Being the text of Speech by Dr Bolaji O. Akinyemi, Initiator, Center for Justice and National Integration, delivered at The Convention of the Igbo in Lagos Organised by Africa Peace and Development Foundation titled, “Which Way Forward: Ndigbo and Nigeria?” on Saturday the 1st of April 2023
King Solomon’s wisdom is ever relevant to the socio-cultural evolution of human communities. As he aptly noted in Pro 20:6 (KJV) “Most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?”
Like I once posited, history is at the mercy of its narrator. This has been the situation between the Yoruba and the Igbo in Nigeria. Our past is told in historical inaccuracies, the tilting of lies east or west depends on the tribal tongue telling it.
The recent Yoruba-Igbo crisis in Lagos instigated by a small group of selfish political leaders for purely political reasons appears to be justified by a section of the Yoruba, not for what they claim the Igbo did in course of the Presidential election but for the echoes of the lies of history. There is no doubt that reasonable Yoruba men and women did not buy into such highly provocative action.
In one of my many attempts to make men of faith and fathers in the Lord see reason that the hope of bond to build a new Nigeria lies in the coming together of the Igbo and the Yoruba, and indeed all ethnic nationalities, I sued that if our nation can’t achieve this, the Church should come to her rescue bearing in mind the indelible fraternity of Igbo and Yoruba Christians constructed on the blood of the Son of God Jesus Christ.
As I speak to you, I continue to receive a barrage of criticism from some of my Yoruba people. As I have always told them, my mission does not rely on the strength of voices from those who do not see any good purpose in my actions, but on Almighty God whose message of goodness to men stands as my guide.
This however might help someone: No great nation has ever been built on history but vision of a glorious future.
Until we are free from our bitterness to the Igbo, we will never expect a nation of over 400 ethnic nationalities to build a progressive nation. It’s a divine principle. No one who is not willing to leave his father’s house and kindred is qualified to build a nation for God. We are supposedly Abraham’s children but we lack the understanding of his principles of kingdom building. As Gen 12:1 (KJV) tells us: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:”
We are far from the Nigeria of God’s purpose for the continent of Africa and the black race because we have chosen to remain tied down to our tribes and tongues at the expense of our national brotherhood.
Sad, very sad indeed if the Church fails to play its roles in this regard! How can we claim we are of Christ and belong to God, yet we stand against the principles of the Church as defined by oneness in Christ? My consolation is that majority of Yoruba people still believe in that spirit of oneness in Christ and with people like me standing firm, I assure you that we the Children of God through Christ will definitely prevail against the enemies of peaceful coexistence between the Igbo and Yoruba.
The Igbo and Yoruba have always cooperated in all spheres of human development without rancour. Whatever rivalry that might have existed between Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, it remains an established fact that both men and their members fought for the independence of this nation called Nigeria. Unfortunately both men lost out of the leadership of the nation because of such quarrels as we are experiencing today.
Respected Igbo entrepreneurs the likes of Iwuayanwu, Cosmas Maduka, Arthur Eze, Cletus Ibeto, etc who came out of the war as young men built their enterprises from 20pounds.
There were teenagers who came out of the war who were not entitled to 20 pounds but who in their diligence built what today stands as the enterprising pride of our nation. I need not go on to mention them because that will take a whole day. Peter Obi leads the generation of children who came out of the war malnourished but today towers above the reach of poverty.
Should I not mention doyens of banking industries who operate from Lagos, being the privileged seat of national economy and commerce as well as the former Capital of the Nigerian Federation? They all distinguished distinguished themselves in their respective areas. Among whom today is the Governor-elect of Abia State, my brother and friend Dr Alex Otti. The plague of bad governance is of course a burden to the Nigerian nation, which I have no doubt Otti will do his bit to change from his Abia angle.
Which Way Forward.
Let me speak here as a man of faith; an Apostle and Nation builder.
Rom 16:17 (KJV) tells us:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine (of love and our oneness in Christ) which ye have learned; and avoid them.”
We must deliberately watch out for leaders, particularly Church leaders who said nothing when all hell were let loosen against the Igbo on the 25th of February and the 18th day of March 2023. We must mark them and everything they represent must be avoided.
The coming census is an opportunity to create political negotiations post-census. I want to appeal to Ohaneze Ndigbo, other Igbo Socio-cultural and town unions to do all that they can to ensure that Igbo prove what they were called in Lagos; strangers and go home to be counted. Igbos in diaspora must rise to this occasion and assist the partnership of Africa Peace and Development Foundation and Indigenous Groups for Justice and National Integration as they champion the project ‘Justice for Marginalized Groups’. In the case of the Igbos, until their worth is proven in Lagos, an end may not be seen to this accusations and oppression. (This should not come from you. You are here to build a bridge.)
We need not respond in violence to prove that “IGBOS ARE THE MAKERS OF MODERN NIGERIA” according to PROF TEKENA TAMUNO
The onus is on us to bury the bitterness of our forebears. It’s time to re-enact the healthy competition between Azikiwe and Awolowo.
Azikiwe established University of Nigeria at Nsukka in 1955 which formally opened in 1960 with the first School of Law, the first School of Engineering, the first Business School; the first school of journalism, and the first school of music and performance, etc. By the time its first graduates took the Nigerian civil service exams in 1963, everybody began to raise the cry of “Igbo domination” starting with Akintola and Ayo Rosiji. Awolowo however made the competition healthy by inspiring Akintola led western Nigerian government to establish the University of Ife in 1961 and commenced classes in 1962, now Obafemi Awolowo University.
Concerning the current problem in Lagos State, it is my opinion that solutions are better discussed one on one rather than on paper, since I am already engaged on practical and positive solutions to the present insane anti-Igbo crisis in Lagos State with some responsible Igbo and Yoruba opinion leaders and civil rights activists and which I will share with the leadership.
Thank you for listening.