Yoruba leaders on Tuesday renewed their call for true federalism as the recipe for peace and progress in Nigeria.
Under the auspices of Afenifere, the frontline socio-political group led by Second Republic Senator Ayo Fasanmi, the leaders tabled their demand during a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
At the meeting were All Progressives Congress (APC) stalwart Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) Board Chairman Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye; former Ogun State Governor Aremo Olusegun Osoba; former Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi; Senator Dayo Adeyeye; Chief Pius Akinyelure; APC Southwest Woman Leader Mrs. Kemi Nelson and former Osun State Deputy Governor Mrs. Titi Laoye- Tomori.
Among other issues of national interests raised by the group are: security, education, youth employment and power supply.
The five-point demands were read by Senator Durojaiye.
He said: “Please permit us, Mr. President, to submit our humble request of the following five major issues of paramount importance to Southwest Nigeria in particular and the unity, progress and happiness of the entire country in general.
Security: The huge cost not-withstanding, it may be considered worthwhile to take a bold step in combating crime and improving on security by improving on the apparent shortage of the manpower in the police and by extending control of the police from the state to local government level.
“By this, we humbly suggest that Mr. President should reflect deeply and consider recruitment, training, equipment and deployment of Nigerian Police on the basis of 774 local government areas listed in the First Schedule of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Added to this is training the general public on the need to improve on their individual vigilance and awareness of movement of strangers passing through or moving into their neighborhood. Imbibing such habit and practice will be a tremendous help or service to the police and other security agents as regards ‘Intelligence’ support, especially now that must people have access to individual means of communication (telephone handsets).
“Mr. President Sir, please permit me one more observation on the issue of security. In apparent desire to supplement your efforts, the newly elected Governors of Western Nigeria extraction, have this very day, Tuesday the 25th June 2019, held a meeting in Ibadan to map out strategies to eradicate kidnapping and violent attacks. They and other states will surely need more financial subvention and support.
Education: Free universal and compulsory education had been practised with remarkable success in some parts of Nigeria in the past. Mr. President may consider re-introducing the programme and making it compulsory at all levels and all over the country as a lasting gift to Nigeria in his final term in office. Such a bold step, though very expensive, will revolutionise and catapult the entire nation to the next higher level
Youth employment: One of the obvious advantages that will accrue from Education Programme referred to in paragraph 2 above which will include basic, technical, skill acquisition, digitalisation and ICT programmes will be to open wide gates to youth employment in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
“Thank you, Mr. President, for re-introducing history in our school curriculum. By doing this, you have told us fellow-Nigerians a proverb of world-famous Roman senator, lawyer and orator Marcus Tulius Cicero. He said and I quote ‘not to know what happened before you were born is to live the life of an infant forever!’
Federalism: We seriously recommend clinging to the spirit and letters of our Federal Constitution. This is one sure way of achieving the desired goal of unity even in diversity, mutual respect, tolerance and giving true meaning to the opening phrase of our Constitution that is, ‘We the people’.
”We will be a greater nation if we sincerely practise true Federalism and think and act as Nigerians rather than as champions of the smaller units we were born into.
“Our big size is an asset worthy of preservation. Good examples of big size, hard work and prudent spending are the USA, China and India. It is not with violence or hate speeches but with mutual trust, self-respect and tolerance that we will speedily achieve the lofty destiny of this great country, Nigeria.
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Power supply and agriculture: We have already commended your Administration on its remarkable achievements in the field of agriculture.
“But the country asks for more, especially in the field of afforestation, irrigation and revival of those agricultural products, like cocoa, groundnut, cotton, palm products and processing them for domestic consumption and export as Malaysia which borrowed seedlings from us has now gone far ahead of us.
“As for electricity, we are aware of your efforts which must be more than doubled to improve on the pace of industrialisation, productivity and more comfort for all Nigerians.”
Durojaye also said that the group was at the State House to rejoice with the President and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for their re-election for a second term in office and the recognition of June 12 as Democracy Day.
He said: “We are proud of our contributions to your victory through the Yoruba summit held at the University of Ibadan International Conference Centre on January 29, 2019.
