How the Yoruba can deal with the Igbo By Azuka Onwuka

Azuka Onwuka

For decades, the Igbo and the Yoruba have lived in peace but have bickered ceaselessly like cat and dog. On April 22, 2014, I wrote an article entitled, “‘Tom and Jerry’ relationship between Igbo and Yoruba to highlight the inherent strengths of these two ethnic groups and how they can positively direct these strengths for the good of the two ethnic groups and Nigeria in general. I added another article on April 21, 2015, entitled, “Lagos is not a ‘No man’s land’ but to underpin how the two ethnic groups can work together.

However, one complaint some Yoruba have against the Igbo is that the latter are limiting the opportunities available to the Yoruba by being in control of their homeland in the South-East and also sharing the opportunities in the South-West with the Yoruba. If the Igbo were all resident in the South-East, and only come into the South-West to transact business and go back, some maintain, there would not be much problem. But the idea of the Igbo settling en masse in Yorubaland, especially Lagos, buying property massively, controlling some markets and products, and having a say in the politics of the South-West seem threatening to some Yoruba. It creates the impression that the Igbo usually hold an annual general assembly in a 30-million-man capacity stadium at which a directive is issued to every Igbo person to go to the South-West and take it over. But as has been shown, the Igbo are investment-driven, and land seems to be the best investment in Nigeria, because of its ever appreciating value and the protection it gives to the owner from landlords who talk down on tenants, increase rent at will and eject tenants at the flimsiest reason. The Igbo are proud people who don’t like living at the mercy of any “master”.

One weird alternative is to send all Igbo out of Yorubaland. But that option is not an option because the Igbo are Nigerians and have a right to reside in any part of Nigeria without any passport or residential permit. Secondly, even if the Igbo and the Yoruba don’t belong to the same country, the global standard is that people are free to reside in any country once they have valid papers, and they have a right to own property once they can afford it. Currently, Nigerians reside in all parts of the world and own property there without being citizens of those countries.

However, there is an option that will balance the skewed equation between the Igbo and the Yoruba and reduce the tension between the two ethnic groups. That option is to have a strategic migration of the Yoruba in droves into Igboland, residing there with their families, transacting business, buying property and participating in the local politics and social activities in Igboland. Currently, many Yoruba seem to be averse to living in other parts of Nigeria outside the Yoruba enclave. Interestingly, they love to live in large numbers in the UK and the US.

Even in the choice of university, it is the same story. The PUNCH edition of August 10, 2015 published a news story on page 6 on the result of the post-UTME examination released by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. The person with the highest score was Igbo (Onyenachi Nze). Two people tied at third position, and one of them was Igbo (Jude Epunam). If you check the results released by universities which are based in the South-East, Yoruba names will be few and far between, not because they don’t want to admit Yoruba students, but because they rarely apply to South-East universities or even those in the South-South. In my class of about 70 students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, we had only one Yoruba student.

Once the Yoruba take a decision to “invade” the South-East in large numbers, the relationship between them and the Igbo will improve greatly. They will stop feeling short-changed by the Igbo. While an Emeka is buying a house in Okota, an Ayodele should be buying a house beside Emeka’s ancestral home in Amawbia. While a Dozie is calling himself Eze-Igbo of Ojo, a Dayo is calling himself Oba Yoruba of Ngwaland.

That was why I was very happy when Ekiti State mooted the idea of sending some Ekiti youths to Onitsha and Aba to acquire trading skills and craftsmanship. We Nigerians love to see the bad sides of each ethnic group rather than the good sides. Each ethnic group has some great qualities that anybody who is not enslaved by tribal supremacy and hate can copy and put to good use. My 21-year sojourn in Yorubaland has added some value to me.

In all parts of the world, settlers always have an edge to succeed more than the indigenes. Why? Settlers come with different perspectives. They naturally think outside the box. They see things differently and therefore spot opportunities that indigenes can’t spot. They have more drive to succeed. While sons of the soil live in their own houses and pay no rent, and have access to farmlands where they can get food for free, etc, which make them complacent and conceited, settlers know they have to succeed or die of hunger or get booted out by their landlords. They are also not bogged down by their culture or positions. A prince in a foreign land will pocket his title and do even menial jobs to succeed, but he can’t do the same in his own land.

