“We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Having firmly and solemnly resolve, to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation under God, dedicated to the promotion of inter-African solidarity, world peace, international co-operation and understanding
And to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice, and for the purpose of consolidating the unity of our people
Do hereby make, enact and give to ourselves the following Constitution…”
1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as ammended)
Picking from the above preamble to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – the entity from which Oduduwa Republic is expected to emerge; the question of the viability of an Oduduwa Republic is that which requires a genuine answer. If the words of the preamble to the Nigerian 1999 constitution are anything to be taken seriously – the invincibility and indissolubility of the Nigerian people should mean a deeply united country without ethno-religious divisive tendencies. The history of the Nigerian state is replete with bloodshed and animalistic behaviours borne out of religious and ethnic differences that did not spare the country of a civil war in 1966 and consistently threatens to rip the country apart at the slightest provocation. Several nationalities within the Nigerian state structure have at different times moaned about being marginalized, discriminated and dominated by others.
Dissenting voices within the Nigerian state have always threatened to walk out from the marriage that seems to have been consummated on an oily ground. The first of many of such secessionist attempts was that which led to the death of over two million Biafrans in their struggle to be free from a frustrating enclave named Nigeria. In spite of the colossal loss suffered by the Igbos in the war that produced “no victor nor vanquished”, several other ethnic nationalities have dared the devil by calling for their self-determination. The latest of the secessionist efforts is that which threw up Oduduwa Republic as a country that should and must exist in the nearest future if not now.
The aspiration of the Yoruba ethnic group – one of the three dominant ethnic nationalities in Nigeria must have been inspired by inter-alia the age-long domination of the political circle by the ethnic nationalities in the northern part of the country as well as the perceived unity within the Yorubas who have already named their dream country after their progenitor Oduduwa.
While agitation has been on-going for the birth of Oduduwa Republic – starting with the group’s admittance to the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) as its forty fifth member and the recent protest in London calling for an end to the “marriage of inconvenience”, there have been divided opinions within the Nigerian state and much more among the Yorubas – many assessing the plausibility of the birth of a true Yoruba nation.
While the dream of an Oduduwa Republic could be in the minds of its citizens as an Eldorado; a country with intellectual sophistication to be governed by astute leadership, the question of its unity, indivisibility and indissolubility as contained in the Nigerian constitution as a binding agreement among the diverse ethnic groups need to be answered expressly.
If the unity professed by Nigeria for decades could not avert an ignominious civil war and threatening cessation decades after, can Oduduwa Republic boast of the unity that Nigeria lack? If Oduduwa Republic eventually comes to fruition, it shall be a country of about 20 million people divided along ethno-religious and linguistic lines. It shall be a country of three major religions – Christianity, Islam and Traditional African religion. Major towns and cities in Yoruba land have their distinct features and prominent among them is language which they hold in high esteem. The differences between many of these towns and cities have inspired serious political rivalry in recent time, leading to the demand from different quarters for the creation of more states within Nigeria’s federacy.
While the demand for state creation will be expressly granted in Oduduwa Republic, this will like Nigeria lead to more agitation for state creation and the threat of cessation by minority sub-ethnic groups. Although Ibadan has been mooted as the federal capital of the country that is to be born, Ogbomosho, Iseyin, Ibarapa, Saki and many others – all in present day Oyo state would want to have their states too. This will be the new pattern of ethno-political agitation in Oduduwa Republic. If the 16 year civil war that broke out in 1877 between Western Yoruba led by Ibadan and Eastern Yoruba led by Ekiti – famously regarded as Kiriji War does not really affirm the sharp differences within the Yoruba nation, the recent Ife-Modakeke War which claimed thousands of lives in a recurrent armed conflict between two Yoruba sub-ethnic groups speaks loudly of the division within the ethnic group.
Even within Nigeria, Yorubas find it extremely difficult to unanimously support a Yoruba candidate for presidency. A Yoruba lawyer defended Shagari against his kinsman – Chief Obafemi Awolowo in an unprecedented judgement that saw to the latter’s defeat in his closest bid to become the best president Nigeria ever had. Olusegun obasanjo shared similar fate in the hands of his kinsmen in his return to democratic rule in 1999 and 2003, he was however saved by massive support from other regions – a gesture that Awolowo was denied. Even as the writing had been on the wall since the days of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that Bola Ahmed Tinubu may one day contest for Nigeria’s presidency, there have been murmur and protests in various quarters of the Yoruba land that “why always him?” even though his last public position was serving as a governor of Lagos state.
The presidency of Oduduwa Republic will be an object of vicious conflict and may likely be worse than Nigeria’s. The Ijebus may not support an Ibadan man; Ekiti may not want an Ife president etc., this may likely lead to agitation for an Ibadan country or an Ondo Republic. If not for the militant approach of the late Ibadan political lord- Chief Ariyibi Adedibu, becoming the governor of Oyo state would have remained a dream to an Ogbomosho man as it is for the many towns in the state.
The idea of having Oduduwa Republic must be applauded as a brave step to tell the world that Nigeria as a state is fast racing towards oblivion. The country has suffered extreme dearth of good leadership resulting into widespread national cynicism. The United States had predicted that Nigeria may cease to exist by 2015 – save for some, maybe divine intervention, the country has painstakingly remained dividedly united. It is not too late for the Nigerian government to make meaning of the words of the preamble. All that is being demanded is good governance, nothing more! There are more complex countries in the world, the United States is one out of many, and the citizens can only be proud of being associated with the most powerful country in the world.
Restructuring of the Nigerian state is an important issue that Nigeria has failed to effectively address. If favourably considered, it is a potential antidote to the perennial struggle by major ethnic groups for self-determination. However, if the Nigerian political elites would keep lounging on the national cake while the country is put in autopilot on its regressive journey to a place in history, Oduduwa Republic may just be one out of the many countries that will emerge from the debris of Nigeria in no distant time. It is imperative however for the sons and daughters of Oduduwa to, in their quest for ethnic prosperity and self-determination, put the Oduduwa house in order by doing everything possible to achieve an indivisible nation, guided by common goals; that is when the idea of Oduduwa Republic will be reasonable. Until then Oòduà ó gbe wa a o.
Yusuff Dada writes from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. He can be reached via email@example.com.