Text of a speech by Otunba Gani Adams at the third Europe Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, on August 4, 2017.
It is a great pleasure for me today to re-unite with my fellow natives in the Diaspora at this occasion of the 3rd Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) Europe Summit.
No doubt, this enviable body has provided a veritable platform for the Oodua descendants living far away from their home land to constantly interact on issues of common interest, especially as it affects our race in particular and the country, Nigeria in general.
It is a thing of joy for me to bear witness today, to the tremendous progress that OPU, as a body, has witnessed globally as it now operates effectively in 78 countries of the world.
It is also a thing of joy to note that, with what i have seen on ground regarding this 3rd OPU summit at the instance of the Europe Chapter, this august body has indeed grown from strength to strength, compared to where it was when the first Submit held in Istanbul Turkey, two and a half years ago.
I am making this submission as a participant and witness to the event in Istanbul.
Though I was not personally present in Holland when the 2nd Submit held last year, but we got reports of its improvement on the debut Istanbul edition, and i think the challenge posed by the follow up in Holland last year could be said to be responsible for the success of this 3rd edition. It is my sincere prayer that the next submit will also be an improvement on this.
Even as we celebrate ourselves and clink glasses for the success of OPU so far, it is unfortunate that we can’t do same over our country Nigeria where things have seriously retrogressed.
The consolation, however, is that, the efforts of all of us here, if offered in unison, can salvage our country from imminent crash.
How do I mean?
Lets focus on Sweden for instance, there are reports that her leaders were able to create a successful model of social democracy because of the unique way in which Sweden’s labour leaders, politicians, and classes cooperated during the early development period of Swedish democracy.
Because Sweden’s socialist leaders chose a moderate, reformist political course with broad-based public support in the early stages of Swedish industrialization and prior to the full-blown development of Swedish interclass politics, Sweden escaped the severe extremist challenges and political and class divisions that plagued many European countries that attempted to develop social democratic systems after 1911.
By dealing early, cooperatively, and effectively with the challenges of industrialization and its impact on Swedish social, political, and economic structures, Swedish social democrats were able to create one of the most successful social democratic systems in the world, including both a welfare state and extensive protections of civil liberties.
When the Social Democratic Party came into power in 1932, its leaders introduced a new political decision-making process, which later became known as “the Swedish model.” The party took a central role, but tried as far as possible to base its policy on mutual understanding and compromise.
There is no gainsaying that Nigeria has what it takes to be a welfare state in its real sense with her natural endowments, but she must take a cue from Sweden and imbibe the main ingredients of her body polity which have unfortunately remained the bane of progress of governance in Nigeria–mutual understanding and Compromise.
It is my candid opinion that only if we had been able to factor and accommodate these two ingredients into our governing system like in Sweden, there wouldn’t have been reason for the ear itching call for the breakup of Nigeria as we are witnessing at the moment.
I believe however that, if we in OPU are alive to our responsibilities and face the challenge this time has placed on us, we can emulate the Swedish people by actively playing the role of a movement that we are and prevent a break up of our dear country, by pressing for a workable system that will be in the interest of all existing groups in the country.
Its on record that Sweden has a history of strong political involvement by ordinary people through its popular movement the most notable being trade unions, the women’s movement, the temperance movement, and — more recently — sports movement.
And since politics and government are about the people, i am optimistic that if we are resolute in the desire to change our society back home, the will of the people shall always prevail but we must be active and make our socio-cultural movement body, OPU relevant and useful in salvaging our country from imminent collapse and fight for that which can make the Odua nation regain its lost glory.
And how do we do this? By demanding for the accommodation of the Swedish formula. Mutual understanding and Compromise in our polity.
The agitation for the breakup of the country Nigeria is so much now that, it has become obvious that something indeed must be done and fast too.
But I think there are so much to learn from Sweden if we must rescue our nation.
Why Mutual Understanding and Compromise?
Somebody may ask, why do we need mutual understanding and Compromise to rescue our nation.
Nigeria, for many of its over 250 ethnic groups, is obviously not a nation in the sense that we regard France, United Kingdom or South Africa as a nation. That is why, given an option, many of the ethnic groups in Nigeria would prefer to be independent of the country.
Already, groups such as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Niger Delta Avengers, among others, have more or less shattered whatever illusions we may retain regarding the Nigeria that we are living in. While Nigeria would obviously be better off remaining a nation, it is also true that a surgical operation is required to take out the cancer of disintegration currently ravaging the country on every side.
And this is quite simply because Nigeria, as it is presently operated, is not sustainable. Nigeria is supposed to be a federal republic but it operates a unitary constitution where the states, like children, simply go to Abuja at the end of every month to collect food. They cannot even feed themselves. Is it not an utter shame that the descendants of the Oyo empire, Kanem-Bornu empire, Benin empire, and so on, have to go cap in hand to Abuja, collecting allocation that cannot even pay workers’ salaries when the traditional system which guaranteed full employment and a decent standard of living can be recreated through proper federalism like we had in the First Republic?
