(bring you warm fraternal greetings from kith and kin back at home in Nigeria. It gives me profound joy and great pleasure to be in your midst today. Indeed, I consider it a privilege to be invited to address this eminent gathering of our race in Diaspora. I sincerely thank you for this honour.
IDENTITY AND HISTORY OF THE YORUBA
May your dynamic organization go from strength to strength. May the Yoruba race continue to be a leading light to others by showing the way forward to a truly great and prosperous Nigeria.
The issue before us today is very germane in the light of Nigeria's contemporary political development. Our nation is in transition, and as such, virtually all its component parts are jostling for positions of advantage, not just in the political arena, but in the social-economic sphere as well. It is a matter of pride that whenever the chips are down, the Yoruba race is no pushover. As a people, we are reckoned with in the economic, social and political calculations that are vital to the sustenance of Nigeria as an on-going entity. With the defeat of the tenure elongation, or more concisely, the third term agenda at the National Assembly last May, the political space has been thrown open, and as it were, the race towards 2007 has started, in earnest. With the Yoruba "technically disqualified" to vie for the presidency in the forth-coming 2007 elections, it has become expedient that we start exploring all our areas of strength- where we as a people always excel above others, and maximize them, lest we become everybody's playground and rendered irrelevant after the battle would have been fought, lost and won.
It is in this regard that I consider the topic for discussion, YORUBA AT HOME AND IN DIASPORA, PARTNERING FOR DEVELOPMENT, most timely and potentially rewarding to all of us, primarily for the progress of our root, and especially for the sake of the coming generations. As our late patriarch and sage, Papa Obafemi Awolowo would insist in his lifetime, you couldn't be a good member of the large entity called Nigeria unless you are first of all seen as a useful member of your smaller ethnic community. And indeed, according to that wise saying: charity must begin at home.
Therefore, to enable us put the issue in proper contemporary perspective, it is essential that we know who we are, where we live and what we do; hence the need for some reminders through a short historical excursion. This will assist our better understanding and appreciation of our respective complimentary roles in the development of our land.
So, if we may ask, at the risk of sounding academic, who are the Yoruba? The first obvious answer is that the Yoruba are a nationality, a black people, the majority of whom live in the South Western part of Nigeria in West Africa; speaking a common language, Yoruba, which belongs to the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo linguistic family, and has no fewer than 12 dialects.
This is true, but it is not the whole story, Yoruba at home and in Diaspora is estimated to be about 100 million people. Since most of us (conservatively put at about 56 million) live in the South-west of Nigeria, it makes the region the Yoruba homeland. In today's political configuration of Nigeria, the Yoruba are the main ethnic group in the states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti; they also constitute a sizable proportion of Kwara and Kogi states.
The Yoruba at home share borders with the south-eastern parts of Kwara State, the Nupe, Bariba and Borgu people in the north-west, the Esan and Edo to the South-east, the Igbirra and Igala and other related groups to the north-east, and the Egun, Fon, Mahi and other Ewe and Gbe-speaking people in the south-west.
This area extends on average to about 300 kilometers in from the coast, and contains a number of distinct ecological zones. On the coast itself, covering much of Lagos State and the southern parts of Ogun and Ondo states, is an area of creeks and mangrove forest, which widens to the east where it merges with the river system of the Niger Delta. Here, Yoruba-speaking communities are interspersed with Ewe-speaking groups to the west of Lagos, and with Ijaw and Edo-speaking groups along the Edo/Delta states border. Fishing is the main occupation in many of these areas.
As a large ethno-linguistic group or ethic nation in West Africa, there are substantial indigenous Yoruba communities in the Republics of Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone, numbering about 10 million, with about half that figure scattered in various other parts of the Africa continent. Likewise, Diaspora Yoruba communities in Brazil boasts of about 5 million population, Cuba, about 1 million, and Puerto Rico, Trinidad and the rest of the Caribbean, about half a million. Here in the United States and Canada, there is an estimated 10 million Yoruba, while there are also equal that number in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe. In Asia, it is estimated that there are about 2.5 million Yoruba residing in various parts of the region. This is a wonderful diversity begging to be explored to advantage.
From the foregoing therefore, who can we call a Yoruba person? For the purpose of this exercise, a Yoruba is anybody that has hereditary links to the old Yoruba kingdom and anyone who subscribes to the Yoruba culture, traditions and way of life; This means you could live anywhere in the world, or identify with any nationality, but if you have a Yoruba ancestral linkage, or have a Yoruba name, practise Yoruba customs or even naturalize by adopting the Yoruba way of life, then you are Yoruba.
