels- should be unequivocal commitment and promise to implement a manifesto for transformational leadership in Nigeria.”  
(xi) Aside from the reality of contention on who or which agency of the State will make that determination, the capacity, and ability of the Nigerian State to ensure any Party voted into power on this basis lives up to its expectation must also be examined. More so when it is known that political parties all over the world represent certain political, economic, and cultural interests that may be contradictory to either the rest of the society or even the country itself. 
(xii) A good example is the ongoing crisis in Niger Republic and the response of ECOWAS. With certain actors in Nigeria’s political firmament directly subverting ECOWAS because of their “cousins and brothers and sisters” in Niger, a political party will not be able to sustain a Federalization momentum for electioneering purposes, simply because its political power base rests with its relationships within and without; hence, the question of Restructuring in Nigeria is not only a Nigerian affair as it can indeed provide the template or the way out of the various conflicts bedeviling the Continent.
(xiii) Furthermore, many political parties will be advocating similar issues, more so when the election will be limited in scope because it will be a single-issue election, despite political parties having different ideas on Restructuring.  This calls forth the question of separating the wheat from the chaff, the serious from the unserious, with a limited choice of relying on the “personality” or “character” of the party members and leaders. Yet, political opportunism cannot be ruled out, regardless of the presumed integrity of party members, who will not be operating out of a vacuum but as direct members of the community who have undergone common social, economic, and cultural experiences that would have shaped their choices.
(xiv) Therefore, the best way out is for each Nationality to take collective responsibility for its aspirations and expectations which would be Legitimized, Validated, and Legalized through the Nationality Referendum and whose result(s) would be binding on any political party emerging from that Nationality. Pan-Nigerian alliances could be formed within the Multi-National State, which would be predicated on the results of the Nationality Referendums. 
(xv) The cause of conflicts and underdevelopment in Nigeria since the amalgamation of Nigeria has been the diversity of the groups that have been cobbled together to constitute the Nigerian State. It is, therefore, logical to put the country’s nationalities at the center of a restructuring process. We should not continue to assume that sovereignty resides in the Nigerian State as captured in the 1999 Constitution put together by an unelected military dictatorship.
Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee









Bulletin #38
 Response to Aare Afe Babalola: Nigeria-- Restructure or reconfigure (7)




Afe-babalola

Sir,

We trust that this letter will find you in good health.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee has been following your interventions on Re-Federalizing Nigeria through your published articles in the “Vanguard” Newspaper, titled “Nigeria: Restructure or reconfigure”. Part 7 was published on October 11, 2023. Although you wrote that there are “three main options for undertaking a restructuring process” you zeroed in on the Referendum or Plebiscite.

Without prejudice to the remaining two options, the questions you posed at the end of Part 7 are directly related to our approach to solving the structural problem of Nigeria, hence the need for this letter, not only to acknowledge your suggestion but also to state that the Yoruba Referendum Committee has affirmatively answered the questions you posed through our Bulletins, to wit: Referendum is the most effective, peaceful, legitimate, legal, and valid option.

The Yoruba Referendum Committee came into being as the catalyst for Referendum in Yorubaland as the roadmap/pathway towards Legitimization of the quest for True Federalism in Nigeria, while, for the rest of the country, it could be described as “Nationality/Zonal/Regional” Referendums.

The questions you raised: “The key question is: Do we have a crop of leaders and system in place to conduct and implement a free, fair, and credible referendum to usher in a constitutional restructuring process? First, will governments at all levels support a referendum for important constitutional questions of the day? Secondly, do we have a credible electoral process in place to conduct a fair and transparent referendum in Nigeria? And thirdly, even if we conduct a referendum, will the leaders on all sides respect and implement the end result of the process? It is difficult to answer any of these questions affirmatively. The current winner-takes-all system that we operate in Nigeria has created perverse incentives for rulers to suppress the will of the Nigerian people. It may therefore be a mere wishful thinking in Nigeria of today to expect a free, fair, and credible referendum process to be conducted.”

