By NELSON AKO OKOLI
I had the ugly experience of reading the infantile postulations of a former minister of aviation, Mr. Femi Fani –Kayode, headlined, ‘The bitter truth about the Igbo’. I wept for Nigeria as I remembered that such a character was once a member of the Federal Executive Council under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency.
Fani – Kayode’s diatribe could be summarised in the following statements, some of which are quoted verbatim. (1(a) “I am not in this debate for fun or for political gain” (b) Fani- Kayode wrote as if he was a spoke person for the Yoruba race. (2) The outrage and condemnation that greeted the deportation of Igbo from Lagos is asinine and uninformed because Lagos belongs exclusively to the Yoruba.
(3) The Yoruba has for long been accommodating and generous to the Igbo by allowing them to come back to Lagos after the civil war and allowing them to do in Yoruba land what Yoruba have not been allowed to do in Igbo land. (4) Igbo have a domineering tendency and are not accommodating because they never had any history, monarchs or structured societies.
(5) The Igbo introduced tribalism into southern politics because one Mr. Charles Dadi Onyeama, a federal legislator in 1945, said to his fellow Igbo that the domination of Nigeria and Africa by the Igbo was only a matter of time. (6) Herbert Macaulay a Yoruba man found
ed the NCNC and handed same over to ZIK an Igbo. The Igbo man will not form a party and hand it over to a Yoruba man. (7) “Unlike them we are not mere traders but…. major industrialists…. And… we were producing university graduates at least three generations before they did.”
(8) The Igbo have recorded a string of negative “FIRSTS” some of which include, the first military coup in Nigeria in which the author dubbed an Igbo coup …..,and drawing the first blood in the unfortunate events of 1966-1970. (9) The Igbo are responsible for the civil war “…….by provoking a full scale military conflict…… when they launched a vicious and unprovoked attack against the rest of the South……… the Igbo and their Biafra killed Nigerians for three years in which courageous sons and daughters of the Federal Republic lost their lives…….. trying to stop the Biafrans from taking over our land”.
The natural thing for me would have been to ignore the provocative postulations of this failed and drowning politician who, in his infantile fantasy, has assumed the position of the spokesperson for our dear Yoruba brethren. Initially I felt it would be unnecessary to dignify the attention – hungry former minister who has been “enjoying” the company of our anti- corruption agencies of late by authoring a rejoinder to his diatribe.
I have however decided to do a rejoinder for the sake of posterity and the deep mutually beneficial economic, professional, religious and even matrimonial relationships that have existed between the Yoruba and Igbo even before the birth of Mr. Femi Fani – Kayode. I have tried to summarise the Fani – Kayode’s venom and hate – laden “bitter lies about the Igbo” into nine numbered statements which I shall comment on and traverse seriatim viz: “I am not in this debate for……… political gain.” Pretension to being the spokesman for the Yoruba race.
Nothing could be further from the truth than the preceding quote. Since the end of the former minister’s lack luster tenure as federal minister of aviation and the exit of his lord and master Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo from power, Fani-Kayode appears to be sinking deeper, by the day, into political oblivion. To make matters worse, his political party (PDP) in his native Osun State and Lagos which he now claims as state of origin appears not to be doing well in the two states which the PDP lost to the ACN. Even within the PDP he has little or no relevance.
The latest rumor is that he has joined the ACN or APC as it is now called. He urgently needs to earn the trust of Sen. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Mr. Fashola and other leaders of the party. How can he be shut out of the corridors of power at the federal and state levels? How would he be able to maintain his “big man pikin” lifestyle?
Even if he has gained from one form of rehabilitation or the other, he knows that rehabilitating a failed politician from irrelevance to relevance may not be easy. A drowning man will naturally attempt to claw at anything and everything whether real or imaginary to save himself from extinction. He is indeed in this so called debate for purely selfish reasons, having failed as a federal minister.
He did not only fail Nigerians, but also the Yoruba. I knew the state of Murtala Muhammed Airport Lagos, Benin Airport, Enugu Airport, Port-Harcourt Airport and others during his tenure and I know the state of these airports under the present minister. Fani – Kayode misused a God given opportunity to prove himself a hardworking and honest person but blew it. Save for the payment of salaries, he cannot point out any tangible or significant achievement as minister.
