COSEG consciously and firmly holds that the Yoruba people are a distinct nationality within the country called Nigeria, and among the human race in general; the Yoruba nation does indeed have the inalienable right to self-determination in order to guarantee to her people the ends of autonomous development in accordance with her priorities and preferences. For the avoidance of doubt, we define Yoruba ethnic nationality as the indigenes of the present Ekiti, Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo States and Yoruba people indigenous in the present Kwara, Kogi, Edo, and Delta States, whose territories, needless to say, are contiguous with the rest of Yorubaland.
We equally hold that the Yoruba people did not become part of Nigeria willingly, but rather under coercion by the British colonialists; although there had been conferences in the past purportedly to redress the problem of imbalances in the polity, under various nomenclatures, viz., Constitutional Conference, Constituent Assembly, People’s Conference, and so on, none of these approximated the need of the people in answering the questions of whether or not nationalities in Nigeria subscribe to the idea of one nation and acceptable form and structure of government, nor were the processes leading to them really democratic. The Yoruba people have relentlessly canvassed as our minimum demand, regional autonomy, baring which a separate existence as Oodua Republic becomes inevitable.
The National Conference/Dialogue proposed by the President Goodluck Jonathan administration is suspect coming at this time when the regime is in troubled waters on all fronts and so close to the 2015 general election.
The first correct step required of any progressive group, therefore, is not merely to recoil silently or vituperatively from the conference because of certain 2015 electoral objectives but rather to come forth with a correct idea of conference, though not deluded that such idea would be acceptable to President Jonathan’s Committee. It is in this vein, and for the avoidance of doubt, that we wish to make the following statement of principles:
• A genuine Conference must be in the main a conference of ethnic nationalities in the current Nigeria State, and it must be a conference of ‘the people’ as sovereignty evolves only from the people.
• A genuine Conference must aim primarily at achieving a better deal for the various peoples of Nigeria through a democratic process of consensus building around issues of common interest as the basis for common existence under a common sovereign or peaceful dissolution into independent entities.
• A Conference such as stated above can only achieve the desired ends when there is no 'no go area' in respect of all issues of agitation, including separate existence.
• To be true to its ends, decision of the Conference must not be subject to moderation by anybody or group of persons, be it executive, legislative, judiciary, military, bureaucratic or otherwise, except via a referendum. It is therefore a Sovereign National Conference, SNC.
• Should the nationalities agree to remain together as one in Nigeria, outcome of their deliberations, negotiations, and agreements, after scaling referendum, should become the new Constitution and Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
• Any ethnic nation that does not agree to the conference’s outcome should be allowed the freedom to seek its own sovereignty. This follows the basic principle that sovereignty resides with the people.
Below are our positions on the Committee's Terms of Reference
ToR 1: Consult expeditiously with all relevant stakeholders with a view to drawing up a feasible agenda for the proposed national dialogue/conference;
1. We submit that the major stakeholders in the conference must be the ethnic nations in Nigeria. Each ethnic nation should be allowed to table before the conference issues pertinent to their interests.
2. It is important that ethnic nations be the major stakeholders in the conference in order not to deny anyone their fundamental rights of identity and to also correct a major problem with the Nigerian state, which is ethnic domination.
3. Therefore, all ethnic nations shall be treated as equal.
4. We know there are over three hundred distinct ethnic nations in Nigeria, but for administrative purpose; each of these ethnic groups must be represented by a delegate at the SNC.
5. The second level of representation shall be special groups and categories such as women, students, trade unions, disabled, e.t.c.
6. While each region should be allowed to table before the conference issues that are peculiar to their existence within Nigeria, we would like to propose the following as agenda for the conference, with the caveat that the first and the last question to be raised is whether or not the various nations and nationalities want to remain together as one:
a. Tiers of government
b. Type of legislative structure, unicameral or bicameral
c. Devolution of power – responsibilities of federal and regional governments
d. Internal security – Police and tiers of policing
e. Resource control
f. Revenue allocation/fiscal federalism
g. Management of federation account
h. Structure of the Courts, including the need to create a Constitutional Court
i. Status of the Federal Capital
j. Immunity from prosecution for political office holders
l. Federal Civil Service and Quota/federal character
m. The role of Traditional Rulers in governance
n. Women and Youth representation in governance
o. Census and Population
p. Federal elections
ToR 2: Make recommendations to government on structure and modalities for the proposed national dialogue/conference;
We recommend a two-tier structure for the proposed conference, and make suggestion as to the number of delegates, whose nomination and emergence must be according to methods evolved by the participating ethnic nationality.
1. We are recommending two levels of conferences.
2. Conference Level I: The first one is at the ethnic nationality level, where each ethnic nation will deliberate on pertinent issues relating to their existence within Nigeria. We recommend a bottom-up approach where the conference starts from the Village/Town, State and Ethnic Region; with each ethnic nationality allowed to organize this conference as it suits their existence and socio-cultural values, norms, tradition and practices. At this level, each ethnic nation will produce its own charter to be debated and negotiated at the second conference.
3. Conference Level II: The second conference will be the grand conference itself ort the Sovereign National Conference.
ToR 3: Make recommendations to government on how representation of various interest groups at the national dialogue/conference will be determined;
1. Each ethnic nationality/nation should be represented by one delegate who shall be elected bottom up.
2. Civil society organizations, trade unions, professional bodies students groups, women, youth, e.t.c. should be allocated a total of 50 delegates to be shared amongst them based on criteria to be determined by the advisory committee in conjunction with the organisations
3. We do not support that the federal government should nominate any delegate. However, it may send observers and technical support staff who must be persons of acceptable repute and international standing.
4. We do not also support that the National Assembly be represented as a stakeholder/delegate at the conference. This is because the National Assembly itself is a delegated authority from the people.
ToR 4: Advise on a time frame for the national dialogue/conference;
1. The conference should be completed within 9 months, inclusive of the two levels of conferences, as explicated in ToR 2 above
ToR 5: advise government on a legal framework for the national dialogue/conference;
Implicit in the procedure for convening the National Conference is the need for budgetary allowances to cover the cost of the conference, its convocation, administration, and delegates’ expenses etc. Therefore, an urgent supplementary budget provision should be considered for this purpose;
More so, the Independent National Electoral Commission has a role to play in conducting a referendum to authenticate the outcome of the conference.
However, the conference delegates should write their own rules of proceedings and would from the beginning empower its rules as statutory in nature.
Decisions at the conference shall be by consensus and negotiation.
ToR 6: advise government on legal procedures and options for integrating decisions and outcomes of the national dialogue/ conference into the constitution and laws of the nation;
1. There should be a Referendum at ethnic nationalities level after and about the decisions reached at the conference.
2. The outcome of the referendum should translate to an automatic repeal of the existing constitution, and the promulgation of the new Constitution.
3. Any ethnic nation that does not agree to the conference’s outcome shall be free to seek its own sovereignty. This follows the basic principle that sovereignty resides with the people.
ToR 7: advise government on any other matters that may be related or incidental to the proposed national dialogue/conference.
1. There should be three Conference Conveners and each person nominated as a Conference Convenor must be acceptable to the ethnic nationalities and must be of good standing, with national and international reputation.
COSEG is a coalition made up of the following organisations: Oodua Youth Movement [OYM], Oodua Liberation Movement [OLM], Oodua Republic Front [ORF] and Federation of Yoruba Consciousness and Culture [FYCC].