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Yorubas, Igbos and the Lagos question

John Olufemi Kusa
John Olufemi Kusa

When a former Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian newspaper penned reasons as to why there must be a limit to Igbo’s participation in the politics of Lagos, his friend and former classmate of Igbo background thought the submission betrayed his exposure, experience and education.” CROSSFIRE, reproduces the requirements as canvassed by Femi Kusa and Pat Utomi.

I am a yoruba and I condemn all forms of electoral malpractice, including ballot box snatching on election day. The Yorubas are an intelligent people with their own fair share of rascals.There are many intelligent and creative ways open to the yorubas to deal with the Igbo question in Lagos or elsewhere.

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Chief Obafemi Awolowo dealt with it when Dr Nnamdi Azikwe abused the generousity of the Yorubas and attempted to take over their land as the Dutchmen took over Southern Africa. The Yorubas also dealt with this question intelligently when Biafran soldiers tried to invade the West from Ore, after overrunning Bendel State with the aid of Igbo connections there. At different fora where the Igbo question in Lagos comes up, I always invite the Igbos to remember that the Yorubas have always been their best friends in Nigeria.

The Yoruba leader of the 1950s, HERBERT MACAULAY, founded the NCNC (National Council for Nigerians and the Cameroons). When Macaulay died following an illness during his nationwide campaign for independence, wasn’t it the Yoruba NCNC leadership which invited Dr Nnamdi Azikwe and Igbo, to return home from Ghana and lead their party? And when he held their hand in the soup pot, to bar them from having the meal they prepared, didn’t they peacefully and intelligently show him the way back to the East?

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Yorubas were generous and trustful. Dr Azikwe insulted their sensibility, abused their generosity and trust. Why would he, an Igbo, wish to be premier of the West and then install an Igbo, as premier of the East when the Yorubas at that time had more literate people than the Igbos? That was cunning, greed and betrayal of trust to say the least.We were all fighting to send the white man away and, after we had succeeded, you wished to impose local Igbo colonialism on a better educated Yoruba race. Who would have accepted that?

Secondly, I remind my Igbo friends that, after the civil war ,their properties in the North, Port Harcourt, Cross River  and Akwa Ibom States, their present political allies, were seized from them as “abandoned” property and handed out to the aborigines.But in the West, Igbo property were all returned with all the rent which accrued to them. Were the Yorubas stupid or merely civilised, honest and friendly  or, if you like, God fearing?

OKOTA BALLOT BOX

As I said in the first part, the snatching of ballot boxes after all the warnings by government was unecessary, crude, condemnable and punishable. If the yorubas condemn it elsewhere, they should condemn it also in Okota.

But after the condemnation and necessary punishment under the law, it will not be right for all of us to not get to the bottom of why it happened and the bigger problems which are brewing beneath. The major problem ,in my opinion, is the Igbo penchant to wish to take over another person’s land. I say this with all sense of responsibility.

Recently MOFE OYATOGUN of STAR 101.5FM radio station in Lagos played her EARLY RUSH SHOW, a 1952 audio clip of an interview with Ahmadu Bello, Governor of Northern Nigeria. He said unequivocally that the North would not employ Igbos in its civil service, because if you gave them an inch, you will not know when they would take a mile.That was way back in 1952, about 67 years ago.

Is this not what is still playing out today in South Africa, Benin Republic, Cote d’ivoire, Ghana, Libya and China, to mention a few countries? In the  last presidential election, President Mohammadu Buhari probably won landslide victories in Northern states because that Ahmadu Bello radio interview clip went viral in that political landscaper. Peter Obi, an Igbo, was vice presidential running mate to Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, a Fulani from the North-East. It was possible the North still lived in fear of the Igbo man as Ahmadu Bello had taught them to do and as they were reminded in that audio clip replay.

In Yorubaland, we are a society governed by laws. That is why we have ministries of chieftaincy affairs. All the land in Lagos have owners. Lagos was either a colony or a part of Western Nigeria. But because of the generousity of Yorubas and the foresight of their forefathers which made this region the star region in West Africa, the Igbos would like the Yorubaman to believe that LAGOS IS NO MAN’S LAND.

