By Femi Fani-Kayode
Fact that our reverred leader and one of the fathers of our nation, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, can sit there and say nothing when Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Iwanyanwu, an elderstatesman who I have always respected, describes the entire Yoruba race as “rascals” that the Igbo “will DEAL with” tells me that the rumour that he is NOT a fully-fledged Yoruba man and that his father was an Igbo may well be true.
Whatever the case this is not the OBJ I once knew, loved, defended and worked so hard for. Something has gone wrong.
No-one could have made a statement against ANY tribe in the presence of the old OBJ that we all knew and respected and got away with it. He would have got up and told them off.
As for Iwanyanwu I will not respond to him or to all those that were at that event and that collectively rubbished our people because they are my in-laws and because my four sons are half Igbo.
There is nothing Iwanyawau can say that will make me turn against the Igbo because I have blood and family ties with them and I will continue to love them despite this outrageous provocation.
Apart from that there are millions of Igbos who do not share Iwanyanwu’s views and who have shown nothing but the greatest respect for the Yoruba race and our Northern brothers and allies.
Amongst them are dear friends and brothers like John Nwodo, Orji Uzor Kalu, Chimaroke Nnamani, Ifeanyi Ugwainyi, David Umahi, Hope Uzodinma, Innocent Chukwuma, Emeka Offor and so many others.
Iwanyanwu does not represent them when he calls us rascals and neither does he represent the wives of Seyi Makinde, Rotimi Akeredolu, Ademola Adeleke, Gbadebo ‘Chinedu’ Rhodes-Vivour, David Adedeji Adeleke (AKA Davido) and yours truly who all happen to be Igbo.
What I will say though is that those Igbos that think like Iwanyanwu need to be careful and appreciate the fact that those so-called “Yoruba rascals” have shown the Igbo race more love, respect, admiration, fraternity, solidarity and courtesy over the last 63 years than ANY other tribe in Nigeria and millions of Yoruba men have Igbo wives.
Again many Yoruba leaders stood with and supported Peter Obi in his ill-fated quest to become President of Nigeria including Pa Ayo Adebanjo, OBJ, Afenifere, Akin Oshuntokun, Gbadebo ‘Chinedu’ Rhodes-Vivour, Babatunde Gbadamosi and so many others. I wonder if they are “rascals” too?
We extended our hand for a handshake across the Niger a few years back and we built bridges with the east.
Chief Iwanyanwu, Ohaneze and Afenifere were at that conference and so was yours truly.
As a matter of fact we all made resounding and inspiring speeches seeking for a closer relationship and greater collaboration between our people.
It was a wonderful occasion and a great experience.
We were in full solidarity with the Igbo then and lamented the injustices they had been subjected to over the years.
I even went as far as to declare that Nigeria owes the Igbo an apology for the genocide they were subjected to during the civil war and the pogroms before the war. I maintain that position till today and so do many other Yorubas.
The only thing we asked for in return was a little respect and for them not to describe Lagos as a “no man’s land”. This is a very emotional issue for us. The assertion that Lagos is not part of Yorubaland is deeply offensive and insulting to us.
We also chose to support Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a proud son of the Yoruba, for the Presidency.
These two things have caused a handful of misguided Igbos to now display hatred towards us, to insult us at every turn, to unleash their youth against us in the Media space and to describe us as “rascals”.
With those words and that attitude the bridge between our two people may soon be broken and the handshake across the Niger may soon be withdrawn.
That would be a tragedy of monumental proportions and a negation of all we stand for. We must not let it happen.
We must be restrained and careful not to destroy the love and trust we have built over the years.
The Yoruba are not a people that can easily be insulted and we do not take such things lightly.
We are kind, welcoming, accomodating, civilised, generous, cosmopolitan, liberal and open-hearted to a fault.
We are also slow to anger but irresistible in battle.
We have long memories and when we choose to take a stand and fight it goes from generation to generation.
I pray Chief Iwanyanwu and those that share his views can cultivate the prescence of mind and courage to have a rethink before it is too late.
Millions of Igbos reside in and have their businesses in Lagos and we should preach love, peace and unity between our people and not resort to calling each other names or indulge in racial profiling or stereotyping.
We choose to overlook what Chief Iwanyanwu has said this time and look the other way but it must NEVER happen again.
A word is enough for the wise.
@views exclusive rights: Femi Fani-Kayode, Former aviation minister and Nigeria Politician, March 26, 2023.