Destroying Age Old Myths About The Yoruba ~ By Reno Omokri
There are many myths circulated by various ethnic nationalities about the Yoruba people of the Southwest, and a personal experience with a non-Yoruba provoked me to address some of these myths using historical facts. Please bear with me, this is a long read.
Myth one: Yorubas are betrayers
A lot of this angst, which has refused to fade away decades after the dramatis personae exited this world, is centred around a supposed betrayal of Emeka Ojukwu and the Igbos by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
And sadly, this has now become an emotive issue, where fiction has been fed to many young people as fact.
The truth is that Chief Awolowo went on a peace meeting to Enugu, to try to persuade Igbo leaders to adopt a peaceful way out of the crisis that had unfolded in Nigeria after the January 15, 1966 coup and the July 29, 1966 counter coup.
Awolowo met with the leaders of the Eastern Region for two days between May 6-7, 1967. THERE IS A TRANSCRIPT OF THAT MEETING, WHICH WAS PUBLISHED WHEN BOTH AWOLOWO AND OJUKWU WERE ALIVE.
Please note that this transcript was taken from a tape recorded by then Colonel Ojukwu’s own recorder.
I encourage those who are still bitterly accusing Chief Awolowo, and by extension all Yorubas, of betrayal, to please read that transcript.
At the time Emeka Ojukwu wanted Chief Awolowo to follow his lead by announcing the secession of the Western Region after his own declaration of secession of the Southeast, there were tens of thousands of armed Northern troops all over the West. It does not take a genius to guess what would have happened if Awolowo had gone that route.
Moreover, unlike Ojukwu, Chief Awolowo had no control over any troops. He was also not the Governor of the Western Region (Adeyinka Adebayo was then the military Governor). As a result, he had no executive powers. Whatever powers he had were at best residual and persuasive.
Chief Awolowo had earlier called a meeting of Yoruba officers of the Nigerian army, and key officers of Yoruba stock refused to attend, with one of them sending a message to him that he was a Nigerian soldier, not a Yoruba soldier.
So given all of that, it was rather naive for anybody to have expected him to declare the secession of the Western Region from Nigeria.
It would have been like expecting Nnamdi Azikiwe to usurp Ojukwu’s powers as Governor of the Eastern Region, and announce the secession of Eastern Nigeria, and the creation of a new Biafran nation. The Ojukwu we know may have even arrested, and probably executed Zik if he had done that.
If the grudge against Chief Awolowo is founded on the £20 pounds payment to persons of Igbo origin, then I can understand it. But even that grudge is also not well founded. Because the £20 policy only affected those whose bank records could not be verified. I hazard a guess that if another person other than Awolowo was on that seat, the payment may have been £0.
But to hold a grudge against the Yorubas stemming from that Enugu meeting is in my view an injustice to a man who only went there to seek a way to avoid bloodletting.
In any case, have those who hold this view ever considered that the man, Emeka Ojukwu, for whom they hold this torch, after his return to Nigeria on May 18, 1982, joined the National Party of Nigeria, the very same party that was peopled, sponsored and supported by the very same people who prosecuted the Nigerian Civil War against him and Eastern Nigeria?
The NPN was a Northern Party that did not win a single state in Western, Midwestern (Bendel) and the Igbo states of Eastern Nigeria. The same people who founded the NPN were the very same people who advised and perhaps tele-guided Gowon.
In fact, the first National Leader of the NPN was Makaman Bida, a former member of the inner caucus of Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress.
This is the party that Ojukwu joined, contested for election into the Senate (and lost), and campaigned for during the 1983 Presidential election.
Taking all of this into consideration, there is no way the myth of Chief Awolowo, and all Yorubas being betrayers, can stand.
Myth two: Yorubas Are Cowards
The late Sani Abacha was the most brutal dictator in Nigeria’s history. I do not need to elaborate. His rule was a dark era in our history, and the nationwide spontaneous celebration of his death is enough shame on his memory and his family and survivors.
Having said that, Nigerians may want to recall that a certain Moshood Kashimawo Abiola stood up to the bully that was Abacha, and rightfully declared himself President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on June 11, 1994.
That took guts! That was not the act of a coward. It was a display of bravery.
Chief Abiola was arrested on June 23, 1994, and taken to Abuja. While there, he met with General Abacha, and told Abacha to his face that he was Abacha’s boss and Abacha should show him respect. That is more than guts. That is what is called Command Presence in the military. Audacity if you will.