If indeed Fani – Kayode is a Lagosian as he claims, he should explain to all how and why he suddenly went politically deaf and dumb when Obasanjo unjustly withheld the allocation to Lagos State for months. If he cares to know, Lagos State at that point was being sustained by the taxes paid by companies and individuals resident in Lagos of which at least forty percent is Igbo. What makes him more Lagosian than these Lagosians?
In line with his character, he couldn’t even wait to be fully forgiven, accepted and given a position among his new found friends before he began to speak for them. I must add at this point that if Sen. Tinubu (Asiwaju) does not disassociate himself from Fani – Kayode’s present diatribe and megalomaniac outburst, the Igbo would be right to assume the he spoke on behalf of APC and the Lagos State government.
I have associated closely enough with the Yoruba for over twenty years to doubt if the very respectable sons of Yoruba land like Sen. Adeseye Ogunlewe (a former minister of works), Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Yomi Osibanjo, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Prof Taiwo Osipitan and many others would agree to be associated with the infamous and ignominious submissions and falsehood of Fani – Kayode.
The APC must know that no selfish, designer- tribalist can ever be a political asset to any party.
Fani – Kayode is already doing an irreversible damage to the electoral fortunes of APC in Lagos and in the East especially, and I am in a position to know. How sad.
The outrage that greeted the deportation of Igbo from Lagos is asinine and uninformed because Lagos belongs exclusively to the Yoruba.
The deportation of any person from one state in Nigeria to another is a fundamental breach of the person’s constitutional right to reside in any part of Nigeria. The exercise is, in itself, an iron fisted affirmation or naked and brutal use of power. It is an admission of the irresponsible failure of the Lagos State government to care for the less privileged within its area of jurisdiction.
If indeed the idea behind the deportation was to link the destitute with their kith and kin, in their home states, the Lagos government should tell the world the names of the relations to which they handed over these so called destitute by 2 a.m. at Upper Iweka Road motor park. The Lagos government has a sworn duty to do good to all citizens in Lagos. I believe that ownership of any modern cosmopolitan city like New York, Lagos, etc could be categorised into three.
The first type of ownership could arise by indigeneship which could arise from being born in a place or being the child of any parent who came from a particular
place. There is also the second type of ownership which arises on account of acquisition of pieces of real estate and other economic investments, and there is also the third type of ownership which could arise by settlement and legal residential status over time in a particular area. None of these categories of ownership excludes the other, rather they should be in constant positive interaction while complementing and improving each other. None is superior to the other. None can exclude the other.
It therefore follows that Lagos is “someone’s land” and that someone could be Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Kanuri, Ijaw, etc as long as he falls into any of the categories. It was on account of this that a man from Ife could claim to be a Lagosian. It was also on account of this that a man from Kwara State and another from Osun could become governors of Lagos State at various times. It is also on account of this that Obama is the President of America.
The mutually beneficial and long standing relationship that have always existed between the Igbo and their Yoruba brothers/ sisters would not be impaired by the narrow -minded postulations of a man in dire need of rehabilitation.
Sincerely, Fani- Kayode’s article under reference is the most childish, pitiful, rickety, wobbly and watery article I have ever read. He is indeed everything a graduate of Cambridge University should not be – a weak, weltering and ineffectual man. As minister of aviation, he could be likened to a man who mounted scaffolding, pulleys and tackles, gathered all the tools in the neighborhood with so much noise, demonstration and precept and then set no brick. Such a man cannot be a political asset but an onerous liability.
Did it ever occur to him that the former Intercontinental Bank became the giant that it was on account of Igbo/Yoruba synergy? Does he know how much revenue the bank generated for the Federal and Lagos governments? The number of people it employed? A “big man pikin” like him is in no position to appreciate these.
The Yoruba have been accommodating……. allowing Igbo do in Lagos what the Yoruba have not been able to in Igbo land.
The Yoruba did not need to allow the Igbo before they could come back to Lagos after the civil war. The Igbo traveled to various parts of the country immediately after the civil war and began to set up their businesses. In the same manner, people from other regions who had things to do in the East also traveled to the East immediately after the civil war.
How would the spoilt silver spoon kid know that Igbo and Yoruba were involved in formal and informal business and professional relationships prior to the civil war. Business profits and indeed our currency notes do not have any tribal marks.
Fani – Kayode failed to tell us what Igbo have been allowed to do in Lagos that the Yoruba have not been allowed to do in Enugu, Onitsha or Port-Harcourt. Is it in the area of education? There are Yoruba students in the higher institutions in the East. There are Yoruba traders in the East. There are Yoruba workers in the East.