The Yoruba Referendum Committee responds as follows to your questions:

  1. Since we all agreed that all efforts at Restructuring since 1999 have fallen flat on their faces, the question we asked ourselves was “Why”? We concluded that those efforts failed because they were not backed by the legitimate power of the Constituent Units(subnational), described either as Nationalities, Zones, or Regions.
  2. With due respect sir, we agree with the Yoruba truism that says one’s head cannot be shaved in his/her absence. The previous attempts or conferences 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 Constituents to, in a Referendum within their regions or territories, determine the framework for their aspirations and self-actualization which then becomes the foundation for RESTRUCTURING.
  3. The leadership and system to carry out this function lies with the State Houses of Assembly because they are the critical social and political institutions necessary for this task. Neither the Constitution nor any law approves or denies a Referendum in Nigeria; hence it becomes a political issue, especially for the elites of the Constituent Units or subnationals to ensure its realization. A countrywide or Pan-Nigerian Referendum will deny the aspirations and expectations of the various Constituents, thereby neutralizing Federalism as a co-equal relationship between the national and the subnational since the countrywide Referendum already denies the existence of the subnational as a Constituent. Therefore, the solution is for subnational governments to take the bull by the horns by creating a law that enables policymaking via referendum, preparatory to conducting a state-wide referendum on the preferred structure for relations between the state and the central government.
  4. Hence, for the Yoruba, this will be the “Yoruba Referendum.” Other nationalities with contiguous states can similarly describe their Referendums, while smaller Nationalities or groups can utilize their traditional leadership mechanisms or traditional institutions to organize their Referendum or “partner" with contiguous larger groups with their own special demands or expectations. Each Nationality or a combination thereof can work out the specifics according to their situation. The results of the various Referendums will provide the basis for negotiating a new Federal Nigeria. It is important to recognise that taking such actions at the subnational level certainly requires cooperation between the people and the elite in each state or region.
  5. The State Assemblies and Governments must be engaged towards this end; part of which includes the resolve by the elite of the various Constituents to pursue the Referendum Pathway in such a manner that it becomes the topical issue in the land, indeed the “political slogan” of the land as it serves several purposes, which include the following: (i) provides the platform for, and legitimizes our engagement and pursuit of Re-Federalization/Restructuring (ii) becomes the standard and the mobilization “SLOGAN” by codifying Re-Federalization or Restructuring as a Nationality-specific Referendum as the expression of our resolve to address the contradictions of the Nigerian State (iii) Act as a mobilizing mechanism to various sectors of the society, the country at large and the international community. (iv) Embeds the “ethos” of weaving demand for re-Federalization into the aspirations and expectations of the Peoples of Nigeria(v) obviates the need for any “National Conference” as had previously been the case.
  6. Therefore, the issue to resolve is the acceptance of the Referendum as the pathway which will be backed by law made by the State Assemblies. Nigeria’s National Assembly cannot conduct a Referendum for Nigeria because the Assembly is not an Assembly of the various Peoples who are Constituents of Nigeria. Similarly, the political parties represented in the National Assembly do not represent the various Peoples of Nigeria but their party partisan preferences which may be mostly incongruent with the wishes and aspirations of the Peoples, primary of which is found in the parties’ operations without reference or deferring to the cultural, social, political, and economic aspirations of the Peoples. An example is the Yoruba preference for the Political Economy of the Western Region, now generally accepted as our “Golden Era.”
  7. This Referendum, being the collective and legitimate expression of the aspirations of the People will have to be respected and implemented by the political leadership because it is the foundation for the Constitutional negotiations towards a new Federal Nigeria. Towards this end, the Yoruba Referendum Committee has defined our expectation of a new, Federal Nigeria as a Multi-National Nigerian State in the following manner: 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”. The Committee has also sent a Bill for Referendum to the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti States’ Houses of Assembly to pass into Law and commence preparations for it, although we have no official response yet. What we garnered is that it is seen as a political matter that will be decided upon by the Yoruba Political Leadership, whatever that means.
  8. In passing, it is noted that what eventually saved American democracy on January 6, 2021, was the fact that the “electors” were the states, whose decisions were to be confirmed by US Congress and which the “storming” of Congress sought to prevent and failed to achieve. The confirmation of the “electors” from the States constitutes a major pillar of Democracy in the United States. In a comparable manner, the Federating Unit will become the “electors” to select or elect its representatives to the Federal Council whose decisions cannot be overturned except by the Federating Unit itself.

