It was a gathering of political heavyweight in the pro-democracy cycle in Yoruba land, as chieftains of Afenifere and other top leaders in the South West gathered to deliberate on the political future of the South West and the nation.
Yoruba elders and leaders, including a leader of pan- Yoruba socio- political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; former Deputy National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George;
Prof. Banji Akintoye, Senator Femi Okunronmu, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, among others got together on Monday at the MUSON center in Lagos to reiterate their call for restructuring of the country, saying it was through that Nigeria could witness prevalence of equity, fairness and justice.
The gathering also attracted former deputy governors of Lagos and Ondo, Kofoworola Bucknor- Akerele, Erelu Olusola Obada; Senate Minority Leader, Senator Abiodun Olujimi; Dr. Bode Olajumoke, Dr. Remi Akintoye, Dr. Saka Balogun, governorship candidate of PDP in Lagos and Oyo, Mr. Jimi Agbaje and Engr. Seyi Makinde respectively.
At the one-day South- West Colloquium with the theme: “2019: The South- West Speaks,” the leaders resolved and adopted former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar, who is the PDP presidential flagbearer as the candidate that would be supported by the Yorubas, come 2019 election. They also came out with a 12-point communique, read by Prince Uthman Sodipe.
While noting that the Yoruba remains cohesive, indivisible and strengthened by a common cultural bond and ideological vision, they reiterated in the communique, that: “The Yoruba believe in the restructuring of Nigerian union in order for the prevalence of equity, fairness and the dominating anchor of justice.”
While justifying the call for restructuring, the communique said “the centre is too unwieldy, too disproportionate in effectively creating equity in the distribution of the collective wealth, urging that: “We must encourage every state in our federation to grow on the momentum of the available resources within their soil.”
Touching on what informed the adoption of Alhaji Abubakar as the Yoruba candidate for the 2019 presidential poll, the communique said: “The Yoruba people resolved to adopt the candidature of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar for the presidency in the 2019 elections in view of his support for the restructuring of Nigeria to create equal opportunities, fairness and justice for all stakeholders.”
Speaking at the colloquium, an Afenifere chieftain, Chief Adebanjo, lamented that the Yoruba that were known to be the foremost race in Nigeria was now endangered to the extent that the country which it belonged to was equally endangered and, therefore, the need for Yoruba elders and leaders to join hands to rescue the situation.
According to Adebanjo, who was represented by Prof. Akintoye, the Yoruba are endangered through high degree of poverty, insecurity and hopelessness, saying all manner of insults and harassment were now being unleashed on the race like never before in the structure called Nigeria.
“We must come together to protect our people,” he charged the elders and leader at the gathering, saying that the race were not known to submit to failure and was not common for Yoruba to agree to poverty.
“Yoruba don’t know how to submit to failure to anything. It is also not common for Yoruba to agree to poverty.
“We Yoruba are going through high degree of poverty right now, we are going through high degree of insecurity and we are also going through high degree of hopelessness.
“I have confidence that Yoruba would rise and fight the battle and we will achieve success,” he said.
The elder statesman, who reiterated his support for restructuring of the country, said the message everyone should take home was that the Yoruba wanted to live in a decent community and would not want to be gagged by any group within the Nigerian nation, declaring that Yoruba remained a great nation.
Former Deputy National chairman of PDP, Chief George, who is also the Atona Oodua, while also lamenting the state of affair in the country, said the Yoruba insisted on a balanced, equitable expanse where every section of the Nigerian society would be free and unhindered in the cultivation of their natural resources.
While maintaining that restructuring was the way out for the country, George said he had travelled across the length and breadth of Nigeria and could see that every state was blessed abundantly with either agricultural or mineral resources.
According to him, “If we all get up and work hard the people in every state can survive without any largess from the central government.”
This was just as he knocked the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for distributing N10,000 each to market women, querying: “What kind of absurdity!”
“It was indeed an obscene display of executive recklessness and abuse of office. Pray, where did the money come from? Was it budgeted for in the appropriation law? In more civilized nations, Osinbajo would have been impeached and prosecuted for gutting our collective treasury,” George said.
In her remark, the Senate Minority Leader, Senator Olujimi said: “As 2019 approaches, we must come together, we must talk of restructuring, we must have unity of purpose, our leaders must represent our views.
I believe we must demand the right of our people, we must change the narrative, we must allow ourselves to be led by leaders who believe in our cause.”
Speaking further, she tasked the elders and leaders to urge President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Electoral Bill into law in order for every Nigerian vote to count, come 2019.
This, she said must be done in order to avert a situation a 2-year-old would be allow to vote in some parts of the country.
Former Minister of Works, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, while charging President Buhari to give Nigeria proper democracy, observed that the anti- corruption war of his regime had been one- sided, calling the Yoruba elders and leaders to unite and free the Yoruba from its present state of helplessness.
According to Senator Okunrounmu, the last three and a half years of All Progressives Congress (APC) being in the saddle had been traumatic, with poverty and job loss on the increase, declaring, however, that: “Yoruba will never be slave to anybody, we reject it.”
The elder statesmen, who made it known that he was not a member of PDP, said that the option left for the Yoruba in the 2019 poll was to vote the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar as the next president of Nigeria, being “the only vehicle available to board.”