Notable Yoruba leaders from the South West rose from a forum in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital yesterday, insisting on comprehensive restructuring of the country to allow Nigeria rise to her full potential.
They included literary giant, Prof. Niyi Osundare; Pastor Tunde Bakare; Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd); renowned historian, Prof. Banji Akintoye; Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo and erudite lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN). They spoke with one voice in calling on the practice of true federalism in Nigeria as the pathway to prosperity for both the country and her citizens.
The event was the 50th annual commemoration of the assassination of the first military governor of the defunct Western Nigeria, Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, which held at the International Conference Centre of the University of Ibadan.
Fajuyi was killed in Ibadan by young military officers on July 29, 1966 along with the then Head of State, Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi after refusing to yield the latter who was on a state visit to Western Nigeria.
His preference to die instead of yielding his visitor to the killers earned him the heroic status in Nigerian history.
The golden remembrance was organized by the Yoruba Think Tank.
Chaired by the Alani of Idoani, Oba (Gen.) Olufemi Olutoye (rtd.), the meeting in a communique called on governors in the South West states to restore the teaching of History in schools, adopt Yoruba as language of instruction for all subjects in both public and private schools and conduct cultural, political and economic relations in the region in Yoruba language.
They also called for recognition and commemoration of Fajuyi as a hero that died for unity and progress of Nigeria.
The communique reads in part: “Yoruba people expressed unhappiness with the damage that has been done to our cultural and economic life by the unitary governance structure which has been foisted on Nigeria gradually since independence, and which has drastically limited and constrained our civilization.
“Many young Yoruba people below 30 years of age have either faint or no idea of historical figures like Fajuyi because Nigeria has stopped the teaching of History in our schools, thereby repressing our culture.
“There is nothing Nigeria can offer us that can compensate for the relentless erosion of our rich culture which we are proud of and which deserves to be cherished eternally.
“To repair this damage, we resolved as follows: Our state governments are duty-bound to restore the teaching of History in our primary and secondary schools, and conduct regional examinations, and issue certificates, on it for our students.
“Yoruba Language should be a compulsory subject in our schools, and our Houses of Assembly should use it as is now done in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
“The Yoruba renaissance will be difficult to achieve without re-enacting the indigenous cultural heritage of the people.
“Participants resolved that Yoruba language be made the language of instruction in all subjects in all public and private primary and secondary schools in Yoruba territories.
“That the entire South-West should in the next one decade work to ensure that Yoruba language becomes the grand norm in cultural, political and economic relations in all Yoruba states.
“Yoruba people frowned at the terrible poverty that has become the lot of millions of our people as a result of the crisis of Nigeria’s structural defects, which have made it impossible for most of our states to meet their obligations to their citizens or even to pay basic salaries to their state workers.
“We further frown at other effects of the unitary economy, especially its assault on Nigeria’s federalism, which has now created the absurd situation whereby the Federal Government treats the states like beggars and doles bailouts to them with stringent conditions from the resources which actually belong to them but which the Federal Government uses its unitary fiat to corner away from them.
“We particularly reject the situation whereby our Yoruba nation’s welfare ideology has become practically impossible to implement in the context of the terminal crisis that Nigeria has now plunged into economically.
“To get out of this crisis, we insist on the restructuring of the Nigerian federation so that the federating units would be able to develop and harvest their resources to revive development and economic prosperity for our people.
“We resolved to set up a committee that will have representatives from all Yoruba states and states where Yoruba people are located outside Nigeria’s South West to work on the above objectives and matters ancillary to them.”
In his lecture entitled Adekunle Fajuyi and the Politics of Remembrance, Osundare bemoaned the Nigerian situation in which money bags and corrupt individuals are honoured in place of true heroes and patriots.
Referring Prof. Wole Soyinka’s eulogy of Fajuyi, Osundare described the deceased hero as a man with an exceptional courage who stood against materialism and perpetration of military rule even as a military officer.
The poet called on President Muhammadu Buhari to work on the implementable aspects of the 2014 national confab report as an act of restructuring Nigeria.
Quoting a columnist, Tatalo Alamu’s position in an article in this newspaper, Osundare said: “President Buhari need not to be afraid of restructuring but he should be wary of those who use the slogan of restructuring to preach hate and the summary dismemberment of the country.
“He should also be mindful of those who scream against restructuring as a strategy of keeping the nation in fossilized underdevelopment and Stone Age depredations simply to perpetuate an unjust system and its entrenched privileges.”
He further posited that there is so much in the life and legacy of Adekunle Fajuyi, “the great man whose memory we celebrate, that speaks to the inward-rooted, outward-looking, philosophy, the plural, tolerant, accommodating Omoluabism that is the core and guiding principle of Yoruba culture and science of being; that amplitude of spirit, that unstinting magnanimity that has always lifted our gaze beyond the parapets of jingoism and ethnic chauvinism.”
In his own speech, Bakare emphasised that Fajuyi ought to be the rallying point in Nigeria’s search for national identity.
At the event were Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, who was represented by the state’s Secretary to the State Government, Mr Olalekan Ali; Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN); Chief Cornelius Adebayo; Gen. Alani Akinrinade (rtd); Chief Yemi Elebu’bon; Dr Tunji Olaopa; Yoruba groups, associations, politicians and professionals.