While growing up in Nnewi in the South-East in the late 70s and early 80s, I saw hired farm workers from Enugu and Ebonyi send their Nnewi counterparts out of business. They came in with hoes whose blades were three times the size of the hoes used by Nnewi farmers. So, they worked faster. And unlike the Nnewi hired workers for whom you must provide one meal plus wine per day until they finished working for you, the Enugu/Ebonyi workers demanded no such thing. They got the job done fast, get paid, and move on to another job. Soon, nobody was hiring the Nnewi workers, and they fizzled out.

Ghanaian tailors, barbers, cobblers, etc, did the same thing to their Nnewi counterparts when they came into the town in the late 70s and early 80s.

The bottom line is that people who want to pay for goods and services want new, better, faster and more cost-effective ways of offering them. They don’t care about your race or religion or nationality. That is why settlers have an edge over indigenes.

So for the Yoruba involved in house construction, architecture, roofing, tiling, wiring, plumbing, auto mechanics, panel-beating/car-painting, house-painting, fashion designing, herbal medicine, hairdressing, nail-fixing, upholstery, restaurants/bars, etc, it may be time to seek a new territory. Igboland needs your fresh perspectives and artistry.

In China, Chinese food would seem ordinary, but in Africa, Europe or America, it is exotic. The same thing goes for something as ordinary as roast plantain (boli) or specially prepared goat meat called asun. Because these are Yoruba meals, if prepared in the South-East by a Yoruba person, they are seen as exotic delicacies.

When there is an influx of Yoruba into Igboland, it will create more competition there. Variety will be added to the lifestyle in Igbo land. A win-win situation will be created. The Igbo will no longer feel that they are being foolish by investing in Yoruba land without the Yoruba reciprocating.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe with Dim Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu and Chief Obafemi Awolowo could not unite the Igbo and Yoruba. On the contrary, they created a deeper gulf between the two ethnic groups. The absence of regional governments has created an absence of central figures in Yorubaland and Igboland that can champion an honest and enduring Igbo-Yoruba relationship. A real handshake across the Niger is therefore essential now more than ever before.



  1. The problem with your proposition is that the SE is densely populated and the people from their antecedents are not welcoming.

  2. See the irony in Nigeria – all those worried unduly about the existence and growth of the Igbos in Nigeria are PhD holders – you anticipate that they know better regarding possibilities about (open to) human beings but here we are most of them think childishly! You wonder how long will these live on earth that do not want to care about their neighbours vis-à-vis the mantra – Live and let’s live!’

    PLEASE READ THIS WITHOUT QUALMS BUT TO EXPLAIN TO THE YOUTHS IN YORUBA NATION WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN NIGERIA TO ENABLE THEM UNDERSTAND THE POLITICAL TRAJECTORY OF NIGERIA! It is sad that we appear to be reviving (revert to) that sneaky way of playing politics again for Nigeria. I read from Abike-Dabiri last week trying (in a bid) to condemn the approach – but here we are, I don’t know if she was aware about what this my comment intent to expose – I don’t know where she was then! The political problems in Nigeria it can be said categorically started in the Western Region and we appear to be returning to the Region for the same problems! Incidentally I have offered another solution for Nigeria like the Option A-4, which you have not yet (quite) appreciated both the meaning and application of it!

    The new solution will help us much better in Nigeria once you can comprehend the imports, folks! I want to say subtly here (like I did in 1991/2 for Option A-4) that my new solution is a Challenge for the Senate Office and the Vanguard to publish it for the general public to read it! You’ll discover that it is what you need to solve all matters including corruption and the ‘imbroglio – the jinx’ related to political leadership problem in Nigeria!

