– By Peter Omonua
Someone forwarded an audio recording to me few days ago which must have been preserved for more than 57 years. It was the voice of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola (SLA), the last Premier of the Western Region and the 13th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland.
The voice was unmistakable, in his distinctive Ogbomosho accent. The summary of what he said, which I have transcribed from Yoruba to English (as best as I could) was:
“…. Let us the Yorubas come together. Let the Ibos not ‘disorganize’ us with this election. We must not allow them to use this election to destroy our land, take over our jobs, disturb our trade. They must not be allowed to obstruct our access into the government. People must not see this election as an Akintola or Awolowo issue. Even if you don’t like Akintola…(inaudible)…
They are taking your children’s food; they are pursuing your wives from their stores. This election is for our salvation. It is an election through which your children will become somebody tomorrow. We are closer to the northerners. This is not because we plan to sell you as slaves to them. Even they (the northerners) are not interested in buying slaves.
Since people have been saying we want to sell you as slaves to the north, has Lagos not remained at the same location? It has not been moved to Meduguri (Maiduguri); Ibadan has not moved to Bauchi oo. They will be deceiving you that Hausa is not good, meanwhile, they have been seating with the Hausa to share the goodness (mudun-mudun) of this land. When you get to one place, you find “Idechukwu:, when you get to another place, you will find “Nwachuku…..”
Chief Akintola died in January 1966, which would mean that electioneering campaign happened on or before then.
Following the Feb 25 2023 presidential election, a lot of dust has been raised. This audio would have been dug up to fan the ember of hatred against the Ibo as the Lagos gubernatorial election of March 18, 2023 drew near.
Such vitriolic utterances and rhetoric were part of the trigger of the genocidal war against the Ibos between 1966 – 1970. Many are unfamiliar with the bestiality which accompanied that episode. That the Ibo race is still here today is by sheer grit. I urge the readers to get a copy of the book “The Biafra Story”, by Frederick Forsyth, to get a sense of that part of our history.
There appears to be a general sense of satisfaction from most Yoruba about the outcome of the Feb. 25 2023 presidential election. However, I struggle to reconcile why the Yoruba Christians, who hitherto joined with Christians from other parts of the country to vehemently denounced and opposed a Muslim/Muslim ticket seem to have acquiesced.
Strangely, it is no longer about who the best person for the job is. The place of religious balance on the tickets has even been ignored.
While still basking in the euphoria of Mahmoud’s announcement, in what local and international observers have variously described as a shambolic ‘heist’ of an election, the temporary illusion of a ‘victory’, possibly obfuscates a realization of the difference between “winning the battle but losing the war”; and that it may yet be, essentially a Pyrrhic Victory.
Aside the fact that the candidate in question has a tainted background bothering on his ancestry, educational institutions, criminal conviction and questionable heath condition, the process that would have thrown him up has also been tainted, burdened with atrocities of unprecedented monumental proportion. Not only is his personality ‘cloaked in a baggage of character deficit’, the process is replete with unimaginable scale of fraud.
Imagine the national, regional and international ignominy which will trail the presentation of such credentials to the world. Given the brazen disregard for the Will of the people by which INEC proclaimed, ‘a winner’, of the presidential election, Nnamdi Kanu must have had a spirit of clairvoyance when he warned that:
“It is only INEC that decides the results of elections in Nigeria, Not your PVC; the sooner you understand that, the better for you. Your PVC is useless”
His statement has turned out to be ‘words on marble’.
From what has unfolded, which has been our experience over the years, is anyone still in doubt about the need for separate countries for the tribes? Given what has transpired and what may yet follow, the issue of separate Nations must of necessity, be brought to the fore. It is a reality we can no longer afford to pretend about.
The trio of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho) and Professor Banji Akintoye, all of whom have advocated for the creation of separate independent Nations are neither eccentric nor delusional. Their calls are borne out of genuine concern about the fragility of Nigeria, the implosion of which could be catastrophic.
As an aftermath of events that unfolded in Lagos during the elections, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) asked a very pertinent question:
“Will Lagos ever be the same again after 2023 elections?”
While the path to separate Nations is being charted, my expectations is that Ibos and other non-Ibos from South East and Niger Delta must start to reconsider their future investments in Lagos.
If the world was aghast at the Ukrainian treatment of non-Ukrainians at the evacuations which preceded the outbreak of the Russian/Ukrainian war, even for those that were born in Ukraine or have lived there for decades, I could not see any difference between that and what transpired in Lagos the last few weeks.
There is no difference between what we call xenophobia against Nigerians in South Africa and Ghana and what unveiled in Lagos.
With the disenfranchisement of Ibos and other non-Yoruba ethnicities in Lagos at these elections, what other proof is there to show that different countries are lumped together? I am yet to hear or read of any contrary argument for which Nigeria must continue to be a single entity.
