The President-General of the Ilana Omo Oodua, Emeritus Prof. Banji Akintoye, has disclosed that former Premier of the old Western Nigeria, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, told him in 1984 Yoruba and Igbo people must work together to get freed of slavery in Nigeria.
Akintoye said he recalled how Awolowo spoke like a prophet, holding his hands and saying, “Banji, you and Igbo will work together” to bring the desired emancipation.
Professor Akintoye stated these in a video he made on Tuesday, January 15, 2021, obtained by SaharaReporters.
Text of his conversation reads:
“Dele Ogun has a book ‘A Fatherless People,’ and there is a small account of it (that) Zik returning from America in 1932 with highly grown Nigerians of past pan-Africanism, the Black man around the world and so on.
“But, he was vulnerable. He was a poor person and he wasn’t getting the kind of help he deserved. He had applied for jobs at many organizations and agencies in Nigeria, and none had given him a job.
“And when he arrived from London on his way back home, that vulnerability put him in the hands of the colonial authorities. Basically, the British respected the Yoruba, but they didn’t particularly like the kind of Black man the Yoruba were. They didn’t like it, because, by the time they came, the Yoruba were fairly highly educated.
“They had been producing graduates from the mass years of the 1850s and by the time the British began to come into the Yoruba land in the 1880s and 1890s, there were already very many Yoruba graduates in every area of life.
“And when the British finally became the rulers of Nigeria (I’m jumping over a whole lot of things), they didn’t fancy the Yoruba at all. They might be friends with the individual Yoruba people that were educated, who were their friends mostly. But they feared that Yoruba were going to make the profits of colonialism difficult to achieve in Nigeria.
“So, the British didn’t particularly like the Yoruba such that they needed to subdue the interest and influence of the Yoruba people in Nigeria. And according to the account in the book that I have quoted, ‘A Fatherless People’, Mongrel Peller, who was a scholar of the colonial establishment, got hold of Nnamdi Azikwe and took him to meetings with the British colonialists in London.
“And finally arranged a meeting between him and a team of people in the colonial office, and what seemed to have happened in those meetings was that the British wanted to construct the Igbo and the Yoruba as an enemy of one another because these were the two most powerful people in Nigeria,” Prof Akintoye narrated.
The Yoruba self-determination agitation leader said Yoruba and Igbo ethnic nationalities had realized that they had been used against each other in the past while adding that the two major tribes in Nigeria had overcome that in this present dispensation.
He further said that the former Prime Minister of Nigeria, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, after eleven days of Nigeria’s Independence, had said that the North should not allow the South to control Nigeria, saying that Southern Nigeria should be treated as a conquered territory.
Also, Prof Akintoye disclosed that the British colonialists had known that there would be an end to their colonial benefits the day Yoruba and Igbo joined forces.
“If the Yoruba and Igbo collaborated, the British thought that would be the end of all the colonial benefits from their colonial endeavors in Nigeria. And, so (Nnamdi) Azikiwe arrived in Nigeria, the man who left Nigeria with high sounding ideas of the black race, the black man and Pan-Africanism, arrived in Nigeria with not so much of those ideas anymore.
“But as I said, we, the Yoruba and Igbo, have allowed ourselves to be pitched against each other. I don’t want to tell a story. A story I want to tell is the story of the change of the future. We are now at a point in the history of Yoruba and Igbo nations, where a substantial people of Igbo and Yoruba now recognize the following things that we Yoruba and Igbo have allowed ourselves to be used against each other, have now ended up nothing better than slavery in Nigeria.
“They have lost everything and now they are just fumbling around in the hands of people who are dedicated to an idea that they must hold Nigeria, they must rule Nigeria, they must control Nigeria and they must make sure that other peoples in Nigeria do not control the resources of Nigeria.
“That was what Ahmadu Bello said on October 12, that was eleven days after Independence in 1960. ‘The South we’ll treat as conquered territory. We must treat the South as conquered territory and not let them ever rule us and never let them control their own future,” the don added.
In the video interview titled: ‘Yoruba and Igbo Conference: Speaking With One Voice,’ the Yoruba leader said the foremost Yoruba nationalist spoke like a prophecy that Igbo and Yoruba must work together.
The Professor said late Chief Awolowo told him about Yoruba and Igbo joining forces to get liberated in 1984 after he (Akintoye) was released from the custody of the security agents ordered by the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari who is also the current Nigerian President.
“I have participated in discussions around Chief Awolowo as one of the young intellectuals from Ife in which we had very infinitely decided that the road forward either for Yoruba or Igbo was that both of them must learn to work together but nothing had come out of those discussions.
“In May 1984, I was released from detention by the then military ruler, Buhari. Chief Awolowo and I spent a whole day together (and I want everybody to listen to this.) Please, listen to what I want to say because it is a story I need to be telling the Yoruba and Igbo nations and shout it. We spent the whole day talking about Nigeria.
“And it was time for us to go to dinner at about 4:35, and as we stood and went towards the dining table, Chief Awolowo stopped me and held my hand and said, ‘Banji, there’s something more I should not forget to tell you.’ So, I stopped and looked at him, and he said, ‘Banji, you, we Yoruba must find a way to work with Igbo. I say you and Igbo will work together. It’s not a question of must now.’”
“He was now talking as if he was prophesying. He had started by saying you and Igbo must work together, then he upgraded his talk to something like a prophecy, that ‘You and Igbo will work together, and that’s the only way you can be freed in the world. It is the only way we can be freed in the world. It is the only way we can achieve what we deserve in the world. You and Igbo will work together.’ I’m quoting him, ‘I’m not saying it’s going to be easy as much as I can remember, ‘I am not saying it’s going to be easy but I’m saying it will be done.’”
SaharaReporters, New York