Sir, we hope this letter provides the context for further engagement with the “Yoruba Political Leadership” across political parties that can benefit from inter-elite dialogue in the Yoruba region as a model to recommend to other regions.

Thank you, sir.

Editorial Board,

Yoruba Referendum Committee




 

Bulletin #37
 The new “Scramble for Africa” and re-federalizing Nigeria in good time


SCRAMBLE_FOR_AFRICA
Recent developments in the political and security environment in Africa have exposed the limitations in confining Re-Federalizing Nigeria to the much-touted amendments to the 1999 Constitution where certain functions of the central government are merely transferred to the states, when, ordinarily, these functions ought to have been the prerogative of any administration desirous of pursuing the development and social well-being of the people. These functions include amendments on Railways and electricity generation and distribution, foundational to economic development and which do not need any constitutional amendment to embrace in a Federation.

These have become issues to celebrate merely because of a lack of historical understanding which showed that railways and electricity played vital roles in the colonial economy such that Re-Federalization has been abridged, distanced from their economic and developmental imperatives, and reduced to “gradual constitutional amendment” via “devolution.” Limiting the return of federalism to a country that obtained political independence with a federal constitution that recognized the autonomy of each region with such phrases as “fiscal federalism,” “state police,” and Exclusive and Concurrent lists of functions just scratches the surface of the problems that face most post-colonial states in Africa, especially those states that are multiethnic. Such states, in view of the recent demonstration of different attitudes to democracy certainly need to smell the coffee and wake up to how to save most of the states believed by the African Union (AU) as essentially sacrosanct whether governance structure is conducive to good governance or not. Now is a good time for ECOWAS and the AU to relate to the question of proper and sustainable State Formation, especially in view of the return of military coups d’etat to the African political space.

For example, the reactions to the coup in Gabon, taken alongside reactions to similar coups in other parts of the Sahel with optics of real or contrived “popular” support among the citizens of the countries, the usual diplomatese by the various international agencies and organizations, non-interference in domestic affairs, the reiteration of cultural, lingual, and political relationships across borders all throw up the question of the relationship between a country’s extant sovereignty and cultural nationalism of the Nations as citizens of the sovereign country while showing that Federalism must now become the foundational architecture of the multiethnic State.

With the above, it is meet to interrogate Re-Federalization narrative in such a manner that arriving at a resolution will cement democracy, not only in Nigeria but also in the rest of the continent.

Hence the Yoruba Referendum Committee states as follows:

