“There is the urgent need to restructure and reconfigure the country in a way that would suit all sections in Nigeria” Prof Soyinka
The above, a direct quotation of the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, was the summation of the deliberations that took place at a one-day Goke Omisore Annual Lecture (GOAL) 2023.
Organized by an advocacy, non-governmental organization, Voice of Reason (VoR), the event took place at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
Speaker after speaker, examined the dysfunctions in the body system of the country with particular reference to the travails of the Yorubas in contemporary Nigeria.
They predicated their submissions on a caveat given decades ago by the former Premier of the defunct Western Region, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, SAN, to wit: “If rapid political progress is to be made in Nigeria, it is high time we were realistic in tackling its constitutional problems…”.
The late convener of Voice of Reason, Prince Goke Omisore’s view on the same issue was also advanced. He had, while commenting on the 2014, Constitutional Conference (Confab), said that the country needs a federal constitution that would be by the people and for the people.
“This nation, as presently constituted, cannot germinate great leaders. … This centralized governing system is all about the rule of men. Give us the rule of law, to be enshrined in a peoples’ constitution, where no saint or devil is above the law”.
In his welcome address, the Chairman of VoR, Otunba Olusola Adekanola, who said that the organization is committed to the re-enactment of the accomplishments of late Chief Awolowo, also commended the South West Governors for bringing into being the Development Agenda for the South West (DAWN).
He added that his group supports “all legitimate Governments from all parties in pursuing our goal of ensuring responsive good governance that upholds accountability and observing the rule of law as guiding principles”.
General secretary of the body who also compered the programme, Dr. Adeleke Oshunniyi, said that Voice of Reason “is a unique organization of Yoruba top thinkers with outstanding social capital” dedicated to the industrial, technological, infrastructural and intellectual capabilities that have been systematically and increasingly degraded across Yorubaland since 1966”.
In his speech, the keynote speaker, Mr. Seye Oyeleye, director general of DAWN, also recalled another Chief Awolowo’s submission in which he described the Yorubas as a “progressive but a disunited people”.
He talked about various efforts made by Awolowo and his fellow patriots to bring about Yoruba unity. Regrettably, Oyeleye lamented that “everything those heroes of Yoruba nationalism worked for has either disintegrated completely or is in the process of disintegrating”.
To prevent a total plunge into the abyss, he advocated a resort to what he called “’horizontal Comradeship”, the binding force that keeps a nation together”. Magisterially, the director general concluded in the following word:“… States may fail, but a nation can never fail as long as it boasts of an elite agency that is ready to make the sacrificial investment to sustain the collective agenda – even if that agency consists of one person. A state may fail as a result of external factors but a nation can only fail as a result of internal factor – that of collective abdication of responsibility by the elites”.
Chairman of the day, Dr. Segun Aina, also spoke about the good old days both for Nigeria and particularly the defunct Western Region.
He then challenged everyone to do all that is humanly possible to bring back the ideals of those days.
Aina who was a former Chairman of Oodua Investment Company, said that we should use the present challenges as an opportunity to re-invent ourselves for the betterment of all.
A Public Policy Analyst, Mr. Tope Fasua, who also spoke about various challenges in the land, mentioned some areas through which government can increase revenues “without increasing taxes.”
These include collection of tolls on major roads and for parking vehicles in some special places in the cities as is done in some advanced countries.
He also spoke about some Yoruba practices that are dying such as panegyrics (oriki) among others and encouraged parents and those who are versed in it to bring it back as it is an important aspect of Yoruba cultural practices.
Another discussant, Mr. Olusoji Awogbade spoke along the same line. He asserted that the time has come for Yoruba intelligentsia to formulate a workable arrangement that would soon ameliorate our situation.
An elder Stateman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo who also spoke at the event, called on President Ahmed Bola Tinubu to ensure the ‘proper federalization’ of Nigeria without further delay.
Adebanjo who is the acting Leader of the pan-Yoruba apex body, Afenifere, submitted that without coming up with a new Constitution that would make Nigeria a ‘true federal republic’, the country is going nowhere. Some of the participants expressed some kind of disappointment on the fact that in a gathering that was deliberating on Yoruba issues, the language being used was that of our colonialists. It was advocated that Yoruba language ought to be the medium of expression in such a gathering.
Barrister Kamar Gbadegesin Raji, Chairman, organizing committee of the event which was the third since the demise of VoR convener, Prince Olagoke Omisore in 2018, who also moderated the discussion, did an overview of the Yoruba conundrum and joined others in the need to navigate a pathway for reinventing the ideals of late heroes of the race “with a view to bring about a new lease of life for the citizenry”.
While moving the vote of thanks, Raji who is VoR assistant secretary, disclosed that the organization relies solely on the financial and moral contributions of members.
He thanked them with an encouragement for them to do more. While expressing appreciation for their sacrifices, Raji encouraged others to come and join hands with VoR for the uplift of the society.
Appraising the event of the day, VoR Publicity Secretary, Deacon Owolabi Oladejo expressed happiness at the success of the programme.
He submitted that the body is an intellectual engine room for the Yorubas.
“The products of the intellectual engagements that the body does from time to time would be beneficial not only to the Yorubas but also for Nigeria as a whole”.