Things you need to know about the YORUBA-COUNTRY before it was forced into Nigeria. 

There was and still is an internationally recognized Yoruba Country before there was a Nigeria-Country.

“The name ‘Yoruba Country’ appeared in a book “Seventeen Years in The Yoruba Country” written in 1851… 33 years short of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 that triggered the enslavement of once a proud civilisation.”

I. Introduction

Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a big honour for me to deliver, on behalf of the Majekobaje Oduduwa Yoruba Customary Court, a keynote speech at this very important forum. I would like to first congratulate the Forum, in particular its organiser Erelu Lola Ayorinde for this seminar and for her hospitality. I also would wish to recognize the great efforts of others who have worked very hard to prepare for this seminar, particularly in conceptualizing its substance.

Today, as requested by the organizers, let me first begin with a brief report on The Yoruba Country. I then would like to discuss how has the Yoruba independence from Britain in 1952 impacted on domestic and regional Yoruba economy, calling for the Yoruba Self-Rule as an example under Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Leader of Government, Business and Minister of Local Government and Finance, and first Premier of the Yoruba Western Region under Nigeria’s parliamentary system, from 1952 to 1959. Thirdly, I would wish to dwell further on the issue of regional autonomy, particularly in the domestic context of true and fiscal federalism. And so, I will discuss the issue of the Yoruba people of Nigeria demands from the Federal Republic of Nigeria before linking all these topics back to the broader issue of Yoruba Past, Present and the Future. As you appreciate, the topics requested by the organizers for me to talk about in this keynote speech are wide ranging, and I hope to elaborate further on the issues during the panel discussions following this keynote speech.

II. The Yoruba…Our Context As A People

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the beginning, there was no Nigeria. There were ethnic nationalities and Kingdoms. The name ‘Yoruba Country’ appeared in a book: “Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country” written in 1851 by Anna Hinderer, wife of the Rev. David Hinderer, C.M.S. Missionary in Western Africa …33 years short of the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 that triggered the enslavement of a once proud civilization and 63 years prior to the British conquest and amalgamation of the different ethnic nationalities that make up the present day Nigeria in 1914. At that place was and still is an internationally recognized Yoruba Country before there was a Nigeria country.

Yoruba people developed one of the most sophisticated and well balanced political and governance systems in the universe, from 10th century on – a political system based on the sovereignty of the people, with strong dedication to the dignity of life, human freedom, and accountability in leadership and governance. This was confirmed in Report 1114 – the 1921 Annual Colonial Report on Nigeria by the British, when it says that ‘… the Yoruba occupy the western corner of Nigeria and from an early date possessed an organized government. [p.3]

“Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country”, published in 1851, 63 years before Nigeria was created reported that the Yoruba country, with a population estimated at about three millions, speaks one language, but comprises many separate tribes, occupies a region stretching inland from the Bright of Benin to within forty miles of the Niger, and bordered on the West by the Kingdom of Dahomey.

The gradual suppression of the slave trade may have significantly opened the way, in 1843, for the preaching of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the land, whose religion is a system of a multitude of the Orishas, above all, Ifa, “a system of divination”, who is represented and consulted by means of palm-nuts, are worshipped as mediators between the people and the one Supreme God, Olodumare, whom they acknowledge.

But the British invasion and amalgamation of the Yoruba Country with its diverse neighbours have produced tension and difficult moments for the Yoruba people. The next step in charting a course for the future is to safeguard the destiny of the Yoruba Country. The crisis in Nigeria has proven that developing the Yoruba Country is clearly on a path toward a more regionally integrated autonomy, yet nationally connected paradigm – one that better balance increased competition in the regions with a gradual, moderate national integration by a modest responsibility for Defence, Foreign Policy and the Economy for the Federal Government as negotiated and established in the Independent Nigeria’s first constitution under a parliamentary democracy, with executive power vested in a Prime Minister and each of Nigeria’s three constituent units: Western, Eastern, and Northern regions—also had its own government and premier.

III. Yoruba Self-Rule

We all know that Nigeria had its independence from the British colonial government in 1960. What many Yoruba do not recognize is that prior to Nigeria’s independence in 1960, the Yoruba people had rejected the political leadership of Britain over the Yoruba Country as far back as 1952 in what was known then as self-rule.

