Warns, ‘don’t get instigated by Yorubas to commit another suicide’
Elder statesman and chairman of the Northern Elders Council, NEC, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai has warned Igbo people against becoming victims of Yoruba instigation again, as ongoing calls for restructuring now is similar to what they instigated that caused the civil war.
Yakassai gave the advice in an interview with Nigerian Pilot, where he alleged that Igbos were instigated to go into secession for Biafra by the Yorubas who later turned around and occupied positions left vacant due to the war.
Yakassai said in case the Igbos were unaware, he had to inform them as a man who was star witness to all that took place at the time of secession declaration.
“Even if they are not in true position of all these things, people like me happened to know a whole lot. When the constitutional crises took place in 1963, I was already a journalist and Hausa editor of Daily Comment, dedicated to NEPU, my party. I was an assistant publicity secretary of the party, so I know all the happenings – the action of Tony Enahoro, the boycott by northern members of house reps, the riot that followed the plan to turn Nigeria to confederation, and those who protested.”
According to him, “Only two people are everywhere in Nigeria – Igbos and Hausas. This is because Igbos are hardworking, and Hausas are everywhere because they are the only one that can do menial jobs.
“Before the civil war started, the Yorubas said if Igbos are allowed to go, they too will go on the secession declaration.
“It was Chief Awolowo who said it openly and publicly; it was published in newspapers. He was the one that was sent by Gowon to talk to Odumegwu Ojukwu in the eve of the secession declaration not to secede.
“They met at the Niger Bridge. When he (Awo) came back, even though we did not know what they discussed personally, he said if the eastern people are allowed to go by any act of omission or commission the west will follow; if they secede the Yorubas will follow.
“That was what he said. By the time he said that, he was already mounting pressure on the northern soldiers stationed in the west to be removed, and Biafrans overran Midwest in Yoruba land. A Yoruba man, name forgotten, captured Ore.
“So if you look at agitation for restructuring that is coming, by and large, it is from the Yoruba. Now the Biafra agitation is in the South-East. My fear now is that I don’t want a situation where the Igbos will be instigated by the Yoruba to commit another suicide. Because by the time the Igbos went on Biafran secession they were the one occupying the position of influence and power, economically and in the civil service. They were made to leave and Yorubas took over, and look at Yoruba; I’m not anti Yoruba.
“The place Igbos left were occupied by Yoruba, particularly the civil service. “Till today the Yoruba are the dominant elements in the bureaucracy of Nigeria. The Igbos lost that position almost forever. At that time the Igbos were in business; they were the leading elements in business. Now the Igbos are back again. Today they are the leading people in business. They have come back and have taken over trades and manufacturing industry.
“I had impression that most of the industries in Lagos and surrounding areas are owned by Yoruba, until recently when I read the open letter written by Gen. A. Adebayo to Tinubu. In the letter, he sighted that the industries in Ibadan are owned by Indians and Lebanese, and the ones in Lagos are owned by Igbos. I didn’t know until that time when I read it.
“If the Igbos say they are going through rebellion, God forbid, for whatever reasons, certainly, Nigerians will fight them, and if that happened they will lose their advantages in southern Nigeria. Go everywhere, you will see Igbos doing their business without anybody harassing them. So if they go Yoruba will take over. Even if it is Alaba market the Yorubas will gain control, for it’s a plus for them.
“But if this agitation is coming this time when Igbos, including their intellectuals, are all over Nigeria, it shows they were not born. Even if they are not in true position of all this things, people like me happened to know a whole lot. In fact, I was among 18 people arrested and latter, 15 convicted after three of us were set free. So I know the history and feel I should tell the younger generations to know. Igbos are new colonialists; there goods are everywhere in the country; if they go, their place will be down. If they come back to sell with their goods, they will be competing with India and China, as Yoruba will take over them. Simple example is European Union, with all the capital they control, they still talk about living together in unity using motto: ‘Together We Are Strong, Divide We fall,’ Yakassai noted.