There seems to be a resurgence of a new kind of nationalism on the political landscape of the Yoruba of south-western Nigeria. A number of meetings, conferences, scenario-building and subterranean and overt activities of the region's elite should give the nation's leaders some cause to reflect and perhaps react.
Earlier this year, the governors of the six states of the region, joined by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governor of Edo, Adams Oshiomhole, drew a template for regional economic integration. The penultimate meeting in Ibadan convened by civil war veteran Gen. Alani Akinrinade introduced a curious dimension with its call for the fundamental restructuring of the Nigerian state, where each region would have a quasi-autonomous status.
Unlike the other regions, the people enjoy a long history of nationalism. Drawing on elements from local mythologies, traditions and cultural values, the Yoruba educated elite have established a common interest which is the basis for the people's imagination of the nation.
Transformed from pre-colonial group identity to a cultural phenomenon during colonial times, Yoruba nationalism has increasingly radicalised, at times violently, during the post-colonial period. Now, Yoruba nationalism seems directed against the Nigerian nation-state and other ethnic groups in Nigeria, hence the worrying dimension to calls by its leaders for regional integration and the fear of national disintegration.
We wonder what kind of arrangement that would be, given that Edo, Kwara and Kogi states where some Yoruba hail from are outside of the south-west arrangement of the late and immediate post-colonial Nigeria. Though the conveners argued that the Yoruba are "federalists" in their political evolution, the aspect of "independence" owing to marginalisation by the Nigerian state does not seem congruent with their stance on how to strengthen the Nigerian union and make it more productive.
We think it tends to heighten the disunity into our diversities. Indeed, it is not right to say that the people of the south-west have been short-changed more than the other regions on political leadership plain. Short of the watershed of June 12, 1993, the Yoruba have been fairly compensated in terms of appointments, elections and participation in the Nigerian project.
Perhaps the most disturbing of the Ibadan Yoruba Assembly's communiqué is the suggestion that vigilantes should hold a pride of place in the region's security architecture. This suggests impatience with the present debate over the Nigeria Police. Vigilantes are no substitute to a decentralised police.
Even with the glaring challenges of insecurity, they must know that they risk the putative reign of ultra-nationalist militias. We do not appreciate this Yugoslavian recipe. Naturally, the imbalances in the Nigeria enterprise call for concern, but pandering to ethnic sentiments would worsen the state of affairs.