In terms of natural endowment, the Yoruba are well blessed with their location, suitable for all manner of agricultural endeavours and assorted gainful enterprises. This no doubt served the race well in times past in the area of commerce and trade that aided accelerated exposure to Western civilization. In the pre-colonial period, towns like Porto Novo, Badagry and Lagos were important ports for the Atlantic trade, and control of the trade routes into the interior was a major issue in the politics of the Yoruba kingdoms.
Lagos, Nigeria's former administrative capital, and by all means still the nation's commercial nerve-centre, was occupied by the British in 1851. Till date, it remains by far the largest city in Nigeria, as well as its major port and industrial centre - a fact that has profoundly influenced the development of the Yoruba hinterland.
North of the coastal strip lies the forest, - narrow in the west, but wider in the east where it extends as far north as Iwo and Osogbo. A belt of the dense rain forest extends through southern Ondo State into Edo/Delta states to the east. The rainfall here is heavy - over 1500 mm a year. The population density is low. North-west of this is a belt of deciduous forest extending from Abeokuta in the west to Ondo and Owo in the east. Here, rich loamy soils and moderate rainfall, 1150-1500 mm a year, provide excellent conditions for agriculture, and produce the bulk of Nigeria's output of cocoa. Topographically, the area is of generally undulating hills and orchard bush, with the terrain becoming steadily hillier towards Ekiti and Akoko in the East.
In the forest, the rains last from March to late October or early November, though they ease off in July or August. The dry season lasts from November to March. Further north again, the rainfall decreases to below 1150 mm a year, and the forest shade off into derived savannah, and eventually into Guinea savannah in the north-west. The climate is less humid, while the rains start later and finish earlier. In the dry season, between December and February, the harmattan blows from the north, bringing with it a fine haze of dust and lower temperatures. There is then a period of intense heat in March and April before the onset of regular rain. This of course was the trend before the more recent climatic changes occasioned by global warning and the rather irregular season variations. Talk of climate favourable for diverse human ventures.
In contemporary times, economic development in the savannah has been slower than in the forest. Per capita incomes are lower than further south, and rates of out- migration are generally higher. So, in the absence of tree crops like coca, the savannah farmers produce staple foodstuffs for the market of the cocoa areas and the large towns.
In the pre-colonial period, the area was divided, into numerous independent political units of varying size. Across the centre of Yoruba land, a number of powerful centralized states developed: Sabe, Ketu, Owu, Ijebu, Oyo, Ife, Ijesa, Ondo and Owo. In other areas such as Egba, Akoko, Kabba, Ikale and Ilaje, political units remained much smaller. Many areas at some point came under the influence or control of Oyo or Benin, or, in the 19th century, of Ibadan, Ilorin or Abeokuta, with the whole area not being able to form a single political unit.
Indeed, until relatively recent times, the Yoruba did not consider themselves a single people, but rather as citizens of Oyo, Benin, Yagba and the other cities, regions or kingdoms. These cities regarded Lagos and Owo, for example, as foreign neighbours, and the Yoruba kingdoms warred not only against the Dahomeans but also against each other. The unity of this area was linguistic and cultural rather than political. In part, this is due to a common historical experience, together with increasing social and geographical mobility. In part too, it is due to the development of a 'standard Yoruba' dialect, based on the Oyo dialect, but has become a lingua franca.
As a matter of fact, the use of the word 'Yoruba' to refer to the whole area is surprisingly recent, dating only from the middle of the 19th century when it was introduced by missionaries and linguists. It is derived from the Hausa word for the Oyo Yoruba, and they are still sometimes called the 'Yoruba proper' to distinguish them from the other major subgroups. Yoruba-speaking groups in the Benin and Togo republics refer to themselves as 'Ife,' rather than as 'Yoruba'. Individual Yoruba identify with a particular town or area for most purposes and a 'Yoruba' identity is only important in situations involving members of other ethnic categories such as 'Tiv', 'Hausa', or 'Nupe'.
The justification for treating the area as a unit is therefore based more on linguistic and cultural similarities. However, many features of social and political organization are widely shared, and the rulers of most of the large kingdoms claim that their dynasties originated either directly or indirectly from Ife. The people in this area also speak closely related, and, for the most part mutually intelligible dialects.
