IGBO, EGBA BETRAYALS AND HAUSA/FULANI INTRIGUES: BANEFUL PRECURSORS OF YORUBA AND SOUTHWEST DISUNITY, MARGINALISATION AND RETROGRESSION.
Before Nigeria became independent in 1960, Western Region [present Southwest geopolitical zone and some parts of the South-South] blazed the trail as Africa’s most developed area. Led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo, as Premier, the region rang up a series of firsts-in-Africa that made the region the envy of many; first free primary education scheme in Africa; first free health service scheme in Africa; first floodlit stadium in Africa; first television station in Africa; Cocoa House, tallest building in West Africa; first industrial estates in Africa; and so on.
Today, the Southwest Zone, and its predominant Yoruba people, remains a caricature of its old self; confused, without any focused leadership, lagging behind other zones and, mostly, irrelevant in the national affairs of the country. The Yorubas and the Southwest Zone, have become victims of Igbo, Egba betrayals and Hausa/Fulani intrigues and shenanigans.
Hausa/Fulani machinations against the Yorubas had been in existence long before independence. But it was formalized and brought to life when Ahmadu Bello made his famous speech published by the Daily Times on May 3rd 1961, that his intention and ultimate goal was “to conquer the Action Group, (AG) in the same ruthless manner his grandfather conquered Alkawa, a town in Sokoto province, in the last century.”
It was his bid to accomplish these statements and declarations that occasioned the rigging of the 1962 census figures to favour the North which led to Nigeria’s first post-independence crisis. This was closely followed in 1963 by his efforts to reduce the effectiveness of the Action Group party, to ensure Northern domination. This led to the arrest and eventual conviction of Chief Obafemi Awolowo for alleged treasonable felony. An unholy alliance between Ladoke Akintola and Tafawa Balewa precipitated the massive electoral rigging in the Western region in 1964. “Weti e,” was the name of violent regional riots and disturbances that greeted the election results. It led to Nigeria’s first military coup in January 1966 in which both men lost their lives.
Igbo betrayals were worked into the intrigues identified above. However, let it be noted that the Igbos will be the first to accuse the Yoruba as betrayers by claiming that Chief Awolowo reneged on his “pronouncement” that the Yoruba will leave Nigeria if the Igbos seceded from the country. They tried to secede and the Yorubas did not follow suit.
Well, Chief Awolowo did not make that pronouncement. Yoruba and Igbo participants at the meeting where he purportedly made the statement and extant transcripts of the meeting confirm that what he said was that should the Igbo be forced out of Nigeria, the Yorubas will have no choice but to re-assess its continued membership and existence within Nigeria. That is it for Yoruba “betrayal” of the Igbo.
On the other hand, the Igbos conspired to join together with the Hausa/Fulani against the Yoruba on many occasions. First, after the 1959 pre-independence elections, at the initiation of the Yoruba dominated Action Group, negotiations were underway for the NCNC and AG to come together to form the first post independence government when, it later turned out, James Robertson, then Nigeria Governor-General, used Finance Minister Festus Okotie-Eboh to blackmail Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe into signing an agreement with the NPC and he became the first indigenous Governor-General. Action Group negotiators were left stranded at the negotiating table.
Next came the 1962 census and figures that gave the North unprecedented figures. It was reported that everything in the North; cattles, goats, chickens, humans and so on was counted several times over to generate the figures. Igbos aligned with the North to mitigate Yoruba rejection of the figures even though they were in initial agreement for their rejection.
Again, at every election cycle, in 1963, 1965, 1979, and 1983, the Yorubas extended a hand of friendship to the Igbos for some form of collaboration; coming together to form the government, boycott of elections, and so on. The initial agreements and hopes of the collaboration ended up in smoke as the Igbos reneged on every arrangement in favour of aligning with the North.
Well, what do you know? Igbos and Hausa/Fulanis have been the best of friends and best of enemies; killing, maiming and committing unbelievable crimes and atrocities against each other in several towns in the North and eastern parts of country.
Leaving Igbo betrayals alone, perhaps the unkindest cuts were the ones inflicted by Egba natives and indigenes on their fellow Yoruba. The cuts were persistently, unrelentingly and unabashedly implemented.
First, Sir Adetokunbo Adegboyega Ademola, KBE, GCON, PC, SAN born of Egba parentage on 1st February 1906. He was a renowned Nigerian jurist. In 1955, a year before Western Nigeria attained self-governing status, Sir Adetokunbo was appointed Chief Justice of Western Nigeria, thus becoming the first Nigerian head of the judiciary anywhere in the country. He then became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria from 1958 to 1972, replacing Sir Stafford Foster Sutton who retired. Ademola was a son of Oba Sir Ladapo Ademola II, the Alake of the Egba clan of Nigeria. He was the first chancellor of the University of Benin.
