any misconceptions about the Yoruba people of the Southwest spread among other ethnic groups, and a personal encounter with a non-Yoruba prompted me to use historical facts to dispel some of these falsehoods. Please bear with me; this is going to be a long one.
The first misconception is that Yoruba are traitors
A lot of the tension revolves around Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s alleged betrayal of Emeka Ojukwu and the Igbo, which has persisted decades after the dramatis personae left this world.
Unfortunately, this has turned into an emotional issue, with many young people being fed misinformation as fact.
The fact is that Chief Awolowo traveled to Enugu for a peace summit in order to urge Igbo leaders to take a nonviolent approach to the crisis that had erupted in Nigeria following the January 15, 1966 coup and counter-coup on July 29, 1966.
From May 6-7, 1967, Awolowo held a two-day meeting with the leaders of the Eastern Region. When both Awolowo and Ojukwu were alive, a transcript of that meeting was published.
Please note that this text was transcribed from a cassette made by Colonel Ojukwu himself.
Please, I admonish those who continue to accuse Chief Awolowo, and by extension all Yoruba, of betrayal to study that transcript.
There were tens of thousands of armed Northern troops all across the West at the time, and Emeka Ojukwu wanted Chief Awolowo to follow his lead by declaring secession of the Western Region after his own declaration of secession of the Southeast. It does not take a genius to figure out what would have happened if Awolowo had taken that path.
Furthermore, unlike Ojukwu, Chief Awolowo lacked command of any troops. He was also not the Western Region’s Governor (Adeyinka Adebayo was then the military Governor). As a result, he was stripped of his executive powers. Whatever abilities he did have were at best sporadic and persuasive.
Chief Awolowo had convened a meeting of Yoruba army commanders, but key Yoruba officers declined to attend, with one of them sending him a note stating that he was not a Yoruba soldier but a soldier of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Given all of this, it would have been naïve of anyone to expect him to declare the Western Region’s separation from Nigeria.
It would have been as if Nnamdi Azikiwe had usurped Ojukwu’s powers as Governor of the Eastern Region and announced Eastern Nigeria’s secession and the formation of a new Biafran nation. If the Ojukwu we know had done so, he would have likely arrested and executed Zik.
I can understand the animosity toward Chief Awolowo if it stems from the £20 payment made to those of Igbo descent. But that resentment is not well-founded either. Because the £20 policy only applied to persons with unverifiable bank records. I am guessing the payment would have been £0 if someone other than Awolowo had sat in that seat.
However, I believe that holding a grudge against the Yoruba as a result of that Enugu conference is an injustice to a man who just went there to avoid bloodshed.
In any case, have those who hold this view considered that the man they hold this torch for, Emeka Ojukwu, joined the National Party of Nigeria after his return to Nigeria on May 18, 1982, the same party that was populated, sponsored, and supported by the same people who prosecuted the Nigerian Civil War against him and Eastern Nigeria?
In Western, Midwestern (Bendel), and Igbo states of Eastern Nigeria, the NPN was a Northern Party that did not win a single state. The guys who formed the NPN were also the ones that counseled and possibly tele-guided Gowon.
Makaman Bida, a former member of Ahmadu Bello’s Northern Peoples Congress’ inner caucus, was, in fact, the NPN’s first National Leader.
This is the party in which Ojukwu became a member, ran for Senate (and lost), and campaigned for President in 1983.
With all of this in mind, the misconception of Chief Awolowo and all Yoruba being traitors is unsustainable.
The second misconception is that the Yoruba are a bunch of cowards.
Sani Abacha, the late dictator of Nigeria, was the most cruel ruler in the country’s history. I do not think I need to go into detail. His reign was a horrible period in our country’s history, and the worldwide spontaneous celebration of his death is enough to bring shame to his legacy, as well as to his family and survivors.
Having stated that, Nigerians may recall that on June 11, 1994, a man named Moshood Kashimawo Abiola (MKO Abiola) defied the bully that was Abacha and declared himself rightfully, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That was a brave move! That was not a cowardly action. It was a courageous act.
On June 23, 1994, Chief MKO Abiola was apprehended and brought to Abuja. He met with General Abacha while he was there and informed him face to face that he was Abacha’s boss and that Abacha should respect him. That takes a lot more than bravery. In the military, this is referred to as “Command Presence.” If you will pardon the pun, call it audacity.
On August 5, 1994, Chief Abiola was granted bail and told to “keep away from politics,” among other things. The reaction from Abiola was short and to-the-point. “Chief Abiola is not interested,” stated his wife, Kudirat Abiola.
That is self-sacrifice-level bravery. Remember that this man was a multimillionaire in US dollars, with private jets and all the modern luxuries money could buy, yet he inconvenienced himself by refusing to sellout his mandate.
And after Abacha’s death (I never refer to him as General, though. It is an insult to call the world’s biggest political thief, who is still coughing up billions 23 years after his death, a General of the Nigerian Army), Chief Abiola refused to give up his mandate, and most likely died as a result of his scrupulous stand.
And as such, calling an ethnic nationality that created such a personality cowards is absurd.
