by Femi Fani-Kayode
When the Igbo, or anyone else, find a real champion that can cross swords with me and give me a good run for my money someone should please let me know. I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.
Those that call me a tribalist are simply misguided. Perhaps they do not know the meaning of the word or its true import. Those that know me well can confirm the fact that I am not a tribalist, a racist or a bigot and that I consider such sentiments as being unworthy of a man of class, good breeding and culture. I am however a firm believer in the propagation of truth and I appreciate the value and importance of history. Sadly many of our igbo compatriots do not believe in that. For them history consists of only one thing- how other Nigerians have always marginalised them and treated them badly.
If only they knew their own history, where they are coming from, what they used to be, where they were 100 years ago and what their forefathers did to the rest of Nigeria over the last 80 years they would know why they have always had such a hard time in this country. Sadly because they don’t know any of these things they cannot learn from them. And if they cannot learn from them they will continue to make the same mistakes. That is why they can come to another mans land and territory and call it their own and when we say ”no” they tell us to shut up and call us tribalists.
I was not a tribalist when I wrote a tribute to Colonel Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu after he died or when I condemned the ’60’s pogroms that took place in the north in which their people were slaughtered like flies. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against my good friend Senator Ahmed Sani Yerima and child marriage in the north. Yet now I am a tribalist because I spoke the truth about our history and who the Yoruba are. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Bianca Onoh, an Igbo lady, who many years later married Ojukwu and who is now our Ambassador in Spain. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Chioma Anasoh, another Igbo lady, who I almost took as a second wife. I was not a tribalist when I had a long-standing and intimate relationship with Miss Adaobi Uchegbu, another Igbo lady, who was exceptionally close to me and who is now at the National Headquarters of the ruling PDP.
I was not a tribalist when I wrote essays defending the rights of the Igbo and every other Nigerian nationality to exercise their right of self-determination and leave Nigeria if that is what they wanted to do. I was not a tribalist when I consistently wrote that Nigeria must have a Sovereign National Conference where the rights and obligations of all its various nationalities would be clearly defined and agreed upon. I was not a tribalist when I employed more Igbo people as a Presidential spokesman and a Minister of the Federal Republic than even my own Yoruba. I was not a tribalist when I wrote an essay, just two years ago, extolling the virtues of Igbo women and telling the world about their sudden and meteoric rise and how far they had gone in the power circles of this country in the last 10 years. I was not a tribalist when I condemned the bombing of predominantly Igbo and catholic churches and the killing of the Igbo and others by Boko Haram in the north over the last three years.
I was not a tribalist when I risked my life by consistently writing against Boko Haram and urging our President to do a better job at protecting the lives of all Nigerians even though I live in the north. I was not a tribalist when I wrote against political sharia in the late ’90’s and I participated in protracted and sometimes acrimoniuos debates with Islamic fundamentalists and Islamists. I was not a tribalist when I was in NADECO and when we fought against military rule in Nigeria. I was not a tribalist when I fought for a President from the south-south or the south-east. I was not a tribalist when I wrote in defence of the Igbo when it came to the abandoned property issue. I was not a tribalist when I wrote about the excesses of the Federal troops during the civil war. I was not a tribalist when I commended Azikiwe and the virtues of the NCNC in Nigerian history. I was not a tribalist when I wrote that it was unfair and wrong for the Federal Government of Nigeria to leave the igbo with only 20 pounds each after the civil war. I was not a tribalist when many years ago I attended and gave my life to Christ in a church called TREM which was established by a great igbo man by the name of Bishop Mike Okonkwo. I was not a tribalist when my grandfather, Justice Victor Adebiyi Kayode, taught Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe at Methodist Boys High School in Lagos and when my father, Chief Remilekun Fani-Kayode, was appointed as the leader of the predominantly igbo NCNC in the Western Regional House of Assembly. I could go on and on. These people have very short memories and anyone that does not agree with them all the time or that says one word against them at any point in time is labelled a tribalist for life.
They called Chief Obafemi Awolowo a tribalist, an Igbo-hater a genocidal maniac and a child-killer simply because the man refused to join sides with them in the civil war yet they forgot that on one of the occasions that Awolowo ran for the Presidency his running mate was from the east and not from the north. They called Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, Chief S.L Akintola and Sir Ahmadu Bello Igbo-haters and tribalists simply because they saw through the igbo agenda at a very early stage in our history and they marked and killed them all for it. They called General Yakubu Gowon a genocidal maniac, a child-killer, an igbo-hater and a tribalist simply because opposed Biafra, stood up to Ojukwu and insisted on keeping Nigeria together and even though he declared that there was “no victor and no vanquished” after the civil war.
