Senior Research Fellow
Institute of African Studies,
University of Nigeria,
Nigeria’s nationality question is neither the creation of the Igbo nor the Yoruba. It is the consequence of Hausa-Fulani’s megalomaniac quest for political power in the nation. Yet the Hausa-Fulani accept the fact that both the Igbo and Yoruba hold the key to their attainment of this divine-right objective only if both groups agree to remain suspicious of the other. It therefore becomes obvious that the solution to this national question can only be attained if both the Igbo and Yoruba realize that their mutual understanding and respect of the other’s perception of Nigeria’s progress would save the nation millions in loss of human and material resources.
First, both the Igbo and Yoruba, seen respectively as mentors to other minority ethnic groups in the South and Middle Belt should see their assumed characteristic rivalry, if at all there is something like that, as healthy to the overall development of the Nigerian nation and, not the vice versa. Second, both groups should be aware that this question of Nigeria’s nationality will always persist so long as the Hausa-Fulani feel that without any one of their own being at the helms of authority in this country, there will be no peace. And one fundamental means of achieving this Arabian power mentality is to ensure there is perpetual state of political belligerency between the Igbo and Yoruba.
It is on record that both the Igbo and Yoruba cannot write a complete history of their respective roles in the development of the Nigerian nation without mentioning the other in one positive sense or the other. Apart from the fact that both the Igbo and Yoruba were equal stake-holders in the nation’s Independence struggles, their contacts long pre-dated the arrival of the British colonial adventurers. The Yoruba were the first to establish effective direct contacts with traditional Igbo society long before European incursions. They had penetrated the Igboland before the Igbo themselves thought of coming to Yorubaland. The evidence to this pre-colonial contact is today found in the existence in Igboland of a group of ancient Yoruba-speaking Igbo sub-group called Olukunmi made up of Ugbodu, Ukwunzu, Ubulubu and Idumuogo towns in Aniocha Local Government Area of Delta State. Although these people could pass as normal Igbo in their general definition of ethnic identity when outside their communities, but they still maintain their Yoruba identity, speaking Yoruba language as their primary mother-tongue alongside Igbo and bearing mixed Igbo-Yoruba names. Most of these people claim to have migrated from Owo in the present Ondo State many centuries ago. Similarly many Yoruba, mainly of Oshogbo and Ogbomosho origins, Nupe and Igala settlers today constitute a substantial portion of Asaba and Onitsha indigenes. These people had settled among the Igbo long before the coming of the Europeans accessing their present abode through the River Niger. Above all, one cannot deny the positive roles such Yoruba missionaries as Bishops Samuel Ajayi Crowther and James Johnson played in the evangelization of Igboland during the nineteenth century.
Thus effective contact between the Igbo and Yoruba not only began many centuries before the creation of modern Nigerian nation, but was initiated by the Yoruba. Those who today think that Igbo-Yoruba contact only began with European colonialism, or that only the Yoruba had been on the receiving end of inter-ethnic migration may be saying so either out of mere ignorance of the subject of Nigerian history, or sheer mischievous and selfish political motives. One does not need to go into the mythical etymology of the word “Igbo” which in Yoruba means forest, but which was in fact first applied by the immigrant Oduduwa group to the aborigines of the present Spiritual kingdom of Ife, ascribing the term to people living in the forest.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Igbo have always viewed the Yoruba in a healthy competitive sense and not in the light of a heinous political and economic rival, as such Yoruba political torn-coats of doubtful ancestry as Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode tend to insinuate. In the same token, the Yoruba on their part cannot claim that the Igbo presence in their land had been that of a habitual Igbo quest to wrestle their ancestral land from them. Not even the ancestral owners of Lagos State of whom Abdulateef Kayode is not part of, can willingly cast aspersion on their Igbo guests, for the latter have always been their willing partners in the progress of their communities.
The Igbo have never been the problem of native Lagosians but the artificial Lagosians, who come to appropriate their political heritage in the name of Oduduwa. These are the people who control the Government of Lagos State today, and turn to use the Igbo as a convenient political scapegoat whenever their devious exploitative machinations against the indigenous Lagosians become obvious. This is mainly because this class of artificial Lagosians has always seen the Igbo as the only veritable fall-back strategy by which means the native Lagosians could gain their internal independence from their co-Oduduwa oppressors.
