Femi Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria on 16th October 1960 to Chief Remilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode and to Chief (Mrs) Adia Adunni Fani-Kayode. He was christened David Oluwafemi (meaning "the beloved of the Lord") Adewunmi Fani-Kayode. He is a lawyer, a Nigerian politician, an evangelical christian, an essayist, a poet and he was the Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to President Olusegun Obasanjo from July 2003 until June 2006. He was appointed the Minister of Culture and Tourism of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from June 22nd to Nov 7th 2006 and as the Minister of Aviation from Nov 7th 2006 to May 29th 2007.
As the debate over the deportation of some Igbo from Lagos rages, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, in this interview tells ALLWELL OKPI that the city was built by the Yoruba and not the Igbo
Your articles on the issues arising from the deportation of some Igbo from Lagos to Onitsha have generated much reactions. What exactly did you hope to achieve with those write ups?
It’s perfectly natural for write ups that are of historical nature; that seek to bring to the fore and to public attention events in our history to attract various reactions. My purpose for writing these write ups is very simple and clear. It is to educate, to bring to the consciousness of the younger generation some parts of our history; to put straight a number of events and be sure that we learn from our history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. What acted as a catalyst to the write ups was this issue of relocation of some of our Igbo brethren from Lagos, and the reactions to that action by some key Igbo leaders, particularly Orji Uzor Kalu, who appears to be speaking for the whole of Ndi Igbo on this issue. He is a friend of mine; we’ve known each other for 35 years. He made a contribution in which he said that Lagos was a ‘no man’s land’ and that the Igbo are responsible for the generation of 55 per cent of the wealth and business in Lagos State.
Do you disagree with his claim?
Of course, I disagree with that reflection and it needed to be responded to not with emotion, not even with anger. I found it appropriate to respond to it, and not just to say I disagree but also to explain why I disagree. That was what led to the first reaction – ‘Lagos, Igbo and servants of truth’ which was a straight-forward article. But due to the reactions to it by some of our Igbo brethren, most of them nothing but insults, because they obviously were not fully aware of Yoruba history and Nigerian history, I then decided to go a step further. I went much deeper into a full analysis of the role of the Igbo in Nigerian history over the last 80 years. I thought it was appropriate simply to let people understand that the Yoruba have been very gracious to the Igbo and we also welcome them with open arms and we are tolerant people. However, from these utterances and past historical events, it is clear that many in the Igbo community do not appreciate it; they seem to misinterpret it as a lack of knowledge and understanding. That called me to write the second one which was the ‘The bitter truth about the Igbo.’ The reactions from that one were massive; some mainly the Igbo disagreed and that’s good, the others supported me.
How will you describe the reactions?
The reactions I got from members of the Igbo community comprised mainly insults. They labelled me as a tribalist and someone who was inciting others to hate or somebody who wanted Igbo people killed and all kind of absurd assertions. I challenge them to read my article to see whether there is any place where I tried to incite people, preach hate or insult anybody. I don’t write that way when I’m talking about history. I simply prepared analysis and present historical facts in order to remain objective and not get emotional about the issue. So, when I saw the reactions, I thought I needed to put it straight that I’m not a tribalist.
I wrote the third one which was entitled, ‘A word for those who think I’m an Igbo-hater,’ where I gave specific examples of my contributions over the last 25 years of being involved with public affairs. When I speak about the North, they call me anti-North, when I speak about my people, the Yoruba, about our history, some of them call me anti-Yoruba; when I speak about the Igbo, they call me anti-Igbo. These are all emotional reactions. I’m the last person that will hate the Igbo or any other Nigerian. I do however believe that there are many nationalities in this country, and each of us has the right to fight for true federalism and to fight to protect our own culture, historical and racial integrity. To think I’m anti-Igbo is absurd. Like I said, Kalu and I are very good friends, we even spoke yesterday (Tuesday).
But some Igbo leaders are of the opinion that your write ups showed that you and many other Yoruba people resent the Igbo for their successes, particularly in Lagos.
How can Yoruba people be envious of the Igbo? As far as I’m concerned, the Yoruba control many of the industries, particularly the manufacturing industry. They have most of the investments. In every sector and profession, they are far ahead. Essentially, the Igbo are into trading more than anything else. There is nothing wrong with that. I don’t think there is anything the Igbo have that the Yoruba should be envious of. The Yoruba have seen the Igbo as their brothers and compatriots and have welcomed them within their communities and that should be the case. Even after the Civil War when nobody was interested in having them, the Yoruba handed their property back to them. There was no abandoned property case; there was no history of the Yoruba killing the Igbo in Lagos. You only envy somebody if you feel the person is more prosperous than you are. If you want to compare it, go back to history and find out how developed any of the eastern states or cities were and you will see that they were far behind. There is nothing to suggest that we are envious of them. The fact is that they have contributed to the development of Lagos and other parts of the South-West; there is no doubt about that. But to suggest that they own Lagos or that they control everything, in terms of commerce and finances in Lagos is absolutely absurd. It has no basis in reality or rationality and it is deeply insulting. We are very liberal and accommodating, but that should not be seen as stupidity or weakness. We will not allow anybody to redefine or rewrite our history for us. No Yoruba man can go to the East and achieve and do the sort of things that the Igbo community is doing in Lagos. So, those expending their energy by hurling insults at me and saying I should be arrested for making these views known, should go and develop their own communities and their own parts of the country and stop talking about Lagos, which has been developed by the hardwork of the Yoruba and other nationalities in the country.
You seem to be suggesting that the Igbo do not allow the Yoruba to do business in the South-East. Don’t you think the reality is that the Yoruba are not interested in doing business there?
Try being a Yoruba man and go to Aba, Enugu, Onitsha or any of the major cities in the East. Try and buy land there; try and establish your own kingship there as an Oba in the East; try and claim that any town there belongs to or was developed by the Yoruba; try and interact with the community and bring your cultural ways there and you will see what the reaction will be. This never happens. We have no regrets being so accommodating in the South-West, because it is part of our enlightened culture and mark of civilisation. But this needs to be reciprocated by the Igbo in the East. In other parts of the country; the North and even the Mid-West, the Yoruba are far more welcome than they are in the East. It is not because they don’t want to go there; it is because they are not that welcome there. The most important thing is that there is absolutely no enmity from the Yoruba towards the Igbo. There is no hate, there is no bitterness. We are happy to have the Igbo amongst us, and we are happy that they are doing so well and they have always done so well. But that does not mean that we should give up our patrimony and say that even one inch of the South-West belongs to anybody asides the Yoruba people. Most of the infrastructure of the South-West was developed during the oil boom and the First Republic. There is no doubt that after the Civil War, federal money was pumped into Lagos, but that was federal money not Igbo money.
Essentially it was the business acumen of the Lagosians and their ability in commerce that drove the Lagos economy and made it what it is. The Igbo influx came primarily after the Civil War. And now some say they own and control the place. We will continue to debate this. It is a friendly debate; it has no room for hate, call to violence, or insults.
Since I wrote a series of essays about the relocation of a handful of igbo destitutes to Anambra state by the Lagos State Government and the reaction of my friend and brother Chief Orji Kalu to that relocation there have been many reactions. Many have commended me and supported my position but some have not been so charitable. I have been called a ''tribalist'', a ''scallywag', a person that ''ought to be in jail or a mental institution'', a ''hater of the igbo'', ''an emerging Hitler'', an ''inciter of violence and hate'' who ought to be ''called in by the authorities'' and ''stopped from expressing his toxic and hateful submissions'' and so on and so forth. All this simply because I wrote a series of essays about the history of those that hate to hear the bitter truth about their past.
I have even been accused by one particularly exciteable and emotional commentator who really should know better of preparing the ground for the ''mass genocide of igbos'' in a similar fashion to ''what happened in the north in the early '60's'' and in a similar way ''to the events that led to the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the '90's''. Needless to say 99 per cent of these outrageous assertions have come from igbo writers and commentators who are clearly in denial about their own past and who have lost all sense of restraint, reason and objectivity. I wholeheartedly reject these very serious yet unsubstantiated allegations and baseless claims and I challenge my accusers to quote one line from any of my articles where I have advocated for the slaughter or mass murder of the igbo or anyone else. This is a clear case of trying to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it and I leave those that are indulging in this pernicious and deplorable exercise and attempt to smear my name to the Living God. Let Him judge between us.
What my detractors fail to appreciate is that we must know our history and learn to live with it. If we do so we can avoid making the same mistakes that we once made in the past but if we don't and we pretend that certain events never happened we run the terrible risk of history repeating itself. We fought a terrible civil war in this country for three years in which Nigerian killed Nigerian and we lost two million precious souls. This happened partly because some were of the view that it was not important to appreciate and understand our differences and to accept the reality of our past- that Nigeria is a country that is made up of numerous nationalities each with its own culture, history, faith, worldview and heritage and that we must manage those differences very carefully.
It is because some of us love Nigeria and want her to remain together that we keep emphasising this profound and incontrivertable truism. You cannot force people to remain together and compel them to shed their primary constituency on the alter of a fully integrated Nigeria. I am a yoruba man before being a Nigerian though both are important to me. Those that call me a tribalist are simply misguided. Perhaps they do not know the meaning of the word or its true import. Those that know me well can confirm the fact that I am not a tribalist, a racist or a bigot and that I consider such sentiments as being unworthy of a man of class, good breeding and culture. I abhor hate and violence and I would be the last to incite others to hate their fellow Nigerians. I am however a firm believer in the propagation of truth and I appreciate the value and importance of history. Sadly many of our igbo compatriots do not believe in that. For them history consists of only one thing- how other Nigerians have always marginalised them and treated them badly.
If only they knew their own history, where they are coming from, what they used to be, where they were 100 years ago and what their forefathers did to the rest of Nigeria over the last 80 years they would know why they have always had such a hard time in this country. Sadly because they dont know any of these things they cannot learn from them. And if they cannot learn from them they will continue to make the same mistakes. That is why they can come to another mans land and territory and call it their own and when we say ''no'' they tell us to shut up, call us tribalists and ask for our arrest.
I was not a tribalist when I wrote a tribute to Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu after he died or when I condemned the '60's pogroms that took place in the north in which their people were slaughtered. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against my good friend Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima and child marriage in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote essays defending the rights of the igbo and every other Nigerian nationality to exercise their right of self-determination and leave Nigeria if that is what they wanted to do. I was not a tribalist when I consistently wrote that Nigeria must have a Sovereign National Conference where the rights and obligations of all its various nationalities would be clearly defined and agreed upon. I was not a tribalist when I fought and spoke up for the establishment of true federalism in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I employed more igbo people as a Presidential spokesman and a Minister of the Federal Republic than even my own yoruba. I was not a tribalist when I wrote an essay extolling the virtues of igbo women and telling the world about their sudden and meteoric rise and how far they had gone in the power circles of this country in the last 10 years. I was not a tribalist when I condemned the bombing of predominantly igbo and catholic churches and the killing of the igbo and others by Boko Haram in the north over the last three years.
I was not a tribalist when I risked my life by consistently writing against Boko Haram and urging our President to do a better job at protecting the lives of all Nigerians even though I live in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against political sharia in 2001 and I participated in protracted and sometimes acrimoniuos debates with islamic fundamentalists and islamists. I was not a tribalist when I was in NADECO and when we fought against military rule in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I fought for a President from the south-south or the south-east. I was not a tribalist when I wrote in defence of the igbo when it came to the abandoned property issue. I was not a tribalist when I wrote about the excesses of the Federal troops during the civil war. I was not a tribalist when I commended Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe and the virtues of the NCNC in Nigerian history. I was not a tribalist when I wrote that it was unfair and wrong for the Federal Government of Nigeria to leave the igbo with only 20 pounds each after the civil war. I was not a tribalist when many years ago I attended and gave my life to Christ in a church called TREM which was established by a great Nigerian of igbo extraction by the name of Bishop Mike Okonkwo. I could go on and on. Yet now I am a tribalist because I spoke the truth about our history and who the yoruba are.
