HandshakeAcrossTheNiger: Nzuko Umunna’s Initiative on Igbo/Yoruba Collaboration: Panacea to Nigeria’s Underdevelopment Woes By @StJudeNdukwe

On January 11, 2018, sons and daughters of Igbo and Yoruba extractions from all walks of life would gather in Enugu as one people from the two divides of the Niger to not only celebrate their age long but greatly ignored brotherhood which historians have recently traced to a common ancestry, and symbolized by the rare acts of bravery and comradeship by the late Generel Aguiyi Ironsi, Nigeria’s former Head-of-State and his friend and former governor of former southwest region, late Col Adekunle Fajuyi, when both men were mowed down in cold blood in a counter coup by some disgruntled military officers.

That gathering which is an initiative and championed by Nzuko Umunna (The Bridge Builders), one of the leading Igbo socio-cultural groups in southeast Nigeria, is organized under the auspices of the two foremost socio-cultural groups in southeast and southwest Nigeria, Ohanaeze Ndigbo and Afenifere.

The gathering which would be jointly hosted by leaders of the two groups, Pa Reuben Fasoranti on the side of Afenifere, and Chief Nnia Nwodo of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, will have the Obi of Onitsha, His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, and the Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, as Royal Fathers of the Day. This is apart from the governors and other dignitaries expected to grace the occasion from both sides.

It is high time these two of the major ethnic groups in Nigeria began to collaborate with each other, strengthen their bonds and advance their mutual causes in today’s Nigeria or their people and generation unborn perish together.

Their mutual adversaries have explored for too long a non-existent rivalry between the two groups and have used the enormous gap so created to advance their own cause politically, socially, economically and otherwise to the exclusion and detriment of the Igbo and Yoruba whose shared affinity in all areas of life is legendary and well documented.

Such assumed rivalry between the Igbo and Yoruba over the years is the creation of those who are perpetually afraid of the power these two groups can unleash in their collective goals of repositioning, developing and emancipating their lands and peoples in particular and Nigeria as a whole from political tyranny and economic backwardness. Their potentials are too enormous to be allowed to dry out on the altar of such “fake” unhealthy rivalry.

It is an established fact that the Igbo and Yoruba people are two of Nigeria’s most educated, most industrious, most enterprising, most civil and most populous groups in Nigeria, yet, their peoples have continued to play second fiddle in almost all areas of our national life, no thanks to the presumed animosity between some leaders and peoples of the two groups.

Lately, these needless divisive tendencies between them have assumed an alarming and worrisome dimension both in the social media and comment sections of leading online newspapers. Such division stems mostly from ignorance of shared and communal camaraderie which both groups have shared over the years and based on the creation of a twisted history to suit those who think the coming together of the Igbo and Yoruba as a united entity and force would automatically confer on them a disadvantage.

In order for them and their children not to continue on this unfortunate trajectory of false rivalry, it is high time that leaders and peoples of the two groups closed ranks and forge a common front for their own prosperity and that of their children because the things that bind the two groups together are far weightier and more than those things that seem to divide them.

For example, there are great similarities in the languages of the two ethnic groups to the extent that one can even be mistaken for only a dialectical variant of the other. For instance, the following words, apart from sounding alike also mean the same thing in the two languages of Yoruba and Igbo:

Akuko (Yoruba)/ Okuko (Igbo) – Cock

Ewure (Yoruba)/ Ewu (Igbo) – Goat

Okuta (Yoruba)/ Okwute (Igbo) – Stone

Apo (Yoruba)/ Apa (Igbo) – Bag/Pocket

Ile (Yoruba)/ Ala (Igbo) – Land/Ground

Eti (Yoruba)/ Nti (Igbo) – Ear

Enu (Yoruba)/ Onu (Igbo) – Mouth

Imu (Yoruba)/ Imi (Igbo) – Nose

Egungun (Yoruba)/ Egwugwu (Igbo) – Masquerade and so on.

According to Prince Justice Faloye who has done extensive research work on this subject, the Igbo and Yoruba are the two largest Original African groups “whose unity is necessary to uplift not only Nigeria but the entire black race”.

His works have proved that the Igbo and Yoruba are the same people as shown from DNA, linguistic and cultural evidence. His book, “The Blackworld: Evolution to Revolution” is an invaluable eye opener to what a majority of sons and daughters of Igbo and Yoruba did not know about each other. It is a book that reveals the hidden treasure in Igbo/Yoruba relationship and banishes the unnecessary mutual suspicion, animosity and destructive competition between them which actually have no factual basis and have held them down together far beneath their potentials.

So, the brotherhood between these two groups have developed to the extent that although they constitute the largest ethnic groups in the south and have been co-existing for hundreds of years, one can hardly hear about any ethnic-based or communal clashes between them. They are just like the teeth and tongue which both reside in the mouth, sometimes provoke each other like even brothers would do but would never ever come to blows no matter the circumstances.

Even those who have bitter exchanges on the internet especially the comment sections of leading online media portals do so only because they enjoy the comfort pseudonyms provide for them. There is this story of some very close Igbo and Yoruba friends in Lagos who were discussing such exchanges and lamenting how bitter they have become in recent times online. One of the Igbo men singled out a particular pseudonym as always being very acerbic in his attacks against the Igbo. As the discussion went on, one of the Yoruba men also mentioned some pseudonyms that usually attacked the Yoruba with so much resentment. Alas, it happened that as close as these friends are from both sides, two of them, one Yoruba and the other Igbo were actually owners of the pseudonyms as they later found out. They have been so close as brothers that one could hardly think they were from different ethnic backgrounds, yet, were bitterly against each other online simply because they operated with pseudonyms.

The import of this story is that no matter how divided the Igbo and Yoruba may appear online and elsewhere, they are far more bonded in love in real life. Only if we all could tone down such attacks and see each other for exactly who we are, a people of shared ancestry, DNA, culture and language.

It is for reasons like this that Nzuko Umunna under the leadership of Ngozi Odumuko took it upon itself to initiate this grand and nouvelle move in collaboration with Afenifere and Ohanaeze Ndigbo to not only celebrate Igbo and Yoruba unity as exemplified by Ironsi and Fajuyi in their days but to also engender brotherhood and friendship between the two groups.

A people who share common kitchens, conveniences, corridors, backyards etc, in the same “yard”, raising children in such unique circumstances, and never coming to blows based on their ethnic differences or such primordial considerations for scores of years were never and can never be enemies.

It is commonplace to find in places like Lagos that Papa Chinyere would be travelling with his family and would leave the keys to his rooms with Baba Yetunde for safe keeping, and vice versa. That shows the level of trust between these people. It is this trust and brotherhood that would be ignited On January 11 at Enugu as encapsulated by Senator Chris Anyanwu and Mr Yinka Odumakin in their joint conference held in Lagos as part of preparations for the occasion which according to them is “to reconstruct the narratives of our existence and to open a new vista of relationship between the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups”.

It promises to be an epic gathering

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