By Raymond Mordi
The National Chairman, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Olawale Oshun, has called on the government to restructure the country to save it from collapse.
Oshun made the remark yesterday when he led protesters from 25 pan-Yoruba groups at a rally at the Beko Ransome-Kuti Park, Anthony, Lagos.
The other groups include Omo Oodua Ronu, Apapo Oodua Koya, Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Reformed OPC, Coalition of Oodua Self-Determination Group (COSEG), New Era, Oodua National Coalition (ONA), Oodua Youth Movement and Network of Yoruba Alliance.
The organisers of the rally, which was part of the historic events marking the 28th anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, said they were adding their voices to those of other Nigerians that are not happy with the state of affairs in the country, particularly the growing incidences of violence, kidnappings and the continued preference for open grazing.
Oshun said it was in the interest of the government to answer the call of the majority of Nigerians to restructure the country, because “there is no part of the country that will not benefit from a restructured Nigeria”. The ARG chair said the continued insistence that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable is standing logic on its head “because everything in life is negotiable”.
He added: “It is in the interest of our leadership that we find ways of accommodating all nationalities, by making sure there is equity and justice for all nationalities. It is for this reason that we support the Asaba Declaration because the governors are concerned about the interest of their people; they are concerned with insecurity, they are concerned with the potential for famine, which is looming because our farmers have been driven from their farms by terrorists who are not even Nigerians.”
Oshun said it is the recent influx of foreigners into the country that is causing friction among Nigerians. His words: “If it were a question of Nigerians, we’ve always dealt with one another; farmers have always dealt with the herders, they have always cohabited. But, this is much more now. It is much more because we are having a foreign influx which the Federal Government appears incapable of dealing with. Ironically, the government has the responsibility to stop it.”
The ARG chairman said since the authorities are not hearkening to the call for restructuring, it might too late to stop the country drifting apart because people are now increasingly talking about secession. He said the fact that the rally is taking place at the Beko Ransome-Kuti Park, Anthony, Lagos, is an acknowledgement of the contributions of the late human rights activists who, along with the late Alao Aka-Bashorun started the clamour for restructuring from as far back as 1992/1993.
He said: “Imagine when they started the quest for restructuring, 1992/1993. This is 2021; almost 30 years after. If the quest for restructuring has been on for that length of time and it is not receiving any attention from the authorities, then it will be natural for people, including myself, to start thinking that they are being taken for granted in this country.
“It wouldn’t have come to this level, if prompt had been taken. The government has two great instruments that it can utilise to kick-start the process of restructuring: the 2014 National Conference Report and the Nasir el-Rufai Panel Report on restructuring of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). If they had started implementing some of the recommendations, people will have given them the benefit of the doubt.
A member of COSEG, Razaq Olokooba, said: “First and foremost, we stand with the Asaba Declaration. We have been looking forward to this kind of move for a very long time. There is a lacuna in the constitution that empowers our governors to secure their states; that the governors are waking up to their responsibilities is a consolation to us. The southern governors said clearly that they don’t want the country to go up in flames and we are in agreement with their position. If they had not taken this position, the situation would have got out of control.”
Olokooba continued: “As we might have observed, every president since the return to civil rule in 1999 has been embarrassed out of office. Olusegun Obasanjo was embarrassed out of office, Goodluck Jonathan was embarrassed out of office and, if care is not taken, President Muhammadu Buhari may also be embarrassed out of office, if he doesn’t listen to the call to restructure the country.”
He said despite the efforts of President Buhari to leave a lasting legacy such as developing the country’s infrastructure base, the majority of Nigerians are not happy with him because things are going from bad to worse in the area of security and the economy. As a result, he said, he ought to have known that there is something wrong somewhere.
Olokooba said: “For instance, if you look at one of President Buhari’s recent speeches, the one that ignited the Twitter crisis, you will see a president that has been misunderstood and also a president that has misunderstood his own people. If you take a critical look at the situation, you will recognise that it is the structure that has been pitching the people against the president. If there is no devolution of power, we can have proper security of lives and properties in the nation.
“We have an army of unemployed youths because there are no jobs for them. The way the country is going, we pray that we don’t have a war on our hands because which country in Africa is going to accommodate 250 million refugees from Nigeria? The security agencies are part of our problem because they profile events like this as a security threat. The nation is gravitating towards a bigger crisis if something is not done to arrest the drift. What is wrong in calling the attention of the authorities to this problem?”
He said: “Restructuring is not anti-North; it is like a medication. Nobody has a permanent definition of restructuring, but what we are saying is that the power in the hands of the man at the centre is too much. Buhari receives over 200 reports every day: he is in charge of COVID-19; he receives security reports and about what is happening overseas. The expectations from him are too much, so there is a need for devolution of power.”
From the Beko Ransome-Kuti Park, the protesters marched towards the Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota, carrying banners and placards to draw attention to their demands.