    I have read this piece and to say that it has most features about the political trajectory of Nigeria to commend it but for one area and that is the area touching on the reasons for the political unrest and mistrusts about Nigeria and when it first crept into the set up and why? Aribisala probably did not set out to start from that part (reminds us) of the early political history if he did you’ll probably understand clearly what is happening in the country to date! For the youths, on either side of the divide, to be able to comprehend the intention in this article. I want to acknowledge that Mr. Aribisala is one of the prolific writers in Yoruba land and the other is Odia Ofeimun but he (Odia) is usually constrained such that you still find that ‘Yoruba trait – writing to please/praise his people’ throws up in his own presentations if he were to write about the same subject obviously because he was once Chief Awolowo’s secretary and confidant, if you like! In fact, having read this feature I’ll recommend that senior statesmen in the three old regions like Malam Maitama Sule, Chief Mbazulike Amaechi – the boy is good, Chief Ikokwu and Chief Asiodu may well be locked away somewhere in Nigeria for them to provide us a ‘memoir’ incisive enough about the political trajectory of Nigeria – Chief A. Enahoro and Adeniron Ogunsany could have been joined to do this for Nigerians but they are no more with us – bless their souls wherever they are, folks! In any case, any other persons of their age and experienced could do us the favour also if they want.

    Nigeria’s political problem started far back as in the 1950s when Chief O. Awolowo returned to the country and he was seeking for ways to be recognised particularly by his people in the Western Region! Mr. Herbert Macaulay presumed Yoruba man and others including Dr. Zik were leaders of the political movement then against the Colonial government Britain! About that time Africans in the DIASPORA – i. e. in the Americas and the West Indies had began to agitate for a return back to their mother land Africa! To be able to achieve this,. there was need for African countries and their leaders them to seek first for ‘Self Rules’ for the countries in African so as to be in position to not only provide but be in position to supervise the peoples in what they considered African way to receive the returnees if it came to that resolution; they had some returnees for Ghana – person like Dr. Du Bois he is late now and was interned in Ghana, for example! So in Africa, leaders in countries on the western coast organised themselves – the leaders organised and agreed to ask for regional authorities by way of Independence, Britain and France were considered to have been in the zone for ‘too long’ and could no longer serve the purpose of (look after) the Black people – thus the burgeoning aspirations ensued from that period! In the stricture Liberia, Sierra Leon and Ghana in 1957, became Independent sovereign countries and Nigeria was amalgamated in 1914 reason for that was understandable (commercial interest) in spite of the possible dangers the composite group formation portrayed then – by 1960 Nigeria procured her Independence – a bigger group in the zone!

    Although the NCNC was the leading and organized group as the political party in Nigeria spreading across to the Cameroon’s ‘Deep-south’ their leader Mr. Herbert Macaulay’s health was beginning to wane and there was the need for a hand-over to a new leader(s) to take the movement to a higher/ next level! He and the party ‘stalwarts’ looked round as usually good leaders do, contemplated on who to be trusted to carry on where Macaulay stopped! Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe was Secretary for the party; there were others like Chief Adelabu Adegoke, Okotie-Eboh! Chief Earnest Ikoli though not quite a member of NCNC but he was one of the influential Nigerians around then. There were others like him in the West but, the mantle of leadership went (fell) to Dr. Zik! The story then was that the appointment or handing over of the leadership to Dr. Zik though willingly accepted had some undertone/ sparked un-easiness in the Region – groups wondering why should Zik an Igbo person lead in the Western House! Hitherto this stage, the British Government was not finding it that comfortable with the NCNC party led by Herbert Macaulay, with the idea of (link with) the ‘return back to Africa’ Agenda’, take over political affairs in Nigeria – the biggest country in Africa population-wise!

    So, their was the rethinking and scheming going on both within the NCNC party and other small groups just coming up to the lime light at the period in Western Region of Nigeria! It was at this period that Chief Awolowo flirted (politically) with Mr. Earnest Ikoli and others to find way to unseat NCNC and ultimately Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as the leaders in the Western House – recall that Awolowo had only just returned to Nigeria and had no base or recognition politically! The scheming and prevarications that followed the agitation led to the obnoxious slogan by Chief Awolowo – i. e. “West for the Westerners; East for the Easterners and North for the Northerners” when he could not raise a formidable challenge to NCNC party, which inevitably (in turn) brought about the cross carpet mendacity in Nigeria’s political field for the first time!

