The Yoruba nation is considered a sophisticated ethnic group in the country. This is especially so when viewed from the post-independence era, when it was miles ahead of other regions in the area of commerce and industry, language and cultural value. During this period, each region largely controlled its economy.
But blessed by visionary leadership, the Yoruba race became the envy of other regions. However, with the 1966 coup and military intervention in politics, the Yoruba nation lost, not only the commerce but also its cherished socio-cultural values. The region became the centrepoint of agitation like other regions in the southern part of the country. The military incursion into governance ensured successive northern hegemony in the polity at the detriment of the south, and Yoruba, like others, have been at the receiving end.
For decades in the Southeast, there has been a feeling of marginalization leading to secessionist outcry. Various groups fighting for the actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra sprang up. In the South-South region, there was also the louder cry of marginalization. There is a feeling in the zone that it is being cheated in the sharing formula of the commonwealth, in spite of the fact that the region produces the oil from which the country realises its revenues.
However, all these agitations appear to have found a common destiny and purpose in the call for restructuring or reordering of the country to ensure justice and equity. But despite the agitation for restructuring, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) seems to have found a reason to jettison its own manifesto, as the party has since looked in other directions.
Or perhaps it simply lacks the political will to venture into reordering the country’s configuration. Despite APC’s apparent lukewarm attitude towards restructuring, the agitation has refused to abate. Instead, APC’s stand is almost setting prominent members of the ruling party against one another.
Recently the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG) converged on Ado Ekiti, the state capital of Ekiti State, to examine how and why the Yoruba race has retrogressed and to also take another look at the agitation for restructuring of the polity.
Governor Kayode Fayemi, who declared open the two day retreat titled: ‘Sustaining Yorubaness within Nigerian Circle’ took a cursory look at the race, particularly its core values, and said there are serious problems confronting the Southwest geo-political zone. He expressed worry that even Yoruba as a language is no longer popular among its youths, noting: “You can’t build a generation of people without a language.”
He said the malaise confronting the Yoruba nation has also affected its value orientation, saying, “Whereas, character is central to all we do, it is very apparent that the younger generation has lost it.”
The governor further cited some Yoruba literary words, which convey moral meaning to buttress his assertion. For instance, the governor noted that such words as ‘Iwalewa’ (character is central to all we do), eniyan laso mi (no man is an island), Iwapele (humility), itiju (self dignity), saying: “These are things we must return to if the Yoruba nation must rediscover itself. We must rediscover our social ideology.”
Fayemi added that the increasing struggle between tradition and modernity is making the Yoruba race to become individualistic and warned that Yoruba must bridge the generational gap that now exists so as to discover its Yorubaness.
“Seventy per cent of our youths who are millennia people don’t see things the way the older generation sees them,” he submitted.
On the issue of commerce, Fayemi wondered what became of the thriving commercial ventures undertaken by Yoruba leaders in the 1960s, asking, “where are the Oodua Investments? Where are the great ideas we inherited from our fathers?”
The governor said these dying legacies must be revived, noting that Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) must also be rejigged to meet the purpose for which it was established. Fayemi further warned that the Yoruba people must not allow politics to get in the way of regional integration.
On the issue of restructuring, the governor said there was need to go to the drawing board and adopt a better strategy to deal with the issue, adding, “We don’t need to shout at the rooftops before we achieve the goal of restructuring. To confront rapacious entities kicking against restructuring, we need a revolutionary force.”
Governors of Ondo and Osun States, Rotimi Akeredolu and Gboyega Oyetola said all the distinguishable traits of the Southwest region initiated during the old Western Region must he brought back in the interest of the zone.
Oyetola, who was represented by his Chief of Staff, Dr. Charles Akinola said: “The Yorubaness in us and those things that separated us from others are our developmental drives, our intellectual rigor, our brilliance, circumspection, and those values, however, have not really taken us to where we deserve.”
Oyetola also appealed to the Southwest governments to leverage on its human capital in the Diaspora and bring them home for the benefit of all.
Akeredolu, who was also represented by the Commissioner for Regional Integration, Professor Bayonle Ademodi, said the Southwest is also facing serious economic and political crises that need to be addressed.
According to Akeredolu, “We have to be really worried that the instability and insecurity in the Sahel has started affecting us and we need to get worried. We have to think outside the box in the southwest on how to bring our own paradigm shift and we thought of Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) to work on how to put us back on the right track.”
Akeredolu noted that Nigeria now ranks as number one in poverty rating in the world, wondering, “Should the Yoruba land also be part of it? We must think of how to develop our paradise and save ourselves within Nigeria. Leadership issue is a problem in Yoruba land; there must be a way to make leadership accountable to the people. Our people out there are looking for proper leadership.”
The Ondo State governor noted that the insecurity in the Sahel was already affecting the Yoruba race and the Yoruba people must do something to nip it in the bud.
National Chairman of ARG, Hon. Wale Oshun, said the political leaders must speak up on the issue of restructuring and advised that it should be taken back to the front burner of political discourse in the country.
Oshun said in spite of different positions taken by the Southwest in the 2019 elections, the values of Yoruba people remain the same.
According to him, “The Yoruba people are progressive people. We are lovely and we care for each other. We are welfarists and we remain the same despite our stand in the just-concluded general elections. All we want as a people is to ensure that our interests at the national level are protected and that we get a fair deal in the scheme of things.”
Oshun, however, expressed fears that Yoruba language is fast going extinct due to paradigm shift caused by globalization and laxity on the part of some parents.
According to him, “This is one issue our governments and traditional rulers must correct and prevent from happening. That was why we started the Yoruba Academy and we have been working on this with some states.”
He also advocated true federalism and urged political leaders in the region to take a firm stand to protect the rights of the Yoruba race.
“Our leaders know that restructuring is an issue that is germane; they should speak up on a properly restructured Nigeria in spite of whatever fears are being harbored by the different nationality groups.
“We have moved away from a decentralized system to a centralized one. Our own political leaders must take a stand because they know that it is germane to our development. Collaborative development partners that will link our states together and take advantage of our intellectuals must be encouraged.”
Oshun also called on all governments in the Southwest to evolve policies that would promote Yoruba identity, value orientation and economic prosperity, adding, “We demand that the acceptable Yoruba socio-political leadership is one that protects the social welfare interests and values of our people. We, therefore, look forward expectantly to appropriate reforms in the leadership structure.
“It is needless to say that when political leadership is wrong, beneficial socio-economic and infrastructural policies are always the casualty”.
While stating its readiness to provide a platform to encourage greater political participation, the ARG called on all stakeholders to begin early advocacy on the need for the implementation of the electoral and legislative reforms before the next general elections. The ARG equally advocated full implementation of electronic voting and clean up of voters’ register. This, according to the group, must be done before the next general elections.
He also noted, “ARG recognises the importance of the Yoruba diaspora in the transfer of progressive knowledge and processes in their countries of residence to Yoruba homeland.
“This critical demography can help us achieve a lot of progress if they get involved in the political processes right from their different bases while also offering their technical expertise towards improving the socio-political and economic landscape of the Yorubaland.”