These people have very short memories and anyone that does not agree with them all the time or that says one word against them at any point in time is labelled a tribalist for life. They called Chief Obafemi Awolowo a tribalist, an igbo-hater a genocidal maniac and a child-killer simply because the man refused to join sides with them in the civil war yet they forgot that on one of the occassions that Awolowo ran for the Presidency his running mate was from the east and not from the north. They called Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief S.L Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello igbo-haters and tribalists simply because they saw through the igbo agenda at a very early stage in our history and sadly they marked and killed them all for it. They called General Yakubu Gowon a genocidal maniac, a child-killer, an igbo-hater and a tribalist simply because he opposed Biafra, stood up to Ojukwu and insisted on keeping Nigeria together and even though he declared that there was ''no victor and no vanquished'' at the end of the war.
They accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he appointed an igbo man as the first GOC in the Nigerian Army since 1966 and even though he appointed more igbos into key positions in his government than any other President before him. They accused President Shehu Shagari of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he pardoned Ojukwu and allowed him to return back home after a long period in exile. They accused the Nigerian people of being tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have not had an igbo President since 1966 forgetting that Nigeria was magnamonious in victory and that she not only gladly welcomed them back into the fold after the civil war but that she also gave them the Vice Presidency of the country only ten years later. They have labelled the northerners as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because the north has refused to tolerate their excesses and accept their complicated ways. They have labelled the Niger Deltans as tribalists and igbo-haters simply due to the ''abandoned property issue'' and because historically many of them have always resisted the idea of igbo domination.
They have labelled the yoruba as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have refused to accept their claims to our land and territory and even though we were more charitable, hospitable, accomodating and generous to them than any other nationality in Nigeria after the civil war. The yoruba particularly have been very kind and gentle with them. That is the problem. They see our liberal and accomodating nature as stupidity and weakness. That is why they always call the yoruba cowards forgetting that the history of the yoruba proves otherwise. It is now time to tell the truth. If speaking these bitter home truths and yearning and fighting for a better Nigeria where life would be better for all makes me a tribalist then it is a toga that I would be happy to wear. I will not sit by quietly and allow my people, the yoruba people of south western Nigeria, to be rubbished, insulted and cheated by anyone no matter how aggressive and given to extreemities that anyone may be. I make and offer no apology for any of my views. My numerous assertions stand and they will stand till the end of time.
Meanwhile I have read all sorts of strange submissions in various newspapers and blogs that have held themselves out as rejoinders to my two articles titled "Lagos, The Igbo and the Servants Of Truth" and "The Bitter Truth About The Igbo". Since this debate began two weeks ago my staff have read no less than eleven formal responses which have come in the form of essays. Sadly other than the usual abuse and unedifying clap-trap not one of them has been able to address ANY of the issues that I raised in either of the two articles, answer any of the questions that I posed in them or successfully challenge my presentation of historical facts. How I wish the masters like Gbolobo Ogunsanwo, Adebayo Williams, the late Megaforce, Chinweizu and Sad Sam could give them a few lessons in being refined and polite yet clinical and devastating in their approach. If they had one of those great writers in their corner I would have offered my surrender long ago. Yet sadly they don't.
The bellicose nature and sheer crassness of these so-called rejoinders goes to prove two things. Firstly that those that I have descibed as being collectively unrestrained and crude in all their ways really are all those things and a lot more and secondly that they cannot put up any reasonable or serious arguement to discredit or refute the message so instead they are attempting to destroy the messanger.
Unfortunately for them the message is clear and it is already out there. It cannot be called back in. The horse has bolted from the stable and the falcon has left the nest. No matter how hard those that are attempting to intimidate us into silence may try it will not work and we will not be cowed. The genie has already slipped out of the bottle. The child has already been born. Those that seek to continue to denigrate and belittle the yoruba and lay claim to what is rightfully theirs should desist from doing so. They should grant us our peace and give us our due respect and they will get the same in return. If they do not do so those things surely will elude them .
Meanwhile when anyone reads a rejoinder that addresses the issues that I raised in either of my two essays and that has some level of scholarship and intellectual content they should please let me know and I may well dignify it with a response. The shameless and emotional thrash and disjointed verbiage that have been published and described as rejoinders so far are just not up to scratch. They are bereft of any logic, reason or rhyme. They also invoke pity in me for the individuals that wrote them and those that they claim to be representing. When my adversaries find a real champion that can cross swords with me and give me a good run for my money either in a literary debate or a verbal one someone should please let me know. And I am not referring to any of those exciteable individuals whose emotions have beclouded their thinking and who have called me a ''scallywag'' and all manner of other interesting and unsavoury names and who have said that I ought to be in jail or in a drug rehabilitation centre. Please don't tell me that those are your champions. I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.
Like the great Achilles I feel that I have no match. Are there no Hector's out there? Sadly it appears that my accusers and haters cannot find one. All they have is their hate, their ignorance, their insults and their inbred crudity and vulgarity.
Those that call me a tribalist are simply misguided. Perhaps they do not know the meaning of the word or its true import. Those that know me well can confirm the fact that I am not a tribalist, a racist or a bigot and that I consider such sentiments as being unworthy of a man of class, good breeding and culture. I am however a firm believer in the propagation of truth and I appreciate the value and importance of history. Sadly many of our igbo compatriots do not believe in that. For them history consists of only one thing- how other Nigerians have always marginalised them and treated them badly.
If only they knew their own history, where they are coming from, what they used to be, where they were 100 years ago and what their forefathers did to the rest of Nigeria over the last 80 years they would know why they have always had such a hard time in this country. Sadly because they dont know any of these things they cannot learn from them. And if they cannot learn from them they will continue to make the same mistakes. That is why they can come to another mans land and territory and call it their own and when we say ''no'' they tell us to shut up and call us tribalists.
I was not a tribalist when I wrote a tribute to Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu after he died or when I condemned the '60's pogroms that took place in the north in which their people were slaughtered like flies. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against my good friend Senator Ahmed Sani Yarima and child marriage in the north. Yet now I am a tribalist because I spoke the truth about our history and who the yoruba are. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Bianca Onoh, an igbo lady, who many years later married Ojukwu and who is now our Ambassador in Spain. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Chioma Anasoh, another igbo lady, who I almost took as a second wife. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Adaobi Uchegbu, another igbo lady, who was exceptionally close to me and who is now at the National Headquarters of the ruling PDP.
I was not a tribalist when I wrote essays defending the rights of the igbo and every other Nigerian nationality to exercise their right of self-determination and leave Nigeria if that is what they wanted to do. I was not a tribalist when I consistently wrote that Nigeria must have a Sovereign National Conference where the rights and obligations of all its various nationalities would be clearly defined and agreed upon. I was not a tribalist when I employed more igbo people as a Presidential spokesman and a Minister of the Federal Republic than even my own yoruba. I was not a tribalist when I wrote an essay, just two years ago, extolling the virtues of igbo women and telling the world about their sudden and meteoric rise and how far they had gone in the power circles of this country in the last 10 years. I was not a tribalist when I condemned the bombing of predominantly igbo and catholic churches and the killing of the igbo and others by Boko Haram in the north over the last three years.
I was not a tribalist when I risked my life by consistently writing against Boko Haram and urging our President to do a better job at protecting the lives of all Nigerians even though I live in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against political sharia in the late '90's and I participated in protracted and sometimes acrimoniuos debates with islamic fundamentalists and islamists. I was not a tribalist when I was in NADECO and when we fought against military rule in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I fought for a President from the south-south or the south-east. I was not a tribalist when I wrote in defence of the igbo when it came to the abandoned property issue. I was not a tribalist when I wrote about the excesses of the Federal troops during the civil war. I was not a tribalist when I commended Azikiwe and the virtues of the NCNC in Nigerian history. I was not a tribalist when I wrote that it was unfair and wrong for the Federal Government of Nigeria to leave the igbo with only 20 pounds each after the civil war. I was not a tribalist when many years ago I attended and gave my life to Christ in a church called TREM which was established by a great igbo man by the name of Bishop Mike Okonkwo. I was not a tribalist when my grandfather, Justice Victor Adedapo Kayode, taught Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe at Methodist Boys High School in Lagos and when my father, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, was appointed as the leader of the predominantly igbo NCNC in the Western Regional House of Assembly. I could go on and on. These people have very short memories and anyone that does not agree with them all the time or that says one word against them at any point in time is labelled a tribalist for life.
They called Chief Obafemi Awolowo a tribalist, an igbo-hater a genocidal maniac and a child-killer simply because the man refused to join sides with them in the civil war yet they forgot that on one of the occassions that Awolowo ran for the Presidency his running mate was from the east and not from the north. They called Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief S.L Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello igbo-haters and tribalists simply because they saw through the igbo agenda at a very early stage in our history and they marked and killed them all for it. They called General Yakubu Gowon a genocidal maniac, a child-killer, an igbo-hater and a tribalist simply because opposed Biafra, stood up to Ojukwu and insisted on keeping Nigeria together and even though he declared that there was ''no victor and no vanquished'' after the civil war.
They accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he appointed an igbo man as the first GOC in the Nigerian Army since 1966 and even though he appointed more igbos into key positions in his government than any President before him. They accused President Shehu Shagari of being a tribalist and an igbo-hater even though he pardoned Ojukwu and allowed him to return back home after a long period in exile. They have accused the Nigerian people of being tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have not had an igbo President since 1966 forgetting that Nigeria was magnamonious in victory and that she not only gladly welcomed them back into the fold after the civil war but that she also gave them the Vice Presidency of the country only ten years later. They have labelled the northerners as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because the north has refused to tolerate their excesses and accept their complicated ways. They have labelled the Niger Deltans as tribalists and igbo-haters simply due to the ''abandoned property issue'' and because historically many of them have always resisted the idea of igbo domination.
They have labelled the yoruba as tribalists and igbo-haters simply because we have refused to accept their claims to our land and territory and even though we were more charitable, hospitable, accomodating and generous to them than any other nationality in Nigeria after the civil war. The yoruba particularly have been too kind and gentle with them. That is the problem. They see our liberal and accomodating nature as stupidity and weakness. That is why they always call the yoruba cowards forgetting that the history of the yoruba proves otherwise. It is now time to tell the truth. They despise the yoruba and they only pretend to believe in one Nigeria as long as they can always have their way and laud it over others. Worst of all, generally speaking, they have no restraining factors because money and the acquisition of wealth is their sole objective and purpose in life.
Someone ought to tell them that this is not a virtue but a vice. It is a cultural deficiency which is borne out of not having any history. If they did they would be less aggressive, more restrained and far more civil to others even where and when they disagree with them. If speaking these bitter home truths and yearning and fighting for a better Nigeria makes me a tribalist then it is a toga that I would be happy to wear. I will not sit by quietly and allow my people, the yoruba people of south western Nigeria, to be rubbished, insulted and cheated by anyone no matter how aggressive and given to extreemities that anyone may believe he is. I make or offer and no apology for my views. My numerous assertions on the igbo stand.
Meanwhile I have read all sorts of strange submissions in various newspapers and blogs that have held themselves out as rejoinders to my two articles titled "Lagos, The Igbo and the Servants Of Truth" and "The Bitter Truth About The Igbo". Sadly other than the usual abuse and ungodly clap-trap not one of them has been able to address ANY of the issues that I raised in either of the two articles, answer any of the questions that I posed in them or successfully challenge my presentation of historical facts.
The bellicose nature and sheer crassness of these so-called rejoinders goes to prove two things. Firstly that those that I have descibed as being collectively unlettered, uncouth, uncultured, unrestrained and crude in all their ways really are all those things and a lot more and secondly that they cannot put up any reasonable or serious arguement to discredit or refute the message so instead they are attempting to destroy the messanger. Meanwhile the two essays have been published in various newspapers in our country and outside and it will continue to be published by others long into the forseeable future.
The message is clear and it is already out there. It cannot be called back in. The horse has bolted from the stable and the falcon has left the nest. No matter how hard those that are attempting to intimidate us into silence may try it will not work and we will not be cowed. The message is already out there and the genie is already out of the bottle. Those that seek to continue to denigrate and belittle the yoruba and lay claim to what is rightfully ours should desist from doing so. They should grant us our peace and give us our due respect and they will get the same in return. If they do not do so those things will elude them and eventually history will repeat itself again in this country.
