YORUBA-SPEAKING people in Kogi State have called for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) to restructure Nigeria into a just and safe country for all its citizens.
In a memorandum submitted to the Senate Committee on constitution review, a copy of which was forwarded to Tribune Online on Friday, the Yoruba people under the aegis of Okun Development Association (ODA) while making the call for the SNC said “the security of lives and property in the country had become “highly compromised” as “some groups kill and pillage at will while the Federal Government is unable or unwilling to stop them.”
Part of the memorandum signed by Ambassador Paul Fadumiyo on behalf of ODA’s President General, Mr Femi Mokikan reads: “The Okun People in Kogi State are convinced that a Sovereign National Conference will be a welcome platform to canvass and advocate a redress for multiple injustices that have arisen from their wrong situation since Lord Lugard’s proclamation of an artificial boundary between the Northern Protectorate and the Southern Protectorate in 1900. The subsequent amalgamation of both the Southern and Northern Protectorates and the Colony of Lagos, which became Nigeria in 1914, did not acknowledge the imperative for a redressing of this anomaly.
“The government of post-independence Northern Nigeria where the Okun People constituted the bedrock of the intelligentsia and bureaucracy collapsed in 1966. Ever since, Okun People have been victims of serial political nomadism in various geopolitical entities.
This has negatively impacted on the cultural, political and economic fortunes of the Okun People, a situation accentuated by the creation of Kogi State in 1991.
“The experiences from cultural, economic, administrative and geopolitical miniaturization of power and politics, which worsened the marginal status of Okun People, particularly in Kogi State in the North Central Zone, after the collapse of the Northern Nigerian government, have shown glaringly the irreconcilable contradictions and barriers to Okun People’s security and development aspirations.
“ The various protests, appeals and advocacy for fairness, equity and justice at several Constitutional Conferences in London and Nigeria, the Willinks Commission of Enquiry on Minority Rights, several Panels on Creation of States and Boundary Adjustment hitherto, have not attracted the desired attention, as the people have never been allowed to determine where they should belong and who should govern them and guarantee their self-actualisation, security, development and overall well-being.
“We reaffirm that the Okun People share the same characteristics with the Yoruba of South Western Nigeria in culture, values and cosmology. The territory where Okun People dwell is also contiguous with the South West of Nigeria without any natural or ecological barrier. From time immemorial till TODAY, the in and out flow of trade by Okun People has only been with the Yoruba of the South West. It has never been with our non-Yoruba neighbours.
“There has always been a loud, popular and persistent clamour for the readjustment or re-location of Okun People politically and administratively from the North Central Zone to the South West Zone of Nigeria.
“There has been a persistent exclusion of Okun People from governance, particularly at the highest levels of decision-making. Without a deliberate policy that favours power rotation, political power will perpetually elude the Okun People and thus perpetuate their ongoing marginalisation in Kogi State.
Sovereign National Conference
“Okun People observe that too much of the nation’s resources and governmental responsibilities are concentrated in the central (Federal) government, so much so, that the federating units cannot meaningfully exploit the physical, economic and human resources in their environment for the development of their territory and for the wellbeing of their people.
“Indeed, from 1966 to date Nigeria has been a Federal Republic in name only.
“Security of lives and property has become highly compromised because the apparatus of institutional control resides with the central government- thus making crime detection, prevention and justice ineffective. The inability of the Federal Government to guarantee the security of life and property of every segment in the country has become glaring as some groups kill and pillage at will while the Federal Government is unable or unwilling to stop them.
“The official cost of running government is too high in the current presidential system, breeding endemic corruption which has, in turn, inhibited the ability to run government effectively and efficiently.
“The Okun Development Association (ODA) advocates that a Sovereign National Conference be convened to address the critical issues that concern Okunland and other nationalities in Nigeria as presently constituted.
