I was young in 1967 when the Yorubas met in Ibadan to deliberate and articulate their position on the future of Nigeria. The meeting took place shortly after the release of Chief Awolowo and the other 9 jailed with him from various prisons across Nigeria in which they were locked in. Taking care of Awo at the Calabar prison who as Police Officer was Chief Fente of Ogolomabiri in Nembe, Bayelsa. I have visited his tomb and that of his wife, the mother of Chief Professor Fente. I am also grateful to Chief Feghabo, the Chairman of Nembe Council of Chiefs who presented me with a bottle of wine in his house and gifts at the Teri Paka of his sister. The 1967 Ibadan summit of the Yorubas was presided over by Chief Awolowo and at that summit, Awolowo was elected the Asiwaju of the Yorubas, the only person so elected till date signalling an end to the Yoruba fractious behaviour. And for the first time, the whole Yoruba race, starting from Lokoja (Katunga) to Jebba (Bode Saadu) to Ogori Magogo, to Ososo, Lampese in Akoko Edo, up to Jekiri (Itsekiri) down to Lagos were United as a fist. At the conference, Chief Awolowo made the statement which was interpreted as a statement of support by a section of the country ‘if, by commission or omission, the East is allowed to go, the West will follow”. At the Yoruba summit, the Yorubas made demands on the Gowon led Federal Government.
1: All non-Yoruba troops must leave
2: The West must not be used as a
launchpad against the East.
Gowon complied. The Midwest, now Edo and Delta and the Yorubaland were never used to launch a war on the Eastern Region until the Biafran army invaded the Midwest through Asaba and threatened Ore through Ohosu/Ofosu.
The second event that turned the tide of opinion in the WEST against the EAST was the spate of bombings carried out in Lagos on critical infrastructures like Carter Bridge and Casino Cinema, Ebute-Meta by one Ugwu who tried to drag Yorubaland into the impending war. While Lagos is Yoruba, Midwest till date remains part of Yoruba geopolitical area of influence. It is apposite at this point to mention that an Ebubedike who represented Badagry Division in the Western Region House of Assembly was responsible for the breaking of the mace and the shout of fire, fire in the house, a percussor to the crises in the West. At the end of the Yoruba summit, Chief AWOLOWO went on a peace shuttle to the East. He led a delegation that included Chief Demas Akpore, the then immediate past Governor of Midwest and Professor Sam Aluko. At the Awo meeting with Ojukwu, Ojukwu said that no force in black Africa can defeat Biafra, “Because of the demand of Yorubas led by Chief Awolowo and the belief that the contest was purely between allies who are now enemies, the shooting war started in Otukpa near OboloAfor in today’s Ebonyi and Gakem near Ogoja in today’s Cross River State and not from West or Midwest. On the Nigerian side, the battle was led by Major General Mohammed Mohammed Shuwa and from Calabar and Bonny by ADEKUNLE, the black scorpion. While Adekunle’s father was Yoruba from Ogbomoso, the mother was Bachama from today’s Adamawa. Colonel Madiebo who in Kaduna along with Ojukwu in Kano sabotaged the January 1966 highly popular Nzeogu coup led the Biafran side with Hilary Njoku as the Chief of Staff of the Biafran Army. Within 90 days of the war, the Nigerian Army had entered Enugu and cleared most of what is called Cross River today and established presence in Port Harcourt. When Ojukwu made his pronouncement of ‘no force in black Africa can defeat Biafra, he did not reckon with the followings:
1: A hostile minority whose land
mass is 3times larger than his own
core 28,000km2 area;
2: That his territory was dependent
on the currency of his adversary
for his military hardware
3: His core area lack of access to the
sea or any international borders;
4: His lack of food and basic needs.
The situation has not changed till today.