This phenomenon is not new occurrence, either. Unlike the Hausa, the Fulani jihadist army was unable to overcome the Yoruba. In 1840, a Yoruba regiment led by Balogun Oderinlo from present-day Ibadan routed the Fulani army and drove them out of Oshogbo, and subsequently out of Yoruba land. Four Fulani generals were captured in the process.
Ilorin was an instance of excessive ambition by a rogue Yoruba named Afonja, rather than a military setback. It was also limited to Ilorin. I just hope that in Lagos, history does not repeat itself.
Murtala Mohammed was a complete military failure during the Nigerian Civil War. At Abagana, the Biafrans thrashed him and were close to capturing him. Nigeria would not have defeated Biafra when it occurred if it had not been for the Yoruba-led Third Marine Commando.
Only two men have returned to Nigeria to face nearly certain death while having the choice of a very comfortable political sanctuary abroad in Nigeria’s history. Yoruba are both of them. General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida overthrew the Buhari regime in 1985 while Major General Tunde Idiagbon (mixed Yoruba/Fulani) was in Mecca. Idiagbon later returned to Nigeria not fearing for his life.
While in Copenhagen in 1995, Olusegun Obasanjo (100% Yoruba origin) was accused of plotting a coup by the tyrant, Abacha.
The then-US Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington notified him that Abacha planned to capture, try, and execute him, and he was granted political refuge in the United States.
He returned to face the prospect of almost certain death.
What two spectacular examples of bravery could there possibly be?
There is also the story of Colonel Francis Adekunle Fajuyi, who, rather than abandoning his guest, chose to die alongside Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, the then-Head of State, despite the fact that he had all the opportunity to do so.
The Yoruba are a diplomatic, considerate, and sophisticated people. Some people mistake these characteristics for lack of courage or toadyism. They are a people who know how to stoop to gain an advantage.
The wise man knows that the greatest weapon a man can wield is that that is not physical. This is the mind. A wise man with a pen and a book can pose more threat to a society than fools with swords and knives. Be that said, all of these are weapons too: wisdom, courtesy, diplomacy, and praise. Any tool you can utilize to attain your strategic goal is referred to as a weapon. It is not always necessary for the weapon to be physically hostile all the time.
In a recent development, Sunday Ighoho, the self-acclaimed secessionist clamouring for independence of the Yoruba nation and his counterpart from the East, Nnamdi Kanu are two individuals who have shown bravery in a more opposite way.
Sunday Ighoho is standing by in Nigeria to agitate for his course knowing full well that his life is at stake. Yet, he stands by to lead a group of people that had faith in his cause. And the eve before his purported Lagos Rally scheduled for Saturday 3rd July, 2021, his home at Ibadan, Oyo state was invaded in the middle of the night by DSS (Department of State Security) with the intention to kill.
Luckily, he managed to escape through the hide of his skin but, over 7 of his loyalists were eliminated by the “official murderer”.
Now, he is wanted by the government of Nigeria because the DSS paraded loads of guns and ammunition to the public they claimed belonged to him. But, Sunday Ighoho had since debunked such claims saying that he only protects himself using spiritual means; and as such, claims, that weapons found in his home were planted by the DSS who invaded his home, are justified.
Surprisingly, the rally in Lagos still held as scheduled at Gani Fawehinmin Park in Ojota, despite the warnings by the Federal Government threatening to deal with protesters that would show up at the venue. Agitators showed up in their numbers not minding the heavy presence of armed security personnel in and around the venue and armoured vehicles.
On the other hand, Nnamdi Kanu had fled the shores of the land after he jumped bail in late 2017 leaving behind his loyalists without a sense of purpose and direction. He was later arrested in Kenya on the 27th of June, 2021. And when asked why he jumped bail in 2017, he claimed that his life was at stake and several times , the Nigerian military had invaded his home at ungodly hour looking to assassinate him. So, this, among others, were the reasons he had been AWOL (Away Without Official Leave) from the agitation scene.And in the past few years scores of IPOB (Indigenous People Of Biafra) members had died in clashes with security forces in the eastern part of Nigeria. If only he was around, the scenario would have played differently, I guess.
So, you see, Yoruba are as brave as they can be till the end.
The third misconception is that the Yoruba people love to form clans against non-Yoruba people
The Southwest of Nigeria is the country’s most populous region. The Yoruba are unique in that they are both religiously tolerant and racially flexible.
And I am delighted that, by chance, former President, Goodluck Jonathan stated the same thing last week. For your Information, I had no influence on him whatsoever over this statement he made.
The commercial hubs in the East, Nnewi and Onitsha are not the wealthiest cities in Nigeria for Igbo men to run their businesses. Thus, they make $4 billion every year through Alaba International Market (a commercial centre in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria) according to Robert Neuwirth, an American journalist and investigator. They have never had such a high turnover anywhere else in Nigeria.
Aliko Dangote is currently the world’s wealthiest black man, with assets totaling more than $4 billion in Lagos and the Southwest.
The fact that other Nigerians may migrate to the Southwest and succeed there more than in their own regions speaks much about the Yoruba’s hospitability.