Meanwhile when anyone reads a rejoinder that addresses the issues that I raised in my essays and that has some level of scholarship and intellectual content they should please let me know and I may well dignify it with a response. The shameless and emotional thrash and disjointed verbiage that have been described as rejoinders so far are just not up to scratch. They are bereft of any scholarship and intellectual content. They also invoke pity in me for the faceless plebians that wrote them and those they claim to be speaking for. When the igbo, or anyone else, find a real champion that can cross swords with me and give me a good run for my money someone should please let me know. I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.
Like the great Achilles I feel that I have no match. Are there no Hector's out there? Sadly it appears that my accusers, traducers, opposers and haters cannot find one. All they have is their hate, their ignorance, their insults and their inbred crudity and vulgarity.
Up until 1292 BC and the ascension of King Menpehtyre Ramesses, all the Pharaohs of Egypt were black. These include some of the better known Pharaohs such as King Horemheb (who preceeded King Ramesses), King Khafra (who was depicted by the Great Sphinx of Giza), King Tutankhamun (the young Pharoah whose tomb was discovered with enormous riches and a terrible curse by a British archeologist and explorer called Howard Carter), Queen Cleopatra (whose beauty was enchanting, who captured the emotions of Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, who divided the Roman Empire and whom this writer honoured with a poem titled ''The Nubian Queen''), Queen Nefertiti (who was the wisest of the wise and the most compassionate of all the Egyptian monarchs), King Piye (who was the conqueror of Egypt, the master of Nubia and the greatest of all the Cushite warrior kings) and the two Pharaoes that the biblical Moses and the biblical Joseph knew respectively and that had such a great impact on Jewish history and the fortunes of the Jewish people. All these Pharaohs were black African Nubians who were to be later referred to as the ''Sudanese''. The fact of the matter is that right up until the establishment of the 19th dynasty and the coming of King Ramesses in 1292 BC the rulers of Egypt were all Nubians and not the ''brown and olive-skinned'' Euroasiatics and Arabs that the Ramessesian era ushered in.
The Nubians not only ruled Egypt for thousands of years but they also constituted the majority of those that made up the Egyptian middle class and intelligensia including the clerics, theologians, artists, writers, poets, medics, artesans, builders, architects, astrologers, mathmatecians and professionals. The Ancient Egyptians themselves referred to their homeland as ''Kmt'' (which is conventionally pronounced as ''Kemet''). According to the celebrated historian Cheikh Anta Diop, the Ancient Egyptians referred to themselves as "Black people'' or ''kmt'' and ''kmt'' was the etymological root of other words, such as ''Kam'' or ''Ham'', which refer to ''black people'' in Hebrew tradition. Diop, William Leo Hansberry, and Aboubacry Moussa Lam have argued that ''kmt'' was derived from the skin colour of the Nile valley people, who they claim were black. And they were absolutely right. These are the facts though some western and Arab Egyptologists find it hard to accept and often seek to deny it. Yet whether anyone likes to accept it or not the fact remains that the greatest civilisation that the world has ever known, which is the Egyptian civilisation, was led and established by people of colour and those same people were the custodians of the deepest mysteries and secrets of our world and of the human race.
The final batch of ancient Cushites that remained in Arabia for thousands of years after all the others had left and that had refused to leave those lands for Africa with their Ethiopian brothers and sisters eventually migrated to the Egyptian Nile Valley from Mecca and Medina. Thousands of years later this last wave of Cushite migrants were to be referred to as the ''yoruba''. Yet for thousands of years before the word ''yoruba'' was even conceived and after their arrival in the Nile Valley these same people constituted an essential and vital part of the ruling and middle class of the Sudan, Nubia and Ancient Egypt. The Cushite forefathers of the yoruba were a learned and mystical people that were well versed in philosophy, the arts, history, the mysteries of the age, science, anthropology and the secrets of the spirit realm and human existence. Their contribution to Ancient Egyptian culture and art was second to none. Most importantly the pantheon of gods that they had worshipped, guarded jealously and served for thousands of years whilst in Mecca and Medina before their migration to the Nile Valley were accepted by the Egyptian ruling elite and were fully integrated and superimposed on the Egyptian religious stratosphere. As a matter of fact those gods were not only accepted but they eventually became the cornerstone and foundation of Ancient Egyptian culture and religion. That is the level of input that the yoruba made into the affairs and development of Ancient Egypt.
In our quest to further explore the ancient Egyptian roots of the yoruba permit me to qoute copiously from an excellent contribution titled ''YORUBA- THE EGYPTIAN CONNECTION'' which was written by Olomu and Eyebira. The write-up is utterly fascinating in terms of it's depth and research. In the section titled ''The Oduduwan Revolution''. The authors wrote the following-
''In this chapter, we shall talk of a possible migration from ancient Egypt. Many traditions point to a fact that an alien group (Egyptians) immigrated to Yoruba land and mixed with the original population.Many oral traditions are replete with these stories. The Awujale of Ijebu land has shown that the Ijebus are descended from ancient Nubia (a colony of Egypt). He was able to use the evidence of language, body, scarification, coronation rituals that are similar to Nubians’ etc, to show that the Ijebus are descendants of the Nubians. What the present Awujale claimed for the Ijebus, can be authenticated all over Yoruba land. The Awujale even mentioned (2004) that the Itsekiri (an eastern Yoruba dialect) are speaking the original Ijebu language. Since the Nubians were descended from the Egyptians, the Ijebu, and by extension, all Yoruba customs, derived from the Egyptian as well. Many traditional Yorubas have always claimed Egypt as their place of original abode, and that their monarchical tradition derives from the Egyptians.
Apostle Atigbiofor Atsuliaghan, a high priest of Umale-Okun, and a direct descendant of Orunmila, claimed that the Yorubas left Egypt as a result of a big war that engulfed the whole of Egypt. He said the Egyptian remnants settled in various places, two important places being Ode Itsekiri and Ile-Ife.Chief O.N Rewane says “Oral tradition has it also that when the Yorubas came from South of Egypt they did not go straight to where they now occupy. They settled at Illushi, some at Asaba area – Ebu, Olukumi Ukwunzu while some settled at Ode-Itsekiri,.” (O.N. Rewane Royalty Magazine A PICTORIAL SOUVENIR OF THE BURIAL AND CORONATION OF OLU OF WARRI, WARRI 1987). Since these oral traditions are passed on by very illiterate people, we can augment whatever is recorded with written sources.
Concerning the migration of some of the Yoruban ancestors from the east, Conton says: ''The Yoruba of Nigeria are believed by many modern historians to be descended from a people who were living on the banks of the Nile 2,000 years ago, and who were at the time in close contact with the Egyptians and the Jews. Sometime before AD 600, if this belief is correct, these people must have left their fertile lands, for reasons which we can not now discover and have joined in the ceaseless movement of tribes west wards and south-wards across our continent.We can only guess at the many adventures they and their descendants must have had on their long journey and at the number of generations which passed before they arrived. All we can be certain about is that they were a Negro people and that one of the many princely states they founded on their arrival in West Africa…..was Ife''.’ Conton WF (1960. 71
Although we agree with Conton that some of the Yoruban ancestors migrated from Egypt, we tend to toe the scientific line of Cheik Anta Diop, that the ancient Egyptians were pure Negroes. Aderibigbe, an indigenous scholar, also accepts that the Yorubas migrated from Egypt. He says:“The general trend of these theories, most of them based on Yoruba traditions, is that of a possible origin from “the east”. Some scholars, impressed by the similarities between Yoruba and ancient Egyptian culture – religious observation, works of art, burial and other customs – speak of a possible
migration of the ancestors of the Yoruba from the upper Nile (as early as 2000BC – 1000BC) as a result of some upheavals in ancient Egypt”. (AB ADERIBIGBE 1976). Unlike Conton, Aderibigbe was able to pinpoint a cause for the Yoruban migration – war. Olumide Lucas did a lot of job to show similarities and identities between the ancient Egyptians and the Yoruban peoples. The date that Aderibigbe gave (2000BC – 1000BC) is much earlier than that given by Conton. Aderibigbe’s date corresponds to that of the Hyksos invasion of Egypt 2000-1500BC.
On the possible eastern origin of the Yorubas, Tariqh Sawandi says:“The Yoruba history begins with the migration of an east African population across the trans-African route leading from Mid-Nile river area to the Mid-Niger. Archaeologists, according to M. Omoleya, inform us that the Nigerian region was inhabited more than forty thousand years ago, or as far back as 65,000BC. During this period, the Nok culture occupied the region. The Nok culture was visited by the “Yoruba people”, between 2000BC and 500BC. This group of people was led, according to Yoruba historical accounts by king Oduduwa, who settled peacefully in the already established Ile-Ife, the sacred city of the indigenous Nok people.This time period is known as the Bronze Age, a time of high civilization of both of these groups. According to Olumide J. Lucas, “the Yoruba, during antiquity, lived in ancient Egypt before migrating to the Atlantic coast”. He uses as demonstration the similarity or identity of languages, religious beliefs, customs and names of persons, places and things. In addition, many ancient papyri discovered by archaeologists point at an Egyptian origin'' (Tariqh Sawandi: ''Yorubic medicine: The Art of divine herbology).
(TO BE CONTINUED)
In his 2000 page book titled ''Ile-Ife-The Source of Yoruba Civilisation'', Prince Adelegan Adegbola wrote the following about the yoruba people of south-western Nigeria- ''the Yoruba are the progeny of great kingship, efficient kingdom-builders and astute rulers. They have been enjoying for centuries a well-organized pattern of society, a pattern which persists, in spite of all the changes resulting from modern contacts with the western world. Their kings have, from very long past, worn costly beaded crowns and wielded royal scepters. No one remembers the time when the Yoruba people have not worn clothes. Their character of dignity and integrity is an ancient one. In reality, the Yoruba claim to be descendants of a great ancestor. There is no doubt at all that they have been a great race. They are, and they appear in some ways to be detrimentally over-conscious of their great ancestry and long, noble traditions.....the Yoruba are one of the most researched races in the world. According to Professor S.O. Arifalo, by 1976 the available literature on the Yoruba, despite many omissions, numbered 3,488 items. These vast amounts of works are quite substantial and unrivalled in sub-Saharan Africa. Also the artefacts showed that the Yoruba were intelligent, complex and wealthy people whose art and technological skills were unsurpassed in pre-historic Africa. Almost everything we know about the Yoruba people comes from Ile-Ife.''
Professor Adegbola's research is as fascinating as it is outstanding. It is a ''must read'' for all those that are interested in finding out who the yoruba are, where thy come from, what they stand for and what their contribution to religion,culture, the arts and civilisation really is. Adegbola'a research into the history of the Yoruba and the various Yoruba kingdoms is second to none. His findings certainly put a lie to the controversial assertion made by Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper, one of the best-known and most respected historians that ever lived, who once said that ''the history of Africa is darkness, nothing but darkness''. Nothing could be further from the truth and it is clear to me that this englishman, despite his outstanding credentials, knew next to nothing about our rich history, heritage and culture which, in my view, was far more advanced and goes back for thousands of years more than even his own. In this essay I will make my own contributions to the debate and I will concentrate primarily on the pre-historic era of the Yoruba before the coming of Oduduwa to Ile-Ife and before the establishment of the great kingdoms and princely states. I will focus on their origins as a people and their migratorary patterns.
The Yoruba are ancestors of the black Cushite migrants and settlers that did not go to Africa with the other descendants of Cush but that rather chose to settle in the areas and environs that were to later become the ancient cities of Mecca and Medina in what is presently known as Saudi Arabia.
They were not Arabs but they were there as settlers for thousands of years and they constituted an industrious, prosperous, powerful, large and respected minority within the larger Middle Eastern community. However they were eventually driven out of those Arab towns and communities and forced to leave them for refusing to give up their religious faith, their deep mysticism and paganism and their idol worship after Islam was introduced to those places by the Prophet Mohammed in 600 AD. They migrated to the banks of the great River Nile in Egypt where they intermingled and inter-married with the Egyptians, the Nubians and the Sudanese of the Nile. The Egyptian roots and connections of the yoruba are deep and irrefutable and the third and final part of this essay is dedicated solely to exploring and explaining those roots. For thousands of years many of the yoruba remained on the banks of the Nile but the bulk of them eventually migrated to what was to later become known as north-eastern Nigeria and once again they settled, mingled and inter-bred with the Shuwa Arabs and the Kanuris of Borno.