When Nigeria changed its currency, created States, created a no flying zone, cleared the food basket areas of Ogoja, Abakaliki, Uguleri and Umuleri, the war was over and was continued out of pride which imposed a lot of suffering on the Biafran populace. The defeat of Biafra was blamed by the Biafrans on Awo and by extension the Yorubas, instead of Biafrans taking responsibility for Ojukwu’s lack of strategic planning on how to achieve victory. While the North led Federal Government had clear
eye on how to achieve victory, the Biafrans had none. To assuage the feelings of the Yorubas, Ironsi failed to release Awo and his associates, but with his advisers busy on how to impose hegemony on the rest of the country. Ironsi had 7 months to release Awo but failed. Gowon on his part, within 30days of becoming Head of State, released Awo and his associates, provided presidential jet that conveyed Awo from Calabar to Lagos and personally met Awo at the Presidential wing of the Ikeja Airport. With that strategic thinking though simple on the surface, Gowon got the critical support of the Yorubas. People like Anele, a Professor of philosophy at Unilag and Chinua Achebe have always been critical of the Yorubas and Awo for supporting Gowon and the Federal cause. But the same Anele and Achebe failed to criticize their people’s leadership who are incapable of sustaining political marriages. Between 1959 and 1966 Anele, Chinua Achebe and their people’s leadership married to the North, excised the Midwest out of the West in 1963, have the entire Yoruba political leadership roped into treasonable felony charges and jailed in1963, wreaked havoc on the economy of the West, sowed discord among the Yorubas and in 1965 broke the political alliance it had with the West, the same way it could not sustain a filial relationship with the North. But they are incapable of accepting responsibility for the collapse of Biafra which included Ojukwu’s distrust of his fellow Nigerian Army Officers of Igbo extraction whom he incarcerated most of the time and the political leaders he sent into exile. Biafra was a creation of hubris and fear of loss of power by Ojukwu. But the Yorubas unwarrantedly have to be blamed and the entire Yoruba race and leaders labelled as traitors. I have asked repeatedly for the Igbos or Easterners to produce a transcript of the agreement the Yoruba leadership signed with the Ibos or Easterners to support their secession bid/plot. None has been produced till today. The reason, there is none. But there are propaganda and blackmail in abundance. This propaganda and blackmail of Yorubas as traitors have been passed down from generation to generation. It is similar to the allegation that Yorubas are cowards as if there is a war they fought against the Yorubas and won. And what was the result of the war they fought against the Federal Government between 1967 and 1970? The Eastern leadership broke every agreement the West reached with them. For example in 1964, with the entire critical political leadership of the West in confinement, the ACTION GROUP of the West formed an alliance with the Eastern-led NCNC to boycott the 1964 general elections. While the West kept to the agreement and election was boycotted in the West, the East broke it and an election was held in the East. Balewa returned as Prime Minister and Zik returned as titular/ceremonial President. It was the Northern-led Federal Government of Gowon that approached Awo and the West for an alliance. The critical Yoruba leadership studied it along with its military wing, gave conditions which were accepted by the Northern-led Gowon government and the Yorubas provided the intellectual platform for the prosecution of the war when it became inevitable.
In 1979, the East returned to their filial relationship with the North. Zik named himself the beautiful bride. By this appellation, Zik turned his people to a woman that runs from one relationship to another for gratification. The relationship helped stabilise Shagari’s government and by extension saved Ekwueme. By 1981, there was a messy divorce, they ran to the Yorubas for another marriage which produced UPGA. The marriage again collapsed and the 1984 coup took place and no further jumping from one relationship to the other. In 1999 they pitched their tent with PDP of the North because of lack of political platform they could call theirs. The West created its own political platform called, the Alliance for Democracy to decide their destiny. They jumped again and created APGA and PPA. Ojukwu and APGA begged for life and PPA with two states under its belt patricidially killed and they returned to PDP. In 2011, they adopted Jonathan as their son (remember Jonathan adopting ‘Ebele’ and ‘Azikiwe’, for his candidature to have an Igbo semblance). In 2015, APGA broke into two and 1/ 2 joined Yoruba-led APC while the remaining half gasped for life.
The West, the South-South and the North remain consistent. In 2015, a third political alliance between the liberal West and the conservative North produced Osibanjo and hell was let loose.
In 1993, the Yorubas at the height of the June 12/Abiola crises held another summit in Ibadan where it was reiterated that Yorubas will remain in Nigeria but ordered Yoruba Ministers like Ebenezer Babatope, Victoria Osomo, Lateef Jakande etc to resign from the Abacha government. Their refusal in spite of their previous brilliant performance and aides to Awo led to their being consigned to political oblivion. In 2013, the Yorubas held their third political summit at Adamasingba Stadium in Ibadan. Present as observers at the summit were the leadership of Ohaneze and the Ijaws led by Edwin Clark. In the communique produced after the summit, the Yorubas still reiterated their position of ONE NIGERIA. I have gone to this length because of statements emanating from the East alleging support for some amorphous groups agitating for the Oduduwa Republic. Such support is an exercise in futility.
Take it to the bank. YORUBAS WILL NOT LEAVE NIGERIA AND THERE WILL BE NO YORUBA REPUBLIC AND IF THERE IS GOING TO BE ONE, THE SEPARATION WILL BE ON MUTUAL TERMS. We are not against any part of Nigeria that seeks to secede but we shall not be dragged to their grudges and grievances.
We have fought 100-year old civil wars in Yorubaland, some of which are called KIRIJI WAR, IJAIYE WAR, JALUMI WAR. To put an end to the ceaseless wars, the Alaafin then invited the British and an armistice was signed at Igbajo. Yorubaland was not conquered by the British or colonised by force of arms. It was colonisation by mutual agreement. The Ibadan Army and Ekiti parapo Army combined were over 400,000, bigger than any war prosecuting army of the British. We do not want war on our land. We reserve the right to protect our youths. If that gives us the label of cowards, it is not a new invention. THE YORUBAS WILL NOT LEAVE NIGERIA.
Let me also say it loud and clear, ‘Yorubas will have a Presidential Candidate for 2023. We will not dash our right to persons or groups of persons on the altar of undeserved or unmerited sentiments of “it is our turn”.
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