Fredrick Lugard had such disdain for Southern Nigerians that it was difficult for him to employ the use of positive words when he talks or writes about them.
In one of his write-ups in 1912, he described the Yoruba thus: “A bunch of merry making tribe along the coast of West Africa.”
If only Lord Lugard was a historian, he would have bothered to find out why the Yoruba make merry.
To my mind, the Yoruba have every reason to make merry, for embedded in their culture is the philosophy that “wisdom is the key to divine success.” History has it that in the 17th and 18th centuries the Binis who were great warriors at the time were spreading into Yoruba land in search of slaves and oppressing the Yoruba. Then, they (Yoruba) heard of the great Jihadist in the North who fought on horsebacks and sent emissaries’ for protection. The modalities were discussed.
The Uthman Dan Fodio’s men stated their conditions, thus: “You must accept Islam”. The Oba at the time accepted but quickly added, “you must leave my kingdom intact and not install an Emir anywhere within our territory.” The deal was struck. Not one Yoruba blood was spilled, and the Binis were restrained. Wisdom. My father’s friend, chief Olalekan from Ogbomosho told us a story about his people in 1973 during the census. He said a lot of his people (Ogbomosho people) lived and work in Northern Nigeria but during census they all return home to be counted, same for registration of voters and ditto for election. That, they have been doing so since 1923. We all know the positive implications of that wisdom.
Since 1947 when the British allowed Nigerians to participate in governance, the Yoruba adopted a principled stand that governs their politics. Till date i.e, “Tiwa ni Tiwa”, West for the Westerners, progress and development for the Yoruba people and Yoruba land. Such great emotional intelligence had made the Yoruba the most successful tribe in Nigeria.
How? The events that led to Africa’s first ever pogrom and subsequently the civil war that destroyed over 1.5 million Igbo was started by a group of young Igbo Army officers who claimed that they wanted to ensure that Awolowo (a Yoruba) became President of Nigeria. For three years that war was fought by Northern Nigerian citizens, together with the Yoruba, and the western world; and just like in the days of the Jihad, not a shut was fired in Yoruba land. In fact, they profited more from the war. The absence of the Igbo created room for them to take over the Federal Civil Service and at the end of the war, the indigenisation decree was passed and the Yoruba bought over the blue-chip companies and today, they control corporate Nigeria. From banking, to insurance to telecom, to big time construction and to manufacturing, etc…
But these are not the reasons I call for the Yoruba to be celebrated. The major thing is there attitude to religion. The Yoruba liberal disposition to religious matters deserve to be advertised and celebrated, particularly at these times in our history as a country. The world needs to know and learn about the Yoruba liberal disposition to religious matters. If Pakistan had this attitude, they would have still been part of India today and with a better economy. If the world preached the Yoruba religious disposition like they preach democracy and human rights, the vicious war in Yugoslavia might not have happened. Eritrea might have remained a part of Ethiopia, Sudan would not have witnessed government induced genocide and subsequent breakup.
East-Timor would have remained in Indonesia. If only the Fulani tribe with their gift at managing men and politics would learn from the Yoruba, Nigeria would not have been conflict-prone, the North/South divide would not exist, the vast land in the North would have been put to proper use, it’s my turn politics would not exist and may be, those who are born to rule would continue to rule to the joy of all.
When late M.K.O Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim contested, in 1993, it was the first time I witnessed a pastor in the open Church campaigning for a presidential candidate. The Senegalese have this Yoruba disposition to religion and they have peace in their land. Another reason to celebrate the Yoruba and use their wisdom as a case study for conflict- prone African states is the economic gains that come to a tribe or country with a strong and achievable mission statement. First, not too long after the amalgamation in 1914, the Yoruba invented a “noble lie” for the sake of unity among themselves. The Noble lie was that they are all descendants of one great giant who fell from the sky called Oduduwa. It worked and the Yoruba bonding started to grow. Then in 1948 during the discussion of the Macpherson constitution, Egbe Omo Oduduwa was formed under the chairmanship of a brilliant lawyer, Sir Adeyemo Alakija. The first paragraph of his speech at the inauguration became the Yoruba mission statement till date.
He said: “Henceforth the Yoruba people will never be relegated to the background in the future. The object of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa is to create and actively foster the idea of a single nationalism throughout Yoruba land and to co-operate with existing ethnic and religious associations in matters of common interest to all Nigerians. We shall oppress no one and would not allow any one to oppress us.”
Since then, the Yoruba race has never deviated from this mission. Government after government have tried their best to ensure that the southwest remains an investment haven.
When the militant in the Niger Delta introduced the new crime of kidnapping, the economy of Lagos state was boosted as all the expatriates in oil business moved from Warri and Port Harcourt to Lagos. Cost of real estate changed to the dollar currency. When their Igbo brothers learnt the crime, they commercialised it, started kidnapping their own brothers, clerics, traditional rulers and kids. The exodus started again, the North was now a no go area, so the South West again welcomes all. While the economy of the South East depletes, that of the South West improves. No Yoruba criminal, for instance, would kidnap an Oba or a cleric. Even, they have rules and no go areas.
Any foreigner who is interested in investing in Nigeria today would not consider the North for obvious reasons and may also not think of the South East for fear for their lives.
While our Northern brothers are busy dealing with their “B.S.E” disease (i.e. Blame Someone Else) by either saying Western education is their problem or that the revenue allocation to Niger Delta is the reason for the killings in the North, the Yoruba of the South West are busy investing heavily in education. They know that knowledge is power. While the Igbo are busy building estates, hotels and market plaza in Abuja and buying up every water logged area of Lagos to build, the Yoruba are building more industries in their land and creating jobs for their children. Wisdom!
I could go on and on. Let us not envy success, let us celebrate the Yoruba and learn from them how to plan for the future of our children. Area boys are decreasing in the South West, while murderers and suicide bombers are increasing in the North and criminals are having a field’s day in the South East and South South. All these losers who would not plan to develop their area, suffer the same B.S.E disease. They call it names like “marginalisation, unfair revenue allocation, western education is bad, resource control, infidels should not rule.” The Yoruba do not suffer that nonsense because they have clearly defined goals.
The Igbo had it under Zik, Okpara, and Akanu Ibiam, but when they left, darkness engulfed them. As for the great Fulani, building a big institution has never been one of their strong pursuits. Building big men is. The South South is a Babel. Mini Nigeria; but with a liberal heart and simple demands. They now seem to be learning fast. The competition for which governor would buy the biggest house in London or Dubai or U.S.A seems to be fading. We hope and pray that their new regional integration policy would work there again, that is what the Yoruba started over 64 years ago. So, if this new regional integration thinking would create jobs and bring development to the South of Nigeria, let us thank the Yoruba for showing the light. The Yoruba have been calling for Sovereign National Conference (SNC) for years and we are not listening. If they ever decide to leave the Nigerian union, it would be seamless. Not a bullet would be fired and the Yoruba would not lose one soul. Wisdom.
“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” Nigeria has no business fighting for power without clearly defined goals of what to do with it positively.
Source & Written By: Oscar Onwudiwe