Former Ogun State governorship aspirant on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr. Kayode Soyinka, has advised Yoruba delegates to the National Conference, not to push the case for the possible break away of Yorubaland from the Nigerian federation too far.
He said the Yorubas should be more cerebral in their thinking and proffering superior, more convincing and workable solutions to the numerous developmental challenges facing the country.
The three-time governorship aspirant made the appeal while speaking as a special guest at the meeting of the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), held in Abeokuta on Wednesday.
The renowned journalist and publisher of Africa Today magazine reminded the gathering that the political leader of the Yorubas, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, left his comfort zone to go up-North to persuade the Sardauna of Sokoto to see reasons why Nigeria should be independent when the North said it was not ready to join the South in the struggle for independence.
He said it was Awolowo’s fervent belief in “One Nigeria” that made him not to be contented with just being the Premier of the West alone and strived to lead the whole Nigeria, which made him to contest several presidential elections despite the fact that the powers that be, both the colonial masters and the internal oppressors, consistently rigged the results against him.
“So why should we now want to reinvent the wheel after 100 years of our sacrifices and 54 years of independence and a gruesome civil war in-between? If we cannot do better than Awolowo in our vision for “One Nigeria”, we should at least do him the honour of not destroying the “One Nigeria” that he struggled for till his dying day – the Nigeria that he built”, he said.
The Yorubas, he added, were not myopic people and urged them to “always think big and look at the bigger picture, the advantages to all Yorubas in a United One Nigeria.”
Soyinka therefore appealed to delegates at the National Conference to rise up to the occasion rather than always thinking negative about the country: “Let us learn from our mistakes of the past, and acknowledge the gains and achievements we have made in our journey together so far because it could not be said that we have achieved nothing together as a nation over the past one hundred years, and let our findings help us to strengthen the ties that bind us.
Those ties are today by far stronger than they were when Lugard joined us together 100 years ago or when we got our independence from Britain 54 years ago.”
He added: “I will rather be a Nigerian, a citizen of a big, prosperous, democratic and an influential African country than be a citizen of some inconsequential small republic that will be even smaller than Togo and far less influential in world affairs than all francophone West African countries put together.”
He apologised to his hosts that he is not a member of the Afenifere Renewal Group because he does not believe that the Yorubas should be divided. He paid tributes and respect to the old Yoruba Afenifere leaders, who he said provided the drive, leadership and platform that brought all Yoruba groups together to form the common group being represented at national conference.