Time for handshake across the Niger. By Emeka Obasi

The days of acrimony should be over, there is so much to give when the Igbo and Yoruba ethnic nationalities put aside the extraneous wedge between them. Our country cannot move forward in the face of rancour.

Those of us who know history must not stand aloof and watch the younger generation degenerate to the vile language that has taken over the social media. It is like there is an undeclared war going on. Every comment is twisted to paint either the Igbo or the Yoruba in bad light. We cannot continue like this.

Besides politics, there is so much between the Igbo and Yoruba. They forged positive links during the days of British Imperialism and worked together in the push for independence. All these cannot be washed away by this bunch of uninformed, foul-speaking boys and girls of the computer age. Let us not take away the fact that Lagos, as the then capital of Nigeria, was bound to attract people from all over the nation. The Igbo in their usual nature, found favour in the Federal Territory.

The First university, located in Ibadan , also enjoyed a large concentration of Igbo brains. It is therefore no accident that the Chinua Achebes, Emeka Anyaokus, the Chris Okigbos, the Emma Ifeajunas , attended the premier university. While there, they bonded with men like Wole Soyinka, Bola Ige and Olu Akaraogun. That friendship will never wane, those close to them know it. What some critics see is far from reality.

The Yoruba also found the East alluring. Alhaji Alade Odunewu, veteran journalist, attended Bethel College, Onitsha. Joseph Oyeleye Adeigbo, Clerk of the Federal Parliament in 1964, began his secondary education at Government College, Umuahia and finished at Christ the King College, Onitsha. Professor Oladeinde Ogunbi was at Dennis Memorial Grammar School, Onitsha while Bankole Oluwatuyi spent time at Zik’s Institute in the same town. Lam Adesina, Sam Ajayi, Olajide Idowu, Abisogun Leigh and Kehinde Obanla, all members of the Constituent Assembly, 1988/89, graduated from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Igbo professionals worked in the Western Region just as there were Yoruba workers in the East. My uncle, Dr. Nathaniel Obasi, was a Dentist in Ibadan. Festus Oladapo Shadare, began his career with the Eastern Region Information Service in 1952. Two Igbo heroes, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Chief Emeka Ojukwu, grew up in Lagos and spoke fluent Yoruba. Zik’s children bear Yoruba names. In fact, some of his best friends were from the West. One of them, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, died in November 1996, shortly after the Owelle was laid to rest.

Benjamin Adekunle, son of an Ogbomosho father and a Bachama mother, was good in Igbo. He picked it from his Igbo childhood friends in the North and perfected it when he was in Enugu as Aide de Camp to Eastern Region Governor, Sir Akanu Ibiam. He also met his Ijaw wife, Comfort Akie Wilcox there. Michael Adelanwa and Sunday Adewusi, were at different times, Zik’s ADC. Ibiam married a Yoruba lady. And that is part of the partnership between the Igbo and Yoruba.

The third military governor of the West, Oluwole Rotimi, had an Igbo wife. The wedding reception was chaired by Ojukwu. The first civilian governor of Oshun State, Isiaka Adeleke, had maternal roots in Abia State. That implies that entertainer, Davido’s grandmother was an Igbo woman. The First Lady of Ondo State has Anyanwu as maiden name. Not many know that Achebe had Yoruba in-laws. Anyaoku, and Prof. Vincent Ike have Yoruba wives. Ike as a traditional ruler does not have an Igbo woman by his side.

The First Igbo Four-Star General, Paul Dike’s wife is from the West. Philip Asiodu’s better half is Olajumoke Pereira. Asiodu lived comfortably in the West, no Yoruba harmed him as the civil war raged. His brother, Sidney, great athlete, was executed in Asaba by Nigerian soldiers.

Many Igbo footballers stayed put in the West. ‘World Two,’ Tony Igwe, Austin Ofuokwu and Sam Opone played for the Green Eagles. Obisia Nwakpa lived in Lagos too.

In Biafra all through the crisis, lived Kofoworola, First daughter of Oba of Lagos, Adeyinka Akinola Oyekan. She was married to a Biafran naval officer, Nicholas Ohiaeriaku of Ogwuagga-Abba, in Imo State. What an irony that her husband was captured in Bonny by the Nigerian Navy led by Akin Aduwo, who like Adekunle, had an Ijaw wife. The Biafran remained a Prisoner of War until 1970. The Commander of Biafra School of Infantry was Captain Ganiyu Adeleke.

Those who want the Yoruba and Igbo to remain in perpetual separation know they are destroying Nigeria. These two groups must come together. There is a lot to share and much more to gain. Back to History. The First Northerner to qualify as a lawyer was indeed a Yoruba from Ilorin; Ganiyu Folorunsho AbdulRazaq. Can you beat this? He was born in Onitsha in 1927, and attended CMS Primary School there before proceeding to Kalabari National College, Buguma. Chief Ogunsanya was so much in love with the Igbo that as Commissioner for Education in Lagos, he offered scholarships to Igbo students. And his house address was No. 5 Godwin Okigbo Street , Surulere.

In the past we had F. Ebubedike in the Western House. Today, there are more in Lagos. I have a lot to say personally. In 1983, I worked for Chief Awolowo’s Unity Party of Nigeria. My dad belonged to the Nigeria Peoples Party and was a local government chairman. I used his vehicle to carry UPN Party agents. He did not scold me for once. Dr. Obasi bought property in Ibadan in the 1950s and due to the war, forgot about that investment. He died in 1999. Much later, his children went to Ibadan, discovered the land which was still untouched and sold it. These things have to be exposed. Igbo/ Yoruba ties are deep. It is time to come together. Onward Nigeria

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