  1. Nigeria has been in the forefront of democracy on the African Continent, since the anti-colonial era where contestations on ideas of independence shaped the anti-colonial trajectory, away from the prevalent quest to confine decolonization to continuation of the colonially inspired Nation State, where many anti-colonial agitations simply pursued replacing the colonial power with its African equivalent. Those who pursued “armed struggle” did not fare better in the sense that they became virtual one-party states established along the path laid down by their foreign supporters but without the social, economic, and political infrastructure that enabled the foreign one-party states. It was only a matter of time before “armed struggle” outlived its usefulness in those countries.
  2. For Nigeria, however, the Nationalities became the source and route for decolonization which played out between the Nationalities as the contest between Federalism and Unitarism. This was further manifested by their pre-Independence participation in governance through their various regional administrations which became the foundation for Independence, albeit with various outcomes, one of which was the Western Nigeria’s experience, often dubbed by the people as their “Golden Era.”
  3. An examination of this era, beyond its physical manifestations on economic and cultural development, is in its embodiment as the manifestation of the aspirations and expectation of the Yoruba in terms of their decolonization, deriving from their pre-colonial historical experience which had pitted Yoruba Federalists against their Unitarist counterparts and had led to the Yoruba Civil War and which subsequently became tied to the form of State to replace colonial rule, to wit: the Federal State. Thus, when we celebrate Awolowo, it is not only because of his achievements as Premier of Western Region of Nigeria but because the Federalism he projected as fundamental to the anti-colonial quest derived from its internalization by the People of the West.
  4. In other parts of Africa, most of the anti-colonial nationalists anchored their demands on the opposite, the denial of the Nationalities as the central decolonizing agency and pursued the Nation-State colonial paradigm, hence, the leader became the personification of anti-colonialism/neo-capitalism such that their people were unable to protect and pursue such ideas on the demise of these leaders because their ideas have no impact on their realities. We recall that Awolowo advised Nkrumah on the centrality of the "National Question" in decolonization, in the run up to the 1958 Accra Conference of African Peoples. Nkrumah did not take to the advice. When he was overthrown, his ideas on Pan-Africanism went with him.
  5. Despite the above, the impact of the Yoruba on the quest for Re-Federalizing Nigeria has not been made manifest, especially since the advent of civilian rule in 1999. The Yoruba people have literally surrendered their inherent capacity to advance the quest for self-actualization because they are either absent or absent-minded when crucial decisions are being made, despite being represented by either political or “socio-cultural” leaders and organizations supposedly selected by those in charge of the country’s central government that has appropriated to themselves, the authority to take decisions reflecting the general expectation of Yoruba and other People(s), thereby making it possible for the central government to discard, disregard or ignore any agreements. This has been the case through the various conferences since 1999.
  6. The “contagious autocracy” sweeping across Africa, to quote President Tinubu, has now provided the opportunity to reverse this trend, not only for Nigeria but also as a template for the rest of Africa, where another “scramble for Africa” seems to be taking place as several global powers jockey for dominance directly or through surrogates. We cannot afford again to be onlookers in our history, more so when the “International Community” is always prepared to intervene, one way or the other, yet without commensurate intervention from the Peoples of Africa. This was further shown by the call by the Opposition candidate in Gabon, in an interview before the elections, anchored on the twin pillars of the people’s vote and expectation of support from the international community.
  7. According to him, “When one is faced with a dictatorship, one adapts to its traps. Bongo can feel his defeat and is multiplying a series of acts to maintain himself in office ad vitam aeternam. This electoral law is a trap, but we are going to foil it. The first way is for the people to give their vote. The second way is the international community. No African power can function without the international community. Previously, Ali Bongo lost the elections, but he was able to run the country because the international community recognized his position. This year, we have been working to raise awareness among the international community and if he cheats again, this time the international community will not be on his side." If the opposition follows through, the military will eventually be defeated as Nigeria’s experience with NADECO showed. If they can’t follow through, there is the potential for continuous instability.
  8. To follow through requires going beyond the Manichean division between military and civilian rule, more so with our experience in Nigeria navigating through this dichotomy without providing an answer, hence requiring attempts at Re-Federalization by all civilian administrations since 1999. This means Nigeria must move towards advancing the establishment of parameters for the form of State necessary in a Multi-Lingual Multi-Cultural society which most of Africa is, and which will become the focus of engagement with the international community, especially in the efforts towards achieving peace on the continent.
  9. The standard for engaging the international community must therefore be set within Africa and Nigeria can take the lead by ensuring Re-Federalization is achieved through the instrumentality of Nationality Referendums, not as a gift from the Central government but as the Legitimate exercise of the people’s will. This is because the international community has utilized the Referendum Process to achieve results beneficial to the societies in which it was applied. We recall that the Soviet Union broke up mainly because its army attempted to overturn the results of the Referendum for a Re-Federalized Soviet Union; even though the EU supported and encouraged the Catalonia Referendum even when Spain declared it illegal, the support was retained until a new political administration was voted into power in Madrid, which eventually pardoned all those convicted in the Catalan Referendum.
  10. With the above, and more, it can be concluded that the best way for Africans to partake in their own future is through the Nationality Referendum process to usher in Federal Multi-National States, capable of neutralizing any military coup, resolving the dichotomy between civilian and military rule, ensuring that the nationalities are active participants in the process of their development, and redefine Regional cooperation where comparative advantage in economic investment will spread across boundaries thereby limiting the unnecessary impact and influence of foreign capital influenced by different sovereign expectations of the Nation-States and prevent international contest for influence and power from becoming the dominant source of relations between African societies, thereby resolving the almost inherent crises of State prevalent in Africa.
  11. For the Yoruba Referendum Committee, the Yoruba referendum is to be conducted by the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly. Other Nationalities with contiguous territories can do likewise. Those without such territories can utilize any mechanism that will suit their purpose. The Referendum is a political issue, and the political parties must decide on it. This way, a new Federal Multi-National State will come into being and become a model for the rest of Africa.