Whose interest exactly is served when you lock a hyena, a lion and a Tiger in a cage, throw a piece of meat in their midst and expect them not to fight for it? It is like lumping India, Pakistan and Bangladesh within a single Union. Can you put Israel, Lebanon and Palestine within a single Union and expect them to co-exist in harmony?
Anarchy will be the result and that is what Nigeria has been dealing with. Never mind the Western countries that tells you “Your beauty is in your diversity”; it is deceptive and self-serving. Our ‘diversity’ is the source of our conflicts.
They know that while dealing with our conflicts, we have little time to scrutinize the pilferage of our resources which is the lubricant for the engine of their own economies.
Each of the presidential aspirants, individually considered qualified by their ethnic groups, would do well to govern their separate countries and Africa will know peace. Tinubu can govern Oduduwa (If he is considered good enough as the president of Nigerian, surely, he must be good enough as the first president of the new Oduduwa Nation)…
Atiku can preside over the affairs of Arewa and do for that country what he hoped to do for Nigeria, and Peter Obi can run Biafra. It is really that simple! If these three legs of the table are settled, the “minority” tribes will find their paths.
Pieter Willem Botha, former South African apartheid leader was quoted to have once derisively said “Black People cannot rule themselves because they don’t have the brain and mental capacity to govern a Society”.
This is exactly what he meant! Must we wait for a white man to come seat us round a table and prescribe a solution to our decades old intractable problem? Can we not see the solution starring us right in the face? Why keep bickering?
Is it not a shame that with all the acclamation of Nigerians as the most PhDs, Professors, and Doctors all across the world, we cannot organize ourselves and apply the one solution which we can all see?
Most countries that have made progress are unified by a commonality of language and culture. We know of China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany, France, United Kingdom, USA, South Korea, Japan,…the list goes on.
Must we wait for another ethnically charged conflict to erupt before we do the right thing? We must learn from the experiences of history: Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, USSR. We can even see what is currently happening in Ukraine, where ethnic Russians in Donbass region want out of Ukraine!
Are we waiting to tow that perilous path? Why can’t we do a round-table discussion, arrive at mutually agreeable terms of disengagement, and set a worthy example for Africa and the world? Because some white men came, found totally different set of people and lumped them together, for essentially their own convenience, must we continue to wallow in that pitiable state when we can see it’s detrimental to our collective wellbeing?
Must we resign ourselves to the perpetual state of acrimonious co-existence? To think we would actually kill ourselves for what was not our own creation is puzzling! No wonder Nnamdi Kanu would repeatedly say “Something is wrong with the brain of a black man”.
The Labour Party winning of Lagos in the presidential election has highlighted the concealed gulf that exist between the Yorubas and the Ibos. If Tinubu is cleared as the winner by the courts or Tribunal, no doubt the Ibos will be at his receiving end and it would be worse, given that his Muslim/Muslim deputy, Shettima is an avowed enemy of the Ibos.
Recall the leaked telephone conversation between him and Ibikunle Amosun a few years ago when Buhari ‘won’ his first term in 2015; how he boasted about the way Ibos will be excluded from the mainstream of the administration; and it came to pass.
My conjecture is that Ibo interests in Lagos and Abuja will be stifled through strategically targeted but stealthy policy implementations. Whichever way you look at it, humongous cracks, perhaps irreparable have been created.
I had always known that, for the most part, the Ibos and the Yorubas don’t exactly like each other. This is a fact that is difficult to voice out and admit but is the truth. I expect to take the flak for this ‘revelation’ but it’s a price I am willing to pay because that is my perspective.
It is an ‘open-secret’, hidden behind a ‘glass wall’, which everyone can see through, but no one wants to break, but prefer to rather tiptoe around. It is convenient for me to ‘spill that beans’, because I can view it through the lens of an outsider.
I am neither of the two but have lived and worked closely with the 2 in multiple organizations and locations, both locally and internationally. As a neutral party, I know the sentiments of one to the other and what comments I hear from each one about the other.
They do however have a common interest, a desire for a working, prosperous nation. The egalitarianism which each of them seek to promote will be easier achieved when they pursue it as separate independent Nations, Oduduwa and Biafra.
That is their only point of convergence. The individual cultural, linguistic and tribal homogeneity would invariably promote institutional stability for the separate nations. As you would have seen (or read) about the conflict between Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as evident in the transcribed words of Chief S.L. Akintola above, whatever you thought was harmonious between Yoruba and Ibo was a façade masking the reality of unhealthy competition and rivalry.
There must come a point in life where all forms of pretenses are jettisoned and pragmatism embraced; that time is now. The oft-quoted phrase: “The Unity of Nigeria is Non-Negotiable” was contrived to browbeat these two Nation into a perpetual state of servitude.
Can you imagine the infringement on the rights and liberty of an entire tribe when the Oba of Lagos, a first-class traditional ruler in Yorubaland threatens to flush Ibos down the lagoon if they dare vote against the candidate of his people’s choice!! That was just in 2015.
