By Bolanle Bolawole
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The agitation for restructuring has been one of the most important political topics in Nigeria in recent years: To be or not to be? When and how? In what form and to what extent? The arguments for and against restructuring apart, the politics surrounding it has brought out the devils in some of our politicians as they approbate and reprobate at the same time, disowning today what they had affirmed yesterday, knowing and at the same time not knowing! What is restructuring: fiscal, physical, geographical or what-have-you? How, if any, does restructuring differ from self-determination? True federalism, fiscal federalism, confederation and complete dissolution of Nigeria: Which is to be preferred and which is more beneficial?
The answer to these questions blows in the wind because the Muhammadu Buhari presidency does not want the national question addressed. To them and for them, Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable; but whatever is not subject to negotiation scatters by force! Cast in the mould of France’s Bourbon king Louis XIV, Buhari is determined that the present unjust and oppressive Nigerian system must hold during his time – even forever! As quipped by Louis XIV when he rejected demands for reform, “Let my successor take care of himself!” But when the storm of the 1789 French revolution came full blast, Louis XIV’s successor, Louis XVI, could not take care of himself! Together with his vaunting queen, Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI was executed by guillotine – the king on 21 January, 1793 and the queen on 16 October, 1793, both at the Place de la Revolution. Marie-Antoinette’s alleged remark “Let them eat cake!” to poor, starving and angry peasants equates to the present Nigerian ruling class obliviousness to the parlous living conditions of many Nigerians and the precariousness of the political situation.
The National Assembly is also averse to a robust discussion and head-on tackling of the nationality issues that have driven the country to the edge of the precipice because they are an integral part of the problem. You cannot be the problem and at the same time the solution. The privileges that the National Assembly members must yield are huge; so its members must be prepared to commit class suicide, as it were, before they can make recommendations that will suit the mood of the moment. Otherwise, the tokenism they have on offer as a Constitution amendment can never go far enough. While they stall the discussion on restructuring, the movement for the complete and irreversible dissolution of Nigeria gathers momentum. Those who scoff at timely reforms point the people in the way of revolution. INEC has announced a time table for governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states this year and General Election nationwide in 2023. Politicians are already up and doing. In Ekiti and Osun, party primaries to choose flag bearers have come and gone but not so the controversies trailing them. Defections, alignments and re-alignment of political foes and forces have unsettled permutations and until the fog clears and the troubled waters settle, no one can clearly predict the shape of things to come.
At the national level, former Lagos State governor and APC chieftain, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has thrown his hat into the ring. As would be expected, political foes have descended on him as skulk (a group of foxes) does a prey. But no one should take away from Tinubu his bravado as well as the determination to weather the storm and forge ahead in the face of a determined social and traditional media bashing. To think that this is the same man some have touted as paymaster of the media! While Tinubu’s foray on the national scene gathers momentum, the corpses he buried at home in Lagos have begun to pop up from the grave. The rage of the “agberos”, “area boys” and “Alright sir” boys and girls is an unsavoury legacy that will forever haunt Tinubu and diminish whatever contributions he might have made to the development of Lagos. For many days last week, the ruffians and rough-necks constituted themselves into law and made many parts of the state ungovernable. Poor and innocent souls paid dearly for no crime of their own and, least of all, without as much as understanding what was the matter. What aileth the “Tinubu boys” had nothing to do with the masses; yet, the innocent were those that bore the brunt. But a caveat here: Tinubu’s Frankenstein monster is yet at its gestation stage; when it becomes full-blown like Boko Haram or the bandits, the South-west will be, of all the hot spots of the country, the most miserable.
Gradually, it is getting clearer that the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, will also throw his hat in the ring and slug it out with his benefactor – yes, benefactor, regardless of the sophistry of those urging Osinbajo to stare Tinubu in the face. There are certain paths a Yoruba Omoluabi will not tread but a saying of the elders is that the sheep that moves with dogs will sooner than later partake in the dog’s delicacy – excreta. One of the reasons why an Oodua nation, excised out of Nigeria, is attractive to many Yoruba sons and daughters is so the Yoruba can be saved from the wholesome destruction of values that have crept in from elsewhere into the fabrics of the Yoruba society. We must flee before we are completely overwhelmed and totally shorn of all the values we hold dear. Mainstream politics, as the Yoruba politicians of the NPN days called it, is haram to Yoruba Omoluabi values and ethos. The Yoruba politicians that have imbibed the ethos of mainstream politics are not too difficult to identify. Standing morality and decency on its head under this or that guise has become their stock-in-trade.