Editorial Board,

Yoruba Referendum Committee




BULLETIN #36

“Niger, conflicts, and us”: Yoruba Referendum Committee’s Response to Hakeem Baba Ahmed
Hakeem-Baba-Ahmed

The Yoruba Referendum Committee acknowledges the Northern Elders Forum’s intervention in the evolving political and military situation in the Niger Republic, deviating from the general trend anchored on specious reasoning by various leaders and interests, all tending towards providing an excuse for the military coup.

Situating the intervention within the context of global politics, its consequences, and Africa’s capacity and capability to address the problem, the NEF concluded that “the military cannot be the answer to Africa’s search for good leaders that should lead it out of its massive restrictions. The Western world preaches democracy during the day and exploits us in the night. If Africa will develop, it cannot do so the way the Western world, Russia, or China wants it. Africa’s challenge is to see through the falsehood that we are owed any good by the rest of the world. We can grow and develop, but we have to do it our way.”

To which the Yoruba Referendum Committee responds as follows:

  1. We agree that the military cannot be the answer, not simply because it is the military but because of Africa’s experience with the military, especially when its colonial origins enabled it to truncate Africa’s march towards development in the immediate post-colonial period. Looking towards the military in this period will therefore be akin to doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. This is further proven by the military rulers of Burkina Faso, who have begun a process of what they described as “depoliticization” of governance. This is meant to ensure that government bureaucracy is depoliticized. Yet, in Nigeria, in the First Republic, in the Western Region, the Civil Service was adjudged a shining example and the head of the Civil Service, at the time, Chief Simeon Adebo, was seconded to the UN on the strength of the performance of the Region’s civil service, the achievement which was negated by military rule. What the military rulers of Burkina Faso are proposing as “revolutionary” had been the practice about 60 years ago under a civilian and democratic administration in Nigeria.
  2. With the above, the question to be answered is how to prevent the military from its self-imposed mission as the solution, especially when the military is not an external force but a part of the body politic with a specific mission of defending the territorial integrity of the country. This is the crux of the problem.
  3. If, as NEF says, we cannot do it the way the “Western world, Russia, and China want it,” it follows that this can be possible and feasible only when we do not define the problem according to their terms. Hence the question of defending the “territorial integrity” of any country in Africa translates into utilizing the ways of the West because the territory was created by the West and controlled by its Nation-State paradigm. We note that the Nation-State is a Western notion, forged through the various wars against the “divine right of kings” which led to the abolition of the monarchies and eventually the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and which brought about the Nation-State paradigm because the emerging States at the time, especially those which eventually became the colonial powers, that is, Netherlands, England, Germany, France, Portugal, and Spain, were made up of people of the same Nationality, hence the State and its apparatus of administration/government reflected the Nation or Nationality.
  4. On the other hand, Russia and China are different because their multinational nature is foundational to their existence, recognized, and constitutionally guaranteed.The Russian Federation is described as consisting of “republics, krays, oblasts, cities of federal significance, an autonomous oblast and autonomous okrugs, which shall have equal rights as constituent entities of the Russian Federation whose multinational people are the “bearer of sovereignty and the sole source of power in the Russian Federation,” China describes itself as “a unitary multi-national state built up jointly by the people of all its nationalities,” whilst recognizing “Regional autonomy in areas where people of minority nationalities live in compact communities; organs of self-government are established for the exercise of the right of autonomy. All the national autonomous areas are inalienable parts of the People's Republic of China.”