It is on record that during the First Republic both Lagos and Ibadan, the two most prominent Yoruba cities heavily relied on the Igbo-led NCNC for the actualization their political objectives against the Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group. Even Chief Victor Fani-Kayode, then the Chief thug to Chief Obafemi Awolowo fell out of favour with his master in 1959 his point of refuge was Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, who promptly appointed him Leader of Opposition in the Western House of Assembly that same year. Chief Obafemi Awolowo took the same line of seeking Igbo succor when he ordered his followers while in prison to ally with the Igbo-led NCNC to forge a common front against reactionary forces in Nigeria of which Chief Victor Fani-Kayode a.k.a. Fani-Power was one such element. So Chief Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode lacks every moral pedigree to speak for the Yoruba nation because his father had been a Yoruba quisling, and above all not a true Yoruba son.
Today one fact is pertinent to anyone who savours in the stream of cyclic history Historyrepeats itself only to those who stubbornly refuse to learn from its lessons. There is no doubt that with the approach of the epic political battle of 2015, many desperate and opportunistic attempts would be made by some political desperados, particularly those whose political garbs are woven in uncertain future to cause the repeat of Nigeria’s sad political history. This is the ship Chief Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode finds himelf today. He has been out of power and with it came out of money. He is thus in a mission of survival, albeit in a most fatal approach.
In recent times, Nigerians have unwittingly witnessed the unguarded utterances of such political desperados as Malams Nasir el-Rufai and Nuhu Ribadu, both of whom were shot into unmerited political prominence from obscurity by the sheer political benevolence of President Olusegun Obasanjo. Equally lately, it became the turn of one of the celebrated renegades of the apex Yoruba socio-cultural organization- Afenifere and one-time factional leader of Alliance for democracy (AD), Alhaji Bisi Akande to label the President of his country a kindergathen President, all in the name of finding the means to create a leeway of political conflict.
Any person who therefore lives within the orbit of Nigeria’s stream of political progress would easily catch up with the inert motive of this stream of unguarded provocations against the administration of President Jonathan. The Boko Haram insurgency, far from acting the script of alternative state power, subsequently became a dog-eat-dog political cul-de-sac. Those who had hoped to use the deadly Islamic blood-suckers as a full-back alternative strategy if they eventually lose the presidential election against President Jonathan in 2015 are now at a loss as to what next to do. For it has become obvious that neither are they sure of winning the epic electoral battle nor would Boko Haram survive to play the expected yoman role in 2015. It thus became crystal clear when it became the turn of the most colourless political clown of President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to join this stream of agents provocateurs, most politically discerning people quite knew where Chief Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode was coming from and where he was going to.
With a quisling political and subservient pedigree haunted by a jaundiced Nupe ancestry, laced with a foggy Saro-Yoruba identity compex, nothing better should have better been expected from Chief David Oluwafemi adewunmi abdulateef Fani-Kayode, a.k.a. Femi Fani-kayode, than his spineless historical verbosity woven in outright haft-truths and infantile sensationalism. As a professional historian, replying to such musings of a habitual moronic mind would amount to giving Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode an unmerited intellectual prominence, which indeed is his hidden motive behind his calculated infamy against the Igbo.
But one question which readily strikes the mind is, does being an alumnus of Cambridge University automatically transform Abdulateef Fani-Kayode into an expert of anything? As a lawyer, if one may be tempted to ask, what intellectual and professional landmarks could Abdulateef Fani-Kayode lay claim to? Is it not on record that this same Abdulateef Fani-Kayode has not been able to run and manage a viable law firm, just as his father, Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode could not, but relied on the tutelage of the likes of Chief Rotimi Williams and later Justicoe Soweminmo. Thus outside the spoils of political office, Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode, like his father Victor, is bound to be a political desperado any he is put out political office. It is only calamitous that he chose the Igbo this time for his habitual vain-glorious attempt to re-launch himself into political relevance.
His attacks on the Igbo as to which people are the bona fide owners of Lagos State is thus as misplaced and misdirected as it is a desperate self-propping political venture for a diminished political carpet-bagger. One fact is pertinent, the Nigeria’s convention one’s origins, Lagos is neither the home of the Igbo nor any Yoruba whose parents migrated from somewhere else outside Yorubaland, whether the person is born there or not. Lagos belongs to a definable ethnic and sub-ethnic groups of people- the Eko of Lagos Island and mainland who could even conveniently claim Bini ancestry, the Egba of Epe and Ikorodu axis, the Egbado of Agege-Ifako-Ijaiye axis the Egun of Badagry axis, and the Awori of western axis. It thus follows that any Yoruba cannot fall within any of these categories of native Lagosians is as good a stranger as any Igbo resident in Lagos, just as any non-Onitsha Igbo resident in Onitsha cannot claim any better right over a Yoruba resident there.