    Britain had just conducted the 1952 election for the Western House and NCNC party was leading in the election for the Western House to be announced and inaugurate as the party to lead in the House! To the amazement of Dr. Zik and others like Adegoke Adelabu, Mr. Adeniron Akinsonya, TOS Benson even Fani Kayode’s father there was this cross over to the opposition thus swelling the Action Group’s (AG) number! As a result, AG gained automatically the greater number in the House and was declared winner – just like that, and Britain being the Colonial administrator condoned it! Thus, the intrigue and conspiracy theory to oust NCNC and Herbart Macaulay’s as the majority party in the Western House was achieved under Chief Awolowo!

    Before the elections the same Colonial government conducted a plebiscite in both South-east of Nigeria for part of it to join Cameroon so as to cut off the support NCNC – Zik’s party to had in the zone, and for the North-west of Cameroon to join Northern Nigeria so as to swell (increase) the electorates for the NPC – the North Peoples Congress so as to undermine the NCNC election fortunes (number of elected candidates) before the Self Rule! The referendum and plebiscite was part beginning, (including the earlier cross carpet event in the Western Region) of the intrigue about the politics for Nigeria!

    Lest we forget, the leadership tussle in the West between Chief Awolowo and the Chiefs led to the banishment of the Ooni of Ife at the period! The intrigue did not end here because they continued and Zik had to return to the East still with the NCNC party to establish in the zone as the leader and Head of Government of Eastern Region! The political scheming did not end here because the same Chief Awolowo went far to get the Calabar Ogoja Resistance (COR) movement started in the East and the Middle Belt Movement under Mr. J. S. Takar to kick against the NPC in the North! He went further to arrange a flight past across the Northern Region to get a serial photograph of Northern women in the North (in Buda/pudar) for the last election before the procurement of Independence for Nigeria – an act that infuriated the Northern leaders at end of which Chief Awolowo’s party did not win in the election – NPC and NCNC parties formed the government leaving his party (AG) in the opposition! The position then mirrors exactly what happened in Nigeria between PDP and ACN!

    By this period Chief Awolowo had left the Western house to now sit in the National Assembly in Lagos as the leaders of the opposition and he handed the West House to Chief Sammuel Akintola and Chief Fani Kayode as the Deputy as was the case for Dr. Zik in the East! By now, the political shenanigans in the Western House had grown to a level that brought about a break-away group (UPP) from AG led by Chief S. Akintola! It was the tussle and intrigue in the Western House and the struggle in the National Assembly to gain recognition that pushed Chief Awolowo into the plot to oust/ undermine the Federal Government in what was regarded as a treasonable felony crime for which he was tried along with Chief A. Enahoro and Mr. Ikokwu as conspirators and were all jailed to serve prison terms rather than face execution!

    Chief Awolowo was to serve his own prison term in the North but the case and fear arose particularly in his family, that for reason of what the Northern rulers regarded as detestable and an insult against their religion and culture by flying past the entire Northern Region to ‘spy’ on their women in ‘Buda/ puda’, it was held in the West that he’ll not be treated fairly if he were sent to the North to serve the prison term! So, the question or concern was; What/ how would his family and the Yorubas get over this dilemma, pre-occupation/ nightmare? The question then arose that there could be an application for clemency of some sort for him but how do they go about it? Dr. Zik was now the President of Nigeria – a ceremonial Head of Nigeria by the Constitutional provisions, he signs most of the concession rights/ pardons! The crucial question arose then but Chief Awolowo you recall, ousted Dr. Zik in that Western House debacle and probably he (Awolowo) did not show any remorse for that in the intervening period before he was accosted for the crime! They cannot approach Sir. Ahmadu Bello nor Tafawa Belewa – it was really a big thing for the family and the Yoruba people at the time but sanity prevailed Dr. Mbadiwe and their friends in the West were rallied/ approached and they made soundings whether Zik can do something for the Chief, which he did by issuing a fiat that enabled Chief Awolowo to end in Calabar prisons rather than taken to the Northern prison, where it was obvious he’ll be dealt with unfairly recalling his effrontery to not only see but take photographs of the Northern women from the air! It was not surprising that he was not made the President of Nigeria – Nigerians holding things against you! And Ojukwu euligised him in a satirically, thus: – The best President Nigeria never had!

