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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Series on Psychology 2006, #12 of 52: Nigerians and Domestic Violence | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #7 of 54: Cameroon »

March 05, 2006

No Single Ethnic Group can and will Carry Nigeria

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- A tree can not make a forest. Nigeria has to be carried by each and every Ethnic group in our Country for the sake of Africa, for the sake of blacks in this world. I pride myself as a dedicated Nigerian but sometimes I find it easier to be an African.

I must confess that I was ticked off by the recent headline that Yoruba have betrayed the Igbo AGAIN. The fact is Yoruba have never betrayed any Ethnic group, have never sought territorial advantage or dominance on others’ soil and have never craved the ambition to rule others in their domain. Indeed the Yoruba, who coalesced from many African Ethnic groups by long tradition of accommodation and tolerance, has found itself in a position of fighting to retain its own in Nigeria.

The statement Awolowo made still stands today. Yoruba can not and will not carry Nigeria alone. If the Hausa or the Fulani or the Kanuri decides to leave Nigeria today, Nigeria has lost its meaning. If the Ijaw or Ibibio or the Idoma or Urhobo decides to leave Nigeria today, Nigeria has no relevance to the world. It has to be seen as the beginning of the end. As secondary school children we cried when we were told we would need passport to cross to Biafra. How could our brothers and sisters suddenly become foreigners to us? I watch with dreaded sympathy how families are separated by wars of demarcation all over the world. Right here in the Delta and North-East between Nigeria and Cameron, families cry and protest about separation.

Heated discussion any where does not bother me. Highly coded message from people who are supposed to be responsible leaders to generate fear and hatred pissed me off. I have decided to agree to disagree on Awolowo with some of my brothers. Only hypocrites who knew the effort of Awolowo through his helicopter campaign all over Nigeria and his desire to make Nigeria what he made the West will doubt his sincerity. How can anyone grudge a man for that? All his life, he insisted on working with every Nigerian and the Igbo in particular loosing some of his colleagues in the process. He finally gave up his campaign when his life was threatened in the East.

This same man has been portrayed as ethnocentric, and worse still a racist. Somehow, it was traced from the time educated Yoruba dominated elite Nigeria Youth Movement in the thirties and forties when Awolowo supported Ernest Ekoli, an Ijaw and Zik supported Chief Samuel Akinsanya. The fact that Awo supported Ekoli and not Zik turned him into tribalism champion. Anyone can read whatever they want into that.

If it was about the war, Yoruba did not declare war against Biafra. If it was about the war, Zik the biggest Biafran asset deserted, refusing to destroy the house he helped built. So it has to be about what Awo did and nobody else could have done for the Yoruba. He offered to do the same for every Nigerian but was “the best President that we never had.”
In a way, attacking Awolowo as a leader that was chosen and loved by the Yoruba is one thing, lumping him together with Obasanjo that was chosen and elected by those who denied Yoruba their chosen leaders is chicanery.

There are brothers and sisters claiming that the only stars in Obasanjo’s administration are Igbo. How wonderful? It was only yesterday that all Nigerians of goodwill claimed that Igbo were excluded from the scheme of power in Nigeria. This may not be enough, but it was about time. Does he get any credit? I doubt it.

I saw the picture of powerful women of all Ethnic groups posing after some meeting. They looked glamorous, confident and proud. When was the last time we had so many women in the cabinet? Does Obasanjo get any credit? I doubt it. So no matter what a Yoruba man does, chosen by Yoruba or by them, forget about credit and do your best. One may have to thank his maker if the same people who got appointed by Yoruba do not come back and attack. A colleague of mine thought I was naïve to have given away jobs.

Each time Yoruba will is twisted; they look for a clever Yoruba lawyer to interpret two third. How many Yoruba supported Akinjide interpretation of two third and to whose benefit? He defended his client vigorously as a lawyer should. They are using the same two third to over throw Ladoja and blaming - you guess who. Did Obasanjo/Adedibu represent the will of the Yoruba as Obasanjo/Uba represented the will of the Igbo? People forget that Yoruba chosen leader’s chance to rule Nigeria has not come but were resigned to the will of fellow brothers and sisters, yet the label of tribalism did not leave.