From there they eventually swept across the whole of the north and migrated down south to the forests and farm lands of what is now known as south-western Nigeria making their primary place and location of settlement and pagan worship Ile-Ife. Ile-Ife is to the Yoruba traditional worshippers what Mecca is to the Muslims and what Jerusalem is to the Jews and the Christians. The establishment of Ile-Ife as the centre and source of all that is Yoruba was confirmed by Oduduwa himself when he sent his sons out from Ile-Ife to other parts of Yorubaland to establish their own independent kingdoms, including Bini Kingdom. It was after that that we broke up into various kingdoms and communities within what later became known as the old Western Region of Nigeria. Some of those kingdoms and empires were sophisticated, powerful, large and great (like the Oyo Empire) and some were not so great and large.
Yet each was fiercely independent and established it's own sophisticated system of government, customs, legal codes and conventions.
Sadly these Yoruba kingdoms spent one hundred years fighting one another in totally unnecessary civil wars before the arrival of the British but it is a historical fact that they were never defeated in any war or conquered by any foreign army. Yet the only things that they had in common amongst themselves was their language (which broke into different dialects), their historical heritage, their affinity and respect for Ile-Ife and their acknowledgement of that town as being their spiritual home and finally their acceptance of the Oonirissa of Ife as ''the living manifestation of Oduduwa, the quintessential icon of royalty and splendour and God's chief representative on earth''. This collection of different kingdom states with a common ancient root were collectively known as the ''Yoruba''. Yet the fact of the matter is that the word ''Yoruba'' has NO meaning in our language or any other language that is known to man.
No-one has been able to tell us with certainty the meaning of the word ''Yoruba'' or indeed where it really came from. This really is very strange and is indeed a deep and unsettling mystery. For all we know it could even be a deep and ancient insult. That is why I have always preferred to be referred to as an ''ife'' rather than a ''Yoruba''. Another question that is often asked is why did our forefathers indulge in all the mass migrations from first Mecca and Medina, then to Egypt, then to Borno, across the vast plains and desert lands of northern Nigeria and then finally settled in the forests of the western region? Historians have ventured a number of reasons for this but the truth is that no-one knows with much certainty. My own personal theory is that the reason that our forefathers kept having to migrate until we found somewhere of our own was either because of war or because we refused to give up our pagan beliefs and practices. I believe that when Islam was eventually introduced into the areas that we once settled our forefathers suffered all manner of persecution for their tenacity to their ancient pagan faith and their refusal to convert and consequently they had to move on. I may be wrong and many historians have offered one or two other explanations for these mass migrations yet whatever the reasons for them may have been, whether they were due to war, famine or religious persecution, it is clear that the influence of the Arabs, the Egyptians, the Nubians, the Sudanese, the Kanuris, the Nupes and all the other nations that we once lived with, mingled with and mixed our blood with through breeding and marriage is very strong amongst the Yoruba people, their music, their language and their culture till today. We shall return to this theme in part three of this essay.
For thousands of years the yoruba were pagans and ifa was their cornerstone. Their faith was polytheic in nature and they believed, like the Ancient Egyptians, not in one Supreme Deity, but in a pantheon of gods each of which had it's own place and served it's own purpose. As a matter of fact most of the ancient gods that the Egyptians worshipped were introduced to them by yoruba diviners, sorcerers and pagan priests. Such was the level of our influence on Egyptian culture, religion and history. The monotheic faiths of Islam and Christianity were both espoused by the yoruba thousands of years later and were both established primarily by the strong trade links that existed between them and the Hausa/Fulani from the north, the Turkish traders of the Ottoman empire from the southern Atlantic coast, the Portuguese and European traders who plied that same southern Atlantic coast and the Christian missionaries who vigorously evangelised the whole territory. Both christianity and islam eventually took full root in the land and in the hearts and minds of the Yoruba people whilst paganism, ''ifa'' and the practice of their more traditional faith was eventually pushed to the back seat. This was quite an achievement because for thousands of years both christianity and islam were fiercely resisted by the yoruba and even till today many yoruba people still tenaciously hold on to their traditional faith. That is why it is very difficult to find a Yoruba family that does not have christians, muslims and adherents of the more traditional and ancient tribal faiths in their ranks.
The slow and massive migration of the yoruba from Arabia, Egypt, Borno, through northern Nigeria and to their own homelands in the south-west are why they, together with the other numerous tribes in ''mid-western'' (the Bini, the Ishan, the Urhobo, the Itsekiri, the Isoko and all the other tribes that were once part of the old Western Region of Nigeria) and ''northern'' Nigeria are generally known as the ''Sudanese Nigerians''. This is because they all migrated from north Africa and the Sudan to their present locations. By way of contrast the various tribes from the rest of southern Nigeria who migrated from eastern and southern Africa to their present locations comprise of the Igbo and the people of the eastern Niger-Delta area (including the ijaws, the ikweres, the kalabaris, the efiks, the ibibios, the ika igbos and all other tribes that were part of the old Eastern Region of Nigeria). These people are known as the ''Bantu Nigerians'' and they are very different to the Sudanese in terms of their outlook to life and their culture and history. Permit me to explain this assertion. The history of the people that are known as the ''Sudanese Nigerians'' is well-docuemented, well-entrenched and well-acquainted with strong and respected hierachial structures and the administration of extreemely large and powerful, culturally-diverse, cosmopolitan and sophisticated empires that once stretched across thousands of miles of different territories and civilisations. These great empires, which were headed by powerful kings and emperors, such as the Oyo, Habe, Nok, Nupe, Tiv, Borgu and Sokoto Empires, conquered many lesser peoples in centuries past and administered many territiories when compared to the Bantus.
The Bantu's only experience and knowledge of ancient empire and kingship is limited to a few relatively small yet notable kingdoms and coastal states in what is presently known as Nigeria's eastern Niger-Delta area. Examples of this are the Kalabaris who have their Amayanabo, the Efiks who have their Obong and a few others. The most populous tribe amongst the Bantu are the Igbo. They are originally of Jewish stock and they have absolutely no history of kingship, empire and organised hierarchical structures at all. They were essentially republican in nature and they were a collection of village and forest communities that were bound together only by their common language and their ancient heritage. That is why the igbo often take pleasure in saying ''igbo enwe eze'', meaning ''the igbo have no king''. Outside of the royal kings of Onitsha and Asaba to have kings and chiefs amongst the Igbo was a relatively new phenomenon which certainly does not pre-date the last 150 years. As a matter of fact the kngs of those two towns and communities were not even originally of igbo stock but were offshoots of the Royal House of Bini in what is presently known as Edo state. The Obi of Onitsha and the Asagba of Asaba and indeed most of their subjects were descendants of the Oba of Benin and the the people of edo respectively. The igbo did not even have chiefs up until 150 years ago. It was when the British colonialists arrived in the east that they appointed ''warrant chiefs'' for them. This explains why the igbo particularly finds it exceptionally difficult to understand the complexities and subtleties of people that do not share their republican heritage or beliefs.
Yet the truth about the Nigerian situation is that everybody and every tribe and nationality, no matter how big or small, brings something to the table. That is what makes us so special and unique as a people and that is what makes our country so great. There is indeed unity in diversity and whether you are a yoruba, an igbo, a fulani, a hausa, a tiv, an idoma, a nupe, an urhobo, an ishan, an itsekiri, an isoko, a kalabari, a kataf, a shuwa Arab, a kanuri, a berom, an igbira, a bini, an ikwere, an efik, an ibibio, a jukun, an ijaw or any other tribe or nationality it is in the greater collective and the beautiful racial and cultural melting pot that Nigeria has become that we can find our true power and greatness. The yoruba, no matter how rich our history, are only a part of a much greater family of peoples each with their own noble heritage and proud history. In the third and final part of this essay we will explore the Egyptian roots of the yoruba and we will consider the remarkable similarities between ancient Egyptian culture, religion and language and that of the yoruba people.
The yoruba people of south-western Nigeria are a nationality of approximately 50 million people the vast majority of whom are concentrated primarily within Nigeria but who are also spread throughout the entire world. They constitute probably the largest percentage of Africans that live in the diaspora and they have made their own extraordinary contributions in virtually every field of human endeavour throughout the ages. Descendants of the yoruba and indeed in most cases various ancient derivatives and forms of the yoruba language can be found and are spoken in places like Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and various other parts of the world. Today first, second and even third generation yorubas have settled down and spread all over the world and are amongst the best and most sought after lawyers, nuclear scientists, doctors, industralists, academics, writers, poets, playwrites, clerics, theologians, artists, film producers, historians and intellectuals throughout the world. Wherever they go they tend to flourish and excel.
This is nothing new and indeed has always been the case. The first Nigerian to be called to the Bar was a yoruba man by the name of Sapara Williams who was called to the English Bar and started practising as a lawyer in 1879. Yet Sapara Williams was not a flash in the pan or a one time wonder. Other yoruba men followed in his footsteps in quick succession and were called to the English Bar shortly after he was. For example after him came Joseph Edgarton Shyngle who was called in 1888, then came Gabriel Hugh Savage who was called in 1891, then came Rotimi Alade who was called in 1892, then came Kitoye Ajasa (whose original name was Edmund Macauly) who was called in 1893, then came Arthur Joseph Eugene Bucknor who was called in 1894 and then came Eric Olaolu Moore who was called in 1903. Ironically Sapara Williams was not the first Nigerian lawyer though he was the first to be called to the English Bar. In those days you did not have to be called to the Bar to practice law and the first Nigerian lawyer that practised without being called to the Bar was a yoruba man by the name of William Henry Savage. He was described as a ''self-taught and practising lawyer'' and he was a registered Notary Public in England as far back as1821. These were indeed the greats and every single one of them was a yoruba man.
My friend and brother the respected Mr. Akin Ajose-Adeogun, who is a historian by calling and a lawyer by profession, is a man for whom I have tremendous respect. I have often described him as the ''living oracle of Nigerian history'' simply because he has a photographic memory, a knack for detail, first class sources and has read more books on Nigerian history than anyone that I have ever met before in my life. Akin has an extraordinary mind, he is a living genius and I have often urged him to write a book. You can ask him anything about anyone or any event in any part of our country, since or before independence, and he will give you names, dates and the sequence of events immmediately and without any recourse to notes, books or sources. After he has given you the information he will then cite his sources and tell you which books to go and read in order to confirm what he is saying. I have learnt so much from him that I must publically acknowledge the fact that I owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.
He once told me something that I found very interesting and that reflected the semi god-like status that our earliest lawyers, including some of the names that I mentioned earlier, enjoyed amongst the people. These men were not only reverred but they were also admired by all, including members of the British intelligensia, legal fraternity and elites. Akin told me that many years ago in the mid-80's Sir Adetokunboh Ademola, who himself was one of the legal greats, who was called to the English Bar in 1934, who was the third Nigerian to be appointed as a magistrate in 1938, who was the third Nigerian to be appointed as a High Court judge in 1948 and who was the first Nigerian to be appointed Chief Justice of the Federation in 1958 said the following words to him. He said, ''when you saw the way that the earliest Nigerian lawyers conducted themselves in court and argued their cases you would have been filled with pride and you would have wanted to become a lawyer yourself. Members of the public used to fill the court rooms to the brink and sometimes even the forecourts and passages just to watch these great men perform and enjoy their brilliance and oratory. They spoke the Queens english and they knew the law inside out. It is not like that today''. This is a resounding testimony from an illustrious Nigerian and it speaks eloquently about where the yoruba, as a people, are coming from and the stock and quality of minds that they are made of.