Yoruba religion and mythology is a major influence in West Africa, and the Yoruba are one of the ethnic groups in Africa whose cultural heritage and legacy are recognizable in the Americas, despite the debilitating effects of slavery. Many ethnic Yoruba were enslaved and taken to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Trinidad and the rest of the New World (chiefly in the 19th century, after the Oyo Empire collapsed and the region plunged into civil war), and carried their religious beliefs with them. Consequently, certain religious worship and various musical art forms popularised in Latin America especially Cuba and Puerto Rico are rooted in Yoruba.
The Yoruba concepts were combined with pre-existing African-based religions, Christianity, native American mythology, and Kardecist spiritism and have given origin to several New World lineages such as: Santeria (in Cuba and Puerto Rico), Oyotunji (in USA) and Candomble´, Umbanda and Batuque (in Brazil).
Talk of Yoruba personalities in Diaspora, dead and alive, who would be counted among world's great achievers in the various fields of human endeavours; they abound in good number. They include, among many others, Sylvia Del Villard, Afro-Puerto Rican activist, actress, and dancer, Bishop Samuel Ajai Crowther, first Bishop of West Africa, Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, late Professor Thomas Adeoye Lambo, physician and former Deputy- Director General of World Health Organisation, Hakeem Olajuwon, former Houston Rockets basketball star, Sade Adu, musician, balladeer, Babatunde Olatunji, musician, John Fashanu, football star, Seal and Majek Fashek, musicians.
At home, the roll call of Yoruba great achievers, past and present, is no less impressive. Men like President Olusegun Obasanjo, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Basorun MKO Abiola, Gani Fawehinmi, Tai Solarin, Professor Awojobi, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Hubert Ogunde, King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Lagbaja, and so many more.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have gone through this length to show the rich diversity, vast potentials, versatility and viability of the Yoruba nation and its people. The human and material assets at home and in Diaspora are so enormous, and in fact, limitless. The Yoruba in Diaspora, with the benefit of their exposure and possible advantage of resources, can indeed be vehicle for development, not only of the Yoruba homeland, but also of the nation as a whole. What should be our concern at this stage is how to harness the scattered resources and galvanise them towards attaining the desired developmental goals for "the good of the people", which Cicero once described as "the Supreme Law".
IMPERATIVES OF PARTNERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT
It is time Yoruba at home and in Diaspora start partnering for synergy. Without doubt, we can find strength in unity. Our ability to be at the driver's seat in our nation is not in doubt. Even when we are not occupying the presidency, we have no reason to play second fiddle in the affairs of Nigeria - be it the political, economic or social arena.
This has become imperative so that whenever our brothers and sisters in Diaspora come home, they won't be complainers about how things are not working, but rather, they would see themselves as partners and partakers in the overall development for a better future of their home land. Afterall, as our elders would say, ILE LABO 'SINMI OKO.
The question then would be asked: what are the partnership options open for the Yoruba at home in Diaspora? In attempting some answers, I think we should first understand what we mean when we talk of partnering.
Partnership is a voluntary collaborative agreement between two or more parties in which all participants agree to work together to achieve a common purpose. Or undertake a specific task, and to share risks. Partnerships share interest, concerns and create visions for the future.
In this technology-driven age, when the whole world has virtually dissolved into a global village, meaningfully partnering is a foundation for success. This is because such collaboration enables continuous improvement which is created when it doesn't seem possible to solve a problem or address the situation by just one group - due to magnitude, lack of knowledge or vague nature of the issue at stake; or when the cost of solving a problem or addressing an issue gets too costly for one group to tackle.
In an enterprise therefore, the best partnerships are those (either formal or informal) that have an organization or a structure with shared vision, mission and goals, involving people for maximum utilization of emerging and existing technologies. In this regard, the kind of partnering one envisages between the Yoruba at home and in Diaspora is the type that will provide necessary developmental planks such as intellectual, technological, communication and marketing plans for the homeland that is urgent for modern transformation. This is with a view that such an alliance will produce results that will benefit all group and process members.
The necessity of this reality, and the need to harness all resources - human and material, is not being lost on nations and groups that are determined to be valuable players in the rapidly emerging international configurations. For instance at the recent 7th Leon H. Sullivan Summit in Abuja, President Olusegun Obasanjo said Africa was on the road to a unity government and therefore called Africans in Diaspora to play a greater role in the economic development of the continent.
According to President Obasanjo, "two intertwined factors will determine Africa's future: the promotion of the Diaspora's involvement in the continent's economic and social development and the enabling of the enterprising spirit of Africans on the continent". Emphasising the importance of the Diaspora to Africa's developments he further said "when we often say that Africa's offshore assets are of great importance to the present and future, we are referring not to oil, gold, diamond or coal, but to our people in the Diaspora".