    So, reflecting on this short story about the political trajectory for Nigeria, when it came to the issue of civil war and the post, reading through Prof. Aribisala’s account, you would wonder why should Chief Awolowo be so ungrateful in his policy advise to Gowon as the Minister for Finance and the issues of starvation and the ‘20 Nigerian pound’ for the Easterners irrespective of the sufferings and deprivations especially after the war? Even before the war commenced Nigerian leaders went to Ghana to discuss in that ABURI ACCORD not withstanding that Ojukwu had a close to heart discussions with the Chief at which point, after reading the contents and the other discussions with Ojukwu, he came out to say, and Prof. Aribisala reminds us about it: “If East is allowed to secede the West will do so too!” I mean somebody whose life was spared by an Igbo person and who (he Awolowo) should show remorseful rectitude swearing at that point! Mind you, amongst the accusation tabled against him in the treasonable felony case, was intention to secede – to take/detach Western Region out of Nigeria!

    Now, coming to the present events of Governor Fashola, the Oba of Lagos even though the person being voted for is a Yoruba person still the ‘fatwa’ had to be issued and; the latest in the order of destruction of the merchandise of Igbos traders in Oshodi without notice, you wonder why are these people diehards – what did they see in the Igbos that makes them tend to jump? I don’t want to go any further but to stop here believing that you have now got an idea of the psychology and hatred in Nigeria’s political terrain about Igbos and Yoruba relations!

    If you understood what is explained above, which is correct at least Aribisala cited some of them in his article, you’ll agree that Yorubas are indebted to Igbos in many ways – think about the expansion in Surulere and its adjoining environs which Dr. Mbadiwe initiated whilst he was the Minister! The areas was regarded as a no-go zone at the period but his Ministry declared the area ‘New Area’ for to be opened up by the Town Planning authority! What about the Apapa development and the Victoria – all that, the Igbos did and yet the Yorubas not showing any gratitude! I mean if Lagos was no regarded then as the Capital of Nigeria – Calabar was to be until the Colonial Administration felt that Lagos was more close to the high sea than Calabar otherwise the Igbos would have been content with Calabar City being within Eastern Nigeria! This not withstanding consider what is going on – the development in ABUJA, would say Igbos should not live in the City even though you claim that Nigeria is ‘One’ and is going to be One country! I mean the decision/ solution on how to go about the problems between these two tribes must be sought for and early too! Like I said earlier I have again provided a practical solution considered to be compatible for the psychology of the people even though in a gullible stage, to help matters about us in Nigeria!

    Yes, we know about the French and Germany and America and Japan what about England and Germany Hitler was to annex England in that his diabolic mission/ adventure but all that should serve as lessons for us to have learnt something out of the experience judging from the contributions we have made for the country even since the end of the civil war, folks! My concern from all the trappings, is about how to help humanity hence my solutions for Nigeria to date; log onto; and possibly tell me what you see on the web.
    • I haven’t got names of other Nigerians who can write to inform us – the youths in particular but whoever wants (is motivated) to do so should please do so unabashed – tell us the true story!
    Again, I have written/ commented, like that child crying profoundly and pointing its finger in a direction to draw attention thus; Write the truth/facts so that as they read them they will be filled with wonderment and hopefully ready to do something leading to correctness in our politics, which will ultimately lead to the anticipated economic and social growths for the peoples in Nigeria! You’re doing (in the period/ process) of Constitution amendment therefore, here is the opportunity to insert my new and compatible solution for the political leadership in Nigeria! Thank you.

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