By Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal
No doubt, the unwarranted and deplorable deportation of no less than 72 Igbo folks to Onitsha, Anambra state, recently by the Lagos State Government and the resultant increasing reactions emanating from virtually all and sundry across the ethnic spectrum of the parties involved, the Igbo and the Yoruba, have obviously come to a point that I am once more impelled to bluntly revisit some historical facts with a view to correcting certain balderdash and canards being masqueraded and propagated as historical facts by some rabid rabble-rousers like the Femi Fani-Kayodes.
But before I proceed, it is pertinent to use this opportunity to make one point public, which until now was kept personal. I was long before now told by a friend, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s democratic “regime” to be precise, that no sooner would the Yoruba complete their tenure of Obasanjo’s presidency than they would go the whole hog of scheming and, at some point, conspiring to truncate the entire democratic process, for the simple reason that they have taken their own turn of ruling the country.
According to my friend, who with hindsight sounded prophetic, theirs would be that the bridge can now break since they have crossed it. It is therefore no exaggeration to submit in the light of the foregoing, that the conducts, unguarded utterances and feigned democratic posturing of some Yoruba elements since the exit of President Olusegun Obasanjo from the Aso villa do not seem to rebut this assertion of their predictable inclination to playing a spoiler’s game.
However, let us now go back to the burgeoning reactions and some of the hogwash arising from Fashola’s deportation saga. As we have heard from Femi Fani-Kayode that the Igbo contributions to the development of Lagos state are not only infinitesimal but insignificant. That is Fani-Kayode for you. Much as the lesson from Igbo world view teaches that two persons do not go demented at the same time, the fact is that there is an urgent need to apprehend a newly deranged fellow with a view to beginning the process of healing him before he goes into the market square and runs amok.
In essence, the truth must be told to Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode and members of his school of thought. To begin with, it will be nice to draw the attention of this rabble-rouser to the monumental input of Sir Louis Ojukwu, the father of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, and his ilk to the development of Lagos during the colonial era, the proofs of which are still there to behold. And for more on this, please see Orji Kalu’s piece in THE SUN Newspaper of August 10, 2013 titled Deportation: Fashola got it wrong. Thus, that Lagos state is today regarded as the commercial nerve center or the economic capital of Nigeria is not unconnected with the Igbo enterprising spirit, acumen, diligence and sundry other virtues they have brought to bear on this city that the Kayode elements now strut around to beat their chest in a showmanship claim of ownership. This is indeed ownership by words of mouth born out of sheer wickedness of envying the builders of the edifice.
The Kayodes believe that the hospitality which Nigerians fought for in Lagos and as such are now enjoying is a mark or evidence of their so-called civilization. Though it will be wrong and unfair to say that all Yoruba are not tolerant towards people of other Nigerian enclaves or that all are lacking in hospitality, yet it must not be forgotten that it was basically because of the unprecedented hostility and Kayode’s brand of jingoism exhibited by the old Yoruba people of Lagos, who historians professionally refer to as “Lagos crowd”, to the Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, and other members of the Northern parliament, in the wake of the motion of self-government mooted by Chief Anthony Enahoro ( a member of Awolowo’s Action Group), that not only made Northern Parliamentarians to swear that they would never come back to Lagos for any other deliberation on any issue, but also prompted them to quickly draw up an eight point programme approved by the joint session of Northern House of Assembly and Chiefs in 1953 wherein a firm demand was made by them that Lagos be designated a Federal Capital separated from the Western region. It is thus imperative to state it clearly, that it was nothing short of the Yoruba intolerance and tendencies to shortchange people of other nationalities in the South-Western region that brought about the carving out of Lagos from the region and its eventual designation then as the Federal Capital Territory, in order for the lives and rights of the non-Yoruba to be adequately safeguarded.
Incidentally, given this new status which by implication meant that the “Kayodes” could no longer assault other people without incurring for themselves the wrath of the national government and that of other Nigerians in general, the Yoruba have thus embraced the reality of what the Kayodes now delude themselves to be the evidence of their civilization.
More so, that the Yoruba whole-heartedly welcomed and incorporated Ndigbo into their fold at the end of the Nigeria-Biafra war is yet another fallacy that can only emanate from the self-styled “servant of truth.” This Kayode’s futile attempt to create the impression that the Yoruba showed rare “magnanimity” to Ndigbo soon after the end of the civil war is not only comical but preposterous in all ramifications.
Where do we even begin to look at the whole issue? Do we begin by talking about Awolowo’s evil policy of doling out the paltry sum of twenty pounds to Ndigbo who at the time had much more than such amount in their respective bank accounts? Or, are we to delve into Awolowo’s indigenization programme that was launched afterwards to make sure that Ndigbo did not participate and/or “were in no position to buy into any company”? In fact, nothing speaks volumes about Kayode’s fallacy than General Yakubu Gowon’s point of view on this subject, as follows: “The government of Obasanjo, I think between 1975 and 79, speeded up taking over some of the big businesses, especially in Lagos, which was to the advantage of his people, because they were the ones on the spot, and a lot their people were in the banks and knew how to use the banks to give loans to their own people to buy some of these things. But this was not the case in other parts of the country. So when it comes to that, you can rest assured that it was not only the Igbo that felt out, other parts of the country that were not as well positioned as the people from the West felt the same way.” Of course from the foregoing, we all can see how much the Yoruba showed love and care to other Nigerians and/or Ndigbo at the end of the war, especially in Lagos.