They accused President Olusegun Obasanjo of being a tribalist and an Igbo-hater even though he appointed an Igbo man as the first GOC in the Nigerian Army since 1966 and even though he appointed more Igbos into key positions in his government than any President before him. They accused President Shehu Shagari of being a tribalist and an Igbo-hater even though he pardoned Ojukwu and allowed him to return back home after a long period in exile. They have accused the Nigerian people of being tribalists and Igbo-haters simply because we have not had an Igbo President since 1966 forgetting that Nigeria was magnamonious in victory and that she not only gladly welcomed them back into the fold after the civil war but that she also gave them the Vice Presidency of the country only ten years later. They have labelled the northerners as tribalists and Igbo-haters simply because the north has refused to tolerate their excesses and accept their complicated ways. They have labelled the Niger Deltans as tribalists and Igbo-haters simply due to the “abandoned property issue” and because historically many of them have always resisted the idea of Igbo domination.
They have labelled the Yoruba as tribalists and Igbo-haters simply because we have refused to accept their claims to our land and territory and even though we were more charitable, hospitable, accommodating and generous to them than any other nationality in Nigeria after the civil war. The Yoruba particularly have been too kind and gentle with them. That is the problem. They see our liberal and accommodating nature as stupidity and weakness. That is why they always call the Yoruba cowards forgetting that the history of the Yoruba proves otherwise. It is now time to tell the truth. They despise the Yoruba and they only pretend to believe in one Nigeria as long as they can always have their way and laud it over others. Worst
of all, generally speaking, they have no restraining factors because money and the acquisition of wealth is their sole objective and purpose in life.
Someone ought to tell them that this is not a virtue but a vice. It is a cultural deficiency which is borne out of not having any history. If they did they would be less aggressive, more restrained and far more civil to others even where and when they disagree with them. If speaking these bitter home truths and yearning and fighting for a better Nigeria makes me a tribalist then it is a toga that I would be happy to wear. I will not sit by quietly and allow my people, the Yoruba people of south western Nigeria, to be rubbished, insulted and cheated by anyone no matter how aggressive and given to extremists that anyone may believe he is. I make or offer and no apology for my views. My numerous assertions on the Igbo stand.
Meanwhile I have read all sorts of strange submissions in various newspapers and blogs that have held themselves out as rejoinders to my two articles titled “Lagos, The Igbo and the Servants Of Truth” and “The Bitter Truth About The Igbo”. Sadly other than the usual abuse and ungodly clap-trap not one of them has been able to address ANY of the issues that I raised in either of the two articles, answer any of the questions that I posed in them or successfully challenge my presentation of historical facts.
The bellicose nature and sheer crassness of these so-called rejoinders goes to prove two things. Firstly that those that I have described as being collectively unlettered, uncouth, uncultured, unrestrained and crude in all their ways really are all those things and a lot more and secondly that they cannot put up any reasonable or serious argument to discredit or refute the message so instead they are attempting to destroy the messenger. Meanwhile the two essays have been published in various newspapers in our country and outside and it will continue to be published by others long into the forseeable future.
The message is clear and it is already out there. It cannot be called back in. The horse has bolted from the stable and the falcon has left the nest. No matter how hard those that are attempting to intimidate us into silence may try it will not work and we will not be cowed. The message is already out there and the genie is already out of the bottle. Those that seek to continue to denigrate and belittle the Yoruba and lay claim to what is rightfully ours should desist from doing so. They should grant us our peace and give us our due respect and they will get the same in return. If they do not do so those things will elude them and eventually history will repeat itself again in this country.
Meanwhile when anyone reads a rejoinder that addresses the issues that I raised in my essays and that has some level of scholarship and intellectual content they should please let me know and I may well dignify it with a response. The shameless and emotional thrash and disjointed verbiage that have been described as rejoinders so far are just not up to scratch. They are bereft of any scholarship and intellectual content. They also invoke pity in me for the faceless plebians that wrote them and those they claim to be speaking for. When the Igbo, or anyone else, find a real champion that can cross swords with me and give me a good run for my money someone should please let me know. I am itching for a real debate with a worthy adversary on this issue.
Like the great Achilles I feel that I have no match. Are there no Hector’s out there? Sadly it appears that my accusers, traducers, opposers and haters cannot find one. All they have is their hate, their ignorance, their insults and their inbred crudity and vulgarity.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.