By Gabriel Omonhinmin
A Pan-Yoruba group known as the Alliance of Yoruba Democratic Movement (AYDM) made up of farmers, hunters, traders, market women, mechanics and civil society networks has vowed that they will ensure that the 2023 presidential election in Nigeria produces a candidate that will restructure the country and resolve its lingering national question.
The group said the 2023 elections must produce a Yoruba presidential candidate or risk a popular uprising. The groups stressed that political parties in Nigeria should know that the coming elections will be different, as it is not going to be about the All Progressives Congress (APC) or the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but the ordinary men on the streets.
AYDM Chairman Mr Adewale Adeoye, in a three page address entitled “2023 Democracy And The Future Of The South-West” which was issued on Wednesday, April 13 2022, in Lagos, in a two days conference, the group organized to mobilize and sensitized its members in all the old South-West region of the country, which included Edo and Delta states, He said his groups will take over the present political process and campaign to ensure the will of the people in the South West is accomplished in all Yoruba territories.
The AYDM Chairman warned, “Multiplicity of presidential candidates in Yoruba land will be counterproductive.”
Adeoye stressed, his coalition is aware of the presidential ambition of the likes of Dr Kayode Fayemi the present Governor of Ekiti state, the Vice-president of Nigeria Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, GCON, and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu the National Leader of the APC, adding that, the Yoruba people will now choose who would represent their interest as Yoruba people at the national level. Saying it is no longer for the candidates to impose themselves as representative of the Yoruba people. He added “We shall ensure this does not happen. The Yoruba people must decide their presidential candidate and work genuinely for him.”
Adeoye said some of the reasons why these groups are pushed to take this position is because as of today, the people of the South-West are at a crossroads. As the people of the region are faced with one of the most difficult moments since 1960 when Nigeria became independent from Britain, some three years after the Western Region had regained her independence from Britain too.
AYDM Chairman explained further that the South-West region, as we speak, has various degrees of threats.
“We face internal, external and international threats to our livelihood. I summarise these concerns in a few words. Internally, we are afflicted by poverty, lack of jobs, deprivations, exclusion and worst still, degradation of our environment, our stream, our mountains, our valleys, our forests and our livelihood externally, we are at the mercy of marauders, terrorists, kidnappers, villainous spirits and gangsters that have surrounded some of our towns and villages, in the West, East, in the North, South of Yoruba land including our seashores.
“These forces are not only for domination but are bent on exterminating us and taking over our ancestral homes. The impacts of these threats on food security cannot be imagined not to talk of the impact on our forest resources that are vanquished and destroyed with impunity.
“For the first time, murders, killings and assassination of our people is no longer a terror masterminded by the state, but by alien non-state actors, that are heavily armed and who kill without discrimination putting the whole Yoruba territory in jeopardy.
He continued “The acts of terrorism on our highways, our street corners, our towns and villages have polluted our scared forest and groves, almost eliminated the nigh economy, restrict our freedom, deprive our farmers their trade, our fishermen their commerce and our communities their livelihood. The threat is no longer a shred of imagination. It is real. We live under fear, trembling and anxiety.
“The actors are not just people of Nigerian extraction; they are equally aliens, terrorists that have acquired deadly weapons and training in Algeria, Somalia and the Maghreb region. They have cells all over our indigenous territories from Lagos to Jebba, to Warri and Ondo State.
“Our international threats came from the parochial instinct of many international institutions. While in Nigeria, hundreds of people are killed by terrorists and arms men, the world chooses to look the other way.
“The number of Nigerians that have been killed in non-combat attacks by terrorists in the past six months is 10 times the number of people that have been killed in Ukraine since the beginning of the February 2022 War. While the European Union, (EU) are outraged by the killings in Ukraine, followed by imposition of sanctions, we have not seen the same concern demonstrated by the same EU on the situation in Nigeria which confirms that the future of the people of the South-West is in their own hands. The EU and those bodies may not be able to help us even as we are being strangulated by the conditions imposed on us”
Adeoye said the reason for the conference is due to the various solutions being offered by the situation that confronts the people of the South-West region of today. Some people are demanding regional autonomy, some others are asking for restructuring of the country, and some want a sovereign Yoruba nation.
Each logic has its merit. What is most important is a constructive engagement of the people. It is the masses, the pillars of democracy that matter. The future of the Yoruba people to a large extent depends solely on what the people want. It is their future. They must have a say. They must give direction. They must show us the way to follow. While in some communities, it is the leaders that dictate to the followers, in Yorubaland it is the people that dictate to their leaders who are expected to aggregate their collective feelings, aspirations, fears and provide a melting pot for their collective spirit.
The AYDM chairman said “We are aware that there is still a sizable number of our people who will participate in the coming 2022 and 2023 elections. We are aware some of them are registered and will go out to vote in the coming elections in line with democratic norms. The electoral process began this week.
