Unless we want to deceive ourselves or we genuinely fail to see reality then we must accept that the voters that went to the polls last week to decide who should be governors did not only elect their governors. They also used their thumbprint and ballot papers to draw a map that clearly states that the time has come to form a Yoruba nation. Those voters expressed their wishes in a legal and sophisticated manner, so their leaders too, if worthy of leading such people, must execute the expressed wishes in a legal and sophisticated way and therein lies the challenge. They need to, within the respect of the laws and within the borders of a federal Nigeria, form a Yoruba nation that I recommend should be cosmopolitan and progressive.
For those who wonder what is a nation? Let us reply with Renan and explain that a nation is a soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one constitutes this soul or spiritual principle. One lies in the past, one in the present. One is the possession in common of a rich legacy of memories; the other is present-day consent, the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form. A nation’s existence is a daily plebiscite.
It is not the first time that the people in the various states that make up the Yoruba region (the official term they use in Nigeria is insipidly South-West) will express their desire by voting in unison. They did it by voting the Action Group (AG), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and now the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Let us make no mistake about it. The common thread in this voting pattern has being and continue to be progressive ideas and programmes according to the preaching and practice of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Like their parents did in the days of the late Awo, today’s voters have chosen to find their path independent of the central government of Nigeria.
The political aspiration of the voters of the Yoruba region is to have a state that provides free education, free health care, massive infrastructural development, and an environment that allows trade and industry to flourish all in a vibrant intellectual milieu yet capable of partying. They are after all the masters of owanbe. These aspirations should form the paradigm upon which the elected governors and legislators of the Yoruba regions should build their policies and programmes. They should aspire to these ideals when thinking of the ideal government for their voters.
In theory, each of the states in the Yoruba region can legitimately set about achieving these aims individually and they might even do well. But imagine how much more they will achieve if they decide to act as a collective. Imagine the possibilities for all, if these governors and lawmakers can think like their voters and genuinely follow those ideals, if they can develop an organic ethos of a nation and consequently decide to work together to tackle the problems they cannot handle alone. Imagine what we will get if the states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, and even Ondo come together, without waiting for the Federal Government, to jointly plan, fund and supervise regional libraries, roads, hospitals, banks, research centres and agricultural projects. Even the power supply problem can have a regional solution.
The great benefits that such actions will bring to those that reside in these states are obvious but it will not be limited to them. As history has shown, like in the case of the Eastern Region of Michael Okpara and the Western Region of Obafemi Awolowo, there are good chances that a cooperative and dynamic Yoruba nation will trigger a healthy rivalry between her and other Nigerian regions. It will be a rivalry that will greatly benefit the residents of those other regions as their own leaders will have to provide similar services and ventures to match what their neighbours are doing. The federal republic of Nigeria itself will get the opportunity to become truly federal as emphasis will shift from the central and if broadminded the FGN will encourage these regional governments and ventures.
Politically, leaders and voters of the ACN will in the next four years have the duty of making sure that their elected officials turn their progressive aspirations into achievements. In that period, they will have to deal with problems of personal ego, self-serving groups and personalities, bureaucratic hurdles and outright sabotage. If they can overcome all that and maybe much more, their next task will be to decide how to move forward.
They will have to decide how they want to use the capital they now have. Two options come to mind: they can move forward by identifying and working with political groups that share their policies and ideals or they can try to be a Nigerian party by trying to make inroads into other parts of the federation.