In the USA, it was the states that came together to form the central/federal government currently headed by President Donald Trump. In Nigeria, it was the Federal Government that created the states for political reasons and to achieve what the eminent Igbo scholar, Chinweizu, refers to as Caliphate Colonialism, a system whereby some people are born to rule by looting the resources of other people. This is quite simply an aberration.
Little wonder then that the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka berated the antagonists of the restructuring of the country few weeks ago when he said it was wrong to say that the country’s structure should be left the way it is.
Asked to contribute to the restructuring debate, the Nobel laureate said and i quote “Sometimes, when people say negotiate, what they really mean is restructuring. What the question should be is , should Nigeria break up? My answer to that is no, but please don’t tell me that Nigeria, as it stands is non-negotiable. For me, this is a fallacy”
According to the renowned Professor, and quoting him further said “The nation has got to be negotiated, negotiation includes ensuring that there is no marginalisation. Negotiation means control of resources, negotiation has to do with restructuring a nation in a way that the components and constituents are not feeding an over bloated centre to the detriment of their own development. The language we should use is what are you willing to sacrifice? what effort are you willing to make to ensure Nigeria remains intact? That is the question,” end of quote.
And my fellow natives, what Prof Soyinka as well as other sincere Nigerians are calling for the same as the position of OPU, and this demand is only achievable through mutual understanding and compromise, which the Nobel Laureate prefer to call ‘sacrifice’ in his own submission.
Call for Action:
Fellow Natives, there is a task before us. The question we must ask ourselves here today and find a way to address as well is, how do we go about pushing our position to ensure we have a society where justice and peace reign.
That we are in Diaspora does not exempt us from the task of ensuring we have a source to return to after our sojourn abroad. Whether we like it or not, ile ni abo simi oko and in any case, that is one of the purposes of OPU, that our source is preserved even for the generation unborn.
A lot of things are wrong with our democracy back home and to address these anomalies, hence our support for the restructuring of our Nation, lest the worse happen.
At OPU level, we are canvassing for restructuring of the Nigerian nation along regional lines as the most practicable solution to the problem confronting the country at the moment and to achieve this, the issue of Mutual understanding and Compromise must come into play.
Mutual understanding and Compromise in the sense that the Federal government must be magnanimous enough to cede more power to the regions that will now take custody of their domicile resources.
There is no gain saying that Nigeria is in a very difficult period in her history, at no time in the history of the nation has her unity been this threatened with her citizens most unpretentious about the desire for true federalism
It is our belief in OPU that the time is now for the country to take the option of restructuring the country but we must also warn that any restructuring that is not tailored along regional line, reflecting the six geo-political structure of the country, would be mere wasting of time and resources.
It is only when each of the zones in the federation can formulate its own laws, manage its resources through which it can determine its workers minimum wage, the type of education, health system and the budget it wants to run as well as determine its economic focus without interference from the centre, only then can the different nations within the country Nigeria live together with each other in peace and harmony.
We are very lucky people in Nigeria because God had used the last government of Dr Goodluck Jonathan to prepare a way out for the nation out of its present predicament through the provision of the contents of the 2014 CONFAB report which prescribed that the country should be restructured.
Those of us who attended the 2014 National Conference know that Nigeria cannot make any progress without implementing the report of that conference. For instance, the report deals extensively with how to eradicate the herdsmen/farmers’ clashes.
As we speak, there are growing reports of Cultists groups holding communities to ransom at will. I am sure one way or the other, some of our relatives back home would have mentioned the menace called Badoo to us.
Thank God for the intervention of our sister organisation in conjunction with Lagos Police Command, and other stakeholders, it is our pride to proclaim that the menace of Badoo have been checked in the whole of Ikorodu.
Curtailing that rampaging group would have been more effective with a state- cum -community policing which the CONFAB also addressed among other serious issues.
More fundamentally, the CONFAB report points the way forward for Nigeria. And that way forward is federalism.
Let us go back to what we had in the First Republic, a system whereby the component units of this country would control their own resources and determine how to live their lives and what form of government to operate. If we do this, we will have a decisive framework for dealing with issues such as the ones confronting us as a nation at the moment, yet we need mutual understanding and compromise to achieve this.
Until the report is implemented, we will just be going round in circles and life in Nigeria will continue to be nasty, short and brutish. The time to change our path and desist from playing politics with the future of the country is NOW!.
The country need the sincerity of its leaders at this time and revert to regionalism to enable each region progress according to the level of potentials available to it.
Regionalism is most suitable for the country at this time as each region will be governed by laws that best suits it and i think the experience and success recorded in the Western region best register the need for the reversion to regionalism.
This is the focus of our agitation at this time and your efforts at ensuring that this come into realisation will go a long way.
Let it be noted that the communique of this gathering will get worldwide attention it deserves.
God bless you and thank you for listening.