“There, we passed a well-applauded motion, urging all the people of Western Nigeria origin of voting age to vote for your re-election by virtue of your people-oriented and welfarist APC political programmes and performance.
“We are happy the people complied. Attached to this script is a copy of our motion for your support and congratulatory message published in The Nation newspaper of 28th May, 2019.
”We are also here to commend Your Excellency for your recognition of June 12 as a landmark in the political history of Nigeria and for naming the National Stadium in Abuja after Chief MKO Abiola, the hero of Nigeria’s pro-Democracy struggle.
“We are equally glad to note and commend Your Excellency for your efforts to empower the 36 States in Nigeria to have control of the police as a measure of improving security and for your giant stride in the field of Agriculture, social intervention, revival and modernization of rail transportation, continuing efforts to complete the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway among other achievements.”
Responding, the President disclosed what informed the actions he took on the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, saying the former CJN failed to disclose the foreign currencies found in his accounts as required by law.
He said: “On fighting corruption, you know it. Again I don’t mind repeating myself, even though I sound like a broken record. As a military head of state, I took everyone to prison and pronounced them guilty until they could prove themselves innocent.
“We put tribunals in all geo-political zones and they investigated those who were in charge of government money and took all of them to prison until they explained what happened to government’s money.
“Even I was detained; this is Nigeria. I attempted three times up to Supreme Court and winning the fourth time, thanking God and technology, I am now qualified to be a solider and a politician.
“What I do now is when a person cannot justify what he has or fails to declare as the constitution specifies, some of them swear to Almighty God that their property doesn’t belong to them until we show them their bank accounts and their companies, then we have some peace.
“So, we are recovering as much as we can under the system and this time around I said the properties will be sold and the money put in the treasury.
“The last time they were given back their properties, but this time around whoever comes after me, no matter how generous he is, he cannot take money from the treasury, give it to individuals; it will be impossible.
“But anybody who cannot account for what he has and for refusing to declare, we will have to do something about it.
“I will tell you as Afenirere, that was why I had to deal, though reluctantly, with the former Chief Justice. Because there were millions of dollars, euros, not to talk of naira, which were not declared.
“I wonder what sort of conscience some of us have, how can you sit and preside and lock people up for years and even sentence some to death and yet you are not doing what the constitution said you should do by occupying that vital institution.”
On security, Buhari said: “What was happening in the Northeast and is still happening to some degree in the north central or the south west, it’s true that we have made some progress but there are still some problems and those problems we are trying to solve them within our physical and material resources.”
The President identified agriculture as one of the ways to gainfully engage the army of able-bodied youths in the North.
He said: “That we did by providing inputs, fertilizers at half the price that it used to be … and importantly making it available throughout the country.”
Speaking to State House reporters, Asiwaju Tinubu said: “The essence of the meeting is to thank the President, congratulate him on the election and the first step on the security of the country to really see a way out to stem any speech of hate; intolerance across the nation and look at the problem of security holistically and from the grassroots level; including the fact there is a shortage of police personnel and there is the need to look at the recruitment from 774 local government areas and be able to effectively have information; it takes time to train people; you equally create employment from such an action; I mean employment for the people and strengthen security intelligence from the grassroots. Those are the areas of discussion.”
On the promised “Next Level” mantra of the Buhari administration, Tinubu said: “The NEXT Level is broad. You have economic progress that we are working for as a party; we have the diversity of the economy itself; we have the various scale of thinking that the Economic council will have to bring about; the infrastructural deficit; poverty, security; those are the things that we will put emphasis on; you know it; I know it.
“There is infrastructural deficit across the country and without infrastructure, you cannot galvanise the economy. You have the question of electricity that is critical to industrialisation and economic growth.”
On the support given to President Buhari by Yoruba elders, Tinubu said: “Sure, I don’t want to be clannish or sectional; the question is that we want to build a nation and always believe in our diversity for prosperity not from adversity and progressives like the president will join hands to build the country.
“No matter what, we have nothing but one country and that is the only way that we can stimulate growth and understanding among various nationalities; it is not by division; it is not be promoting religious conflict; religious differences; nobody has control when they were born; what they will be, how they will be raised and how their fate will affect their lives and we must remove that from our political setting; set it aside, build a nation and concentrate on trust and development.”