The branch of the Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, in the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe, has said the group and any other Yoruba groups, including agitators for Yoruba Nation are all labouring to improve the livelihood of people of Yoruba extraction.
Anthony Ajayi, Secretary of Afenifere in the UK and Europe made the disclosure on Thursday.
In the statement, Ajayi implored all Yoruba people in Nigeria and in the Diaspora to see the struggle just like others as a liberation cause to bring huge development to Yoruba land.
The Afenifere group in the UK and Europe on June 12, 2021 published an article in the media titled, “Democracy Day: UK Afenifere agitates regional structure for Nigeria, kick against secession”, where it said the only solution to remain in Nigeria, is to abolish the 1999 Constitution and a return to the Republican Constitution, the 1963 Constitution.
The statement, “Our position after carefully examined the existence of the sovereignty of Nigeria, is to ensure that we go back to the agreement which made Nigeria. This structure was what enabled Chief Obafemi Awolowo discharged exemplary leadership and made meaningful impact on Yoruba people.
“At independence, Nigeria was being run on a federal structure with three near-autonomous regions. This was later increased to four with the creation of Mid-Western Region. But the military junta that seized power in 1966 dismantled the regional structure and instead imposed a unitary system of government on the country. The damage this caused was devastating and we are still writhing under its debilitating effects even now.
“(Obafemi) Awolowo believed that federalism was the form of government best suited to the diverse populations of Nigeria, a position to which he consistently adhered. Also in 1945 in London, he helped found the Egbe Omo Oduduwa (Society of the Descendants of Oduduwa, the mythical ancestor of the Yoruba-speaking peoples), an organisation devoted to the study and preservation of Yoruba culture.
“In 1950 Awolowo founded and organised the Action Group political party in Western Nigeria to participate in the Western Regional elections of 1951. The Action Group’s platform called for immediate termination of British rule in Nigeria and for development of various public welfare programmes, including universal primary education, increase of health services in rural areas, diversification of the Western Regional economy, and democratization of local governments.
“The Action Group won a majority, and in 1952 Awolowo as president of the Action Group became leader of the party in power in Western Nigeria. In 1954 he became the first premier of the Western Region, on which occasion he was awarded an honorary chieftaincy.
“During his tenure as leader and premier, he held the regional ministerial portfolios of local government, finance, and economic planning. He was also Chairman of the Regional Economic Planning Commission.
“Before Awolowo embarked on his ambition for the office of Federal Prime Minister, he was keen as ever on putting this region (Southwestern) on a sound economic footing as a major player in industrial and commercial concerns.
“He raised the minimum wage of workers from the 5 shillings of 1954 to five shillings and sixpence on April 1, 1959. He incorporated the Western Hotels Limited which invested in the building of the majestic Premier and Lafia hotels in Ibadan where industrialists and tourists could have decent accommodation and cool their heels.
“Chief Obafemi Awolowo set companies and empowered them with government funding to shore up their working capital. These include Western Nigerian Development Corporation (WNDC), the Finance Corporation, and the Western Nigeria Housing Corporation. The Western Nigeria Ministry of Industries was the main supervisory department of government which incorporated these mega corporations.
“WNDC under the leadership of Awolowo floated a large number of industries and companies wholly owned by the government or held in partnership with several foreign investors.
“These include: National Bank of Nigeria, Wema Bank of Nigeria, Great Nigeria Insurance Company, the Nigeria General Insurance Company, the Nigeria General Insurance Company, Gravil Enthoven and Company, Lagos Airport Hotel, Vegetable Oil, Cocoa Industries, Odu’a Textiles, Wrought Iron Ltd, Union Beverages Ltd, Sunga Company, Wemabod Estates, Western Livestock, Fisheries Services Ltd, Caxton Press, Epe Plywood, Askar Paints, Nigeria Crafts and Bags Ltd, Nipol Plastic, Phoenix Motors, and several others.
“Today, many of these companies are still viable and have been consolidated in the Odu’a Group of Companies which is regarded as the largest conglomerate in the history of Nigeria.
“The 25-storey building known as Cocoa House in Ibadan was started by Chief Awolowo’s administration. He laid the foundation and saw its completion by his successor as the crowning glory of his party’s success story. After completion in the sixties, the building remained the tallest in West Africa for decades thereafter,” the statement stressed the benefits of true federalism to Yoruba.
It further stated that if the Nigerian government fails to restructure the country, the Yoruba will have no other option but to seek self-determination.
“This was the structure which Chief Obafemi operated to developed Yoruba land at the time. This is why we are fighting for restructuring now so that we can have the same autonomy to develop our land. Therefore, no Yoruba group should insinuate division as we are all fighting for a better Yoruba land.
“Our position is that if the Nigerian government refused to restructure, we will have no option than join the call for a Yoruba nation”.