Enugu, Jan 11, 2018
Every Generation is confronted with opportunities they seize upon, as well as the challenges they must confront and defeat if they desire to make appreciable progress, or simply succumb to those challenges and live with the consequences of their actions or inactions forever after.
It is no different with the present generation of the Igbos and Yorubas especially in the present day Nigeria.
For far too long the present generation of the Yorubas and the Igbos have frittered away so much energy in animosity and mutual cynicism, driven by mostly false narrative, and to the benefit of everyone else but the two ethnic groups.
The generations before were equally challenged and confronted with their own opportunities as well as challenges with colonialism and imperialism which despite their ethnic differences they bind together, cooperated, confronted and eventually defeated what was then perceived as a common enemy that must be defeated so that a new dawn of independent Nigeria will be ushered in.
It was that spirit of cooperation that brought Late Herbert Macaulay and late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe the Great Zik together. It was also that same spirit of cooperation that led the late Nnamdi Azikiwe to inspire a generation including the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Late Adeniran Ogunsanya who remained close to him till death did them apart.
Simply put; While they competed based on regional economic pursuits, they still cooperated to fight for liberation of Nigeria from the shackles of comolinalism. It is that spirit of cooperation between these two extraordinary ethnic groups that the Handshake across the Niger seek to rekindle in Enugu.
Fast forward to this present era; there’s no doubt that the events of post independent Nigeria leading all the way to the bitter civil war has created serious rift and dissonance among the ethnic groups that once cooperated despite their differences to lower the British Union Jack and to raise the Green white Green Nigeria National flag as proud people with so much hope and promise not just for the people of Nigeria, but for the entire African continent. Need we say; that it has remained just mere hope and dream deferred because the people that could’ve driven Nigeria into modernity as a thriving viable society were and still are preoccupied with frivolities and ethnic bickering.
Lost to our minds is the Silver lining and flicker of hope in the midst of that crises as historical bond of friendship was established by both Late Head of State General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi Ironsi and the then Military Governor of the Western Nigeria late Fajuyi as they faced the same fate when both were brutally murdered by the counter coupists of Northern soldiers.
Also both sides have seriously failed to amplify and celebrate the clear demonstration of act of being thier brothers keeper, instead have chosen to cling to falsehood to justify certain personal and political misadventures of some of our past and even present leaders.
For instance; it may surprise so many that it was the trio of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Michael Okpara and Odumegwu Ojukwu that were instrumental to Chief Awolowo who was jailed by Tafawa Balewa govt to be transfered to Calabar where he was properly looked after protected and subsequently released. Calabar was part of Eastern Region under Okpara and then Ojukwu with Enugu as the capital. It was that same spirit that led the story of abandoned property not becoming a reality in Lagos, thanks to elite Lagosians that upheld the rule of law.
One now wonders why we hear less of these positive stories and more of blood boiling negative stories that have Fueled the mistrust and hate to our collective detriment.
The two Heroes, (Ironsi and Fajuyi) will be honoured and celebrated by both ethnic groups in Enugu on January 11th 2018.
It is the hope of the organizers of this remarkable event that this friendship between these two leaders and the tragedy they both faced should be a bond that will hold these two ethnic groups together. Because whether these two groups realize it or not, as the fate of both Heroes was sealed on that sad day so are attempts made in so many ways, openly and clandestinely to seal the fate of mostly Southern Nigerians who share the deepest aspirations, to be free and to realize their God given potential which the rising watermark will undoubtedly lift the entire Nigeria, as their fate is inextricably tied together.
It is clearly evident that the day Southern Nigeria will realize that the power and progress of this nation is predicated on their cooperation, that day will mark the beginning of wisdom for these two highly talented ethnic groups that actually share so much in common and have so much to celebrate, but have been led to focus on the negatives as they amplified few differences between the two ethnic groups.
No one is naive to think that the huge wall of mistrust and pains of yesterday will be wished away over night especially on the side of the Igbos who suffered and are still suffering from the effects of what seem so clearly as an avoidable civil war, (if only entreaties to peace were adhered to).
No! but let’s get started. There’s no utopian ethnic group or a tribe without fault.
So it is a commendable conscious decision to assume that whatever has bitten one in the night to be mosquitoes.
It is time to move on by telling ourselves the truth, as we challenge certain polarizing and divisive narrative that has fueled the disunity among us.
There’s no doubt that
We have pretty much lived under internal neo colonialism with what seem clearly like a hegemonic agenda. The divide and rule that has kept the two regions apart has made it so difficult to instigate an outrage that will galvanize our people to fight for freedom all over again from the internal subjugation and dominance.
It appears to be so for most part, because it has the semblance of what they call; Black on Black crime that often go unoticed, and therefore is swept under the table.
Infact, the events of recent happenings in Nigeria and around the world have made it once again ever so imperative that some kind of new strategic alliances must be; from the Middlebelt region all the way to the Creeks of the Niger Delta, and from the hills of the Eastern rising sun all the way to the Western Sunset by the Lagoon. For this is the only way they can once again defeat what seem so clearly to be existential problems and some form of internal colonialism aided by faulty foundation and flawed 1999 constitution.
It is no longer a question of choice or luxury of time. We must act now or simply remain in doldrums and great uncertainty.
This is the reason for the HAND SHAKE ACROSS THE NIGER. And the time is now.
There’s no better time than this moment as it is now glaringly obvious that our fate and destiny are tied together and our interest better served when the two brethren stand up shoulder to shoulder as will be witnessed in Enugu on 11th of January.
The interesting thing about this adventure is that it is strictly driven by ordinary citizens, not the politicians on both sides. It is these ordinary citizens decided that it is time to do things differently.
It is time to find a common ground and celebrate the tremendous good among Southern Nigeria ethnic groups begining with the Igbos in the South East and The Yorubas in the South West and eventually extending it across our South South Brothers that have also suffered the brunt of this dysfunctional structure and internal colonialism.
Nzuko Umunna, a non partisan, non political organization ( A think tank) comprising of ordinary concerned citizens of the Igbos across the world floated this idea as part of the search for lasting solutions to our perennial problems. As it turned out, our Southwest brothers were equally predisposed to this new thinking. Unlike other similar initiatives, this is driven by ordinary citizens with a sense of duty and history.
So if you hear names of politicians including Governors, Government officials, including the Royal fathers of the day such as the Obi Of Onitsha and the Oni of Ife, be rest assured that they were all invited to bear witness to history.
It is time we as ordinary citizens take the bull by the horns and redefine our history and strengthen our destiny as a people richly endowed with inherent ability to contribute towards the betterment of humanity and advancement of mankind .
Through this handshake across the Niger as Yinka Odumakin the Publicity Secretary of Afenifere remarked, a spiritual bridge that will eventually turn out to be stronger than the physical highly politicized second Niger bridge will be built, and when that is done on the 11th of this month, then nothing whatsoever will ever remain the same in this country,
is A public Affairs and Policy Analyst and A member of Nzuko Umunna.