Can anyone say that of Benin without eating his pounded yam as raw yam? Can the Igbos say that of Kano and Jos? The people there know how to make themselves husbands of the mothers of the territorial expansionist. Everywhere on earth, we have seen that territorial expansion ends in chaos.In recent history, we can pin the two world wars to it. What about the war in Liberia between the aborigines and the settled slaves? What about Rwanda? What about Hitler’s war on the Jews? What about the liberation wars in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Why did general Idi Amin of Uganda chase away the Asians? Why did Bangladesh separate from India, Eritrea from Ethiopia and Senegal from SeneGambia? What about the communual clashes over land in Nigeria? Recently, almost 100 Fulanis were killed in Kaduna.We cannot forget the Zango-Kataf problem.

So, we should be careful when you come to settle on my land and say you must represent me in the Nigerian Senate or the House of Representatives, or the Lagos State House of Assembly, taking away from me my aboriginal right to have my kith, kindred and blood represent me, while back home you are being represented in the senate and House of Reps, when you insist on becoming a commisioner in my state or a deputy governor, or a local government chairman when you try to govern me in my own land as Dr Nnamdi Azikwe once tried to do, all because I was generous to let you become in my land what you couldn’t become in your land, simply because you believe you have the numbers, I will tell you that is greed and unnatural irrespective of the backing of the law you may think you have.

Think, for example, about an Igbo becoming the chairman of Lagos island local government and arrogating to himself the right under the laws of Nigeria and of Lagos State to issue instructions to the Oba of Lagos about how the kabiyesi should conduct himself and govern his people. What will this breed?

That is what has been happening in countries from where the Igbos are being sent back home.It happened once in the North as Ahmadu Bello said in 1952. And seriously speaking, I believe this is why the North rejected Atiku Abubakar.

The Igbos should reflect on this…Why does everyone tend to (hate )us?

JIMI AGBAJE/AFENIFERE

The Igbos should be wary of JIMI AGBAJE and AFENIFERE.They are politicians who are looking for ethnic heads to break coconuts on.

The Igbos are hardworking and resourceful and should try to overcome ethnic politics as the Yorubas have done. They should learn from immigrants from other lands worldwide. The Indians do not trouble their hosts or try to take over their lands. They make their money quietly and take it back home to develop their own land. That is why India has been able to lift herself from poverty. In contrast, the Igbos do not develop their own lands. All they do is largely to make money from abroad through whichever or whatever means and buy up property which other people have built and then claim they own the land without remembering that they can never hold aboriginal rights to the land in their hands whenever the chips come down.

Meanwhile, their land back home is languid, crying and shouting for investment and development and they begin to talk about marginalisation. Did they not flower and fruit under Obasanjo and Jonathan’s administrations?  What happened to Igbo land in those 16 years that they were not marginalised? What happened to Yoruba land in those 16 years that the Yorubas were marginalised that Yoruba land still continued to be a honey pot for the Igbo?

I would go anyday with Chief Emeka Anyaoku who looks at the world with universal spectacles.

Succeeding Lagos governments have beautifully held the ethnic balance in Lagos and prevented ethnic disturbances. Igbos should stop saying they own Lagos or that they built Lagos or that Lagos is a “no man’s land”. Only a bastard Yorubaman will not feel affronted by such statements. And in spiritual terms, the man or woman who cannot defend his land is not fit to live. Wasn’t this the failure of the sons of the Incas?

It is good news that the leaders of the Igbos and other nationalities in Nigeria have met with the traditional leaders of the Yorubas in Okota and Oshodi areas to avert a backlash in respect of last election. As I said earlier, Agbaje and Afenifere are outside the mainstream of  Yoruba politics. They are trying to take control of it. And they have the right to so aspire, being Yorubas.

What is objectionable to the mainstream Yoruba is their attempt to knock the heads of the Igbo against the head of the mainstream yorubas. They remind the yorubas of a similar affront by Afonja, the Yoruba army commander in Ilorin who was sent there by the Alaafin of Oyo to stop jihadist expansion. Afonja betrayed the Alaafin and invited the jihadists to defend his betrayal. They did and Afonja triumphed momentarily only to be killed afterwards by the jihadists who took over the land.

The perception in Yorubaland today is that the Igbo in Lagos especially are the modern jihadists and that Agbaje and Afenifere are the modern Afonjas. This is the underlying perception which, in my opinion, triggered the surface reaction in Okota last Saturday. The Yorubas remain an accomodating people. But they never fail to rise in their defence when they have to, as they did in the 1950s in respect of Dr Azikwe’s blatant attempt to usurp their land and as they also did at Ore during the civil war.

Kusa, a former Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian Newspaper,  writes from Lagos.


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