Ibadan, Nigeria - Ahead of the proposed National Conference in Nigeria, one of the three largest ethnic groups in the country, the Yorubas of the South West, have canvassed for regional autonomy, parliamentary democracy and decentralisation of the police, among other things.
The ethnic group made its submission Wednesday at the end of a one-day constitutional conference in Ibadan, capital of the South West Oyo State.
Organised by a coalition of Yoruba groups, with several leaders of thoughts from the eight Yoruba-speaking States, including those in Diaspora, the participants said Nigeria stands to gain more by practising a federal system of government and embarking on political-economic restructuring of the country.
“The idea behind convening a Yoruba constitutional conference is to get the views of various Yoruba interest groups and articulate what they want from the Nigerian state. As you have seen, they are asking for a parliamentary system of government, regional autonomy, devolution of power and the decentralisation of the police,” one of the conveners, Mr. Bisi Adegbuyi, told PANA in an exclusive interview.
The Nigerian Government has endorsed the convocation of a National Conference for the various ethnic nationalities and other interests groups to discuss and agree on various national questions that many believe, have been the bane of the country’s development.
Adegbuyi, a member of the Afenifere Renewal Group, who read the conference resolutions, also said the ethnic group supports the integration of the Yoruba-speaking groups in the central Kwara and Kogi states with their kinsmen currently in south West Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states.
In addition, the Yorubas have called for each region to have its constitution, control over its resources, be able to opt out of the federation, an armed forces with strong regional command and regional police.
The conference also unanimously mandated a former Chief of Army Staff, Retired Gen. Alani Akinrinade, to convene a Pan Yoruba conference of elders to fine tune some of the decisions reached in Ibadan.
In his submission, Gen. Akinrinade advised the Nigerian government against preventing the delegates to the National conference from discussing any issues.
He said the decisions reached in Ibadan must be subject to a referendum and should not be altered by the government.
A representative of the Odua Foundation, a Yoruba think tank based in Delaware, United States, Prof. Bunmi Ayoade, told PANA that Nigeria needs to be restructured because the country was structured in the past to meet the needs and aspirations of the British colonial rulers not Nigerians.
Prof. Ayoade said a Federation should not be an environment that limits the prospects and prosperity of the people, adding that an equal federating unit in which no one dominates the other parts was the ideal thing for the country.
He debunked insinuations that a strong region will make the centre weak and vulnerable, with not much to do.
He noted that each part of the country is endowed with one form of resources or the other and efforts should be geared towards exploring them to improve the country.
The National Conference which has been fixed for the coming month, will have delegates selected by the Government, while the other ethnic nationalities and other interest groups will also be represented.