Immediately the Yoruba attained self-rule in 1952, the political boundaries of the country were separated into the following:

Political Boundaries:

1. Regional

2. Provincial

3. Divisional

4. District and

5. Native Authorities

The Regional Government was called the Western Region of Nigeria. The Region had the following Provinces:

Provincial Boundaries:

1. Oyo Province

2. Ibadan Province

3. Abeokuta Province

4. Lagos Colony

5. Ijebu Province

6. Oyo-Ife Province

7. Ondo Province

8. Benin Province and

9. Ilorin and Kabba Province

I have added here Ilorin and Kabba Province as part of the Western Region of Nigeria because in 1952, referendums were held in the areas and the people voted to be part of the Western Region of Nigeria, the British colonial government handed over the results of the referendums to Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikwe in 1960, being non-Yoruba but Prime Minister and Governor-General of Nigeria respectively, denied the Yoruba people in Ilorin and Kabba their fundamental human right to be part of their kith and kin in Western Region of Nigeria.

Notwithstanding, however, the above 9 provinces were further divided into the following divisional boundaries.

Divisional Boundaries

A. Oyo Province had only one divisional boundary: Oyo Division.

B. Ibadan Province had two divisional boundaries: Osun and Ibadan Divisions.

C. Abeokuta Province had two divisional boundaries: Egbado and Egba Divisions.

D. Lagos Province was called Lagos Colony.

E. Ijebu Province had two divisional boundaries: Remo and Ijebu-Ode Divisions.

F. Oyo-Ife Province had two divisional boundaries: Ife and Ilesha Divisions.

G. Ondo Province had four divisional boundaries: Ekiti, Owo, Ondo and Okitipupa Divisions.

H. Benin Province had three divisional boundaries: Afenmai, Benin and Delta Divisions.

I. Ilorin and Kabba Province had two divisional boundaries: Ilorin and Kabba Divisions.

The above listed 19 Divisions were each further divided into districts. For want of space, I will concern myself with only the Districts of 5 out of the 19 Divisions.

The 5 Districts are taken from the Benin and Ilorin/Kabba Provinces.

District Boundaries:

A. The Benin Province had Afenmai Division, Benin Division and Delta Division.

1. Afenmai Division had Akoko-Edo, Ivbiosakon, and Etsako Districts.

2. Benin Division had Benin, Ishan, and Asaba Districts.

3. Delta Division had Warri, Urhobo, Aboh and Western Ijaw Districts.

B. The Ilorin/Kabba Province had Ilorin Division and Kabba Division.

1. Ilorin Division had Ilorin, Igbomina, Ibolo and part of Ekiti Districts.

2. Kabba Division had Yagba West, Yagba East, Ijumu and Kabba Districts.

To complete the Yoruba Western Region political boundaries, the districts were further divided into Native Authorities.

In total, the Yoruba Country had 1 Autonomous Region, 9 Provinces, 19 Divisions, more than 40 Districts and over 200 Native Authorities as far back as 1952.

This political system and boundaries under the exceptional leadership of our topmost statesman of the time –Chief Obafemi Awolowo – served the Yoruba people with the very best government in the whole of Africa. Under their leadership, the Western Region became the pacesetter in virtually all facets of modern development. As examples, the Region developed programmes that empowered Yoruba people to become some of the most productive in Africa. The Region became “First in Africa”, until the Ibo, using the military, suspended the system and the Hausa/Fulani, also using the military, instituted a unitary presidential system, an unworkable political system in 1966.

IV. Challenges of the Yoruba Country

What do these changes mean?

The current Nigeria is not oriented towards development, advancement or prosperity. Nigeria now tends towards the maximization of power by the federal establishment. As a result, authority and control in Nigeria have been accumulated in the confines of the Federal Government. Nigeria, a country of different nations, has brought down the governments of the states of the Nigerian Federation to the level of impotency and incapacity. These have stunted the growth and development of the Yoruba Country and her citizens.

Regional Autonomy is thus believed to be the most appropriate strategy in “rebalancing” the growth to make the Yoruba Country more sustainable, hence, the Yoruba People, the most economically integrated nations within Nigeria, are leading the demand for regional autonomy. Yoruba Assembly, The Afenifere Renewal Group and The Yoruba Academy have listed the following as the Yoruba demands:

1. Regionalism: A restructured Nigeria federation consisting of a Central Government and Regional Governments of other ethnic nationalities – this could be based on the current six geo-political zones. The South-West Region must include all Yoruba people outside the imposed artificial boundaries in Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara.

