I consider it an honour to be invited to chair the Yoruba Summit taking place today in Ibadan, the former capital of Western Region.
I pay special tribute to the leadership of Yoruba Summit here present for your patriotism.
I salute the distinguished Yoruba sons and daughters and all our friends who are here to participate in this important Summit.
IN THE BEGINNING
Once upon a time and indeed before 1885 (132 years ago), there was no geographical entity named Nigeria whereas countries such as Germany, England, Japan, Russia, China, France, Portugal, Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon had been in existence for over 1000 years.
It is a geographical fact that the large area of land (93.765 kilometres) bigger than Germany and Britain put together or France and Britain put together was carved out and granted to Britain at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1854 to 1855. That was 132 years ago. By comparison, Nigeria is a very young country which afortiori needs careful monitoring.
Project Nigeria was inhabited by over 400 ethnic groups speaking over 295 dialects. Unfortunately, the great divide along artificial and arbitrary barriers saw some part of Yoruba race being merged with Dahomey now the Republic of Benin as a French territory while some parts of Hausa/Fulani speaking people were depitated to form part of Niger Republic, Ghana & Sierra Leone.
The result of the gratuitous gift to Britain by other European countries is the eternal separation and division of people hitherto united as different empires such as the old Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire, and the Hausa Empire. Obviously, a lot of the problems plaguing us as a new country have their foundation in the arbitrary partition of Africa.
THE INTENTION OF THE COLONIAL MASTERS
The unpalatable truth is that the partitioning of Africa in Berlin in 1885 by the Europeans was premised on selfish economic interest. The illiterate and uninformed inhabitants were never consulted. Indeed they had no say.
It was never intended that the area now called Nigeria or any of the area granted to other countries would metamorphose into a nation. It was intended to be a fief for exploitation of raw materials such as palm oil, palm kernel, groundnut, cocoa, rubber and cotton to meet the industrial demands of Europe!!!
AMALGAMATION OF NORTH & SOUTH
In the beginning, Northern and Southern Nigeria were administered separately.
Again, mainly designed to advance their economic interest, the Colonial Masters under Lord Fredrick Lugard got the approval of the British King George V in his court at Windsor Castle on the 22nd of November, 1913
Interestingly, the amalgamation which took place in 1914 was viewed with suspicion by the Northern elites who feared that the process might erode the hegemony and the awesome influence enjoyed by the Caliphate.
Alhaji Shehu Usman Aliyu Shagari had written in 1948 straight against the amalgamation. The North opposition to the amalgamation process was re-enacted in 1953 debates leading to the call for which Sir Ahmadu Bello was quoted as saying that “amalgamation process was a mistake” of 1914. I would rather be called Sultan of Sokoto than President of Nigeria. See Walter Schwarz on Nigeria.
AGITATION FOR INDEPENDENCE
Thank God some educated Nigerians, particularly from England and America including Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo founded Daily and Weekly Newspapers with which they promoted political awareness which led to increased agitation for independence by some Nigerians. The rest is history.
- Independence and 1963 Constitution – Rapid Development
The stage was thereafter set for the eventual attainment of Independence by the 1st of October 1960.
- Development under 1963 Constitution
Our country's history is replete with the inconvertible fact that Nigeria witnessed her greatest and fastest economic, political, social and educational development during self government and the first republic. Each of the Regions was fairly autonomous and could legislate over a number of items which have today been taken over by the Federal Government. It was during this period that each Region began its own Regional developmental efforts. There were mutual healthy rivalries to compete for development.
The first in Africa Western Nigeria Television Station/Western Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation, the Cocoa House (a 25-storey complex), the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Western Nigerian Development Corporation, Western Nigeria Marketing Board, National Bank of Nigeria, Liberty Stadium to mention a few were pioneering efforts by the Western Region government under the leadership of Obafemi Awolowo.
On the Eastern Region's Government side, the government established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, which also has a Teaching Hospital, Eastern Nigeria Development Corporation etc amongst other giant strides. The Northern Regional Government replied the Awolowo-led Western Regional Government with Northern Nigeria Development Corporation, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the Bank of the North and the famous Groundnut Pyramids of Kano.