Years in opposition did not eradicate the in built fairness Yoruba are known for. That is why the strongest critics of the third term agenda of Obasanjo’s cronies are Yoruba. Most Yoruba have given up on presidency and one of their chosen leaders, Falaye indicated that Obasanjo has wasted Yoruba’s chance. So which credible Yoruba is fighting for it?

We can not live together and not tell one another how we feel but do we have to exploit old wounds for our children? Nobody has monopoly on grudges. It is usually that the Yoruba has not done this or has done that. What has anyone done for the benefit of the Yoruba in his backyard? Yoruba has suffered everywhere in Nigeria including their own backyard because when nobody protest, it is the Yoruba that stand up. Dearly they have paid, in some cases with their lives. Even when the beneficiaries are not Yoruba.

Someone did ask Wole Soyinka to apologize for the Yoruba. If the person has any moral, knowledge about Nigeria, or not mischievous, would he point to Soyinka of all people? It was only yesterday that Yoruba were in perpetual opposition in Nigeria and still managed to survive. Yoruba were called cowards who could not fight. They were ridiculed. There was a brother from the North-west who claimed that if Yoruba was serious about fighting Abacha, they would have put up a presidential candidate against him but did not. When he was reminded that Tunji Braithwaite, a respectable lawyer and Activist, came out as a Presidential candidate. He laughed – A Lagosian, who would take you seriously?

Indeed, Yoruba would rather deal with traitors amongst them than go out and fight others. But there is a limit to human endurance and when push came to shove, Banjo who led Biafra soldiers into his fatherland was routed accordingly. It is true that OPC enjoys some sympathy in Yoruba land but Abacha created them!

Go to anywhere in Nigeria where Yoruba are, they are domicile and humble to their hosts. There are other parts of Nigeria that one would even see fewer of them because of hostility and restriction on what they can sell in the major markets. Yet in Yoruba backyard, people are so complacent, they violate the custom and culture of their host sometimes with impunity.

The JJC never fail to compare us to Britain and USA where everyone is free to live, work and assume political leadership anywhere. How naïve? They need to ask the owners of the soil or the bread and born Japanese in those places how they end up in “camps”. JJC you better keep your Nigeria passport and pray for the unity of the Country instead of speaking katakata.

In Lagos, our parent told us to be accommodating. I still remember older folks saying if a stranger enters Lagos in the morning, he would be fed and clothed before the night. One high life music claimed – you get money you no get money o, Lagos na so so enjoyment.

If I have to rely on the stories Yoruba tell us about their sojourn in other parts of Nigeria since my visits were brief or on working assignments, history will also bear out the fact that the safest place for all Ethnic groups to intermingle is in Yoruba backyard.

Herbert Macauley trained and brought many of the politicians that ruled Nigeria into prominence without thinking about Ethnic groups. When people talk about Yoruba, they conveniently forget the role of this Nationalist who formed Nigeria National Democratic Party. The first and the last Yoruba President of the National Council of Nigeria and Cameron. It was after him that Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe became the leader of NCNC.

It is unfortunate that the Yoruba are the object of the most virulent attack in Nigeria, yet they can not be accused of either calculated mutilation of leaders or genocide against others. They have just started to fight back after years of humiliation in opposition.

There used to be a time Yoruba could take all the attacks and brush it off. However, the time has changed and Nigeria has lost most of its useful resources resulting in the fight for ones’ life. Yoruba youths are now wanting and hungry just as everyone else. This situation has diminished tolerance everywhere including Yoruba backyard. Only fools do not realize that crude oil from the Delta is a limited resource. That is why we can not blame people from that area fighting tooth and nail to grab their resources before we waste it on ourselves while they remain poor and desolate. The income on oil can not and will not carry the whole of Nigeria for now or for long.

It is still my wish that we do not pass on our grudges, prejudices and open old wounds to our children. We have enough problems as it is, why create more? Nigeria will survive all of us in one form or another but hopefully as a just society. We have spilt enough blood to clean many generations to come.

Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa
faroukomartins@netscape.net

Posted by Administrator at March 5, 2006 08:57 AM

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