Yet the dynamism of the yoruba and their innovations and ''firsts'' did not stop there. It went into numerous other spheres of human endeavour quite apart from the law. Permit me to cite just two examples. The first lies within the field of medicine. Dr. Nathaniel King was the first Nigerian to become a medical practitioner. He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1876 and he was a Creole of yoruba origin. Next came Dr. Oguntola Sapara who was the second Nigerian to become a medical practitioner and who graduated from Edinburgh University in 1884. He was followed by Dr. John Randle who graduated from Durham University in 1891, then Dr. Orisadipe Obasa who graduated from Edinburgh University in 1892, then Dr. Akinwande Savage who graduated from Edinburgh University in 1900, then Dr. Curtis Adeniyi-Jones who graduated from Durham University in 1901. Others like Dr. Oyejola who graduated in 1905, Dr. Kubolaje Faderin, Dr. Sesi Akapo and Dr. Magnus Macauly who all graduated in 1912, Dr. Moyses Joao Da Rocha who graduated from Edinburgh University in 1913 and many others followed after that.
The second example lies within the ranks of the clergy. The first African Anglican Bishop and the first man to translate the Holy Bible and Book of Common Prayer to any African language (outside of Ethiopia) was a yoruba ex-slave who gave his life to Christ, won his freedom and rose up to become one of the greatest and most respected clerics and leaders that the African continent has ever known by the name of Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. Unknown to many his original name was Rev. John Raban but he changed it in his early years. Crowther got his first degree at the famous Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leonne (which at that time was part of Durham University). He was ordained as an Anglican Bishop in 1864 and in that same year he was awarded a Doctrate degree from Oxford University.
This extraordinary man who was blessed by God with an exceptionally brilliant mind was, as far as I am concerned, one of the greatest Africans that ever lived. He not only translated the Holy Bible and the Book of Common Prayer to yoruba (an extreemly difficult, complicated and painstaking venture which he began in 1843 and which he completed in 1888) but he also codified a number of other christian books and he translated them into the Igbo and Nupe languages. He was literally the pillar and foundation of the Anglican church in west Africa. Throughout his adult life he courageously stood up and fought for the rights and the dignity of the African and he, more than anyone else, was responsible for the spread, influence and power of the christian faith in Nigeria in the late 19th century. He was also the maternal grandfather of the great nationalist Herbert Macauly who, together with Nnamdi Azikiwe, founded the political party known as the NCNC in 1944. Crowther was also the father-in-law of Rev. Thomas Babington Macauly who founded the Christian Missionary Society Grammar School (CMS Grammar School) in 1859 in what was then the Lagos Colony. CMS Grammar School was the epitomy of excellence and a citadel of great learning in those days. It was also the oldest secondry school in Nigeria and the main source of African clergymen and administrartors in the Lagos Colony. It is not surprising that it was the son-in-law of the great Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther that founded such a school and that it was his grandson that founded one the greatest political parties that the African continent has ever known. This is another first for the yoruba.
Yet who are these people and where did they come from? What is their origin and what is their source of strength? What were their migratory patterns over the last 30,000 and more years and how did they end up in Ile-Ife? What is their connection to the Middle East, to the Arabs of Mecca and Medina, to the ancient Egyptians and to the Nubians of the Sudan? What makes them so special and so peculiar all at the same time? What makes their religious set-up so complicated and so profund and what allows each of the great monotheic faiths of christianity and islam together with the traditional religions to flourish and excel amongst the very same people at the same time? Why are the yoruba so accomodating of outsiders and what is responsible for their liberal disposition when it comes to their dealings with people from other cultures, other faiths and other nationalities? Why is it that so many yoruba families have mixed ancestral bloodlines that go back hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of years with so many different nationalities from outside yorubaland including the Brazilians of Bahia, the Haitians of Port Au Prince, the Cubans of Havana, the Trinadadians of Port of Spain, the Creoles of Freetown, the Ga's of Accra and the numerous tribes of Dahomey (Benin Republic) and Togo. Within Nigeria itself the bloodlines of the yoruba are mixed with that of the Edo, the Bini, the Itsekiri, the Ilaje, the Isoko, the Urhobo and other tribes from the old Mid-Western region and with that of the Nupe, the Hausa, the Fulani, the Tapa, the Shuwa Arab and the Kanuri from the north.
What is the cultural and spiritual affinity of the yoruba with the people of the old Northern and old Mid-Western regions of Nigeria and why are the people from those two regions together with those from the South-West collectively referrred to as the ''Sudanese Nigerians''? Some of these questions may never be answered but in the sequel to this essay we will attempt to at least view and analyse the yoruba from a historical perspective and this may explain why they are what they undoubtedly are- ''primus inter pares'', the first amongst equals.
The Nigerian Senate includes some of the brightest minds in our country many of whom are friends of mine and most of whom have been in active politics for many years. They have my respect. However what transpired in the Senate chamber a few days ago was a great cause for concern for not just me but millions of Nigerians from all over the world. How an innocent and seemingly uninteresting, uninspiring and unimportant debate about when and at what age a Nigerian citizen could legitimately and lawfully renounce his or her citizenship turned into a referendum on paedophilia and child marriage I dont know. Yet sadly that is precisely what happened and ever since then the nation has been on fire.
Senator (ex-Governor) Ahmed Sani, the Yerima Bakura and the Apostle of political sharia in Nigeria finally got his way and the futile attempt by a small number of good, noble and honourable Senators to amend the existing law on marriage and properly define the age of a female that is eligible to marry was thwarted by the pro-paedophilia, pro-child rape and pro-child marriage group within the Senate. Sadly our distinguished Senators eventually bowed to the will of Yerima and his friends and agreed to remain silent about the age that young girls can get married in Nigeria. What this means is that girls that are as young as 9 years old can continue to be lawfully bedded and married in our country providing they are deemed as being ''physically developed enough'' to do so by their suitors, their prospective husbands and their parents. That is the law and that is the sordid level that we as a people and as a nation have degenerated to over the years.
I weep for Nigeria and, perhaps more appropiately, I weep for the Nigerian girl child. I weep because it is obvious to me that the Yerima's of this world wish to turn our country into a giant Bangkok to which millions of sexual deviants flock from all over the world to ''enjoy'' our ''tourist attractions'' and ''have a taste'' of our young and beloved children. Worst still they wish to use religion to defend and justify it. Yet we have no choice but to live with this new reality and to accept it as it is. After all, our representatives in the sacred halls of the Senate were not sensitive enough or ''man enough'' to shoot down the whole thing, to stand firmly against the unholy agenda and to say boldly and firmly that ''come what may'' our children must be protected from sexual deviants and reprobates.
And since the Senate, in its infinate wisdom, has now bought into and openly endorsed the "Paedophile Charter" which essentially makes it lawful and constitutional for very young girls to get married and to have sex at a very young age it is my firm view that we have now become a nation of perverts and paedophiles. The Senate had a chance to clear the air and amend the law but, out of nothing but sentiment and an inexplicable eagerness to compromise with that which is clearly evil, they threw that chance away and sacrificed our most sacred values to Yerima and his gang. Worst still they did it with a smile on their faces. Every Nigerian should bow his or her head in shame because instead of crushing the head of the lustful beast that seeks to fornicate with our children, to steal their virtues and to destroy their future what the Senate did the other day was to compromise with and cater for the filthy appetites and godless fantasies of a bunch of child molestors and sexual predators. It is sordid. It is ungodly. It is evil. And it is unforgiveable.
Surely we ought to be seeking to protect our children and not seeking to bed them. Yet it appears that not everyone shares our outrage and collective sense of shame. One Uche Ezechukwu made the following contribution which went viral on the social media networks and which I think speaks volumes. He wrote-
"Those who are railing against 'paedophile' senators, like Yerima Bakura, must be told that a muslim can’t go wrong while imitating the examples of the Apostle of Allah himself and the founder of his religion, in the same way a christian cannot be criticized for following the examples of Jesus Christ. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) married Aisha at the age of six and consummated the marriage when she was nine. So, why are we judging muslims by our own standards?"
I am appauled by these words. The truth is that I have never heard such a self-serving and specious arguement in defence of the philosophies and beliefs of the Ayatollah of Bakura, Senator Ahmed Sani, the practising paedophile who married and bedded a 12 year old Egyptian girl, as this one. Ahmed Sani himself could not have argued it better. Yet I think that it is an utter shame. And this is more so because the individual that is putting the arguement is supposedly a christian. The Old Testament of the Holy Bible prescribes ''stoning'' for adultry but that does not mean that christian countries, or indeed secular states like Nigeria, should stone adulterers.
Neither does it mean that we should preserve the institution of slavery or crucify petty thieves simply because the Holy Bible endorsed both practices in the Old Testament. We must accept the fact that the interpretation of biblical and koranic provisions are evolutionary and are ever changing. Jesus Himself said ''laws are made for man and not man for laws''. The suggestion that paedophilia has any place in any modern and decent society simply because it was once practised in the distant past is not only a despicable arguement but it also does not make any sense. After all cannibalism and child and human sacrifice were once widely practised and were held as being perfectly acceptable throughout the world as well but that does not mean that we should practice any of those terrible vices today.
The young man, Uche Ezechukwu, who appears to be defending child rape in the name of islam, should either let someone lay with and ''marry'' his own 6 or 9 year old daughter or he should seal his lips forever and stop trying to defend the indefensible. His assertions, and I daresay those of Senator Ahmed Sani and anyone that shares their primitive views, are not only utterly immoral and reprehensible but they are also intellectually dishonest. I say this because the truth is that there is NO muslim country in the world that has adopted the "paedophile charter" where 6 or 9 year olds can marry and be bedded except for possibly Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Every other muslim country in the world, including Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Jordan, Senegal, the Sudan, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, United Arab Emirates, Bangladesh, Qatar, Bahrain, Dagestan, Albania, Bosnia, Somalia, Algeria, Libya, Mali, Azerbizhan and Syria have specifically banned child marriage, paedophilia and child rape in their various constitutions and laws and some have declared it ''repugnant'', ''unacceptable'' and ''unislamic''. Are these people not muslims too? Are they not better muslims than those that insist on sleeping with or marrying underage girls in the name of islam?
Like christianity and judaism, islam is a noble, pure, honourable and ancient faith that seeks to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in society, including children. No-one should use the misinterpretation of its provisions to try to justify or rationalise what is essentially depraved, shameful, disgusting and barbaric behaviour and the most sordid and filthy expression of sexual deviance and perversion. Even animals do not marry or bed their own infants. The bitter truth is that paedophiles have no place in any civilised society.
I am constrained to say that in the light of their "yes" vote to child marriage and their green light to paedophilia, every single member of the Nigerian Senate that voted with Yerima on that day and that supported his filthy agenda should bow their heads in utter shame and they should be compelled to offer their own infant and under age daughters to strangers for marriage. I repeat, they have turned us into a nation of perverts and paedophiles and I say a pox on all their houses. I reserve my commendations and respect only for those Senators that opposed and voted against Yerima's protestations and agenda and that stood for that which was right even though they could not muster enough votes to have their way. My word to this brave and righteous few is simple and clear- keep the struggle alive and continue to resist the evil that resides amongst us all. You are the only thing that stands between our children and the practising paedophiles in our midst who seek to ravage and bed them even before they have entered their teens.
I expressed my concerns about the issue of paedophilia and child brides in Nigeria quite extensively in an essay that I wrote last week titled ''A Nation Of Perverts and Paedophiles'' which was widely published and which attracted a lot of rejoinders and commentries from other writers and commentators from both sides of the divide. I do not intend to cover the same ground or repeat the same arguements here but kindly permit me to make a final contribution to the debate in this piece.
The good news is that no matter what anyone thinks or says and regardless of whichever side of the divide one is on when it comes to this issue at least the Nigerian people are now talking about a subject which, hitherto, had been regarded as being ''off limits'' and taboo and which had been essentially swept under the carpet. I commend the Nigerian press, the website magazines, the bloggers and the electronic media for standing firm, rising up to the occassion and bringing the matter alive and one can only hope and pray that they will keep the fire burning by continuing to reflect the heated discussions and various opinions on this issue. I was particularly impressed with and encouraged by the editorials of some of our leading newspapers on this issue including 'Thisday On Sunday', 'The Nation On Sunday', 'Leadership On Sunday' and 'The Sunday Vanguard' which were all published on Sunday 28th July and which were titled "In Support Of The Girl Child'', ''No Cover For Paedophiles''. ''Much Ado About Child Marriage'' and ''Building Nigeria On Deceit'' respectively. With contributions like that from very serious and credible mediums like those there is still hope for the girl-child in Nigeria. I urge all those that have not read these contributions to please find them and do so.