- The military rule 1966 – 1999
On the 15th of January, 1966 the army struck. An attempt to impose a Unitary Government on the Country was instantly foiled by another military coup in July 29, 1966. This was followed in rapid successions by the civil war and a long military rule. Apart from the four years of Shagari’s Government, the country was ruled by the military from 1966 to 1999.
- The 1999 to date
We are all witnesses to the misrule and unbridled brigandage of decades of misrule by the military
The emergence of the military on the political scene and their uneventful stay for about thirty years dealt a fatal blow to the existing federal structure in Nigeria. None of the Constitutions fashioned out by the military reflects the ideals which informed the making of 1954, 1960 and 1963 Constitutions. What the military did was to by that Constitution weaken the component states, destroy or impair their power to develop and sustain themselves. It is therefore correct to state that the military and their civilian apologists either by design or by accident have planted in the constitution the seeds of national disintegration and disharmony. The allegations of marginalization and the clamor for confederation constitute the inevitable harvest of the Constitution fashioned by the military.
- The wind of change
If those patriotic leaders who met in Lancaster House in London for almost 10 years between 1950 and 1960 were to resurrect today, we can all guess what their reaction would be to the following:
- That whereas the legislators under 1960/63 constitution were paid sitting allowance, the legislators under 1999 Constitution now earn mouth watering salaries which make them the richest and most highly paid legislators in the world.
- That the Naira which was stronger than the Pound is now exchanging for about 500 Naira to 1 Pound and 375 Naira to 1 Dollar.
- That the Marketing Boards are now in pitiable conditions.
- That the Rail system is virtually dead
- That Nigeria Airways is out of existence
- That the Nigerian Shipping Line is dead
- That the Coal Industry is dead
- That the huge Cocoa Industry in the West, the Groundnut Pyramid and Cotton Industry in the North have disappeared
- That the Local Government system is ineffective
- That more than 60% of university graduates are unemployed
- That none of the public universities ranks among the first 100 in Africa, etc
- That Universities can now admit students who score only 120 out of 400.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the next sixty years, when most of us all sitting here today would have left the scene, some vocal leaders coming after us would ask, why kept silent? In law, we would be adjudged guilty as accessories after the fact.
This is why today, I pay tribute to the organizers of this Summit for taking the bold step to hold this Summit in order to address the problems which are traceable to the infamous Berlin Conference, the abandonment of 1960 and 1966 Constitutions which were designed for gradual emergence of the artificial creation of 1885 into a nation and the mismanagement of the economy by the military.
NIGERIA – A COUNTRY OR A NATION
Nigeria was admitted to the comity of United Nations in 1960. By virtue of Article 4(1) and (2), Nigeria is a State. Our fathers who fought for independence meant well and acted well. They bequeathed to us the 1960 and 1963 Constitutions that with time would make the different nations in Nigeria to eschew tribalism and permit the
evolution of unity among all nations and tribes in the country as well as the emergence of one nation from many.
THE MAKING OF A NATION
A nation must evolve from some tortuous natural process of evolution. But for such evolution to have an appreciable basis, there must be an inter play of conscious natural factors like peoples willingness to be so identified which would of course be fuelled or impelled by a realisation of the intrinsic strength of numbers.
An aggregation of peoples of easily identifiable diversities of history, tradition and culture as in our case can only metamorphose into a nation properly so described after the Rulers have shelved politics of ethnicity, politics of systematic promotion or imposition of a particular Region or religion over the others, politics of repression and subjugation and have embraced a belief in the over bearing concept of conscientious justice, fairness and equity without which true peace as opposed to phony or graveyard peace may continue to be our lot.
It is one thing to create the façade of a country and give it a name as happened in the case of Nigeria, Gold Coast, Dahomey and the like. However, the concept of nationhood cannot be created by the fiat of men however powerful. In short you do not create or make a nation by only words of mouth.
As I said, the 1999 Constitution was handed over by the military. It is not the people’s constitution. Of course the legislators who are benefiting from the military constitution are not interested in substituting the people’s constitution for the military constitution.