On August 5, 1994, Chief Abiola was offered freedom, via a bail, with certain conditions, including that he “stay away from politics”. Abiola’s response was terse. It was given by his wife, Kudirat Abiola, who said “Chief Abiola is not interested.”
That is bravery to the point of self sacrifice. Bear in mind that this was a multimillionaire in US dollars, with access to private jets, and all the modern conveniences money could buy, yet he inconvenienced himself by refusing to betray his mandate.
And after Abacha died (I never call him General. It is an insult to call the world’s biggest political thief, who is still coughing up billions 23 years after his death, a General of the Nigerian Army), Chief Abiola refused to give up his mandate, and probably died because of his principled stand.
It is therefore ridiculous for anybody to call an ethnic nationality that produced such a personality cowards.
And this is not a recent phenomenon. Whereas the Fulani jihadist army completely defeated the Hausas, they could not defeat the Yorubas. A Yoruba regiment from present day Ibadan, and led by Balogun Oderinlo, routed the Fulani army and drove them out of Oshogbo in 1840, and eventually from Yoruba land. In the process, they captured four Fulani Generals.
The popular case of Ilorin was not a military defeat, it was a case of over ambition by a rogue Yoruba, Afonja. And it was isolated to the Ilorin area. I just hope history will not repeat itself in Lagos.
During the Nigerian Civil War, Murtala Mohammed was an unmitigated military disaster. The Biafrans defeated him soundly at Abagana and almost captured him. If not for the Yoruba led Third Marine Commando, Nigeria would not have defeated Biafra at the time she did.
In the history of Nigeria, only two men have returned to Nigeria to face almost certain death even when they had the option of a very comfortable political asylum abroad. Both of them are Yoruba. In 1985, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida toppled the Buhari regime while Major General Tunde Idiagbon (mixed Yoruba/Fulani) was at Mecca yet Idiagbon returned.
In 1995, Olusegun Obasanjo (pure Owu Yoruba) was accused of planning a coup by the blood thirsty tyrant, Abacha (if you do not like that truthful description of Abacha or if you believe that ‘Abacha did not loot’, you can go and join him where he is) while he was away in Copenhagen.
He was informed by the then US Ambassador, Walter Carrington, that Abacha meant to arrest, try and execute him, and was offered political asylum in the United States.
He returned to face almost certain death.
What more example of bravery can there be than these two shining ones.
Furthermore, there is the apocryphal example of Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi who chose to die with the then Head of State, Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, rather than abandon his guest, which he was at liberty to do.
The Yoruba are a very tactful and diplomatic people. These are attributes that some people mistake for cowardice, or sycophancy. They are a people who understand how to stoop to conquer.
This is what Scripture meant in 2 Corinthians 10:4 “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty”. Wisdom, courtesy, diplomacy, and praise are all weapons. A weapon is anything you can use to achieve your strategic objective. It does not always have to be a physically offensive weapon.
Myth three: The Yoruba are Clannish, They Form Cliques Against Non Yoruba
The most metropolitan place in Nigeria is the Southwest. The reason being that no other ethnicity is as religiously tolerant and ethnically accommodating as the Yoruba.
And I am very glad that by sheer coincidence, former President Jonathan said as much last week. I had nothing to do with him saying it.
The most prosperous place for an Igbo man in Nigeria is not Nnewi or Onitsa. According to Robert Neuwirth, an American journalists and investigator, Igbos make $4 billion each year from Alaba International Market. There is nowhere else in Nigeria where they generate such a high turnover.
The richest Black man on planet Earth is Aliko Dangote, and his wealth largely comes from Lagos and the Southwest, where he has assets in excess of $4 billion.
The fact that other Nigerians can come to the Southwest and prosper there more than they prospered in their home regions speaks volumes of the accommodativeness of the Yoruba.
How many Igbo Alaba traders have been kidnapped, abducted or killed? But they are kidnapped, abducted and killed in the Southeast.
Terrorists, bandits and Boko Haram have never targeted Aliko Dangote in the Southwest. But in the North, both billionaire and almajiri are vulnerable.
People erroneously think that the Yoruba are clannish, because they maintain and retain their cultural values, when it clashes with other cultures.
So, in an office environment, a Yoruba person is likely to clique with Yoruba speakers. Notice I did not say they are likely to clique with Yorubas. I said they are likely to clique with Yoruba speakers. It is their culture they like. If you flow with their culture, they will also flow with you.