As a Students Union President, I was always invited for Yoruba cultural day celebrations and I participated actively in such celebrations during my university days in the East. Yoruba students also participated fully and actively in the general cultural day celebrations during my university days and we had fun. It is doubtful if any Yoruba man would be denied an opportunity to pay for a property that is up for sale on account of his tribe. If any Igbo man decides to sell his property, he like his Yoruba brothers would be interested in collecting a fair price for the property.
The problem here seems to be that the Yoruba are not as migrant and adventurous as the Igbo. In every state of the federation today, you would discover that after the indigenes of the states, the Igbo are the next in population – thus confirming their belief in the principle of one Nigeria. If the Igbo are more visible in Lagos and other cities located in the South-west, it would be because it is in their culture to settle down and ply their trade anywhere they consider safe and profitable.
Statistics have shown that the voting population of Lagos State is more than forty percent Igbo. Most of these voters are tax payers whose taxes end up in the coffers of the state government. Would it be fair for a law abiding club member who pays his annual subscription to be qualified to vote for other club members while being disqualified from standing for election on account of his surname? If Fani – Kayode’s problem is the increasing number of Igbo in Lagos and their demand for greater representation in government, why would that up-set any true democrat? Could it be that the deportation policy is aimed at reducing the number of Igbo in Lagos? Mr. Fashola and his party should please clarify this.
The point I am trying to make here is that the few Yoruba who have agreed to settle in the East have been allowed to do what their Igbo brothers have been allowed to do in Lagos. Sen. Tinubu is a title holder in my home town in the East just like some Igbo are traditional title holders in Lagos, Ibadan, etc. As a matter of fact, Asiwaju’s title entitles him to sit nearer to Igwe Iaz Ekwueme’s throne than myself on certain occasions.
Igbo are domineering and unaccommodating because they never had any history, monarchs, structured societies.
An Igbo adage has it that the spoilt child who does not leave his mother’s hut to join others for moonlight activities would end up believing that the moon only shines on his mother’s hut. Fani – kayode should tell the world how many (if any) Igbo friend he has. The party under which he became a minister was PDP. The party started as G18 then G34 and later fused with other groups to become PDP under the guidance and chairmanship of the revered Dr. Alex Ekwueme. How can a beneficiary of Igbo accommodation say that the Igbo are not accommodating?
Unknown to many Nigerians, we are enjoying democracy today because of the maturity, accommodating, and selfless spirit of Ekwueme, an Igbo man. When the retired multi-millionaire generals hi-jacked the PDP and imposed Obasanjo as presidential candidate, the permutation was for Ekwueme to revolt and cause problems enough to derail the transition programme. Being the super intelligent man that he is, Ekwueme congratulated Obasanjo and toured the whole of the East campaigning for him. Many Igbo companies today have on their staff list, hardworking Yoruba men and women.
It is Fani – Kayode who is unaccommodating. He is the one without a history as he does not seem to be sure of his state of origin. Does his Lagosian status start with his father, grandfather, great grandfather or more?
The rabble-rouser is in no position to understand that while some segments of the ancient Igbo society e.g (Onitsha, Arochukwu, Nri etc) had monarchs, others ran republican democratic structures that maintained peace and order and encouraged enterprise. I recommend Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” to Fani – Kayode. That may help secure his deliverance from the disease of combative ignorance. The ancient Hebrew society had no monarchs but that does not mean that they had no history and neither does it mean that they were unaccommodating. Ditto the Igbo.
Only a man suffering from terminal Igbophobia could spew something so hollow, so shallow and pedantic like Fani –Kayode’s “bitter lies about the Igbo.”
The Igbo introduced tribalism into southern politics because one Mr. Dadi Onyeama in 1945 told an Igbo gathering that the domination of Nigeria and Africa by the Igbo was only a matter of time.
In his hatred of the Igbo, Fani –Kayode conveniently forgot to mention that the various ethnic nationalities were all engaged in some form of healthy competition to be better than the others. Who was Dadi Onyeama? A federal legislator who was never at any time a spokesman for the Igbo. The statement was not credited to Dr. Azikiwe, Dr. Nwafor Orizu or any leading Igbo figure of that time.
The Igbo man would not form a party and hand it over to a Yoruba man like Herbert Macaulay did for Azikiwe
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I have already mentioned the role of Ekwueme as the founder of the PDP. We must not forget that Ekuweme opened the doors of his newly formed party for all including the Hausa, Yoruba, Ijaw and all other ethnic groups.