  5. Therefore, grouping Russia, China, and the Western world into a “foreign” category and in the process making it become the prism of our engagement with them, often lining up behind one or the other as the military regimes in West Africa are doing, without addressing the foundational nature of their State formation but merely reinforcing the Nation-State paradigm, thereby denying the realities of the West African(African) States as Multi-National societies. This shows that, aside from global politics and foreign intervention in African affairs, a major problem in Africa is the denial of our multinationalism, multilingualism, and multiculturalism, which has led to the architecture of the State as a direct competitor of, and in opposition to, the aspirations and expectations of the people/citizens, which flows from and endorses Nation-State paradigm. Nigeria also provides a good example when it describes itself as a Federation consisting of States and a Federal Capital Territory,” as if the people occupying the states do not exist. Hence, defending territorial integrity often translates into attempts at suppressing ethno-nationalism by a dominant nationality through the instrumentality of the military.
  6. In 1883/1884, Europeans gathered in Berlin and arbitrarily drew maps that have now become the Nation States in Africa and upon whose existence their sovereignty rests. Therefore, the first step in addressing the preponderance and/or resurgence of military coups lies in correcting the 1883/84 anomaly. If Europeans can carve out territories according to their whims backed by their military forces, nothing should stop Africans from reversing it as a means of addressing the problems caused by Europe.
  7. Hence, NATIONALITY REFERENDUMS in Nigeria as the precursor to the construction of the Federal Multi-National State as proposed by the Yoruba Referendum Committee is also applicable to West Africa because conflicts in West Africa are within the context of the Nation-State which discarded the Nationalities as foundational to State formation because of their inherent cultural and social aspirations play no part in its formation. This has played out over and over, and in the case of current experience in West Africa, these ethnonational conflicts are often tagged as “terrorism,” “jihadism” etc. The Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and the resurgence of a similar rebellion in Niger with the new military coup, the crisis in Cameroon, and the Central African Republic’s experience are prime examples.
  8. It is understood that war and violence have generated their own momentum, becoming the norm; yet we believe a start can be made by and from Nigeria which can also become the beacon for the rest. This is why the Yoruba Referendum Committee is advocating Nationality Referendums in Nigeria as the route toward peaceful and non-violent resolution. As we have noted, the Bill for Yoruba Referendum includes provision for “a Division of the Federal Armed Forces in the Region, 90% of which personnel shall be indigenes of the Region. The Divisional commander shall be an indigene of Oduduwa Region.” This can be adapted by any Nationality in West Africa, within their own contexts.
  9. The implication of this provision is that a military coup against the Federal Multi-National State will be impossible without the concurrence of all the Divisional Commanders and by extension, the Divisional Army. This will enable the Nationalities to become the primary defenders of their security unlike the current situation where they are helpless against terrorists and jihadists despite the efforts of the National armies. We are convinced that if this is adopted, it would make coup plotting redundant as every Nationality in Nigeria, nay in the African region, would see no reason to take arms up against other nationalities. For, as is well-known, most coups on the continent usually have ethnic coloration in addition to other factors. Otherwise, it will be an unwanted war of all against all.
  10. Ethiopia provides an example. The attempt at dissolving its Federal Multi-National State derisively described as “Ethnic Federalism” and substituting it with “Ethiopianism” has not only led to the current war situation but has also elevated the atrocities committed by the various parties to the level of terrorism which is experienced as a daily occurrence in West Africa, even if these atrocities are not described as such. The reality on the ground in Ethiopia shows the necessity to address the “National Question” as was done by the post-military administration, which, again, points to the fact that the prevention of military coups depends on the ability of the various National groups to provide the doctrines and architecture of their own security and therefore their political preferences, all of which point to the architecture of State as a Federal Multi-National State. We also note the current “Ethiopianism” is a return to “Ethiopia Tikdem,” the Ethiopian military (the Derg) slogan for its State and from which a coalition of Nationalities in Ethiopia fought a bitter civil war to overthrow the Derg and constitute the Federal Multi-National State.
  11. “Doing it our own way,” therefore, demands recognition of ourselves as part of a multinational society which must inform on our architecture of State. The Yoruba Referendum Committee has taken the step of providing the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly with the Bill for a Referendum to be passed into Law as part of their responsibility to conduct the Referendum. It is our hope the Northern Elders Forum will take a cue from this move and apply it to the North, within its context.