The President restated the truth that "people of African descent are everywhere, contributing to the economies and politics of countries throughout the world as businessmen, intellectuals, academics, politicians and professionals," According to him, "in the United States, Africans are the best educated immigrant population, serving as formidable representatives of our potentials and capacities."
President Obasanjo also reminded the Sullivan Summit that "African Americans and others in Diaspora have promoted the very powerful truth that Africa is an enterprising continent; that there are opportunities here, not only to do charity, but also to make a profit; that being involved in Africa is about partnership, not about paternalism." In his words, "this is not only a continent of opportunities; it is a continent of actualities."
In calling for a strategic partnership between Africans on the continent and the Diasporans, the President said that "we have taken the vision of brotherhood and sisterhood in the Diaspora beyond mere sentiments, and that we have developed strategic partnership across the Atlantic that will lead to a shared future, common security and collective prosperity."
One must not only recognize, in this respect, but also sincerely appreciate the creative efforts already afoot in the Diaspora. It is salutary that NIGERIANS IN DIASPORA ORGANISATION (NIDO), based in the United State has been showing interest in joining hands with those at home for the good of all. Only recently, it met in Abuja where it made strong rights demands for its members, including the right to vote at elections. In other words, they would want to have a voice as to who governs the affairs of the people. This is a patriotic duty. This growing appreciation that the best place for a Blackman is Africa is refreshing. There cannot be any place like home.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my well-considered position, however, that the Yoruba must take a cue from the president's urging. Ensuring coherence and catalyzing societal Developmental efforts calls for participation, not just of governments and international organisations, but also of the private sector, interests and fraternal groups. Interestingly, this is a key objective underpinning the United Nations-initiated Millennium Development Goals for the needy nations of which we are one.
Already, one is well aware of the existence and activities of The Alliance of Yoruba Organisations and Clubs IPARAPO EGBE OMO YORUBA, which is the umbrella organization for all Yoruba Associations in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia area. The stated objectives include fostering the unity of all Yoruba organisations, clubs, and religious groups through collaborative activities in the United States and around the world, and promoting the economic, social, cultural and political empowerment of all Yoruba organisations and clubs through shared information and active engagement.
The Alliance stated that it would maintain and enhance the good name and image of Yoruba people by promoting positive events that highlight community awareness of Yoruba accomplishment in the United States and around the world. All these are in the bid to embrace events that foster the progressive development of Yoruba people.
The continuing effort of this kind of organization and similar umbrella associations and their more localized arms in Diaspora are positive signals of the possibility of fruitful partnering towards the development of Yoruba, and by extension, our fatherland. It is part of Yoruba custom to function through coming together in groups. In the traditional Yorubaland, and even to a considerable extent up till now, occupational guilds, social clubs, secret or initiatory societies, and religious units, commonly known as EGBE, exist. These included the PARAKOYI (or league of traders, market associations) and the various professional and vocational associations, which maintained an important role in commerce, social control, and vocational education in Yoruba polities.
Hence the relevance of emergent groups like the United States based EGBE ISOKAN YORUBA which has as part of its mission the need to uphold and project the dignity of Yoruba culture, language and tradition in Africa and the Diaspora, as well as promote the cultural, social, economic and political welfare of Yoruba. Its resolve to work with other organisations inside and outside Nigeria for the active promotion of Yoruba is also in the traditional spirit of forging partnership for development.
Another organization of emerging relevance is the 21st Century Yoruba which is aimed at highlighting the scientific and economic direction of the Yoruba people for the Twenty first century. It is noteworthy that its promoters are saying that theirs is a scientific, historical and economic group, with political affiliations, religious basing and ethnic basing strictly prohibited,
The purpose of this group, according to its sponsors, is to make and implement recommendations on scientific, industrial, historical and economic polices for the entire Yoruba population worldwide. The group believes that if a group like the Jews can form economic and scientific alliances amongst their people, then why can't the Yoruba? The aim therefore is to move our people away from country-centered thinking into a global-centered thinking; not to fight for the crumbs in a particular country, but to put in place, the infrastructure that would allow the Yoruba to compete in the 21st century.
These are heart-warming aspirations. Yet, we must agree that a lot more still needs to be done for fundamental transformation to take place. The logical question then is, in which areas are the partnering options urgently required?