This was the same party that went ahead to de-register it’s founder while Fani-Kayode was in the corridors or even bedroom of power.
”Unlike them we are not mere traders but major industrialists………producing university graduates at least three generations before they did.” There is nothing wrong in being a trader.
There is dignity in labour.
Of what use is the unintelligent comparison? What does it add to the progress and unity of Nigeria? There are traders and industrialists among the Igbo and among the Yorubabut since he is interested in the Igbo, he should be reminded that CHISCO, ABC Motors, Innoson Group of Companies, Emzor, Coscharis Group of Companies, Chicason Group of Companies etc are not mere traders. These are Igbo companies employing Nigerians including Yoruba.
Even if the Igbo started producing university graduates three generations after the Yoruba, have the Igbo not excelled in every profession or trade? The first successful separation of Siamese twins on African soil was by Prof. Festus Nwako and his team at UNTH Enugu. Anambra is one of the states with the highest number of indigenous Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN). In engineering, Prof. Barth Nnaji, the late Prof. Gordian Ezekwe and many others are from Igboland. Would anybody mention architecture in Nigeria without mentioning Ekwueme?
Do you talk about mathematics without Prof Chike Obi?
The Igbo have a string of negative firsts including the first military coup in Nigeria and drawing the first blood in the events of 1966-1970……they launched a vicious and unprovoked attack on the rest of the South. “Sons and daughters of the Federal Republic lost their lives…trying to stop the Biafrans from taking our Land”
Every ethnic group in Nigeria has its positive firsts and negative firsts. Before Aba and Benin produced “Osisi Kankwu”, and “Anini the law” respectively, Lagos had produced “Oyenusi”.
The same Igbo Fani-Kayode hates with so much venom and is trying to denigrate recorded many positive firsts in Nigeria.
The first Nigerian PhD holder in mathematics was Prof. Chike Obi, an Igbo. The first professor of mathematics in Nigeria was Prof. James Ezeilo, an old boy of D.M.G.S Onitsha, an Igbo man.
The first Nigerian professor of music is Prof. (Igwe) Laz Ekwueme, an Igbo man. The first open-heart surgery on African soil was by Prof. Aghaji and Prof. David Nwafor and their team at the UNTH Enugu. Prof. Kenneth Dike was the first African vice chancellor of any university on African soil. Prof. Eni Njoku, another Igbo, was the second. The first President of Nigeria was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. These are remarkable positive firsts recorded by the Igbo who, according to Fani-Kayode, were not producing university graduates until when the Yorubs had produced their third generation of graduates.
Prior to the first military coup, which many Igbo haters dubbed an Igbo coup, the Igbo were already in the commanding heights of business, politics, academics, bureaucracy, etc. The Igbo would not need to stage any coup against their tribal interest if that was their calculation. They were already at the top and so did not need to stage a coup to remain there. If anything, the Nzeogwu coup was an anti-Igbo coup as it was targeted at a government headed by an Igbo man. The young army officers, who carried out the said coup, were not sent by the Igbo State Union (the equivalent of Ohaneze Ndigbo in those days).
Fani-Kayode went further to celebrate the massacre of Igbo in the North and also said that no Igbo was killed in the West. I know some Igbo who escaped by the whiskers from AN Barracks Yaba where many Igbo were slaughtered. If the “big man pikin” would understand Prof. Wole Soyinka’s ‘The Man Died’, he would see that Igbo were killed everywhere including Lagos.
It was Soyinka’s condemnation of the genocide and his attempt to end it that landed him in Gen. Gowon’s jail. Even if Prof. The Igbo had every reason to go their separate way and take their destiny into their hands hence the secession attempt which was not really the first in Nigeria. Isaac Adaka Boro had attempted to excise the present Rivers and Bayelsa states from Nigeria long before the declaration of Biafra. The Igbos did not declare war on Nigeria. All they did was to declare their homeland area, their safe haven where they can protect themselves from their fellow Nigerians who did not want them anymore. It was a legitimate attempt at self -preservation. It was Nigeria that declared war on itself and by extension the Igbo.
The civil war has come and gone and we are all Nigerians now.Pursuant to the provisions of Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution, every Nigerian should work hard to achieve national integration. We must love, respect, encourage and assist each other in line with the provisions of our Constitution which provides in S.15 (2) as follow:“…….national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or
ties shall be prohibited”.
* Ako Okoli is the National Legal Adviser of the Eastern Professionals Forum.