Nigeria: Yoruba Leaders Set for Historic Ibadan Meeting

By Ayo Falodun, 28 September 2000


Lagos — As prominent politicians, moulders of opinion, the intelligentsia and businessmen from the South-west zone converge in Ibadan, the former capital of the old Western Region on Thursday, top on the list of items slated for consideration would be “the need for a renaissance that will re-enact the magic of the (Obafemi) Awolowo years.”

The gathering, dubbed the 5th Pan-Yoruba National Congress, is being spearheaded by the Yoruba Leaders Forum, of which Pa Abraham Adesanya, arguably the foremost Yoruba leader, who is also the National leader of Afenifere, is the chairman.

Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Chairman of the Planning Committee of the Congress, disclosed that grand preparations have already been made to ensure a successful congress. According to him, representatives of Yoruba associations within and in the diaspora would be among the 5,000 delegates expected at the congress, with the theme, “Yoruba Nation: Agenda for Reconstruction and Development.”

Undoubtedly, this is a momentous step towards the re-enactment of the glorious era in the South-west, when the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was in the saddle as the premier recorded many firsts as a pioneer in infrastructural and socio-economic engineering, a feat which made the zone the reference point in prudent management of resources for the optimal benefit of the majority of the citizenry.

The preliminary report of the various committees, set up in Lagos, by the Oodua Development Council (ODC) with much funfare, is expected to be extensively deliberated upon at the congress. Really, round pegs were put in round holes as far as the appointments of members to serve in the committees were concerned.

For instance, some former ministers were appointed as chairmen of some of the committees. Former Finance Minister, Chief Olu Falae and former Health Minister, Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti are the chairmen of the Economy and Health committees of the ODC. Similarly, Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi and former Education Minister, Professor Babs Fafunwa are the chairmen of the International Relations and Education committees respectively.

In the same vein, former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lieutenant General Alani Akinrinade and retired Ambassador Olusegun Olusola are at the head of the Security and Culture and Tourism committees respectively.

The Media and Infotech committee is headed by Alhaji Alade Odunewu while the former Vice Chancellor of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Professor Wale Omole and legal impresario, Chief F.R.A Williams respectively are the chairmen of the Agriculture and Communal clashes and Boundary disputes committees.

On their part, Professor Awoniyi and Chief Gbenga Daniel are the chairmen of Language and Infrastructure committees. Other members of the various committees are mainly professionals and achievers in related fields of human endeavours.

As Yoruba leaders meet, the question of how the recommendations of the committees would be implemented becomes germane. In fact, since the implementation of the report of the committees remains one of the foggy areas, former governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Kayode Jakande was reported to have tactfully declined his appointment into the Media and Infotech committee of ODC.

Another issue which has been raised is whether the state governments in the zone would be saddled with the responsibility of implementing the recommendations, or that the task would probably be assigned to an organ which may emerge in the course of the deliberations. In fact, some delegates expected at the Congress have already expressed fears that the level of competence so far demonstrated by most of the South-west governors has not been inspiring enough to now give them the task of ensuring the positive transformation of the zone.

Another issue is how the recommendations of the committees will be carried out in the Yoruba-speaking parts of Kwara and Kogi states where some of the people have started identifying with their kith and kin in the South-west zone.

However, Mr. Opadokun has said that the Congress, as a unifying body, will take appropriate decisions on how the reports of the various committees would be implemented in a way that will positively touch the lives of the people.

Another big challenge facing Yoruba leaders is how to douse the embers of discord in many parts of Yorubaland. The recurring communal clashes between Ile Ife and Modakeke is begging for resolution, likewise boundary disputes in some parts of the zone.

Notwithstanding that a Yoruba man, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo is the President of Nigeria, the participants would also need to consider ways of getting a fairer deal for the South-west in the nation’s polity without a resort to epic struggles like the one fought between June 1983 and December 1998.

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