Editorial Board

Yoruba Referendum Committee




BULLETIN #35

On Nigeria, ECOWAS, and the coup in Niger Republic

The Yoruba Referendum Committee declares as follows:

  1. The Yoruba Referendum was designed as the preferred peaceful and legal pathway towards Re-Federalizing Nigeria through the instrumentality of the Legitimate and elected Houses of Assembly in Yorubaland, with the expectation that citizens from other parts of Nigeria will use similar mechanisms for the same purpose. It is also expected that REFERENDUM will be the preferred pathway towards the resolution of similar issues in the various multi-national and multi-cultural post-colonial countries in Africa.
  2. The above is to show that the Yoruba Referendum Committee is not canvassing war or violence as a method of resolving issues among African people but is nevertheless conscious of, and conversant with the reality of international relations, particularly in addressing conflicts among sovereign entities, who have, at one time or the other, entered into agreements and covenants regulating their bilateral or multilateral relationships, violations of which may be arbitrated peacefully and sometimes with force.
  3. The military coup in Niger Republic, the latest among the several coups in the French-speaking areas of West Africa, is a violation of ECOWAS protocols and conventions, regardless of any rationalization and ECOWAS was, and still is, toeing the right path in its insistence on a reversal, preferably through peaceful means but also with the option of force.
  4. The controversy generated by some Nigerian political, religious, and ethnonational leaders and organizations to the response by ECOWAS is a denial of the reality on the ground, to wit: Niger’s military has, so far, turned deaf ears to all attempts at dialog, hence preparing itself for a fight, with a loud silence to this stance from the Nigerian promoters of dialog, who, instead, heaps all the blame towards violence on the Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also the Chairman of ECOWAS, accusing him of warmongering because of his insistence on a reversal of the military coup, backing it up with the imposition of sanctions up to and including the use of force to revert to the status quo.
  5. This is further accompanied by rationalizations, ranging from saying the obvious that Nigeriens are of Kanuri, Hausa, and Fulani Nationalities who are brothers to those in Nigeria hence a war between brothers is not acceptable, to the more spurious idea that the military coup was a democratic choice of the people.
  6. It is strange that Nigerians who have experienced a spate of military coups over a period of time and which led to secessionist demands and the break up of Nigeria can ascribe a military coup to a democratic choice of the people, just as it is equally offensive for some to promote their brotherhood with their kin in Niger Republic while denying same to others in Nigeria, all in their bid to demonize the Nigerian president while simultaneously acquiescing to the violation of ECOWAS convention and protocols by Niger’s military.
  7. The above is a manifestation of their failure to address the reality of the architecture of the African Nation-State paradigm, forced down our throats by colonial powers and sustained by its colonial military system, now parading as the purveyor of good governance and development in Nigeria as well as in Niger. Niger’s coup and the reactions from Nigeria noted above also show the centrality of the National Question in Africa playing itself out, borne out by the fact that the coup, whose leader is Hausa, refused to meet with ECOWAS, AU, and UN peace delegations, preferring to meet, instead, with the former Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido, leader of the mostly Kanuri Tijjaniya Muslims in West Africa, and the Sultan of Damagaram, Niger Republic, also largely Kanuri, after having snubbed the Leader of Fulani in West Africa, Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria.
  8. Within the above context, the solution is not in a Manichean division between dialog and violence as it is being made out to be. Rather, the solution is in addressing the fundamentals centered on the recognition of the artificiality of Africa’s borders whose contradictions play out under the guise of sovereignty, reflecting the quest for control of the sovereign entity while masking the inter-Nationality quest for hegemony. Questions about fidelity to bilateral or multilateral conventions are subordinated to the whims of the dominant hegemony.