What is more “xenophobic” than that? “MC Oluomo” and his area boys’ gang have just made similar threats and the “Iya Chukudi” video of few days ago is very fresh in our memory. What other pretenses of one country are we still dwelling on?
If it happened in S.L. Akintola’s 1st Republic and it is happening 57 years later, trust me, it will happen in another 57 years hence i.e. the year 2080. Let’s do the right thing now to avoid the sort of comments credited to Mr. Bayo Onanuga, warning Ibos to “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos Politics”, an inflammatory diatribe countered by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu’s “Political Rascals” statement.
Biafra and Oduduwa would provide citizens social services, security and infrastructure. They would know actual number of their citizens through REAL census, to plan accordingly, not the sort conducted in Nigeria, where cats and dogs are counted for political gains.
When Biafra and Oduduwa stand alone, you will see each citizen of the new countries demonstrate total commitment to the growth and development of their countries. Their citizens, who are experts in various fields of endeavor around the world will return home without prompting to be a part of that development.
For now, Nigeria is everybody’s business, which is no-man’s business. As they say, “Any goat which is expected to be fed by ‘everybody’ in the house, will starve to death”, because it is nobody’s business. Nigeria is nobody’s business; it is each person to his own tribe, which explains why public officials steal as much as they can to take ‘home’ to their tribes and when caught, they say leave him, he is our son.
Nothing captures the sense of uncertainty and frustration of Ndigbo within the Nigerian enterprise than the public declaration by a former federal minister, Frank Nweke (Jnr) when he said:
“Igbos face an existential threat in Nigeria today; and nobody will save us, nobody will help us, if we do not organize ourselves politically, if we do not mobilize, if we do not chart our own political course.
Let this be clear, as for me and my household, I am completely and totally un-apologetically, frankly Obidient, totally, completely and totally…without any apology whatsoever to anybody. So, anybody is at liberty to hold any views he wants to hold, but I for me, I say as for me and my household, political household, personal household, extended household, we are completely and totally Obidient.”
The most pragmatic option for Ibos (as indeed, other ethnic group) is to seek a Nation outside of Nigeria. I cannot see in the horizon such a time when the gang-up against the Ibos by the other 2 major ethnic group will abate. The north, which assumes the position of the ‘Alpha Male’ in the tripod believe the Ibos to be unduly obstinate while viewing the Yorubas as malleable and more accepting of a subordinated role. I do not say this to diminish the Yoruba.
That is just my reading of the Nigerian balance of power over the last 40 years. Consequently, the light of the Yoruba which should ordinarily shine brightly to illuminate the path of progress for Africa has been systematically dimmed, eclipsed, as it were.
I dare say, therefore, that the Ibo man has no future in Nigeria and the creators of Nigeria never envisaged the Ibo to take a leadership role.
What Nnamdi Kanu, (the one his followers fondly call “Ohamadike”) and IPOB seek is an escape from that slavish state. Can anyone deny the state of anarchy. Can we deny the misery and the desolation in the land? If the answer is NO, then whose interest is a unitary Nigeria serving, which must continue to be sustained?
Rather than working together to fashion out an escape route from their enslavement, Ibos and Yorubas have been pitched one against the other. Instead of nurturing separate cows to provide their citizens with fresh, unadulterated milk, they are both struggling to take a sip of the expired and sour milk from the ‘frail elephant’ called Nigeria.
As it were, we are already in a political stalemate, a logjam of sort, the like of which I have not seen in more than 43 years of my political consciousness, not even June 12 1993. Whether Tinubu or Obi is eventually affirmed as the substantive president by the Tribunal, we are already in a cul-de-sac.
If you swear-in a Peter Obi, Yoruba will pump up the volume of Oduduwa Nation and the vice versa for Bola Tinubu and Biafra. In an attempt at getting a tie-breaker, could we be faced with the words of the elders, that “When Two Brothers Fight to Death, the Stranger will inherit their Father’s Properties”?.
I hope the development of the past few weeks would have opened the eyes and minds of those Ibos, who before now were ambivalent about Biafra and thought agitators to be unrealistic lunatics.
The one and only solution that will provide a lasting peace for the Ibo race, and all of the other Nations locked within the ‘jail house’ called Nigeria are separate independent nations.
Everyone will agree, like the title of this essay reads, that Mazi Nnamdi Kanu has been vindicated. Wherever he is now, he would be reclining on his seat and saying in his mind “I did warn you guys but you did not listen”.
Let me round up by re-stating what Julius Malema, a South African politician and Member of Parliament said following the Nigerian 2023 election. He said:
“After watching 2023 Nigeria election, I am still wondering the reason Nigeria is still living together as a country.
Nigerians hate themselves so much but find it difficult to separate peacefully”
Need I say more?
May we not get on the road to Rwanda before we do the right thing.
*Peter Omonua is an Officer of the Canadian Armed Forces, lives in Ontario, Canada.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org