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17 Nov 2013

News: National Confab: APC is standing against the people – Odumakin

Mr Yinka Odumakin is the National Publicity Secretary of the Yoruba socio-political organization, Afenifere. In this interview, he takes a swipe at the All Progressive Congress, APC, for kicking against the National Conference proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan. Excerpts:
In recent times, you have taken a decision that is favorably disposed to the National Conference proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan. What is the basis of your optimism?
Dr Tunji Braithwaite said at the town hall meeting recently, that the  conference is a divine agenda to perhaps give Nigeria a lease of life because Nigeria, as it is, is heading for the precipe. Next year will be our centenary celebration and there is a widespread mood among those who are frustrated with the way Nigeria has distorted the aspiration of its people. And that may be the  year to put an end to Nigeria.
*Yinka Odumakin
*Yinka Odumakin
Here is President Goodluck Jonathan who, two years ago, said there was no need for a National Conference. All of a sudden, he changed his mind. I think it is something that all those who want this country to continue, who love this country and who believe that there is an alternative for this country before it disintegrates, should grab with both hands to ensure that we sit down for the first time in our history since 1914 that we were amalgamated to discuss this nation.
The North and South did not meet until 1946, though amalgamation took place in 1914. There is a structural imbalance. So, this conference has given us an opportunity for the component units of the country to come together, for the first time, and discuss their union of how they want to live together so that we can live in peace and harmony.
The suspicion is that President Jonathan has been stifled by the North, which is clamouring for power and that his sudden change of mind is spurred by the fact that he wants power in 2015.
Well, sceptics are free to their opinions and I think the issue is that the credibility of President Jonathan is at stake or that he wants power but I think that should not be the consideration of those who love this country. It is just the fact that he has provided a window for reforms and we should turn that window into a door.
I have said it before that the fears of the cynics is that they doubt Jonathan’s intention and also that they do not want Nigeria restructured. The major groups, given that the Okunrounmu panel has been going round the country, there is an emerging consensus that every section of Nigeria wants a conference. There may be divergence on how we should compose and there is the consensus that representation should be on the basis of nationalities.
There is a kind of understanding that the existing geo-political zones should be used as basis for representation. Every section of this country has accepted the conference but the only people who are against this conference are the All Progressive Congress.
What informed your allegation?
It shows that they are in politics not for the people but about themselves. I think they have this thinking that this is their best time to go to the centre. They have been recruiting  people from the Peoples Democratic Party which they said was a corrupt and useless party, they have been going round to meet governors to join them. There are some delusions in their approach, they must be poor students of history to think that they can vote any sitting president out of office.
So for a group of people to think that one man will be in charge of the armed forces and they will still defeat him, I want to see them making that history. More importantly, people, over the years, have been talking about true federalism and the rest this is an opportunity for us to achieve that,and to now begin to raise all kinds of excuses to frustrate the desire of our people to get out of bondage shows one thing, they want to lead the people they do not understand.
It takes the Yoruba people to come to a consensus on any issue but once they come to that consensus, it will be difficult to change position. Those who did it in the First Republic saw it, those who followed Abacha in 1993 to 1999, what happened to them? From the 1950s, what the Yoruba have fought for is Nigeria’s autonomy, true federalism, now they want to have that autonomy and some people want to stand on their way and say they cannot have it saying they should wait till after the 2015 election.
They are deceiving our people. Go and ask for the APC manifesto today, it is there that they are committed to the same Constitution that enslaves our people. So if they say we should wait till after election, who are they deceiving, when they have written in their manifesto that they are committed to the existing Constitution? They just want to do ‘Gbajue’ for our people or one chance. And our people will not fall for that. From what happened in Akure and Lagos, it was clear that there was no organisation in Yoruba land that is not in support of this conference.
Afenifere, Yoruba Unity Forum, OPC – everybody was there!  It was clear where we are. So they are standing against the people and I watch them and laugh.  One man came in the plane, he had not even stepped down from the plane and he said he does not want the conference and all of you now say that is the thing.  Were the present governors in Yorubaland the same governors in Yorubaland in 1999?