How many Igbo Alaba traders have been abducted, kidnapped, or murdered? However, in the Southeast (their own hometown), they are kidnapped, abducted, and murdered.
Aliko Dangote has never been a subject of attack in the Southwest by terrorists, bandits, or Boko Haram. But, billionaire and the Almajiri (the poor/beggars) alike are at risk in the north.
People mistakenly believe that the Yoruba are clannish because they uphold and preserve their traditional values even when they clash with those of other civilizations.
In an office setting, a Yoruba person is more likely to form a clique with someone who understands and speaks Yoruba. I did not imply they would be inclined to form a Yoruba clique. They are likely to form a clique with anyone who speaks Yoruba, as I previously stated. It is their culture that they enjoy. They will follow you if you are in tuned with their culture.
As a result, the Yoruba have the most elected non-indigenous representatives in their states than any other ethnic group.
A number of people from the south-east and south-south have been elected to the House of Representatives to represent distinct Lagos seats. Among them are Desmond Elliot, Tony Nwoolu, Rita Orji, and Oghene Egoh.
Is there somewhere else in Nigeria where this is happening?
So, those with hate in their heart for Yoruba should realize that the Yoruba’s desire to preserve their entire culture both within Nigeria and when traveling overseas is not clannishness. It runs in their veins.
What evidence do I have that this is true? Because I am a frequent traveler.
Slaves were captured from nearly every ethnic group in Black Africa during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Only the Yoruba slaves, on the other hand, were able to preserve their culture on a wide scale across the Americas (the Umbundo also retained some of their culture, but they are limited to Brazil).
A mix of Portuguese and Yoruba is spoken in the Brazilian state of Bahia. The people of the state are overwhelmingly black and have Yoruba names. Brazil, in fact, has the world’s second-largest Yoruba population, after Nigeria. Do your research to prove me wrong. Facts, not supposition, are what I deal with.
The Santeria religion is practised by an estimated 50 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean. Santeria is founded on Yoruba traditional worship, which may surprise you. In fact, Orisha, a Yoruba term, is the name for god in Santeria. In Santeria, the characters Eshu, Sango, and Ifa are significant.
As a result, you can see how deeply Yoruba culture is rooted, to the point where even generations of slavery were unable to eradicate it.
Yoruba people can be found in their numbers in Jamaica and across the Caribbean coast.
Slaves from Igbo, Hausa, Calabar coast, Swahili, Oromo, Bantu, and other African tribes were transported to the Americas. None has managed to maintain their cultural identity like the Yoruba slaves.
If you are in London on a visit, you may be confused to think that the only African language in existence is Yoruba. It is widely spoken in all corners of the city.
In a quiet commuter bus, a Yoruba man will not be ashamed to receive a phone call, and speak in his mother tongue.And, I am not talking about a Yoruba person who is on visit probably for the first time. I am speaking about second-generation Yoruba who were born and raised in the United Kingdom.
I have been traveling the world since I was a child, but I have never met somebody doing so using far more widely spoken African languages like Swahili and Hausa.
They are free to say it in secret in their foreign homes. However, they do not do so publicly, and even if they do, it is not to the same amount as the Yoruba.
Yoruba-speaking Constables are now being recruited by the Metropolitan Police, while Yoruba-speaking cashiers are now employed by Harrods. Please do not believe anything I say. Verify my facts.
On a Sunday in Houston, you will witness Yoruba dressed in their traditional attire, Adire, as well as Abeti Aja and Eleti Aja.
Other Africans in California now use the phrase “the Nigerians will be there” to bring crowds to their gatherings.
Other tribes, including mine, will be irritated by this, but when foreigners comment about how cool Nigerians are, they usually mean the Yoruba.
Take it or leave it, but the Yoruba are the world’s most advanced Black people.
They produced Wole Soyinka, the first Black African Nobel Laureate in an academic category; Olusegun Obasanjo, the first Black African military ruler to voluntarily hand over power to a civilian President; Sade Adu, the first Nigerian to win a Grammy Award; and Dele Olojede, the first African born and bred to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Because they are unapologetically Yoruba, the Yoruba are the most popular musicians of Nigerian heritage. They make no attempt to sing or perform in the manner of Westerners. With their Yorubaness, they are very forthright. When people like themselves so much, others are more likely to like them as well.
On the planet, there are an estimated 15 black billionaires. Yoruba make up three of them (Mike Adenuga, Folorunsho Alakija, and Femi Otedola, respectively), more than any other ethnic group in Africa.
Adewale Adeyemo, a Yoruba man, has been nominated as the deputy Treasury Secretary by US President Joe Biden. In US history, this is the highest post to which a Black African has been appointed (rather than elected). Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, a Yoruba man, was the first person on Earth to successfully perform a surgery that involved removing an unborn foetus from its mother’s womb and returning it after the surgery.
In America, 77 percent of all Black doctors are Nigerians, with a big percentage of these being Yoruba.
I congratulate the entire Edekiri (the Yoruba’s real name) people, both at home and abroad. They are not traitors, cowards, or clannish individuals. They are omoluabi (responsible people), in case you did not notice. Oni tesiiwaju (forward-seeking fellows) is their middle name.