Jude Johnson and Babatunde Opalana
A cross-ethnic association of the Igbo-Yoruba Conference has lent its voice to the need to restructure the country in the search for a truly federal union of Nigeria that is democratic, stable, secure, peaceful, just and fair to all its citizens.
The Conference tagged: ‘Handshake Across The Niger (HATN)’, emphasized its readiness to work in close partnership and through peaceful means to restructure Nigeria which will entail; “reducing and restricting the duties of the federal government to only matters of national import on the exclusive list, while granting the federating units the right to take full responsibility for local, developmental and residual matters, as this will lead to healthy competition and cooperation among the federating units, in place of the present dysfunctional arrangement that merely superintends over the sharing and consuming of rents, and holds some States and Zones down for others to play the elusive game of catch-up.
They were “committed to insistence, therefore, on peaceful devolution of powers, fiscal federalism, land/resource ownership/control, reforming component structural and systemic institutions to radically reduce the escalating cost of governance; and immediate implementation of pro-federalism recommendations of the 2014 National Conference, in particular those affecting the efficiency of governance.
These were part of far-reaching resolution of the Conference at the end of its meeting in Enugu, the erstwhile capital of Eastern Nigeria, on Wednesday which comprised all strata of persons of Igbo and Yoruba origins, leaders of the South West (SW), South East (SE), the South-South (SS) the Middle Belt (MB).
In the communiqué signed by Chief Nnia Nwodo, President- General, Ohaneze Ndigbo and Chief Ayo Adebanjo on behalf of the Pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, noted that in a long history of close relations and association, the Igbo and Yoruba have no recorded instances of violence against each other’s ethnic group, such as inter-ethnic mass killings and destruction and/or seizure of property; that instead, they have lived, worked and prospered together, accommodating and respecting their differences.
The Conference noted the immense strength of Igbo-Yoruba close affinities of kinship and brotherhood, shared origins and cultural/ethical values, a common worldview and inherent love of freedom and justice.
It also expressed awareness that grievances generated by past errors on both sides can no longer justify or sustain dissention between the two groups whose solidarity and mutual collaboration have the capacity to dramatically change the fortunes of Nigeria, thereby also, changing the fates of the African continent and the black race.
“The Hand Shake Across the Niger , anchored on the heroism of Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi Ironsi, former military Head of State and Lt. Col. Adekunle Fajuyi, former Military Governor of the old Western Region though long overdue, has finally burst the myth of Igbo-Yoruba irreconcilable differences and spiteful rivalry, thus, providing new impetus for resurgence of the same bold, patriotic and nationalist solidarity of the two ethnic groups from the 1930s to the 1950s that earned independence for Nigeria in 1960.
“The HS has brought about a new dawn of irreversible amity in the horizon of Igbo-Yoruba relations, that they have today declared time-up for, and permanently buried, the hatchet of distrust and spiteful rivalry, leading to a credible tipping-point of optimism and opportunity in realizing the destiny of Nigeria as a start-up nation-state that can achieve great things”, the communiqué read in part.
The Conference said it decided to collaborate closely to create mutually beneficial opportunities, build a strong alliance to advance their ever-growing mutual interests, while striving together to meet the common responsibilities of building a united, coherent and prosperous nation-state of free peoples, freely relating to one another across the dividing lines of tribe, religion, region and politics.
It added that the Hand Shake (HS) is not a one-off event, but only the first of a progressive and continuous re-socialization project that will, in short order, reach out to embrace other compatriots in the South-South (SS) , Middle Belt [MB], North Central (NC) North East (NE) and North West (NW) zones of the country;
It, therefore, establish a standing Joint Action Committee to drive this process, and to continually articulate fresh ideas and strategies to sustain the current zeal and momentum of mutual understanding and collaborative actions aimed at resuscitating Nigeria politically and economically in order to position her to earn her rightful place among the contending nations in the world.
Read the full communique here:communique