Yet despite the outrage expressed by the overwhelming majority of Nigerians and indeed the wider world about the plight of the girl-child in our country, on Sunday 28th July a deeply defiant and unrepentant Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, who was the individual that sparked off the whole controversy in the first place by insisiting that section 29 of the constitution must not be removed, told the Sunday Trust Newspaper that ''if the vote on the child marriage issue came up in the Senate again'' he and his supporters ''would win a million times over''. Sadly, given the nonchalant attitude that has been displayed by a large number of our Senators to the plight of the girl-child, paedophilia and infant marriages in Nigeria and their obvious reluctance to step on Yerima's big toes and thereby upset his religious sensitivities he may well be right. If not for that how does one explain the fact that two female Senators, Aisha Jummai Alhassan from Taraba state and Zainab Kure from Niger state, both of whom I gather have daughters, actually abstained when that historical vote took place. To drive home the point the Senate President himself, Senator David Mark, only last week admitted that he and the entire Senate had succumbed to Yerima's ''blackmail'' on the issue of the right of the child-bride to renounce Nigerian citizenship and his deputy, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, accepted the fact that the matter ''needed to be revisited'' in view of the outrage expressed by the majority of the Nigerian people.
Yet many of us do not expect anything to change in the near future simply because it is clear that the Nigerian Senate and indeed the Nigerian political class generally simply do not have the sensitivity, the courage, the wherewithal or the political will to do the right thing and to not only delete the controversial Section 29 from our constitution but to also revamp and amend it in it's entirety and insert a clause that specifically, clearly and categorically outlaws and bans any marriages that involve anyone under the age of 18 in Nigeria. Mrs. Roz Ben-Okagbue, in her article titled, ''Is The Removal Of Section 29 The Answer To Eliminating Child Marriage?'' has made this point more eloquently than anyone one else. I consider Roz's piece to be probably the most insightful contrbution so far in this this debate simply because she made all the relevant points and consistently hit the nail on the head. It is the inability of the Senate and other political stakeholders to introduce a new clause into our constitution and ban child marriages and their penchant for continously pampering and seeking to accomodate the strange fantasies and perversions of those that enjoy marrying and having sex with 6, 9, 12 and 14 year olds that informed Pastor Tunde Bakare to proclaim, in a characteristically powerful and explosive sermon, that ''Nigeria is suffering from the rulership of 'PINP' '' (by which he meant ''Paedophiles in Power'') and that the issue of child marriage has divided our country more than any other issue before it in our entire history. No-one could have put it better.
Yet the debate continues to rage and only last week the respected islamic scholar Professor Ishaq Akintola added his voice by saying ''there is no age restriction in islamic marriage''. Most muslims would disagree with this because child-marriage is specifically banned by the laws and constitutions of 90 per cent of muslim countries in the world today but I respect the right of Professor Akintiola to hold his opinion about the tenets of his faith. And regardless of his views and fervency I honestly believe that islam, like christianity, is a humane and compassionate faith which seeks to protect the weak and guide its adherents on the path of righteousness and light.
I must however point out that Nigeria is not a muslim or indeed a christian state. She is a secular state and she is governed by secular laws. Religious laws have no place in our land or constitution.Our constitution is a secular docuement which specifically says that the state shall not adopt any religion. This must remain so if we do not want a divided country and if we do not want continued controversy, strife and possibly even a fully blown religious conflagration and conflict. We should all keep our religious sensitivities out of certain matters if we want continued peace.
Paedophilia, child sex, child slavery, child rape and child marriage cannot be justified under any circumstances in any civilised country. It is not a matter of religion. It is a matter of human rights, civil liberties and basic morality. There is nothing more repugnant to the natural mind and wholesome soul than the prospect of a fully grown man mounting, defiling and having carnal knowledge of a child that is between the ages of 6 and 18.
Every child, whether she be a christian, a muslim, a pagan, an atheist or an agnostic has the right to be fully protected by the state and by the laws of our land from sexual predators, sexual deviants, statutory rapists, unrepentant perverts and child molestors. That much we ought to be able to achieve and we ought to insist on. We are meant to protect our children and not bed them.
Like I said earlier on elsewhere in this debate, even animals don't sleep with their own infants. Some may hate me for these words today but I speak nothing but the truth and tomorrow the people will thank me for it. In the heat of this debate my dear wife, Pastor Regina Fani-Kayode, made a pertinent assertion. She said ''knowledge comes to those who seek it''. This is wisdom and I would suggest that our muslim brothers and sisters that share Yerima's views on child marriage and that seek to defend those views on religious grounds like my respected sister Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, whose article titled ''Early Marriage?'' I read with great interest, learn a little from this deep truism. Perhaps they could also learn one or two things from the following press report in a newspaper just last week which reflects the views of one of the most respected leaders and islamic scholars in that Saudi Arabia. The report reads as follows-
''Saudi sheikh says child marriages are no longer justifiable -Prophet Mohammed's marriage to young Aisha "cannot be equated with child marriages today because the conditions and circumstances are not the same".
A member of Saudi Arabia's highest religious body has said that Prophet Mohammed's marriage to a nine-year-old girl does not justify marrying minor children today because circumstances have changed in the intervening 14 centuries. The comments by Sheikh Abdullah al Manie, who sits on the Council of Senior Ulema, follows other recent public criticisms of child marriage, suggesting the government may be preparing public opinion for legislation setting a minimum marriage age.
"They want to prepare the public to understand that the old days are not like today," said Mekhlef al Shammary, a human rights advocate in Dammam. "It's a crime to give a 12-year-old to be a mother and wife. "This is ridiculous. Even in Islam it's not acceptable because the girl is not mature enough. She's a child - she's not ready for sexual relations." The marriage of young girls, often to much older men, has been at the forefront of public debate in Saudi Arabia for a couple of years. It escalated early last year after it was reported that a man had contracted to give his eight-year-old daughter in marriage to a 47-year-old man in order to pay a financial debt. The contract was annulled after a public outcry.
Sheikh al Manie is believed to be the most senior cleric to unequivocally denounce the practice of child marriage. Prophet Mohammed's marriage to young Aisha "cannot be equated with child marriages today because the conditions and circumstances are not the same", he said in remarks published in the Saudi Gazette and Okaz newspapers on Thursday. "It is a grave error to burden a child with responsibilities beyond her years," the sheikh said. "Marriage should be put off until the wife is of a mentally and physically mature age and can care for both herself and her family."
Sheikh al Manie's comments came a few days after Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al Obaikan urged legislation making marriage illegal for girls under 18.
Waivers might be given in some cases by judges or the royal court, he added, according to reports in the same newspapers. Sheikh al Obaikan said the marriage of minors was a "grave error" and cautioned parents to "fear Allah and not marry their daughters by force" to men they do not want to wed''.
Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima, Professor Ishaq Akintola and all those that continuosly give the impression that child marriage is acceptable in islam and who erroneously believe that the honest criticism of such an abominable practice is an attack on their faith surely have much to learn from the contribution of this erudite Saudi Arabian leader and scholar. As a matter of fact we all do and it is contributions like that that make the rest of us appreciate what a beautiful religion islam really is when its tenets are properly understood and applied. Permit me to end this essay by sharing a few poignant words that my dear sister Mrs. Toyin FaniKayode-Bajela wrote in a moving piece titled ''You Who Support Child Marriage'' from London just last week. She wrote-
''You who for whatever 'solid and noble' reason have chosen to agree with legitimised child slavery, sexual abuse, psychological, emotional, physical and financial abuse under the guise of marriage. You who are silent about it or couldn't care less as it's not a topic worthy of inclusion in the constitutional review. All of you have freedom to choose your position on this issue- the freedom to wax lyrical, or not so lyrical, as is most often the case, on this issue. You enjoy the freedom to hold and have your own opinion. The freedom to air your opinion irrespective of whether l care for that opinion or not.
A girl child has no choice. A girl child has no opinion that anyone will listen to - a girl child learns quickly the horrific consequencesof her unwanted opinion and her only goal is silent survival or only choice suicide. There is no point in appealing to an iota of empathy in you that agree with child marriage for whatever 'noble', 'altruistic' or patriarchal 'reason' as time and time again, on issue after issue, day after day, we are reminded that you have none. Everything is reduced to politics, religion and gain - financially or otherwise. For those of you who think we have spoken-'too much grammar' on this isssue- you are darn right. I have just enough (grammar ) to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves or those for whom the consequences ofspeaking out would be unspeakable, but not too little grammar that l might be tempted to stay silent''.
My heart missed a beat and a tear came to my eye when I read this and I commend Toyin for her admonitions to us all and for her touching words. I also commend Roz Ben Okagbue, Hanatu Musawa, Maryam Uwais, Stella Damasus, Aisha Osori, Helen Oviagbele, Oby Ezekwezile, Bisi Fayemi, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Gbemisola Saraki and the many other leading women that have stood up and made their voices heard through their articles, actions, concerns and various commentries on the girl-child and child marriage issue in what is essentially a deeply conservative, insensitive, anti-progressive and male-dominated country and society which really does not offer much sympathy or hope to the plight of women generally let alone that of the girl-child and infant bride.
Let me give a couple of examples of that insensitivity and our misplaced priorities. In Yerima's own northern region no less than 93 per cent of girls do not complete secondry school education and 70 per cent of women between the ages of 20 and 29 cannot read or write. Worst still the region has no-less than 47 per cent of the recorded vesico vagina fistula (VVF) cases (a terrible diesease which is caused by child-sex, child marriage and child-pregnancies) in the entire world. According to our Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs. Zainab Maina, Nigeria has 800,000 cases of VVF and we are adding 20,000 cases each year. All these cases are situated in the northern part of the country. Such a diseases, such suffering, such illiteracy and such high levels of poverty of the mind and soul should have no place in any part of our great nation in this day and age. Our people, whether they be from the north or the south, christian or muslim, young or old and men or women, surely deserve better than that. After all we are living in the 21st century and not the 6th. Yet sadly these vices are more rampant in Yerima's own northern region and constituency than anywhere else in the country and instead of attempting to improve on the lot, the education and quality of lives of the good people of the north all he thinks about is marrying little girls and bedding them. What a man and what a country.Outside of this contribution I have nothing more to say on this vexed and contentious issue of the horrendous plight of the girl-child and child marriage in Nigeria.
''The claim that the igbo helped to develop Lagos is hogwash. The major institutions of the south-west were developed by the diligence, hard-work, industry and sweat of the yoruba people. This is a historical fact''- Femi Fani-Kayode
I posted these words on my facebook wall as a fall out from the hot debate that was generated after the relocation from Lagos to Anambra of 19 igbo destitutes by the Lagos State Government and Governor Fashola. Immediately after the posting all hell broke loose on my wall and all sorts of exciteable and emotion-laden comments and assertions were made on the thread. I welcome each and every one of those comments including those that accused me of being a tribalist and a yoruba nationalist. That is the spirit of debate and we cannot all possibly agree on everything. Needless to say I stand by every word that I wrote in the post and those that do not share my view are free to hold their own opinion. My assertion is based on history and knowledge and not emotion. The facts are clear and the records speak for themselves. I will go no further than that because it is about time that Nigerians from the younger generation learnt to do their own research and to study their own history. I will not allow the mob mentality or the wild emotions of others to becloud my thinking or to intimidate me into distorting the truth.
The igbo had little to do with the extraordinary development of Lagos between 1880 right up until today. That is a fact. Other than Ajegunle, Computer Village, Alaba and buying up numerous market stalls in Isale Eko where and what is their input? Meanwhile the yoruba of the old Western Region and Lagos were very gracious to them and not only allowed them to return after the civil war to claim their properties and jobs but also welcomed them with open arms and allowed them to flourish in our land. This is something that they have never done for our people in the east. Such gestures of love and fraternity were never reciprocated. Now some of them have the effontry to call Lagos which is our land and the land of our forefathers (I am half Lagosian) ''no-man's land'' and others have the nerve to assert that up to 50 per cent of the development in Lagos came as a consequence of the input of the igbo. This is utter rubbish.