Sir Ademola’s disenchantment with the Yorubas came about in different instances. Most importantly, he articulated Egba hatred for Chief Obafemi Awolowo by arguing that Awolowo’s policies and refusal to compromise on a number of issues, especially with the North, resulted in the marginalization of the Yorubas. So, he became the focal point and conduit for compromises that negated the interest of the Yorubas.
Three instance attest to this. First, in 1964, after the stalemate that resulted from the national elections, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the president, refused to call any party to form a government. It was the intervention of Sir Ademola and Sir Louis Mbanefo, the Chief Justice of the Eastern region that changed Azikiwe’s mind. Second, following the 1966 coups, when northern officers wanted to secede from the country, he went on to play peacemaker which denied the most senior military officer in the army then, a Yoruba man, the opportunity to become Head of State. Third, upon his retirement from the bench, Ademola was appointed chairman of the Nigerian Census Board, the predecessor to the current National Population Commission, and it conducted the 1973 a national census which produced a total provisional figure of 79 million. The figure was roundly criticized by Southern states that saw in the figures manipulations to enhance northern domination of the country. Sir Ademola expressed dissatisfaction with the figures claiming they were not reliable. Yet, he went ahead to appeal for there to be a compromise. The compromised figures have become the basis of the population figures still in use today.
The next Egba indigene to feature in laying of the foundation to Yoruba marginalization was Chief Moses Adekoyejo Majekodunmi C.F.R, C.M.G who was born in Abeokuta on the 17th of August 1916. He was a gynecologist/obstetrician and served as Minister of Health in the Nigerian First Republic. He was elected into the Nigerian Senate in 1960 from where he became Sole Administrator of Western Region in June 1962 after a northern-inspired political crisis in the region. He replaced Samuel Akintola until December that year.
The crisis was due to a struggle between Akintola and the former Western Region Premier and current leader of the opposition Obafemi Awolowo. It involved violent scenes in the House of Assembly in which the Mace was broken on the head of one of the Assembly men. Dr. Majekodumi restricted and detained several leaders of both factions. It was during this time that the case for treasonable charges was developed against Chief Awolowo. Akintola was returned to office on 1st of January 1963.
Next on the list is and former . Sowemimo is remembered as the judge that presided over the treasonable felony trial involving Chief Obafemi Awolowo and others.George Sodeinde Sowemimo, , , , born on 8th of November 1920 of Egba parents in the northern city of Zaria. He was a
As a first of its kind trial, it was sensational and had the world’s attention. The defendants’ lives came under very close scrutiny and exposure. The problems started in 1962 with the tension and total breakdown of the Action Group political party occasioned by the removal of one of its prominent leaders, Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola. His removal sparked bloody riots on the streets of several towns in the region and on the floor of the regional legislature. A state of emergency was declared by the federal government and the regional government was dissolved. Action Group leaders were then placed under house arrest and a federal administrator, Dr. Moses Majekodunmi, was appointed to administer the region.
It was this new administration that initiated several investigations into various allegations of criminal conduct and misuse of public funds made against previous the administration of Chief Awolowo. From these alleged accusations of financial misuse of funds came police allegations of linking Awolowo and other AG members in a conspiracy to overthrow the federal government. The Yorubas believe until this day that the allegations were spurious, concocted, and developed by manipulation. Chief Awolowo bagged a 10-year concurrent jail term for the counts against him.
Next came Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, GCFR born on the 24th August 1937 in Abeokuta. He was a businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Egba clan. MKO [as he is popularly called] Abiola was controversial and criticized by both political activists and detractors. His Egba compatriot Fela Anikulapo-Kuti released a song “ITT – International Thief, Thief” in which he berated Abiola and Obasanjo; “they start to steal money like Obasanjo and Abiola.”
Detractors claim that MKO ABIOLA was a selfish and corrupt polictician who had personal selfish interests. As a matter of fact, an attempt to change the University of Lagos to Moshood Abiola University was vigorously and successfully resisted by Nigerians.
Yorubas feel betrayed by Chief Abiola because he was hell bent on preventing Chief Obafemi Awolowo from becoming President of Nigeria because Chief Awolowo, had, on different occasions, promised to investigate the military and civilians if he ever became president. So, he developed a lot of friendships in the military to fend off Chief Awolowo. He joined the NPN to ensure the election of Shehu Shagari in 1979 in place of Chief Awolowo, and, subsequently, through political machinations and manipulations, organized the military to sack the regime.