2. A negotiated Primary and Secondary Legislative List.

3. A unicameral legislature at the centre.

4. A parliamentary form of government at the centre.

5. The right to self-determination on and up to the right to secede.

6. A just and equitable taxation system that will treat the federating units with equality and better coordination at the federal level in order to eliminate the current rentier syndrome of monthly allocation of money.

7. Fiscal Federalism and Resource Control: A system whereby a substantial part of the proceeds accruable from every Region will be domiciled in the Region and an agreed percentage contributed to the centre by the federating units for the responsibility of the Federal Government.

8. Establishment of Regional Police.

9. Establishment of Regional Regimental Armed Forces.

10. A new people’s constitution: The resolutions and conclusions of the 2014 National Conference shall lead to an autochthonous Constitution, that is a home-grown and all inclusive draft that shall be submitted to the Nigerian electorate voting in a Referendum.

Instead, the status quo ante of a unitary presidential system with states as federating units and beholden to the federal government, immediately breathed again and were endorsed by delegate approval of the National Conference.

Since the key requirements of the Yoruba People were aggressively rejected at the National Conference, the Yoruba Youths had built sufficient membership, and for the most part, prudently created the Movement for Oduduwa Republic, needed to energize the Yoruba People in the face of economic injustice. The result is that the Yoruba Youth is leading the demand for Oduduwa Republic, and can hopefully continue to push their demand peacefully but otherwise where the Federal Government continues to constitute a clog in the wheel to a path of sustained growth and development of the Yoruba Country.

V. Toward Oduduwa Nation

In politics, the most potent forces spring from intimate human experience. At this moment, we are witnessing a poignant example here in the United Kingdom. Scotland had just held an independence referendum. We recognise what this means to us and we do not need much imagination to picture what it means to the people of Nigeria. This act of strategic approaches in regional economic cooperation can be seen at two different levels: one at the national level (Westminster Government); and the other at the regional (Scottish Parliament, Wales, England and Northern Ireland Assemblies). They set a tide of opinion in motion and the politician must swim with the tide – or sink.

What is more, the Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542, known as the Acts of Union between England and Wales, were parliamentary measures by which the legal organisation of England was extended to Wales and the norms of English administration introduced. The intention was to create a single state and a single legal jurisdiction. The Acts were passed during the reign of King Henry VIII of England, who came from the Welsh Tudor dynasty.

In 1701, the English/Wales parliament passed a law to form a Union with Scotland.

In 1706, the Scottish parliament also passed a similar law to form a Union with England/Wales. In concert, both proclaimed their union the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

After the 1706 Union of England and Wales on one hand and Scotland on the other hand, the Irish joined them in 1801 after its own parliament had also passed the same law to join the Union. The Union name was changed from the United Kingdom of Great Britain to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
Notwithstanding, in 1922, the Irish people got fed up with the Union and left to form the Republic of Ireland. The Northern section of the Irish sphere, however, remained in the Union. Again for the third time the name of the Union was changed from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In the case of Nigeria, however, there is no record of a Yoruba parliament agreeing with that of the Ibo or Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri’s parliaments to form a Union called Nigeria. But there were negotiations and agreements at independence among the Yoruba, Ibo and Hausa/Fulani for a parliamentary democracy with executive power vested in a Prime Minister and each of Nigeria’s three constituent units: Western, Eastern, and Northern regions—also had its own government and premier like we have presently in the United Kingdom.

It therefore makes perfect economic and political sense to declare for the Oduduwa Republic in the absence of Yoruba Regional Government that must include Ekiti, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun, Osun and Oyo States as well as all Yoruba People outside the imposed artificial boundaries in Edo, Delta, Kogi and Kwara States.

No one would accuse the Yoruba Youth of being progressive. They do not squander their time on speeches but expend little more than the law requires on their renewed Petition for Referendum Vote they filed February 8, 2011 with the Secretary General of the United Nations, His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon and the head of the Nigeria government President Goodluck Jonathan.

Our mission here and now is to coordinate and facilitate the creation, out of Nigeria, an independent.

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