Those that do not know any better ought to go and learn rather than vent their hostilities and ignorance against me here or on my facebook wall. I am not a tribalist but a great believer in Nigeria and more importantly I am a historian and a student of history. I will not distort the facts of history just to keep some people happy. The history of the yoruba and of Lagos particularly is very well known to me and the fact that Lagosians and the yoruba people generally are so generous and accomodating in their ways and to non-indegenees that settle in their territory should not be mistaken for ignorance, stupidity or weakness. We know our history, we know who we are, we know who and what developed our land and made it into what it is and we urge those that yearn to be like us to go and emulate our efforts and attitude to non-indigenees and hard work in their own states of origin.
I have nothing against my fellow Nigerians from other parts of the country and I have proved over and over again that I love Nigeria and that I am a Nigerian before anything else. However if, in the twisted imagination of some, speaking the truth about the history and development of Lagos and the Western Region makes me a tribalist, then tribalist I am. Servants of truth do not fear such labels and are often hated and misunderstood. If I was worried about what others thought of me I would have stopped writing long ago.
Meanwhile permit me to recommend to all and sundry to read and learn from the following words of an insightful Nigerian by the name of Mr. Sina Fagbenro-Byron. He has had the courage to analyse the matter in a very honest, clear and forthright manner and he has spoken the truth. Let us hope that those that have no knowledge of that truth are humble enough to learn from it. He wrote-
''It has become a recent habit by a number of our young Igbo brethren to refer to Lagos as a 'no-man's land. The great Zik, Mbadiwe, Mbonu Ojike, Ajuluchukwu, Opara etc would never have made such statements as they knew better. It is not only unfair but in extremely bad taste apart from the fact that it is historically false. How can you call a land that has had over 400 years of traditional rulership and cultural definition as a no man's land.? It shows contempt for the indigenes, ingratitude of hospitality and a betrayal of ones host. The late Herbert Macauley( a Yoruba Lagosian) on his dying bed endorsed Zik as successor leader of the NCNC because of his nationalism, intellectual sagacity and it was endorsed by a group of Yoruba elders and not by any Igbo population who is anycase were infinitesimal as at the time, for Chinua Achebe records in his book, and we can roughly confirm that there were not more than a few thousand Igbos in Lagos before the civil war. So after having been received, accomodated by their host Yorubas since the 1940s a generation that is ignorant of history and careless of historical relationship refer to Lagos as no mans land, this attitude is the cause of the perenial Jos crisis amongst others. When the military stopped the teaching of history in schools in the 1980s, we knew that by allowing them we courted confusion, but it was deliberate. Up til1968 , Mushin, Apapa, Ikeja, were all part of the Western Region. The English treaty was with the Oba of Eko Ile,(Lagos). Lagos traditional families all are Yoruba and the founder of Eko was Ogunfunminire who migrated from Ife before the 16th century. Lagos traditional Obaship was confirmed on behalf of the Oduduwa dynasty. If we consider it unfair to call Igbo property 'abandoned property' after the civil war, why should they refer to another mans backyard as no man's land. Lagos had been the commercial nerve center of West Africa befor Nigeria was created and this was attributable to the welcoming attitude of coastal Yorubas, which was first betrayed by the Portugese who introduced slave trade, the Kiriji war and the 100 year Yoruba civil war of 1769-1869 also saw a huge population from the other Yoruba Hinterland moving to Lagos to procure salt, guns,seek out their frred slave brethren etc and these led to the growth of Lagos. Since independence and after the civil war other Nigerians have made Lagos a home for themselves , but none have been so unkind as to call Lagos a no mans land. Igbos who say this and claim credit for the development of Lagos shouls remember that the first Industrial Estate in Nigeria was built by Awolowo in Ikeja as Premier of the West and the Western house on Broad street has significant historical importance. I would urge my Igbo brethren not to make true the words of Sardauna when he described the Igbos as having a tendency to come in as visitors and seek to claim ownership to the excusion of indigens, if Onitcha or Abakaliki is not no mans land why should Lagos be. Imagine how our Niger Delta brethren will feel if we refer to their space on God's earth as no mans Land?''
Fagbemi-Byron has hit the nail on the head and I wholeheartedly commend him for his courage. Frankly I could not have put it better myself. How I wish that more of those that are in the younger generation today would indulge in the type of research and scholarship that this man has obviously done. He, and those that value truth and knowledge like him, are the true Nigerians and thankfully I believe that there are many like him in every tribe and nationality in this great country. May God grant them the courage to speak out and cure the ignorant of their ignorance. Permit me to end this contribution by sharing a small and important contribution to the debate from Mr. Shola Adebowale whose deep wisdom and understanding of contemporary issues never fail to astound me. He wrote-
''Some have pointed out that Lagos was not developed 'by the Yoruba money' but rather 'that Lagos State was built (from ) oil money'. My take on this is as follows. Socrates said "there is only one evil- IGNORANCE". Any contemporary student of the history of evolution of city-state in Nigeria ,knows very well that the following city-states were not developed from oil wealth or from fossil fuel- Lagos, Ibadan, Enugu, Aba, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Benin,Sokoto, Kaduna, Jos..etc.. These are all city-states that had developed first class socio-political and economic wealth with transatlantic and trans-Saharan trade (from oil palm ,rubber, groundnut, cocoa, coal, tin, hides and skin, etc) even before Count Bismarck's Berlin Confrences's scramble and colonization of Africa, with structural , infrastructure and landmarks, as attestation of being dated beyond 60 years old, at the very least. Meanwhile,oil was discovered first in 1952(Ogogoro) and then in 1956(Oloibiri), both by SPDC and it was not a money-spinner for Nigeria until 1973. This was triggered by the paucity of supply of oil in the international market during the 6 days war in the Middle East and a major fulcrum of global economy,wealth and power in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Issues like this , should not have turned into another issue like the proverbial 'chicken-and-egg situation' to know which one comes first ,if and only if ,we are really sincere and honest and are prepared to stick to the simple chronology of history. Simple logic- any city- state in Nigeria that was well established before the 1973 oil wealth was not made from oil wealth, unless we are saying that the super-mega structures like Cocoa House(1st Sky scrapper in Africa) ,or those in Marina/Broad Streets, Liberty stadium(1st in Africa), Ilupeju/Ikeja industrial estates(1st in Africa)etc,etc are less than 40 years old, i.e when oil became the main stay of our national economy. Socrates said ''there is only one good-KNOWLEDGE''. I think we have over-flogged some of these issues for long enough. Ignorance is the greatest undoing of this nation''.
Mr. Shola Adebowale is absolutely right. May God deliver Nigeria
Permit me to make my second and final contribution to the raging debate about Lagos, who owns it and the seemingly endless tensions that exist between the igbo and the yoruba. It is amazing how one or two of the numerous nationalities that make up Nigeria secretly wish that they were yoruba and consistently lay claim to Lagos as being partly theirs. Have they forgotten where they came from? I have never heard of a yoruba wanting to give the impression to the world that he is an igbo, an ijaw, an efik or a hausa-fulani or claiming that he is a co-owner of Port Harcourt, Enugu, Calabar, Kano or Kaduna. Yet more often than not some of those that are not of yoruba extraction but that have lived in Lagos for some part of their lives have tried to claim that they are bona fide Lagosians and honorary members of the yoruba race. Clearly it is time for us to answer the nationality question. These matters have to be settled once and for all. 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. The day that the yoruba are allowed to lay claim to exactly the same rights and privilages that the indegenous people in non-yoruba states and zones enjoy and the day they can operate freely and become commissioners and governors in the Niger Delta states, the north, the Middle Belt and the south-east we may reconsider our position. But up until then we shall not do so. Lagos is not a ''no-man's land'' but the land and heritage of the yoruba people. Others should not try to claim what is not theirs.
I am not involved in this debate for fun or for political gain and I am not participating in it to play politics but rather to speak the truth, to present the relevant historical facts to those that wish to learn and to educate the uninformed. That is why I write without fear or favour and that is why I intend to be thoroughly candid and brutally frank in this essay. And I am not too concerned or worried about what anyone may think or how they may feel about what I am about to say because I am a servant of truth and the truth must be told no matter how bitter it is and no matter whose ox is gored. That truth is as follows. The yoruba, more than any other nationality in this country in the last 100 years, have been far too accomodating and tolerant when it comes to their relationship with other nationalities in this country and this is often done to their own detriment. That is why some of our igbo brothers can make some of the sort of asinine remarks and contributions that a few of them have been making in this debate both in the print media and in numerous social media portals and networks ever since Governor Fashola ''deported'' 19 igbo destitutes back to Anambra state a while ago. In the last 80 years the igbo have been shown more generosity, accomodation, warmth and kindness and given more opportunities and leverage by the yoruba than they have been offered by ANY other ethnic group in Nigeria. This is a historical fact. The yoruba do not have any resentment for the igbo and we have allowed them to do in our land and our territory what they have never allowed us to do in theirs. This has been so for 80 long years and it is something that we are very proud of. As I said elsewhere recently, to be accomodating and generous is a mark of civilisation and it comes easily to people that once had empires. The reason why many of our people take strong exception to the apparant outrage of the igbo over this ''deportation'' issue and the provocative comments of my friend and brother Chief Orji Uzor Kalu when he described Lagos as being a ''no man's land'' is because the igbo have not only taken us for granted but they have also taken liberty for licence.
We cannot be expected to tolerate or accept that sort of irreverant and unintelligent rubbish simply because we still happen to believe in ''one Nigeria'' and we will not sacrifice our rights or prostitute our principles on the alter of that ''one Nigeria''. Whether Nigeria is one or not, what is ours is ours and no-one should test our resolve or make any mistake about that. ''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. It is that same attitude of ''we own everything'', ''we must have everything'' and ''we must control everything'' that the igbo settlers manifested in the northern region in the late 50's and early and mid-60's that got them into so much trouble up there with the hausa fulani and that eventually led to the terrible pogroms where almost one hundred thousand of them were killed in just a few days. Again it is that same attitude that they manifested in Lagos and the Western Region in the late '30's and the early and mid-40's that alienated the yoruba from them, that led to the establishment of the Action Group in April, 1951 and that resulted in the narrow defeat of Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe in the Western Regional elections of December, 1951.
As a matter of fact they were the ones that FIRST introduced tribalism into southern politics in 1945 with the unsavoury comments of Mr. Charles Dadi Onyeama who was a member of the Central Legislative Council representing Enugu and who said at the Igbo State Union address that ''the domination of Nigeria and Africa by the igbo is only a matter of time''. This single comment made in that explosive and historic speech did more damage to southern Nigerian unity than any other in the entire history of our country and everything changed from that moment on. To make matters worse, in July 1948 Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe made his own openly tribal and incendiary speech, again at the Igbo State Union, in which he spoke about the ''god of the igbo'' eventually giving them the leadership of Nigeria and Africa. These careless and provocative words cost him dearly and put a nail in the coffin of the NCNC in the Western Region from that moment on. This was despite the fact that that same NCNC, which was easily the largest and most powerful political party in Nigeria at the time, had been founded and established by a great and illustrious son of the yoruba by the name of Mr. Herbert Macauly. Macauly, like most of the yoruba in his day, saw no tribe and he happily handed the leadership of the party over to Azikiwe, an igbo man, in 1945 when he was on his dying bed. How much more can the yoruba do than that when it comes to being blind to tribe? Can there be any greater evidence of our total lack of racial prejudice and tribal sentiments than that? If the NCNC had been founded and established by an igbo man would he have handed the whole thing over to a yoruba on his death bed? I doubt it very much.
Again when northern military officers mutineed, effected their ''revenge coup'' and went to kill the igbo military Head of State, General Aguiyi-Ironsi on July 29th 1966 in the old Western Region, his host, the yoruba Col. Fajuyi (who was military Governor of the Western Region at the time), insisted that they would have to kill him first before taking Aguiyi-Ironsi's life and the northern officers (led by Major T.Y. Danjuma as he then was) promptly obliged him by slaughtering him before killing Aguiyi-Ironsi. How many igbos know about that and how many times in our history have they made such sacrifices for the yoruba? Would Aguiyi-Ironsi, or any other igbo officer, have stood for Fajuyi, or any other yoruba officer, and sacrificed his life for him in the same way that Fajuyi did had the roles been reversed? I doubt it very much. Yet instead of being grateful the igbo continuously run us down, blame us for all their woes, envy our educational advantages and resent us deeply for our ability to excel in the professions and commerce. Unlike them we were never traders but we were (and still are) industrialists and when it comes to the professions we were producing lawyers, doctors, accountants and university graduates at least three generations before they ever did. That is the bitter truth and they have been trying to catch up with us ever since. For example the first yoruba lawyer Christopher Alexander Sapara Williams was called to the English Bar in 1879 whilst the first igbo lawyer, Sir Louis Mbanefo, was called to the English bar in 1937. Again the first yoruba medical practitioner, Dr. Nathaniel King, graduated in 1875 from the University of Edinburgh whilst the first igbo medical practitioner, Dr. Akannu Ibiam, graduated from another Scottish University in 1935.
