…warn against disintegration
Associates of the sage, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, yesterday warned that Nigeria will continue to slide into disintegration unless the country is urgently restructured. They declared that it had become imperative to reduce the undue overbearing influence of the Federal Government and devolve more powers to the constituent states.
The associates, including renowned historian, Professor Banji Akintoye, and Awolowo’s former private secretary, Odia Ofeimun, spoke at the maiden edition of Awo Conversations held at the Efunyela Hall, Awolowo residence, Ikenne, Ogun State. The event was organised for selected youths across different ethnic nationalities as part of activities to commemorate the 30th posthumous birthday of the sage.
Other speakers are Afenifere chieftain, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Professor Oladipo Akinkugbe, Senator Anthony Adefuye, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu and Hon. Joshua Oyebanji, who represented Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly. Akintoye, who was the lead discussant, bemoaned the lopsided composition of the Nigerian federation which, he noted, had compounded its socio-economic and political problems.
He also decried the failure of the political class in the country to imbibe the philosophy and leadership qualities of Awolowo, who was premier of the old Western Region. Akintoye said: “Unless we go back and properly restructure Nigeria as a proper federation, the way things are going now, the chances are that this country will break up.
“We have tolerated enough all this dictation from one ethnic group. People are already demanding the break-up of this country. Why are we coming to such hard thoughts? It is because people have rejected the wisdom of Awolowo. “Nigeria is now sitting on a keg of gunpowder because of our failure to restructure the system.
The Federal Government is meant to be a coordinator, not a controller and a controlling Federal Government is a road to the death of this country.”
Corroborating him, Ofeimun, who was a codiscussant, said he believed Nigeria would not split despite stringent agitations for secession by a section of the country. The poet averred that the continued existence of Nigeria rests on deep, long and unbreakable cord, adding that Awolowo would never support the break-up of the country if he were still alive.
Ofeimun observed that the exclusive legislative list was over-beefed in favour of the Federal Government, saying there was need for constitutional means to correct the nation’s flawed federalism. “Papa’s (Awolowo) philosophy and mission was never meant to be confined to the West alone. Some people blamed for contesting for president; it was because he wanted to spread the benefits to all Nigerians,” he added.
The former private secretary also canvassed a fiveyear education plan to wipe out illiteracy in the country, stressing that Awolowo had already laid the basis for such. In his remarks, Adebanjo noted that the need for restructuring was more pressing than reviving the nation’s economy.
He maintained that restructuring was not new, saying the idea was adequately catered for by the independence constitution bequeathed to the country by its founding fathers.
The Afenifere leader blamed military intervention in politics for the destruction of the country.
He argued that Nigeria would have experienced tremendous progress if successive politicians, especially in the South-West, had not bastardized Awoism. Adebanjo said: “Restructuring is a political philosophy saying we must create this society on a federal system. Chief Rotimi Williams once said that ‘our constitution is a fraudulent document. You say ‘we the people of Nigeria.’ Are we the ones that made the constitution?
“The restructuring we are asking for is not new, it is the independence constitution given to us by our founding fathers.
It is the constitution given to us by Sardauna, Awolowo, Azikwe, and others. “If we go back to history, the crisis of Nigeria had been solved in 1954.
The 1954 constitution established federalism the way it should be done in Nigeria. “If President (Muhammadu) Buhari has been honest to clean the Augean’s stable, he should have started from his party to ensure that fees to contest primaries are reduced.”
Earlier in her remarks, the Executive Director, Obafemi Awolowo Foundation, Dr. Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu, said Awo’s ideas have stood the test of time. She said the event was organised to inculcate the values and philosophy of the sage into the younger generation.