The two major parties, the APC and PDP, may implode. The jostling for position and for relevance is tearing them apart. Who flies the flag of the two parties? What happens to the losers? In Ekiti, when Segun Oni lost the PDP flag, he quickly moved over to another party, SDP, to collect a flag. Minister of the Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, and his godson, Moshood Adeoti, scandalously lost out in Osun. It is too early to say whether or not they will shop for another flag. Observers have opined that the fact the APC controls the centre is why its aggrieved members in the Ekiti and Osun governorship primaries were much more easily placated – muzzled, might be a better word! – than their PDP counterparts because, for virtually all of Nigeria’s politicians, the fear of EFCC is the beginning of wisdom. When the two parties have chosen their presidential flag bearer is when the real action begins! Who wins? Who loses? Who defects and who stays? New alliances and permutations may arise.
A Yoruba self-determination group, Ilana Omo Oodua, led by the renowned historian, Prof. Stephen Adebanji Akintoye, however, seeks to throw spanner in the works. Last week, Ilana served notice that it would scuttle the Ekiti and Osun elections and, going forward, the 2023 General Election. It filed a suit at the Federal High Court demanding a decommissioning of the 1999 Constitution “to pave way for a referendum so that the indigenous people of Yoruba land can decide on their nationhood” A news medium reported the news as follows: In what can be described as an attempt to force the Nigerian Government to succumb to the conduct of a referendum to decide constitutionally, legally and peacefully the agitation for an independent Yoruba nation and the dissolution of the amalgamation of Southern and Northern Nigeria, 17 Yoruba nation self-determination activists (have) filed two suits respectively at Federal High courts in Ado-Ekiti and Osogbo praying for a declaration that the current 1999 Constitution of Nigeria is illegal, invalid and of no effect whatsoever because no referendum was conducted before it was enacted… The self-determination activists, led by the leader of Ilana Omo Oodua Worldwide, Prof. Banji Akintoye, from Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State; his deputy, Prof. Wale Adeniran, from Ile-Ife, Osun-State; an Ado-Ekiti-based medical doctor, Chief Bayo Orire, and 15 others… are praying for a categorical order that, against the backdrop that the current Nigerian Constitution is illegal and invalid because no referendum was conducted before it was enacted, INEC does not have the law that can be used to conduct elections anywhere in Yoruba land, a region within Nigeria; thus, the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun Governorship polls and all future elections should be stopped in Yoruba land until a referendum is held for the Yoruba people to decide on the system they want for themselves within Nigeria and whether they even want to remain as Nigerians”
They are also demanding that “whether by virtue of the Preamble to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) which says: ‘WE THE PEOPLE of the Federal Republic of Nigeria HAVING firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign Nation under God dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international cooperation and understanding: AND TO PROVIDE for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country on the principle of Freedom, Equity and Justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people do hereby make and give to ourselves the following constitution’ without having a Referendum which, absolutely, is an essential part of the process of making a Constitution, the said 1999 Constitution (as amended) is illegal, invalid and of no effect whatsoever for failing to meet an essential requirement to be qualified as a valid Constitution.
“Therefore, in the event that the above issue is resolved in the positive affirmation, the claimants pray the Court for the following reliefs: A declaration that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) is invalid, illegal and of no effect whatsoever by reason of its failure to satisfy the essential requirements of referendum and national consensus expected of a valid Constitution; a declaration that the preamble/introductory passage to the 1999 Constitution inserted into the Constitution by the Military Government which says ‘we the people of Nigeria have resolved to give ourselves a Constitution’ is a lie when, in the actual fact, it was the Military Government that came up with the document and imposed it on the Nigerian people without any contribution from the Nigerian people; it has, therefore, rendered the Constitution illegal, invalid and null and void and of no effect…; a declaration that no valid elections whether Presidential, Governorship, National and State Assembly or Councillorship elections can be validly held under the said invalid and fraudulent Constitution as one cannot build something on nothing in law and expect it to stand…” Ilana Omo Oodua, therefore, asked the court to stop INEC from conducting the Ekiti June 2022 and Osun July 2022 governorship elections because elections “cannot be validly held under the said illegal and invalid 1999 Constitution of Nigeria” and also because “there is no valid legal framework for such an exercise because the 1999 Constitution (as amended) under which the said Governorship election is planned to be conducted is illegal, invalid and inherently defective”.
Ilana Omo Oodua then asked for an Order of the court “directing the Defendants jointly and severally to stay clear of Ekiti and Osun States in June and July 2022 and suspend with immediate effect the plans and arrangements they have put in place to conduct such an illegal election in Ekiti and Osun States of Nigeria”
This court action opens a new front in the struggle for a Yoruba nation. So far, the options adopted by the Yoruba self-determination groups have been peaceful; whether the anti-self-determination forces opposed to peaceful change will complement these efforts by having a change of heart remains to be seen!
* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers and Chairman of its Editorial Board, BOLAWOLE writes the TREASURES column in the New Telegraph newspaper and the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.