Yet despite all this and all that they have been through over the years and despite their terrible experiences in the civil war we are witnessing that same attitude of ''we must control all'', ''we must own all'' and ''we must have all'' rearing its ugly head again today when it comes to their attitude to the issue of the deportations from Lagos state and when you consider the comments of the Orji Kalu's of this world about the igbo supposedly ''owning Lagos'' with the yoruba and supposedly ''generating 55 per cent of the state's revenue''. It is most insulting. And I must say that it is wrong and unfair for anyone to lay the blame for the perenniel suspicion and underlying tensions that lie between the two nationalities on the yoruba because that is far from the truth. We are not the problem, they are. Pray tell me, in the whole of Nigeria who treated the igbo better than the yoruba after the civil war and who gave them somewhere to run to where they could regain all their ''abandoned property'' and feel at home again? Who encouraged them to return to Lagos and the west and who saved the jobs that they held before the civil war for them to come back to when the war ended? No other tribe or nationality did all that for them in the country- only the yoruba did so. And the people of the old Mid-West and the Eastern minorities (who make up the zone that is collectively known as the ''south-south' today) have always viewed them with suspicion, have always feared them and have always resented them deeply. From the foregoing any objective observer can tell that we the yoruba have always played our part when it comes to accomodating others. This is particularly so when it comes to the igbo who we have always had a soft spot for and who we have always regarded as brothers and sisters. It is time that those ''others'' also play their part by acquiring a little more humility, by knowing and accepting their place in the scheme of things and by desisting from giving the impression that they own our territory or that they made us what we are.
Now let us look at a few historical facts and one or two more igbo ''firsts' that many may not be familiar with to butress the point. The igbo people were the FIRST to carry out a failed coup on the night of Jan 15th, 1966 under the leadership of Major Emmanuel Ifejuna, Major Chukuma Kaduna Nzeogwu, Major Christian Anuforo, Capt. Ben Gbulie, Major Timothy Onwatuegwu, Major Donatus Okafor, Capt. Ude, Capt. Emmanuel Nwobosi, Captain Udeaja, Lt. Okafor, Lt. Okocha, Lt. Anyafulu, Lt. Okaka, Lt. Ezedigbo, Lt. Amunchenwa, Lt. Nwokedi, 2nd Lt. J.C. Ojukwu, 2nd Lt. Ngwuluka, 2nd Lt. Ejiofor, 2nd Lt. Egbikor, 2nd Lt. Igweze, 2nd Lt. Onyefuru, 2nd Lt. Nwokocha, 2nd Lt. Azubuogu and 2nd Lt. Nweke in which they drew FIRST blood and openly slaughtered and butchered leadiing politicians and army officers from EVERY single zone in the country except their own. I should also mention that even though this was clearly an igbo coup there was one yoruba officer who was amongst the ringleaders by the name of Major Adewale Ademoyega. It was a very bloody night indeed. Amongst those killed were the Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, the Premier of the Western Region, Chief S.L. Akintola, the Premier of the Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Federal Minister of Finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Brigadier Zakari Maimalari, Brigadier Samuel Ademulegun, Colonel Ralph Shodeinde, Lt . Colonel James Yakubu Pam, Lt. Colonel Abogo Largema and numerous others. They did not just kill these reverred and respected leaders but in some cases they mocked, tortured and maimed them before doing so, took pictures of their dead and mutilated bodies and killed their wives and children as well. For weeks after these horrific acts were carried out the igbo people rejoiced and celebrated them in the streets and markets of the north, openly displaying pictures and posters of the Saurdana's mutilated body with Nzeogwu's boot on his neck, loudly playing a famous and deeply offensive anti-northern song in which northerners were compared to goats and listening to it on their radios, jubilating that they had brought an end to what they described as ''northern rule and islamic domination'' and openly boasting that they themselves would now ''rule Nigeria forever''. Though the first coup failed the matter did not end there.
The very next day after the Jan.15th mutiny and butchery had failed and did noit result in Ifejuana taking power in Lagos, the igbo people set their ''plan B'' in motion and they were the FIRST to carry out a successful coup in Nigeria just one day later on Jan. 17th 1966. This was when the igbo Major-General J.T,U. Aguiyi-Ironsi (who was Supreme Commander of the Nigerian Army and who had inexplicably and suspiciously not been murdered by the young igbo officers in their violent mutiny and killing spree the night before) in collusion with the igbo Acting President Nwafor Orizu and the entire igbo political leadership of that day, invited the remnants of Sir Tafawa Balewa's cabinet to a closed door meeting, threatened their lives and took power from them at the point of a gun. Aguiyi-Ironsi did not just ask them to give him power but he took it from them by force by telling them that he could not guarantee their safety if they refused to do so. Meanwhile Orizu point blank refused to do his duty as Acting President and swear in Zana Bukar Dipcharimma as the Acting Prime Minster when the members of the cabinet and the British Ambassador (who was also at the meeting) implored him to do so since by that time there was a power vacuum because the Prime Minister, Sir Tafawa Balewa, had gone missing and had probably been murdered. It was in these very suspicious circumstances and as a consequence of this murky and deep-seated igbo conspiaracy that General Aguiyi-Ironsi came to power. Amongst those that were present at that famous ''meeting'' that are still alive today are Alhaji Maitama Sule, Chief Richard Akinjide and President Shehu Shagari who were all Ministers in Balewa's cabinet . Those that doubt the veracity of my account of this meeting would do well to ask any of them exactly what transpired during that encounter.
Yet the seeming success of the conspiracy was short-lived. Only six months later, on July 29th 1966, General Aguiyi-Ironsi and no less than 300 igbo army officers reaped the consequences of their actions and plot when they were all slaughtered in just one night during the northern officers revenge coup which was led by Lt. Colonel Murtala Mohammed, Major Abba Kyari, Captain Martins Adamu, Major T.Y. Danjuma, Major Musa Usman, Captain Joseph Garba, Captain Shittu Alao, Captain Baba Usman, Captain Gibson S.Jalo and Captain Shehu Musa Yar'adua as they then were. Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon was put in power by this group after that and a few weeks later between September 29th 1966 and the middle of October of that same year approximately 50,000 igbo civilians were attacked and slaughtered in a series of horrendous pogroms in the north by violent northern mobs as a reprisal for the killing of the northern leaders, including Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Saurdana of Sokoto, by Major Nzeogwu, Major Ifejuna and other junior igbo officers on the night of Jan. 15th 1966. Please note that despite the fact that a number of yoruba leaders were killed on that night as well no igbo civilians were massacred anywhere in the west by mobs in reprisal killings throughout that period.
The igbos understandably left the north in droves after those terrible pogroms and fled back to the east from whence they came. And perhaps that would have been the end of ithe story but for the fact that they also declared secession and sought to dismember Nigeria. They then made their biggest mistake of all by provoking a full scale military conflict with Nigeria when they launched a vicious and unprovoked attack against the rest of the south attacking and conscripting the eastern minorities , storming the Mid-West and attempting to enter yorubaland through Ore to capture it. Thankfully they were stopped in their tracks by the gallant efforts and courageous fighting skills of the Third Marine Commando (which was primarily a yoruba force and which was under the command of the great Colonel Benjamin Adekunle, 'the Black Scorpion'), prevented from entering the west, driven out of the Mid-West, pushed back into the East, defeated in battle after battle and were eventually brought down to their knees and forced to surrender to the Federal forces in Enugu. The igbo and their Biafra fought Nigeria and killed Nigerians for 3 hard years in that brutal civil war in which over one million courageous, loyal and faithful sons and daughters of the Federal Republic lost their lives at the war front trying to stop Biafra from seceeding from the federaration, from taking our land and from taking the minority groups of the Mid-Western Region and Eastern Region and our newly-discovered oil with them. Yet despite our massive casualties and the monuemental loss of life that the Federal side suffered (a total of 2 million died on both sides) the igbo people were welcomed back into Nigeria after the war with open arms. Yet it was only in yorubaland and especially in Lagos that they were given all their ''abandoned property'' back and welcomed back as brothers and sisters without any reservations or suspicions whatsoever. Everywhere else in the country for many years they were denied, deprived, shunned, attacked, killed, discriminated against and humiliated but never in the southwest or Lagos. It is the igbo people more than any other that have complained about marginalisation in Nigeria, forgetting that there is no other country in the world in which there was a major civil war and yet only 10 years after that war ended the losing side produced the Vice President for the whole country in a democratic election in 1979 in the distinguished person of Vice President Alex Ekwueme.
Some have described my submissions in this debate as being ''inflammatory'' and have claimed that I am ''not a true progressive'' for making them. I reject these labels and I wonder whether those people that conjured them up described the comments of my dear friend and brother Chief Orji Kalu as "inflammatory" and whether they labelled him as ''not being a true progressive" when he erroneously claimed that the igbo generated 55 per cent of the revenue and owned 55 per cent of businesses in Lagos and that they are effectively the owners of the state. Unlike most of those that are attempting to label me and brand me as a tribalist I know the history of Lagos and the yoruba very well. We will not let anyone poison the minds of our yoruba youth or dispossess them of their heritage by keeping silent when we witness the irresponsible and dishonest propagation of the most desperate and despicable form of historical revisionism that some igbo leaders are suddenly churning out. If anyone thinks that they can intimidate us into keeping quite when their leaders say such things then they will have the biggest shocker of their lives. We shall not be silenced and they shall not pass. Lagos and the yoruba generally have much stronger historical, cultural and trading ties with the bini, the itsekiri, the uruhobo, the isoko, the hausa-fulani, the tapas, the nupes and the ijaws than they do with the igbo. The input of those other major ethnic groups to the development of Lagos and their stake in her is far greater than that of the igbo. Whether anyone wishes to accept it or not that is the bitter truth. We will not let anyone distort history and we will not keep silent when we hear the irresponsible and disrespectful effusions of those that seek to substitute truth with falsehood. When it comes to Lagos it is time that everyone respected themselves and knew their place. The igbo particularly should display a much higher degree of respect and gratitude to those who were gracious enough to accept them in their land as equals when things were very difficult for them and who treated them with love, respect and kindness after the civil war when hardly anyone else was prepared to do so.
We the yoruba have accomodated others in Lagos and throughout the south west and we have let them live in peace for the last 100 years. As a matter of fact we have been glad to do so because as far as we are concerned that is one of the hallmarks of civilisation- the ability to accomodate other faiths, other cultures, other races and other nationalities and to create an equitable and just racial melting pot where equal opportunities are available to all. It is a great and noble virtue to be open and tolerant but that does not mean that we are fools and it does not mean that we do not know who we are, where we are coming from, what is ours and what our heritage is. The fact that we have allowed others to thrive and settle in our land and share it with us does not mean that we have stopped owning that land. The suggestion that Lagos is a ''no-man's land' and that the igbo or any other nationality outside the yoruba generate up to 55 per cent of it's revenue or business is absolutely absurd and frankly it has no basis in reality or rationality. It is not only a dirty lie but it is also very insulting. Guests, no matter how welcome, esteemed, cherished and valued they are, cannot become the owners of the house no matter how comfortable they are made to feel within it. Those guests will always be guests. Lagos belongs to the yoruba and to the yoruba alone. ALL others that reside there are guests, though some guests are far closer to us than others. The igbos are the least close, the most distant and the least familiar with our customs and our ways. They ought to be the last to be claiming our heritage and coveting our land and neither can they claim to have made any real input to our glaring success. For them to think otherwise is nothing but delusion.