Daily Champion (Lagos)

15 January 2010

Nigeria: We Want Regional Autonomy Now, Says Yoruba Group

A Pan Yoruba movement, Atayese, which is canvassing for the actualisation of Oduduwa nation rose from a congress in Ibadan on Tuesday declaring that its demand for sovereign National conference is non-negotiable just as it advocated a genuine federal system that will allow for regional autonomy.

In a communique issued at the end of the meeting held at Premier Hotel, Mokola, Ibadan and attended by delegates from ten Yoruba speaking states from the South West, including Kwara, Kogi and parts of Edo and Delta states, the group stressed the need for urgent restructuring in the country to ensure true federalism.

The Yoruba group decried in strong terms the "unbridled corruption" in Nigeria, concluding that the country could only be meaningful when there is fairness, equity and justice in the national polity.

It lamented that the Yoruba ethnic group, which is the single largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria, have been unduly marginalised in the scheme of things in the country while tracing the problem to the inequities that surround the operational environment which does not allow for the best to thrive.

To this end, the group advocated a remedy that would evolve a new union of Nigerian nationalities where the respective nations would grow at their own pace and maintain their autonomy.

Eminent cleric and social crusader, Bishop Emmanuel Bolanle Gbonigi was unanimously adopted as the spokesperson of the group at the meeting which was presided over by the Founder of Odua Peoples Congress, Dr. Frederick Fasheun.

Among the dignitaries in attendance were representatives of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade; Mr. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), President of the Nigerian Bar Association; Professor Ade Ajayi, former Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos; Professor (Mrs) Adetoun Ogunseye, first female Professor in Nigeria; and Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, former Minister of Finance.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dimeji Bankole in a solidarity message which was delivered by Alhaji Adisa Elegbede commended members of the Yoruba group for their patriotism and concern for the future of the country.

The Speaker pledged his support for the good intentioned agenda and enjoined members to make peace and orderliness their watchwords as they actualise their agenda.

Earlier in a welcome address, the convener of the meeting, Mr. Tokunbo Ajasin reeled out the vision and mission of the Yoruba group, saying that Atayese was concerned with how to effect "positive changes in the culture of government where people are more important than politics; where government is truly of the people, by the people, and for the people; where government is responsive to the people's abilities and needs; and where the people's trust in government is once again fully restored."

Ajasin declared: "The challenge now is to take back what colonial (mis)structuring and internal colonialism has taken away from us. We are meeting to return to the golden age of our forefathers who believed in planning rather than gambling with the fate of our people. We may be too far behind the Asian tigers that were once behind us. But we have people who can think and use their minds. It is time to unite and draw up an agenda by concensus and a mandate from which no government of Yoruba nation can deviate.

We know, from history, that a united and determined nation can take huge development steps in a very short space of time."

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