  9. This is also a reflection of the balance of power and forces in the sovereign entity, which enables the dominant hegemony to create an imbalance in relations between the Nationalities within the sovereign entity and which mandates a recalibration to arrive at a balance where the Nationalities will be recognized as equals. This is the alternative to the dialog/violence conundrum.
  10. The coup in Niger, therefore, provides the opportunity to change the narrative of conflict resolution in the sovereign entities in West Africa, to ensure that military coups are no longer possible because the internal and national security of the Nationalities are to be embedded within the Nationality itself, from and through which bilateral and multilateral conventions are derived, and entrenched within their social and cultural matrices, all leading to strengthening Regional and Continental blocs.
  11. The coup in Niger provides the opportunity for Nigeria to take the lead in this direction, with Nigeria’s internal political development providing the needed platform, more so when it is evident that the “north” is expressing its brotherhood with their kin in the Niger Republic, just as it is obvious that other nationalities in Nigeria have their brothers across the borders. Both show the artificiality of the colonial borders and the failure to address in the run-up to the formation of the OAU as political leaders chose to avoid the call by citizens to redraw the boundaries imposed on African states by colonialists. The negative effects of such failure are now playing out in the reactions of leaders of nationalities in the north of Nigeria to the coup in Niger, and ECOWAS’ positions on what should be done.
  12. For Nigeria to play its part in this historical necessity, the current architecture of the Nigerian State must be addressed to reflect her multi-cultural and multi-lingual realities. Adopting a “top-down” approach will lead to strengthening inter-Nationality rivalries resulting in further imbalances in power and sustaining a cycle of violence which may lead to more instability. Hence, the need for a legitimate, valid, and legal pathway upon which the Yoruba, and by extension, Nationality Referendum, is anchored.
  13. The Yoruba have been in the forefront of both the quest for Federalism and anti-militarism in Nigeria, and this is an opportune time to put this experience to use by ensuring Nigeria’s Re-Federalization because (a) the economic and political realities in Nigeria call for it, further strengthened by the unfolding situation in West Africa (b) provides an opportunity to right the historical wrongs occasioned by colonial rule and place Africa in the center of achieving world peace by greatly reducing propensity to violence (c) the fight against terrorism becomes Nationality-centered such that terrorists can only have their way via intra-Nationality implosion before attempting to confront the sovereign state, thereby reducing their capability(d) the Nationality Referendum provides for a new security architecture for the sovereign State which is embedded within the Nationality thereby not only making the planning and execution of any military coup impossible but also ensuring that the Nationality becomes the center of gravity for State security.
  14. Moreover, terrorism in West Africa is laced with aspects of the National Question, which can be addressed via Nationality Referendums to usher in a Federal Multi-National State as the alternative to the Nation-State in force since Independence and which has merely reinforced the quest for inter-nationality wars for dominance. The Bill for Yoruba Referendum takes cognizance of this by making provision for “a Division of the Federal Armed Forces in the Region, 90% of which personnel shall be indigenes of the Region. The Divisional commander shall be an indigene of Oduduwa Region.” This can be adapted by any Nationality in West Africa, within their own contexts.
  15. For the Yoruba, the onus is on the Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo, and Ekiti State Houses of Assembly to jumpstart the process towards this historical necessity by passing the Bill for a Referendum into Law and preparing for conducting the Referendum. The Bill for a Referendum has already been sent to the Speakers of the Houses of Assembly.

Editorial Board
Yoruba Referendum Committee