“What then should be our attitude? Since 1999, the voting pattern and public enthusiasm towards elections in the Western Region have continued to wane. Many of our people appear to be losing interest in the democratic process. Many people think their votes do not count. Millions of our people think their votes have not been able to bring the good government they all desire.
“This has put our people at a disadvantage position. Increasingly, the people are marginalized based on their weak political strength expressed through their voting capacity. The votes coming out from the South West fail to reflect our population. This in future may affect our people in the context of local, regional, national and global politics where population is power.
“We want our people to show their determination to use their votes to determine their future. We want our people to use their votes to raise political consciousness. We want the Western Region to overwhelm the rest of the country through massive participation in any electoral process, so that we can assert ourselves as one indivisible people, bound together by common history, shared dreams common future for the prosperity of our people.”
The Guest of Honour/Guest Speaker at the event Pa. Ayo Opadokun, in his presentation, first asked the delegates that gathered, “What is the relevance of any election at this time of our national life, without a resolution of the existential National Question?”
He asked again, “Can the current political operators, in good conscience, point to significant milestones they have accomplished meaningfully to improve the qualitative and quantitative standard of living of our people? I don’t need to waste your time enumerating what has happened to the value of the naira; price of foodstuffs, provisions of social services like education, health, shelter, transportation (even if some efforts are being made through loans from China and Sukuk); not to talk about our infrastructure.
“Nigeria has admittedly spent over $20 billion on power and yet electricity supply remains painfully unreliable despite our natural resources like water, sun, gas wind, etc. Lack of power continues to rob Nigeria of highly valued investments by blue-chip companies, The Trumpet gathered.
Opadokun, said for clearer understanding and critical appreciation of the parlous nature of the state of the nation, the following comparative global statistics on Human Development Index for Africa, and the state of corruption in Nigeria speak for themselves as to the country’s direction.
He continued, “The summary of the corruption perception index disclosed that Nigeria performed woefully and dropped down to become No. 154 of 180 countries where the survey was conducted. This is despite the much-taunted efforts of Nigeria’s anti-corruption agencies.
Opadokun added, that, there is the need to remind Nigerians that in the last 35-40 years, Nigeria has been under-developing rather than developing. The latest statistics on African Development Index are available on the internet. It should worry Nigerians that despite the country’s human and natural endowments, Nigeria is part of the low human development countries, comparable only to war-ravaged areas of the world like Sudan, Chad and Somalia. He said, making our situation of much more concern is the intolerable level of insecurity and its consequential effect on human lives that are degraded, the poor national economy and the deprivations that many Nigerians farmers are suffering as the fear of bandits, herders, terrorists have made many of them jobless. Saying that this is an unprecedented abnormality in domestic, municipal and international laws, and protocols.
Opadokun stressed that the second and perhaps a much more fundamental matter for the younger generation to consider, request and insist upon is that aspirants who will soon be coming to them for votes in the forthcoming elections, should be made to respond to where they stand on the Yoruba Agenda. Since 1994, the Yoruba Agenda has been harmonized under the Chairmanship of the late Professor Adebayo Adedeji. While the Political/Elite’s position was harmonized with that of the Traditional Rulers at conveyed meetings at the Ogbagba Court of the Awujale of Ijebu land when the Yoruba people, thought that the late General Sani Abacha was going to organise a truly representative assembly of Nigerians to discuss and resolve the National Question.
He said “The most germane item in the Yoruba Nation’s categorical demand for a return to Federal Constitutional Governance. As Yorubas have always stated with clarity that Nigeria secured its Independence on a Federal Constitution Governance that was negotiated by the different ethnic nationalities and their political leaders. He stressed that there was no time when Nigerians consented to, nor agreed with, the Unitary and Central Government that was imposed on Nigeria, by the military governments by decrees since January 15, 1966. Since this particular date, Nigeria has been governed unitarily and centrally till date, in spite of popular, credible and sustained categorical demands for a return to the negotiated Federal Constitution that recognizes the fact and reality that the geographic and political space created by imperialist Great Britain, composed of heterogeneous people with over 350 ethnic nationalities with their different languages, religions, cultures, customs, traditions, artefacts, folklore, mores and morals.
Opadokun, told the Yoruba youths, that those who will come to see them for their votes in the coming elections, must be made to give them written and actionable guarantees of positive and categorical determinations on the 10 points AYDM agenda. And the Yoruba youths must make sure that those politicians did not again renege on their promises, as many recent past political operators have done.
He concluded, by calling on the Nigerian Youths saying their jobs in the present political dispersion have been done for them. The most potent voting population today in Nigeria is the youth.
The latest demographic population statistics indicate that ages below 19 years constitute over 40 percent of Nigeria’s citizens. If they move up to 25 years, the youth group constitutes over 60 percent of Nigeria’s population. Urging Nigerian youths to exhibit guts, tenacity and stamina to inform, educate, conscientize and mobilize their generation and the youths in the country of voting age to determine the fortune of aspirants in Nigeria.