“From the days of the Protectorate of Northern Nigeria, through the amalgamation of the two Protectorates and the Colony of Lagos in 1914, to the creation of regions by the Richards Constitution in 1946 through the creation of states, first in 1967 and subsequently the creation of Kogi State in 1991, the Okun People were never asked where they wanted to be. They found themselves where others placed them by fiat. In short, our right to self-determination, as enshrined in the United Nation’s Atlantic Character on Human and People’s Rights, has never been respected.
“Arising from the foregoing, we, the Okun Yoruba of Kogi State invoke the relevant Charters of the United Nations, the African Union and the West African Economic Community, to demand that we be allowed to determine how we want to be governed, who we want to associate with and where we want to be. We invoke our God-given rights to choose whether we want to be in the North Central Zone or any other Zone. The historical alienation that Okun People have suffered, which we have enunciated in this Memorandum makes our choice very clear. A slave that never agitates to go back to his father’s house is a slave indeed and will remain so forever. Though we have lived on our father’s land, this land has been expropriated by strangers since 1900. We demand that the ancestral land where Okun Yoruba live, be returned to rejoin its rightful owner, THE YORUBA OF SOUTHWEST NIGERIA.
“We, the Okun Yoruba people of Kogi State (spreading across six contiguous Local Government Areas) insist that the political boundary drawn in 1900 to separate us from our kith and kin in Ondo, Ekiti and Kwara states is an infringement, abridgement of our right to self-determination, more so that it has inhibited our growth and development for a tortuous century thus far “Therefore, we demand that the boundary be readjusted to relocate our people and territory back to where we belong in South-west Nigeria.
“We the entire Okun people express support for the loud and necessary call for the restructuring of Nigeria to bring about a truly federal republic with the following elements:
“That the Nigeria nation be structured to have a central government with the current six (6), or more, geo-political zones forming the federating units as regions, operating as coordinate rather than subordinate structures “That each region shall control the economy and government of its area and contribute to running the federal government for the responsibilities allocated to it. Whilst there will be a federal constitution, regions shall also have their own constitutions to address their peculiar environments. Clearly defined exclusive and concurrent responsibilities shall be agreed between the regions and the federal government.
“Each region should consist of internally agreed number of states or provinces based on political peculiarities. States or provinces shall therefore be the federating units of each region in which there will also be exclusive and concurrent responsibilities between them.
“Each state or province shall be divided into local government areas. Local government administration shall be on the exclusive list of each state, which shall determine the number they want and fund them.
“That there shall be a revenue-sharing formula in which the states and regions make contributions to fund responsibilities allocated to the federal government. To this end, at least fifty per cent (50%) of resources shall be retained in the states where they are derived and used for local and regional development.
“To reduce the cost of governance, to significantly increase effectiveness and to make governance closer to the people, a parliamentary system of government is advocated as the best for Nigeria.
“There shall be only one legislative assembly (unicameral) at national level, one at the region, and the current state Houses of Assembly, all operating on part-time basis.
“To ensure fairness and uphold human rights for minority nationalities who have been separated by artificial boundaries from their kith and kin, a referendum shall be conducted to enable such nationalities to choose which local government area, state and region to join as long as their present location is contiguous to the LGA, state or region they want to join.
“The Okun people of Kogi state reaffirm their Yoruba origin. It is incontrovertible that their culture and values are the same with those of the Yoruba in the SouthWest of Nigeria with whom we share territorial contiguity and economic relations.
“We, therefore, put forward as our core demand, the readjustment or relocation of Okun people’s political and land boundary from the North-Central zone (region) to the South-West zone (region) of Nigeria.
“In joining the South-West zone (region), we demand that Okunland be incorporated as a state (Okun state) since we have all it takes to be a viable one.
“In case of limitation placed on the number of states per zone (region), or some other considerations, and we cannot be a state of our own, we shall prefer to come into the South West in a union as one state, with the core Yoruba of Kwara State with whom we were in the same state from 1967 to 1991.”