Consequently, they have been making amendments to the military constitution. They have deliberately omitted that part of the report of 2014 Constitution and Conference which would affect them. The recommendation is that Legislators should earn only sitting allowance. I am of the firm view that it is not the duty of these lawmakers to make a new constitution. Even the military in Section 14(2) of 1999 Constitution acknowledges that sovereignty remains with the people.
See Section 14(2) provides as follow:
(2) It is hereby, accordingly, declared that:-
(a) sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority;
(b) the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government; and
(c) the participation by the people in their government shall be ensured in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.
AGITATION FOR SECESSION
The agitation for secession is an ill wind that does no good. No matter the motive of the Conveners of Berlin Conference, we have lived together for over 100 years having been married together by fiat of the Europeans. It is better to dialogue and restructure the country. No woman wants a dissolution of a marriage if the parties live in comfort and are prosperous. It is incumbent on the leaders to make the country so prosperous that nobody would agitate for secession.
SOVEREIGN NATIONAL CONFERENCE
What we need today is Sovereign National Conference the outcome of which shall be the people’s constitution and shall not be subject to any amendment by any of the organs of the existing Senate or House or Representatives. If necessary, it may be referred to a referendum.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is also my view that the people’s constitution should be in place before we attain 60 years after independence.
It is no longer news that many ethnic groups in the country desire a Sovereign National Conference.
RESTRUCTURING – THE WIND OF CHANGE
On the 4th of November, 2011 (about 18 years ago) the descendants of His Majesty, King Abbi Amachree IV, the Amanyanbo of Kalabari gathered together in Port-Harcourt to celebrate the first Memorial Lecture. The Board of Trustees including the talented Prof. Tam David-West brought together a large crowd including the Deputy Governor and the Vice President. I was honoured to deliver the 1st Memorial Lecture titled “Nigeria in Search of a Nation”.
I was then and I am still an advocate of restructuring Nigeria. In my articles in the Vanguard and Tribune Newspapers on Wednesdays and Thursdays respectively, I have published many articles on the restructuring of the country. As a member of Constitutional Conferences, I have also argued in favour of true federal structure. The truth is that today there is a strong wind of restructuring blowing over the country. It is not just strong a wind, it is a hurricane restructure. The loud voice of those who desire a united and strong country which would deo volenti metamorphose into a nation is that the country should be restructured.
I pay tribute to General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB), former Military Head of State, Emir of Kano, Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, their Royal Highnesses, Chief Edwin Clark, Professor Ben Nwabueze, Professor Nwaokobia, numerous members of the Inner Bar, different organizations throughout the country on their proposals for keeping the country together by restructuring it.
I respectfully disagree with the few Nigerians who are opposed to restructuring. They are entitled to their opinion. Afterall opinion is the cheapest commodity in a democratic society. There are as many opinions as there are people on the planet. Some suggested that what we need is change of mind. I disagree. It is the constitution that created the environment under which the operators find it easy to derail the economy of the states and renders the local governments impotent. It is the constitution that enables the operators to steal the wealth of the country. It is the constitution that enables legislators to earn huge salary and allowances including constituency allowances.
It is the constitution that enables the Senate to turn down the recommendations of Constitutional Assemblies and engage in amendments to a military constitution, a constitution that lies against itself.
The only change that can change the country and pave way for nationhood is the change that changes the structure of project Nigeria. No amount of sermon from the pulpit can change the country. It is that change that will bring about the necessary interest and determination to succeed. That change is the restructuring of the country
Restructuring would bring about that change that would make citizens to be proud of what they earn from their sweat as against the wealth acquired from stealing public fund. It is restructuring that would enable the component parts of the country to develop their resources, provide employment, eradicate poverty and make one proud of being a Nigerian.
It is restructuring that would enable each state to control it population, set internationally acceptable standard for admission to tertiary institutions and bring back the glory of quality education from our university.
Above all, it is restructuring that would curb overconcentration of power in the centre and reduce corruption, promote harmony and unity and make the country metamorphose into a nation.
I hope that I have not bored you with my speech. Thank you for your patience. God bless you, God bless Yoruba nation, God bless Nigeria, God shall make Nigeria a United Country and one nation.
AARE AFE BABALOLA, OFR, CON, SAN, LL.D (Lond.), D.Litt, FNAILS, FCIArb