How can we talk about constitutional development and issue for Nigeria and some people, who are governors in the South-west, would not think they should consult their leaders – those who are the authorities in their states? That Fashola would not even ask Mr. Tunji Braithwaite: ‘Sir, what do you think about this matter? before taking sides with a man who just jumped down from the plane, who has not talked to anybody?
That in Ogun State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun would not go to Kola Ajibola, a former Attorney-General, a former World Court judge – ‘what do you think sir, about this matter?’ before following a man who just came from the plane and was takling about the conference. That in Ekiti State, a Kayode Fayemi would not think that:  what does Chief Afe Babalola or Wole Olanipekun think about this matter? Let this conference hold, after that, you will come and face the Yoruba people.
How do you think this conference can be useful such that the Yoruba race can make the best out of it?
Of the tripod in Nigeria, Yoruba is the only one that has never questioned the corporate existence of Nigeria. After the legislative crisis of 1946, the Sadauna was quoted to have said “the mistake of 1914 has come to fore”, that is the amalgamation was a mystic. And in the revenge coup of 1966, the theme was ‘Araba’, lets divide Nigeria.
In  fact, after the 1953 motion by Enahoro for independence, the North came out with their own agenda which amounted to nothing but confederation.  When the Igbo got frustrated, they took up arms against Nigeria for three and a half years. In fact, at every point, in spite of what they did to Awolowo between 1960 and 1965,  Yoruba never took arms against Nigeria, to say let us divide the country.
For five years, we engaged Abacha; there was no resolution that we should divide Nigeria. So we believe Nigeria can prosper through federalism and Yoruba will be going to the conference asking for true federalism and regional autonomy. That is what we want out of this conference because we know the benefits and we know that dangers of not having it. Any experiment with a unitary Constitution in a multi-ethnic and multi-lingua nation is bound to fail. And if you are in doubt, go to Sudan – two major nationalities on unitary constitution were at war for over 50 years.
In Cyprus; the Spanish speaking and the Turkish speaking, for over 1,000 years they have been together, there is still tension.  In Syria today, the Kurds have been asking for autonomy for a long time. Even the problem in Iraq was because the one million Kurds there were asking for autonomy. Yugoslavia has disappeared from the world map since 1991.
So we believe that for Nigeria not to disintegrate, we need to come together, understand ourselves and then constitute ourselves in a way that we can live together in peace and harmony. Why Nigeria is not working is that it is said that the speed of a convoy is that of the slowest moving vessel. That is, if you have ten vessels and there is one among them that does not have locomotion like the rest, that will be the speed of that convoy; except the others get frustrated and decide to break away from that convoy, they will continue to move at the same speed.
That is what Nigeria has been doing in 53 years, because we are not exposed to the same level of speed at the same time. Between 1955 and 1965 when Awolowo led Western Nigeria, the least we spent on education was 29.8 percent in any year. There was even a time he spent 41 percent. Now suddenly you  came and say you want…unitarism – you want to standardise – you want all of us who have not invested that kind of money to go at the same pace. So for as long as your son cannot score 200 in JAMB, my son who scores 201 does not have a place in the university whereas your own son who scored 100, because he is not from my area where I’ve invested in education over a long time, must go to the university while there is no space for my own.
The second thing, it is said that birds of identical pulmage flock together. That is the normal thing, but in order not for birds of identical pulmage to flock together in Nigeria, Nigeria puts all the birds in one cage and locked them up and then because the birds are not in their natural habitats – because birds are supposed to fly – but they cannot fly anymore, then start to peck and bark at themselves inside the cage.
But now the president has gone ahead to say the outcome of the conference is to be submitted to the National Assembly as part of the ongoing constitutional amendment, which those who against the idea have further pointed to as part of the flaws of the proposed conference?
The statement made by the president was a convenient excuse for those who don’t want the conference ab-initio. Well, even if President Jonathan said we would take it to the National Assembly, which we have disagreed with, is it not better than them who said they are committed to the current Constitution that enslaves our people?
We have disagreed with the president on that and I think the president himself must have seen what the people are saying. The final authority lies with the Nigerian people and it is very clear.  The president put his view on the table but his view may not be the view. When we finish, the National Assembly promulgates our constitution into law; they will repeal the current the present decree which Abdulsalami promulgated; Decree 24, and put in the new Constitution that has been produced by we the people.


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