It is worthy to note that the evil of the abandoned property perpetrated against Ndigbo in the aftermath of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war would not have arisen, much less of spreading across the length and breadth of Nigeria, if not for the earlier foundational mindset of “let us use this opportunity to undermine and dispossess the Igbo”- which was created and nurtured by Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his cohorts. Besides, the issue of the confiscation of Dim Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu’s father’s property in Lagos state and the ensuing litigation that rendered such untoward move impossible cannot adequately be discussed in isolation of the general issue of post-civil war abandoned property saga. Surely one has no illusions about the involvement of some Yoruba legal luminaries in the case, which is why I did say abini tio that not all Yoruba are intolerant or inconsiderate. But even at that, the big question remains: would it not have been a preferable lesser devil’s alternative for Igbo property at the time to be commandeered by the Federal Government and the people alike than for the cruel economic policies designed and implemented by Chief Obafemi Awolowo which dehumanized and occasioned avoidable and untimely demise of scores of Ndigbo?
Now, on the handing of the leadership of the NCNC over to Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe by Herbert Macaulay “on his death bed, as articulated by the Yoruba “servant of truth”, one wonders why it has not dawned on the Fani-Kayodes that it was because of the rare detriabalised inclination of Azikiwe coupled with his competence, fearlessness, courage, exposure, sound educational advantage, pan-Africanist diposition and, above all, his unalloyed loyalty and impeccable track records as the part’s scribe that earned him such recognition and elevation from Macaulay whose origin is reportedly traceable to Sierraleone and not Yoruba, contrary to Fani-Kayode’s ignorance. And it is really unfortunate that Kayode does not know or rather pretends not to know that Macaulay never saw the Yoruba leaders at the time, even with their so-called early education, as being serious-minded enough to deserve the mantle of leadership of the NCNC. Indeed, going by the monumental achievements of the NCNC under the leadership of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, one cannot but commend the great Macaulay for his foresight and/or clairvoyance.
Meanwhile, Fan-Kayode has mentioned that the Yoruba have always been decades ahead of Ndigbo in the area of acquisition of western education and so are more educated than them. As curious as this assertion is, it still boggles one’s mind where all those educated Yoruba people were when Igbo sons in the persons of Prof. Keneth Dike and Prof. Eni Njoku became the first indigenous Vice- Chancellors of University of Lagos and University of Ibadan respectively. Anyway, it is key to note that Ndigbo do not subscribe to the idea of quantitative education which Chief Awolowo’s so-called free education programme epitomized and promoted. Rather, Ndigbo attach premium to qualitative education which in the main accounts for why the world will never cease to celebrate personalities like Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. Philip Emeagwali, Prof. Bath Nnaji, Prof. Ndi Okereke Onyiauke, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, Chimamanda Adichie, name them yourself. Lest we forget, needless to say that Awolowo’s so-called free education policy was anchored more on the production of certificated persons than truly educated minds, a trend that is still ongoing in Yoruba land. No wonder that some people are really tempted to ask what the country has benefited from having all these certificated Yoruba elements.
Again it is important to disabuse the warped mind of Mr. Fani-Kayode in respect of his wild claim that the mere emergence of Chief Alex Ifeanyichukwu Ekwueme as the Vice-president of Federal Republic of Nigeria, a decade after the end of the civil war, rendered the fact of Igbo marginalization non-existent. As laughable as this claim is, It makes sense to let the Kayodes know that the reluctance of the North to make their choice of who became the Vice-President to Alhaji Shehu Shagari in the second republic from the South-West was not unconnected with the notorious records of Yoruba treachery which was well manifested and clearly understood from the actions and inactions of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his tribes men before, during and after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war. So the sooner the Kayodes realize the fact that the rest of the Nigerian people always see them as a set of very unreliable elements and begin to amend their ways for good , the better for the
As for Kayode’s distorted narratives about the 1966 military coup and counter-coup, it will only suffice to say in a nutshell that there are things that are too shameful for a presumably educated mind to delight in fussing about them. Agreed, Col. Fajui died when General Agui-Ironsi was his guest in Ibadan, but if by Kayode’s account that Major-General T.Y Dajuma “obliged” Fajui his request by slaughtering him just like that, without the latter putting up a good fight in defence his life and/or even that of his boss, then we cannot rule out the fact of cowardice on Fajui’s side, on the whole. More importantly, it must be noted that Brigadier-General Ogudipe who apparently abdicated in favour of Col. Yakubu Gowon, his junior, for fear of being harmed or murdered did in fact receive unalloyed support from Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu before he (Ogundipe) eventually chickened out.
And it was even because of Brigadier-General Ogundipe that Col. Ojukwu refused to recognize the imposition of the then Col. Yakubu Gowon as the Head state, which in part was what triggered off the civil war. Essentially, to say that Ndigbo had suffered because of the denial of the Yoruba their right and/or rightful place in the annals of the history of this country is an understatement.
More recently, it may even interest the Kayodes to know that it was an Igbo, the incumbent Chief of Army Staff – Lt. General Azubike Ihejirika – that restored the ranks and the promotion of a Yoruba military officer, Major-General Adebayo Olaniyi, who incidentally is the current General Officer Commanding 82 Division of the Nigeria Army, Enugu.
But be it as it may be, the point is that the Kayodes are at liberty to be blowing hot in an attempt provoke Ndigbo in order to test their venom, but they should not forget that the Igbo bite is as poisonous as that of ichieteka snake that rarely comes out bite. But when it does, its victim(s) rarely lasts to see tomorrow which is not only a reflection of its deadly nature, but that of its name – ichieteka.
Finally, it will suffice for us all to realize that the censure for not talking the talk goes to the mouth, while that of not hearing to understand is squarely that of the ears. This message is solely for the Kayodes.
Onyiorah Chiduluemije Paschal, a Journalist, writes from Abuja, via email@example.com