The Buhari/Idiagbon administration that replaced Shagari was itself terminated in another Abiola-sponsored military coup which was orchestrated with the aid of the Saudi royals during the pilgrimage to Mecca. A writer had this to say about Chief Abiola:
“Recall that Chief M.K.O Abiola was arrested alongside with the likes of Alh. Folawiyo and others by Gen. Tunde Idiagbon regime for several shady deals, price inflation of the products he imported and other anti-masses offences. I could recall that Chief Abiola was importing rice and was selling at a very high cost. Then, soldiers will break warehouse and sell at a particular rate which was cheaper than what we had in the market.
1. Several Coups was sponsored by this same Chief M.K.O Abiola including the toppling of Gen. Buhari/Gen. Tunde Idiagbon’s regime which could have been the best military government in Nigeria that could have wiped away the seed of corruption that the likes of Chief M.K.O was sowing at that time. Was that for the sake of the masses?
2. The friendship of Chief M.K.O Abiola and that of IBB was not in the interest of the masses, not until the game-plan changed
3. This was one of the people who worked seriously against Chief Obafemi Awolowo, knowing fully well that if he became the president of Nigeria, business will not be as usual in their various nefarious deals.”
When the end came for Abiola, it was his military friends that did him in. Not only was his election as president of Nigeria annulled, he died in military detention under conditions that are still being debated till today.
After M. K. O. Abiola was eliminated, the Hausa/Fulani northern cabal found another Egba man, Chief Ernest Adegunle Oladeinde Shonekan, who was born on the 9th May 1936 in Lagos of, you guessed it, Egba parentage. He is a British-trained lawyer, industrialist, and politician. Prior to his brief stint in national politics, Chief Shonekan was the Chief Executive of the United African Company of Nigeria, PLC. He was appointed as interim president of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on 26 August 1993 after Babangida “stepped aside” because of the relentless pressure for him to handover to a democratically elected government. Obviously, Chief Shonekan was picked as Interim President to assuage opposition by the Yorubas.
Fortunately, Chief Shonekan’s administration turned out to be a brief one. It lasted for just three months as a coup led by General Sani Abacha toppled him and forcefully dismantled all the remaining democratic institutions in the country thus reinstating the government back to the control of the military on 17 November 1993.
For our purposes, the last Egba man to focus on is none other than Chief Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo, GCFR, Ph.D., “Baba Iyabo,” to many who was born on the 5th of May 1937. He had the privilege of betraying the Yorubas, at least, twice.
The first time, it was as a career soldier while serving the country as military Head of State from 13 February 1976 to 1 October 1979. It was Obasanjo who guided the country in the transition to civilian rule in 1979. His beef with the Yorubas centre around the Egba proclivity for hatred of the Yoruba leader Chief Obafemi Awolowo. At the height of the campaign, it was reported that high ranking Egbas urged Obasanjo to ensure that Chief Awolowo did not become President of Nigeria. Chief Obasanjo reportedly obliged as he gave directives to then Inspector General of the Nigeria Police Force Muhammadu Dikko Yusufu [MD Yusufu] to ensure that Chief Awolowo did not win the elections.
As it turned out, the eventual winner Alhaji Shehu Shagari had to be proclaimed so by the Supreme Court in what became known as the “twelve two-thirds is equal to thirteen” decision as Alhaji Shagari did not win the required thirteen states as stipulated in the constitution.
The second occasion was in his capacity as the civilian president of Nigeria. Obasanjo was drafted by a party founded by a cabal of his Hausa/Fulani ex-military colleagues and friends. He got elected by votes he got in other parts of the country as his Yoruba compatriots massively rejected him; even in his own ward where he lived.
Obasanjo’s reaction to this apparent rejection by his own people, the Yorubas claim, was to ensure the paucity of federal jobs, contracts etc, during his administration. His administration, it is claimed, was loaded with Igbos while engaged in defending Igbo interests. The Lagos to Abeokuta road, his hometown, on which lies Otta where he has a farm was not completed. So, is the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, a vital artery of Nigeria’s transportation system.
In response, Yorubas have maintained a scathing criticism of Obasanjo. A Yoruba traditional ruler was quoted as saying that “one cannot count his achievements in office for eight years on half-a-finger.”
From the above revelations, it could be safely concluded that Igbo and Egba betrayals coupled with Hausa/Fulani intrigues and political shenanigans, over the years, have been the foundation of the present marginalization of the Yorubas in Nigeria. It is a sad fact, for instance, that no Yoruba has been the Chairman of the national Electoral body, INEC, since its inception. The position has been and remains a monopoly of people of Hausa/Fulani and Igbo heritages.
So, Yorubas be warned; when you hear of the announcement of the appointment of a Yoruba man from Abuja and such individual happens to be an Egba man, smell rat. Some insidious thing is in the offing! To our Igbo brothers and sisters, keep it going. The man upstairs will reward each one with his/her just reward. YORUBA E RONU O!
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