PARTNERSHIP: THE BUILDING BLOCKS
First is agriculture. The Yoruba in Diaspora should be thinking of ploughing back home, especially through encouraging those at home to return to the Land. The place of agriculture in the overall development of Yoruba, and indeed the nation at large cannot be overemphasized. This is because it was through agriculture that the Yoruba once excelled and it is the foundation upon which industrialisation can be firmly laid.
Once upon a time, Nigeria enjoyed relative economic stability, and was on the path of sustainable development; that was when there was no oil or mineral resources to feud over. Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. And because there were pressing developmental needs, our sagacious leader, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo used proceeds from agriculture to fund free education that many of us benefited from in the old Western Region. With cocoa money, his government built pace-setting modern structures and enduring edifices like Cocoa House, Liberty Stadium, and WNTV-the first television station in Africa, the industrial estates in Ikeja and many more.
The economic bubble started bursting in mid-70s when the nation became awash with petro-dollar. Successive military administrations became impatient with agriculture as the easy oil money was rolling in. The cities became centres of development and, of course, attraction, to the neglect of the productive rural hinterland. Indeed, until the 1970s and the expansion of the oil industry after the end of the civil war, the major part of government revenues came from the rural sector. But by comparison, very little was spent there. In the 1970-74 development plans, 81 per cent of the expenditure was allocated to the urban sector development plan.
Government intervention in agriculture was more in capital-intensive schemes like the farm settlements, instead of encouraging greater productivity among the great mass of producers. Agricultural extension work has traditionally suffered from lack of funds, low motivation among the extension workers and an undue emphasis on academic qualifications in their selection and training.
Poorer farmers in general are at a disadvantage in dealing with the authorities because of their illiteracy and their distance from administrative centres. The failure of the existing institutions to represent farmers' interests was the underlying cause of the movement, and most attempts to organize farmers' unions or cooperatives have either helped the wealthier farmers or ended in failure.
Obviously, the resultant migration to the urban centres meant immense drain on manpower in the agricultural sector, and this lies behind the declined productivity in agriculture. The attitude of the farmers themselves towards this exodus of the younger generation was better imagined. The rural household heads appeared overwhelmingly in favour of the boys and young men going to live in large cities like Lagos and Ibadan, though fewer approved of the girls going. Nearly two-thirds of the old hands on the farms would no longer recommend farming as an occupation for their sons, on the excuse that it was tedious and financially unrewarding.
Many of the farmers saw their hope for the future not in expanding their farms, but in the success of their educated children. And of course, waiting for something to turn up in the city was for many of the migrants preferable to staying back home to farm. Even in the face of dwindling opportunities, and without the necessary contacts, many preferred to stay in the cities. To compound the dilemma, the few hands left on the farms were not encouraged as the system of farming remained old fashioned, only tolerable enough for subsistence farming.
It was a degeneration that has led to our people suffering in hunger and penury in the midst of God's abundant providence. This degeneration can be reversed with a renewed consciousness in agriculture. Majority of Yoruba men are still farmers. All Yoruba have access to land at home if they need it. If a farmer is unable to get suitable land from his own descent group, he may be able to secure it from another; he may also decide to migrate elsewhere, especially if he is interested in planting cash crop. So, obtaining land might not really constitute hindrance to anyone interested in investing in agriculture back home.
However, cash shortage still puts pressure on those at home who might want to return to the land. Government and financial institutions still pay more of lip service to supporting agriculture in tangible terms. With the advantage of better access to needed funding, one area of viable partnership investment is therefore the agricultural sector. The ageing farm hands as well as intending able-bodied ones at home need assistance, not only financially, but also on ways to modernize farming in order to make it more attractive. The exposure of the Diasporans to better scientific method will surely come in handy.
Whatever could be done to return the Yoruba to its pre-eminent position in agriculture might well be the wisdom platform required for lifting in other areas. Our land will become secure when the people are well fed, (TI A BA YO 'WO EBI, ISE BUSE), the young generation gainfully engaged, industries not lacking in raw material and there are enough to sell and export.
A wide range of other collaborative investment opportunities in the economy of our area is open to well-to-do Yoruba in Diaspora. For instance, embarking on housing-for-rent project in our towns will support the efforts of government and individuals at providing decent shelter for the people. Shelter ranks high in Maslow's hierarchy of Human Needs. Needless reminding ourselves that houses are valuable assets to the owners.
