Tuesday, September 19, 2017 9:04 am
The expansive hall of International Conference Centre, ICC, University of Ibadan, UI, was filled to the brim as the All Progressive Congress, APC, Committee on True Federalism held its Zonal Public Meeting for of Oyo, Ogun and Lagos States on Monday.
Over 100 memoranda from governments at all levels, traditional rulers, groups, associations, unions, academia, youth, students and eminent individuals were submitted at the end of the public meeting presided over by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
The meeting was held barely two weeks after the Yoruba Summit held at Lekan Salami Stadium, Adamasigba, Ibadan, which came up with the “Ibadan Declaration of Yoruba Nation for Restructuring in Nigeria”.
In line with the 2017 Ibadan declaration, attendees at the APC meeting called for immediate restructuring of the nation to pave way for true federalism along regional line where resources would be controlled by the states in absolute terms, among other things.
Leading about 300 traditional rulers from various parts of Yorubaland were: His Imperial Majesties, Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, and Olubadan of Ibadan land, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1, whom the newly crowned monarchs in the ancient city led by Oba Lekan Balogun paid obeisance to.
Also in attendance were: Soun of Ogbomosho who was represented by a powerful delegate led by Chief Jagun of Ogbomosholand, High Chief Salawu Ajadi, Eleruwa of Eruwa, Oba Samuel Adegbola, and Onijeru of Ijeruland, Oba Olaniyi Popoola.
Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi, representing Ekiti North Senatorial District, Speaker Michael Adeyemo of Oyo State House of Assembly leading his colleagues, former Enugu and Oyo States’ Governors, Mr. Sullivan Iheanacho Chime, and Otunba Adebayo Alao-Akala represented by Honourable Wale Oshun, former Oyo State Deputy Governor, Chief Iyiola Omidokun former Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Asiwaju Reuben Olorunfunmi Basorun, Women Leader, South West and Chief Kemi Nelson, APC South West Youth Leader.
The occasion was also graced by Honourable Femi Egbedeyi, Ambassador Fatimah Abubakah, former Oyo State Chairman of Universal Basic Education Board, SUBEB, Dr Busari Adebisi, Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group, ARG, Hon. Wale Oshun and Chairmen of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT and Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Oyo State Chapter, Comrade Waheed Olojede, Comrade Ogundiran Emmanuel, Comrade Niyi Akano and Comrade Bayo Titilayo-Sodo respectively, TUC Chairman of Ogun and Lagos States, Comrade Olubunmi Fajobi and Ogunremi Francis respectively.
Also present were Chairman, Space FM, Otunba Ayodele Osibogun, Vice Chairman of Lagos State APC, Cardinal James Omolaja Odunmbaku, APC Chairmen of Oyo, and Ogun States, Chief Akin Oke, and Alhaji Tajudeen Lemboye.
Declaring the meeting open, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who served as the meeting chairman, apologised from the outset that he would not wait till the end of the programme stating, “I have just received a call from Abuja to meet with my brothers in South East to talk to them about peace. So I have to leave in the middle of the programme”.
Lalong itemised issues to be discussed and take a stand on to include: creation/merger of states, derivation principle, devolution of powers, federating units, fiscal federalism and revenue allocation, form of government, independent candidacy, land tenure system, local government autonomy, power sharing and rotation, resource control, type of legislature and any other matters.
He concluded, “The committee has not taken any position. Our responsibility is to collect opinions and present it as collected”.
Speaking on behalf of all the traditional rulers in the zone, Oba Adeyemi noted that he identified with the positions of both the governors and APC in the region emphasising, “We need true federal system. We need constitution that will allow absolute resource control, and state controlled police.”
Going down memory lane, Alaafin said, “While preparing for independence, the British Government invited us in 1955 for deliberation. Representing the North was Sir Ahamadu Bello, Nnmadi Azikwe represented the East and Chief Obafemi Awolowo represented the West.
“In the meeting, Ahamadu Bello said North for North, Azikwe said one constitution and Awolowo said one constitution can’t work in a country where there are many languages, different cultures, different religions, different behaviours, different nationalities, different concept of living, and different ethnic groups.
“The best constitution is the one that guarantees true federal system; otherwise, there will not be peace. Then each region was controlling its resources and the resources in the West were properly used to develop the region. In 1960, there were 107 schools in the Western Region and the rest of Nigeria had 108 schools.
“ In 1970, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, said it would take the Northern Region 100 years to meet up with the West in education considering the rate in which it was going. In view of the happening in the nation, I say today, “Kolomu da omu Iya re gbe”, meaning let each region control and manage itself”.
He said, “The present system whereby the Federal Government come to the regions and states, pack all the resources to Abuja and later send little to the state, this is cheating. We should restructure peacefully. We should not forget what happened to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR. The country has collapsed. Our present system is responsible for various problems the country is battling with including the inability of the government to pay workers’ salaries.
“Let me say this, as long as we operate the current system, government will continue to have problem with Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. What we have now is not federal system but federating of might whereby the powerful region is oppressing and cheating other regions. How did we get to where we are?
“It started with the first coup in January 1966, when six Majors planned a coup because they did not like the political arrangement then. They killed Northerners including Saudana of Sokoto but they did not kill anybody from the East. Killing Hausas by the Igbos caused the problems we have today. The killing in the first coup is unjust and unfair. The blood that was shed then is still hunting us”.