Chief David Oluwafemi Adewunmi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode is the least of any Yorubaman to cast any form of aspersion on Igbo contributions to the development of Lagos State, for he is not of original Yoruba protegy. He cannot identify his line of ancestry beyond his great-grand father Reverand Emmanuel Adedapo kayodes, a Nupe Sierra Leonean captive of the British Anti-Slavery squad from a Portuguese Slave merchant vessel of the coast of Dahomey. Reverend Emmanuel Kayode was eventually adopted as a house-boy by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther who gave him Yoruba names and subsequently trained him up to Fourah Bay College, Freetown and enlisted him as an Anglican Priest. Reverend kayode, in line with the tradition of the Saro-Yoruba of the time, subsequently adopted Ife as his ancestral home in a bid to historically confirm his new Yoruba identity.
But his father Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunboh Fani-Kayode, fully aware of the artificiality of his Yoruba identity later identified the Nupe town of Pategi in the present Niger State as his Grand-father’s ancestral home after he had disrespectfully confronted Chief Obafemi Awolowo in Public and the latter had politely reminded him of his Nupe ancestry. It was in reaction to this obvious revelation by Chief Obafemi Awolowo that he resorted to naming his children after some prominent members of his Nupe family, hence “Abdulateef”, a purely Muslim name was given to his son Femi. The same tradition of Muslim name was applied to Femi’s elder brother who died a number of years ago. It this fact is not on the line of history, let Chief Femi Kayode explain to Nigerians the source of his Muslim name when he claims a pedigree of traditional Christian family, especially when even his mother had strong Christian family background.
In fact again in 1959, during one of his father’s infamous public altercations with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, he was again reminded by the respected sage of his Nupe ancestry. It was when he could no longer bear it that he decamped the same year to NCNC where the Great Zik promptly elevated him to the Leader of Opposition in Western House of Assembly. Is it therefore not an irony of political fate that somebody whose father sought refuge under the canopy of Igbo political leadership and granted with honour when he was rejected by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, could now turn his burden of frosty political frustration against his father’s very mentors.
But that again explains the irony of a pedigree woven in a habitual tradition of political harlotry, infantile opportunism, and a despondency crafted in pig-headed obstinacy. His father Chief Victor Fani-Kayode was never an ingrained Yoruba patriot and nationalist, but a cash n’ carry politician. If Chief Obafemi Awolowo was accused of introducing political thuggery in Nigerian politics, it was in fact his father as the Action Group National Youth Leader that imposed the idea on Chief Awolowo. This again equally explains why his father was always at daggers-drawn with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, for on several occasions he had attempted to unleash that thuggery virus on Chief Awolowo himself.
If Chief Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode opened his wide mouth to insult the integrity of the Igbo people, it is only because the virus of insubordination and rudeness run in their blood. If his father did the same to Chief Obafemi Awolowo then Nigerians should accept such action against the Igbo as an act of accursed political prodigality. Moulded by a shameless quisling culture, if Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode insulted late President Umaru Yar’Adua even in death, yesterday insulted the person of President Goodluck Jonathan, and today insults the Igbo, he does so because he is still under the spell of Chief Awolowo’s curse on his father.
That he lately decamped to APC is yet another show-casing of his father’s tradition. When it became obvious that the fortunes of Action Group was becoming dim with its relegation to National opposition party in 1959, his father decamped to NCNC. When again the fortunes of NCNC became dim with the alliance of Chief Samuel Akintola’s faction of Action Group with the reactionary Northern People’s Congress, his father again dumped NCNCN for Samuel akintola’s newly formed Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP), where he was elevated to the post of Deputy Premier and Regional Minister of Local Government Affairs. It was therefore not surprising that his father should be singled out by the young revolutionaries of January 15, 1966 led by the enigmatic and gallant Captain Nwaobosi to be dealt with.
Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode had once confessed that it would be had for him to forgive the Igbo after witnessing as a six-year child how his father was humiliated by Captain Nwaobosi by causing him to lie down and given thirty-six lashes of the cane, before he was led to Akintola’s home. Thus if Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode expresses an inveterate hatred of the Igbo, he does that as a consequence of his father’s gruesome experience be an Igbo army officer, one can easily sympathize with him.
But as history is bound to repeat itself for those who fail to learn from its lessons, Chief Femi Abdulateef Fani-Kayode should be advised to watch his cliff-diving political despondency, if he does not wish to learn from his father’s lessons of history. The Igbo would wish a real Yoruba- a “son of the soil” with a culture of untainted political integrity and traceable Yoruba ancestry to speak on matters of Igbo-Yoruba relations, and not a man of foggy Yoruba ancestry, a cloned Sierra Leonean Yoruba of Nupe ancestry, safe for the benevolence of patchy Yoruba names. Chief David Oluwafemi Abdulateef Adewunmi Fani-Kayode has no better right of ancestral Lagos State than any Igbo born and bred there. A Gambari par excellence.