In the health sector too, the newly introduced National Health Insurance Scheme should hold attraction for partnership. Although the scheme is new in Nigeria, it has for long offered easier means of health care financing in the developed nations where many of our people are beneficiaries. Such experience, if deployed, will surely help in putting the scheme on the right footing with people having better access to more affordable healthcare. Though a national programme, we can all make it work faster and more effectively in the Yoruba States.
Similarly, our transportation system is still grossly inadequate and needs to be modernized. Embarking on other sundry industrial and manufacturing ventures that utilize raw materials that are readily available in our area will gainfully mop up the motley jobless graduates and school leavers off the streets and lift the standard of the Yoruba. The spin-off effect of such investment is unimaginable. Apart from the Yoruba becoming self-sufficient, the energy, zeal and creativity of our youngsters will be taxed through appropriate avenues and channels provided.
The major form of investment however remains education. Among the Yoruba, education is still the vital industry. When ignorance is banished, the horizon becomes limitless. The Yoruba prominence in the civil service, especially among the cadre of well-trained bureaucrats, is largely the result of the long-term investment in education. This has made the Yoruba to be envied by other sections of the country. It is an edge we cannot afford to lose.
Those who get through university and other higher institutions are likely to be more independent-minded and being able to stand on their own even with little support. Those of them who choose to be employed are better positioned to get lucrative salaried positions in the professions, the large firms or the civil service, with all the security and fringe benefits that go with them above those who had to be induced and encourage to obtain basic education.
I was encouraged recently with an advertisement in a newspaper of Thursday, July 20. It was placed by a New York-based Yoruba Organisation, for the launching of a N25 million Education Endowment Fund and the 2006/2007 Scholarship Award to students of Ekiti State origin in Nigerian approved universities. The association informed that it was a continuation of effort at advancing the course of education in Ekiti State.
This gesture is a welcome realization of the need by Ekiti in Diaspora to further encourage education, an industry for which the area, with the sobriquet of 'Fountain of Knowledge', is well renowned. More of this from groups and individuals will definitely fire up the young ones.
Across Yorubaland, there are many of our brilliant children being deprived the opportunity of attaining their full potentials by poverty. Many more are wasting away because of lack of direction. As the future of our race, they need helping hand today. When we join hands to build our young ones, we are building our own future. A deliberate partnership agenda on youth development can be drawn up between associations abroad and corporate and institutional agencies in the various Yoruba states.
The political potential of the Nigerian Diaspora Community, in particular the Yoruba Diaspora Community came to light dramatically during the anti-military struggle of the 1990's. In those years, the United Kingdom-based Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM), Oduduwa movement, The Canadian Organisation for Human Rights and Democracy in Nigeria (COHDN), Oduduwa Youth Movement (OYM), Action Group for Democracy (AGD) as well as the Nigerian Democratic Task Force (NDTF) played noteworthy roles in internationalizing the democratic struggle, in supporting civil society groups based in Nigeria, as well as in keeping on the agenda the injustice of the annulment of the June 1993 election, generally acclaimed to have been won by the Late Bashorun MKO Abiola.
It is no secret that Yoruba constituted the arrowhead of most of those organisations even as Yoruba scholars like Kayode Fayemi, Ropo Sekoni, Segun Gbadegesin, Pat Williams, Bolaji Aluko, Tunde Fagbenle, Bola Tinubu and Wole Soyinka lent their formidable skills to the democratic struggle especially using the auspices of the pirate Radio Kudirat.
May I remind you, Ladies and Gentlemen that the Yoruba have traditionally opposed injustice and oppression. The anti colonial struggle; the Agbekoya Movement; the Ondo State Uprisings against blatant rigging or the 1993 elections; the June 12 struggle and the recent struggle against tenure extension are some of the pertinent instances in this regard.
What we need to do in the contemporary period is to build on the noble Yoruba heritage by extending as well as deepening the democratic content of Nigeria's wobbling democracy; weaning it, that is, from its authoritarian antecedents as well as making it less corrupt. Taking the struggle against corruption for instance, Yoruba in the Diaspora through their increasingly visible organizations can lead the way in tracking the flight of capital abroad, exposing corrupt leaders and demonizing pretenders as well as crooks. Here we can draw on the Yoruba concept of OMOLUABI to create an ideal against which Yoruba leaders, emergent and established can be judged.
Relevant, too, are the areas of economic empowerment; human capital development; as well as social rehabilitation outlined earlier, in which the Yoruba in the Diaspora can link up with those at home to uplift the glory of the Yoruba race. With God on our side, the future is not only bright, but illuminatingly bright.
I thank you for listening.
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