The monarch continued, “In July 1966 of the same year, there was a counter coup and the Hausas killed many Igbos. Ironsi made decree 36 to abolish federal system and that singular act spelled doom for the nation. We need to return to Nigeria before 1966. Federal Government should not have Federal Ministry of Culture because there is no federal culture. Culture is peculiar to state and it is only reasonable for states to have ministry of culture.
“Is it not ridiculous that Kano with six million people was given 44 local governments while Lagos State with over 20 million people was given 20 local governments? You take over federal universities and you can’t pay their salaries. You can’t implement the agreement you have with ASUU. This is unthinkable”.
In a memorandum titled, “Restructuring: A moment for National Reflection”, he also submitted by Oba Adeyemi declared that for any polity to be stable, the review of its political system must be a continuous exercise.
He said, “Nigeria had gone a long way beyond contemplating any break up at this stage. That, however, is not to say that the unity of the country should be taken for granted. In fact this meeting is a call for modalities for the basis on which the country should be related. Although, Yoruba want a united and indivisible Nigeria, this should not be at the expense of being subordinate to any other race as a second fiddle.
“It is unfortunate that the call for restructure had taken some dangerous dimensions across the country. Some see it as a ploy to break up the country. To the Yoruba however, I make bold to say that rather than break up, restructure is to strengthen the country”.
He continued, “I speak on behalf of traditional rulers in Yoruba land that Nigeria should remain one united country. However, there should be power devolution in such areas like agriculture, labour, education and local government. A unified admission policy for admissions intro seven state owned universities is least desirable. Also, states should be able to optimise their resources according to their needs.
“All these calls for marginalisation will be things of the past the moment the centre sheds its overload to the states. States should be allowed to create and supervise the running of local governments in their areas.
“The people of the old Western Region will always be nostalgic of the glorious days of the Awolowo administration when the West was a model not only in Nigeria but in Africa – First television station in Africa, best stadium, Cocoa House being the tallest in Africa at that time, free education among others.
He concluded, “Finally, because the political culture which Awolowo bequeathed to the Yoruba was that of change through respect for rule of law and constitution, the Yoruba will not support any kind of lawlessness and youth brigandage in the name of self-determination as being witnessed in some parts of the country at the moment.
“I will also advise some Yoruba leaders of the aftermath of the 1970 Civil War when some Igbo mistook the wise counsel of Chief Awolowo before the war as a kind of endorsement which they later interpreted to mean that the Yoruba abandoned them. Those leaders giving some tacit support or to Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB should better think twice.
“Yoruba is known for the civility and respect for rule of law, abhorring any act of impunity. Through all his travail in public life, Awolowo never flinched in his respect for rule of law through the judiciary and other constitutional means”.
The three governors who led their states’ executive councils’ members: Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State represented by his Deputy, Chief Moses Adeyemo Alake, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State represented by his Chief of Staff, Chief Tolu Odebiyi, and Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos States represented by the former Deputy Governor of the state, Chief Abiodun Ogunleye in their different speeches strongly endorsed regionalism with devolution of power to the states in whatever form.
However, Governor Ajimobi cautioned that regionalism should not be allowed to lead to secession in the country stressing that the present structure of Nigeria put in place by the military should be tinkered for the benefit of the nation.
“Sharing formula between the tiers of government is lopsided, and it leaves states with financial crisis. Nigeria should adopt USA model of two tiers of federal arrangement of which local government will operate under the state government and its autonomy will be determined by the state government. State should have total control of its resources”, Ajimobi added.
In a clear term, Governor Amosun declared, “We strongly believe in true federalism, absolute control of its resources, state police, and I adopt the communique of Yoruba Agenda which was produced in Ibadan recently”.
All the state chapters of APC equally aligned with the Yoruba agenda but Lagos State further called for special status for the state in revenue allocation sharing.
All organisations and trade unions present equally aligned with the endorsement of regionalism.
Tokunbo Ajasin, who spoke on behalf of Yoruba Summit, summarised their position as thus: Nigeria should have six regions with Federal Capital Territory, states should control their resources, sharing formula should be: 50 percent to the state, 35 percent to the Federal Government and 15 percent to the local government, parliamentary system of government to be adopted, local government should be an administrative arm of the state, regions should have equal representation in the unicameral assembly as well as in all government establishments.
However, NULGE objected the adoption of two tiers of government as it claimed that local government must not only continue to exist but strengthened and granted autonomy.
Titilayo-Sodo who spoke on behalf of NULGE said, “Turning local government into state administrative units is tantamount to taking government further away from the people. It will deny the people participation, public services and accountability. Turning local governments into state administrative units will be legitimising the illegality already being perpetrated by the state governments and spell doom for the common man.
“A tier of government that steals another blind simply because the latter’s fund/allocation passes through it should not be entrusted with the victim’s fate and by extension the fate of ordinary Nigerians.
“Local government deserve autonomy to enable them discharge their duties and responsibilities to their citizenry and contribute their quota in the development of the nation. Local government connotes decentralisation as opposed to the centralisation of resources at the state level being canvassed by certain interest groups”.