IN his article: “The bitter truth about the Igbo”, Femi Fani-Kayode spectacularly exhibited his ignorance, narrow-mindedness, xenophobia and a penchant for lying.
The three part article is a shameless convulsion of Nigerian history, brazenly, skewed against the Igbo. It is tendentious rubbish, just a piece of trash that should be consigned to the dustbin.
The first part of his article, a rambling outburst on who owns Lagos, is some nonsensical rhapsody. He wrote, “Lagos and the South-West are the land and the patrimony of the Yoruba and we will not allow anyone, no matter how fond of them we may be, to take it away from us or share it with us in the name of being nice, patriotism, one Nigeria or anything else.”
At some other point, he wrote, “One Nigeria, yes, but no one should spit in our faces or covet our land, our treasure, our success, our history, our virtues, our being and our heritage and attempt to claim those for themselves simply because we took them in on a rainy day.”
These are emotional hyperboles that make no sense. Who wants to take Lagos and the South-West from the Yoruba? Who is spitting in the Yoruba face and poised to dispossess them of their “treasure, success, history, virtues, being and heritage?” Secondly, if the Yoruba can live, work and invest in other parts of Nigeria, that is, “share” other parts of Nigeria with their indigenous owners, why would Nigerians from other ethnic groups not be able to live, work and invest in Lagos and South-West.
He falsely stated that the Igbo introduced tribalism into Southern Nigerian politics with the speeches made by Charles Onyeama in 1945 and by Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1948 to the Igbo State Union in which they said that with time, “the Igbo will dominate Nigeria and lead Africa”.
He also lied that it was the Igbo “We own everything”, “We must have everything” and “We must control everything” that led to the alienation of “the Yoruba from them and the establishment of the Action Group (AG) in April 1951.
Ethnic blustering in pre-independent Nigeria was not limited to Igbo politicians. Ahmadu Bello and Obafemi Awolowo were known to have blurted some ethnic and religious bluffs. Interestingly, these periodic ethnic bombasts did not deepen or widen the tribal fault lines. And Nigerians, at least, Southern Nigerians remained politically indifferent to tribe, as they mostly revered and admired Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik of Africa and the leader of the National Council for Nigeria & Cameroons (NCNC). Not surprisingly, in the election to the Western Region House of Assembly in December 1951, the Yoruba voted overwhelming for the NCNC. The NCNC, an Igbo dominated political party, defeated the Awolowo led political party, Action Group, in the Yoruba region. Was that not a powerful proof that politics in Southern Nigeria, and even, Nigerian, as of then, was detribalised and that the Yoruba were not estranged from the Igbo?
With that electoral victory, Nnamdi Azikiwe was to be the Premier of the Western Region. To forestall the emergence of a democratically elected Igbo as the Premier of the Yoruba region, Obafemi Awolowo, in a monumental act of tribalism, engineered a cross carpet and stole the premiership of the Western Region from Azikiwe. It was that Awolowo’s tribal-motivated political sleight of the hand that introduced tribalism in Nigerian politics. Up till that point, the dream of the Nigerian founding fathers that any Nigerian, irrespective of his ethnicity, can contest political office, win elections and serve in any part of the country was still alive. It was Obafemi Awolowo who killed that dream.
Femi Fani-Kayode rightly stated that the Yoruba “were producing lawyers, doctors, accountants and university graduates, at least three generations, before the Igbo”. According to him, the Yoruba produced their first university graduate in1875 and the Igbo produced their first in 1935. But it is barefaced falsehood to write that “and they (the Igbo) have been trying to catch up with us (Yoruba) ever since” Less than twenty years after the Igbo produced their first graduates, they caught up with the Yoruba and overtook them in business and the professions, and the Yoruba joined some other ethnic groups of Nigeria in whining and whimpering over “Igbo domination”. Essentially, by 1966, the Igbo held sway over Nigeria with their disproportionate representation in all the key areas of the Nigerian public and social life.
An Igbo dominated group of army majors (four Igbo and one Yoruba) carried out the first coup in Nigeria. But the coup was not in any way a tribal coup. The majors were actuated by an idealistic, but somewhat warped, vision for Nigeria and driven by their ill-disgested dosage of socialist doctrines. Fascinatingly, and also, attesting to the non- tribal character of the coup, the coup plotters were ideologically sympathetic to Obafemi Awolowo, who was, then, after being convicted of treasonable felony, wasting away in jail. According to some apocryphal sources, their plans included releasing Awolowo from jail and installing him as the prime minister of Nigeria.
That, as the dust settled, three of the most important Hausa/Fulani leaders laid dead and no Igbo leader was killed, sowed the seed of distrust among the different ethnic groups and further aggravated the problems of Nigeria. However, only an impulsive lair could have written, as Femi Fani-Kayode did, that, in addition to killing these leaders, they (the coup plotters), “in some cases, mocked, tortured and maimed them before doing so, took pictures of their dead and mutilated bodies and killed their wives and children as well”. There was no wanton, indiscriminate or vengeful killing in the January 15, 1966 coup.
Mr. TOCHUKWU EZUKANMA, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Lagos.