The Igbo/Yoruba Palava: Fallout Of A Faulty Federation
By Olugu Olugu Orji mnia
Made in Aba, weaned in Biafra, re-integrated in Funtua, tutored in Kaduna, tortured in Ife, initiated in Makurdi and enlightened in Abuja: this is the compressed profile of the most Nigerian person I know. While I’ll keep his identity under wraps until the end, I will draw my inspiration from our over five decades of interminable intercourse. I initially considered
the brick bat that followed the ‘deportation’ of Igbo elements from Lagos to Onitsha a welcome generator of comic relief until the duo of Orji Uzor Kalu and Femi Fani-Kayode jumped into the fray. Suddenly, an Igbo/Yoruba ethnic war became a distinct possibility: a war that will be as destructive as it is unnecessary.
Let me state without equivocation that the war of words has little to do with deportation. When people are aggrieved and tensed up, they can balance on trifles to ventilate. Unfortunately, Igbo and Yoruba are equal victims in the maintenance of our crooked federation. A minimum level of synergy between these great peoples will always be sine qua non to Nigeria’s progress. Here is my thesis.
Without belittling the greatness of the other ethnic nationalities that presently constitute Nigeria, the Yoruba and Igbo are the only two that can even contemplate self-government. Through favourable geography and demography, and by their robust involvement in Nigeria’s chequered history, they show themselves to have imbibed the foundational lessons of nation building. That explains why they are quickest to raise an alarm when they suspect territorial encroachment even though I must confess that these so-called territories are becoming more virtual by the day.
Look at the Yoruba for example. Their enviable head start in education will always afford them that little edge. By knowing precisely when and how to be courteous and cautious, they show they know what it takes to undertake a long, promising journey through diverse and sometimes treacherous territories. The Titanic would not have sunk if a Yoruba were at the helm. What others call cowardice is actually what has tided them over the many rough patches in their turbulent voyage. A strong Nigeria will always have a place for a committed Yoruba.
It is said that success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. No group embodies this concept better than the Igbo. Once something is proven to work, they replicate it a million times over. Most of the time, they are not really doing anything ingenious or dubious: they are merely burning the candle at both ends. That’s what sparked the Industrial Revolution and helped China become the world’s second largest economy. Because they also have this rare capacity to put off the pleasure party for as long as necessary, a prosperous Nigeria will always have room for the toiling Igbo.
The Yoruba and Igbo should not be quarrelling: they should be collaborating. Unfortunately, whether by design or default, Nigeria’s faulty structure makes this near impossible. For as long this regime that views ethnic identity with a mixture of disdain and suspicion subsists, and genuine inter-ethnic liaison is treated as poison to national unity, Nigeria will remain grounded. Sadly, the brand of unity being peddled is not unity at all but retrogressive conformity.
Imagine there is a vehicle that can take 250 persons that represent each of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities. Even though all 250 passengers can drive the vehicle, only the driver at any point in time can decide the vehicle’s itinerary, how fast it goes, where it can stop and how long the lay-over will last. The driver also exercises the prerogative of doling out refreshment to whomsoever he fancies, when he chooses and in what quantity and quality he deems fit. In the event that the driver considers a passenger’s presence detrimental to his journey’s plan, such a passenger can be ordered out of the vehicle at any point.
The above scenario depicts how Nigeria is currently run. Becoming the driver is always a do-or-die affair and each time the driver is having a tête-a-tête with another passenger, or a group of passengers are getting warm with each other, the rest become suspicious and understandably jittery. That is why this noisome bleating about marginalization will never subside. It stands to reason that most passengers will never be happy at any point in time.
Another scenario is a Boeing 767 on a flight from Abuja to Lagos configured to take the same 250 passengers. Each of the 250 passengers has a distinct mission to accomplish in Lagos. There might be a man on board who is hurrying to go and see his dying mother or a woman who is seething to catch her philandering husband in one of his out-of-town trysts. It also highly likely there is a child evangelist on a mission to promote girl-child education and a 70-year old member of the National Assembly who is drooling to woo a 12-year old lass. On this one point, their diverse missions agree: to land safely in Lagos.
As long as the flight lasts, none of the passengers will do anything to jeopardize that possibility. What exists between the passengers is unity: functional unity as opposed to the superficially sentimental brand we have been straining to patent. The passengers do not necessarily have to love themselves to have a safe flight to Lagos but each will offer whatever collaborative effort is required to achieve the safe landing that makes everybody happy: passengers and crew. Then they can all go off and achieve their hearts’ desires: evangelization, salutation, salivation or fornication.
Nigeria urgently needs this unity of a flight if we must improve our chances of avoiding a crash. If we insist on continuing our journey in the vehicle, it is only a matter of time before a fatal accident happens.
Personally, my preferred flight option will be one captained by a Yoruba with an in-flight Igbo engineer and co-passengers from all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria!
Now to the identity of my source of inspiration: me, of course. You should have figured that out before now!
OLUGU OLUGU ORJI mnia