That is why the Yoruba have the highest number of elected non indigenes representing their states, than any other region.
There are natives of the Southeast and South South who won election to represent various Lagos constituencies in the House of Representatives. Oghene Egoh, Rita Orji and Tony Nwoolu are some of them.
Where else is that happening in Nigeria?
Yoruba-phobes should try to understand that the tendency of the Yoruba to retain their full culture within Nigeria and when they travel abroad is not clannishness. It is in their blood.
How do I know this? Because I am an avid traveler.
During the Transatlantic Slave Trade, slaves where taken from almost every Black African ethnic group. However, only the Yoruba slaves retained their culture on a large scale throughout the Americas (the Umbundo also retained some of their culture, but they are limited to Brazil).
In the Brazilian state of Bahia, they speak a patois of Portuguese and Yoruba. The state is 80% Black and they bare Yoruba names. As a matter of fact, after Nigeria, Brazil has the second largest population of people of Yoruba descent. Please fact check me. I deal in facts, not speculation.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are an estimated 50 million believers in the Santeria religion. It may shock you to note that Santeria is based on Yoruba traditional worship. In fact, the name for god in Santeria is Orisha, a Yoruba word. Eshu, Sango, and Ifa feature prominently in Santeria.
So, you can see how deep Yoruba culture is, to the extent that even centuries of slavery could not wipe it away.
Go to Jamaica and there are Yorubas there.
There were Hausa, Swahili, Bantu, Oromo, Igbo and other Black African slaves taken to the Americas. None have kept their cultural identity like the Yoruba slaves.
Listen to Rap music and compare it to Fuji and Juju. You notice the same trend. Boasting, women shaking their booties, rivals dissing their opponents. Before Tupac and Biggie dissed each other, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Ayinla Kollington had released their own diss tracks.
When you visit London, you may be confused if you think Yoruba is the only African language in existence.
A Yoruba man can enter a quiet bus and receive a phone call and speak in Yoruba, and won’t feel embarrassed. And I am not referring to a Johnny Just Come. I am referring to second generation Yorubas who were born and brought up in England,
I have been traveling the world from childhood, yet I have not encountered people doing that with much wider spoken African languages, such as Swahili and Hausa.
They may speak it privately in their homes abroad. but not publicly, and even if they do, it is not to the extent of the Yoruba.
It has gotten to the extent that the Metropolitan Police now recruit Yoruba speaking Constables, and Harrods now employ Yoruba speaking cashiers. Oh please do not just take my words at face value. Fact check me.
Go to Houston on a Sunday, you will see Yoruba people everywhere in their native wears, adire, plus abeti aja and eleti aja.
Here in California, other Africans now draw crowd to their parties by saying ‘the Nigerians will be there.’
This will annoy other tribes, including mine, however, when foreigners talk about how cool Nigerians are, they are usually referring to Yorubas.
Take it or leave it, but the Yoruba are the most progressive Black people on the face of planet Earth.
They produced the first Black African Nobel laureate for an academic category (Wole Soyinka), and the first Black African military ruler to have voluntarily handed over to a civilian President (Olusegun Obasanjo), and the first Nigerian to win a Grammy Award (Sade Adu) as well as the first person born and bred in Africa to have won a Pulitzer Prize (Dele Olojede).
The reason why Yorubas are the biggest music stars of Nigerian origin is because they are unabashedly Yoruba. They do not try to sing or act like Westerners. They are very in-your-face with their Yoruba-ness. And when people like themselves to such a high degree, others tend to join them in liking them.
There are an estimated 15 Black billionaires on Planet Earth. Three of them are Yoruba. More than any ethnic nationality in Africa. It used to be four, but one of them slipped down the rankings.
US President, Joe Biden, named a Yoruba man, Adewale Adeyemo, as deputy Treasury Secretary. This is the highest position to which a Black African has been appointed (not elected) in US history. Another Yoruba man, Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, became the first person on Earth to successfully perform a surgery by taking out an unborn fetus from its mother’s womb and putting it back after the surgery.
77% of all Black doctors in America are of either African or Caribbean origin, and a very large percentage of these are Yoruba.
I commend the Edekiri people (the real name of the Yoruba). They are neither betrayers, or cowards or clannish people. They are omoluabi. They are oni te si iwaju.
Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.
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