The Yorubas; An Insecure, Frightened and Second-rate people

We are now a pale imitation of the Fulani, a frightened, insecure, tremulous and second-rate nation clinging like leeches to power we seek at any cost

By Kola Odetola

No woman likes a clingy, insecure man. But that is what we Yorubas are becoming, a frightened, insecure and second-rate nation. So fearful that we can’t even accept one of our own because his mother is Igbo. There was a time when the word swagger was synonymous with the Yoruba. Reflecting self assurance and confidence. We exuded belief. The Igbos secretly admired us. They adopted our clothes and music. They flocked to our churches. 

We accommodated strangers because we were so sure of ourselves, of our standing in the world, our stature, our swag that we knew our guests were not a threat. Now all that has drained away. We are now like the insecure man who marries a pretty woman and is secretly consumed by self doubt,  fearing he is not good enough for her,  tracks her every movement, obsessively going  through her phone, hates her male colleagues because he is petrified she will leave him for soneone better. Is this how low we have fallen that we now fear those we once used to regard as culturally inferior to us? We once said the Igbos could not dance, could not dress, lacked poise and polish, were not as read as us. Now we work ourselves into a frenzy about them taking  over a Yoruba  city hundreds of miles from the nearest  hamlet in the South East. 

 One of the greatest ever Yoruba leaders Adekunle Fajuyi once gave his life rather than live with the dishonour of handing over his Igbo guest to those who wanted to murder him. We now compete with each other to denounce our Igbo guests whose only crime is trading and living in our midst, ideologically handing them bound hand and foot to the caliphate who hate and distrust us as much as they hate and distrust them. 

We look for wild statements of a few Igbos to justify our fear of all of them, in doing so demonstrating  not our courage but our fear, our insecurity, our deep-rooted inferiority complex towards  a tribe that has outmatched us and outpaced us.

 A tribe that rose from the ruins of a war in which they lost 10% of their population but refused to break, to  wallow in self pity, to  feel sorry for themselves, did not fear those who besieged their land, but went forth and conquered with commerce those who had conquered their land with bombs. They bought our property while we frittered the proceeds on women and easy living, then having wasted our inheritance accuse those with greater foresight and discipline of taking over land that we freely sold to them .They take care of their relatives, training them in the family trade while we turn ours to househelps and drivers. They pool their resources together while ours are used to tear our families apart. They build businesses, we chase every lowly special adviser looking for government contracts. They have learnt to thrive when marginalized – meaning that even though they are excluded from government largesse, they still have a lower level of poverty than we do.

It shows in sports. In the 1980’s, the national football team was split down the middle between Igbos and Yorubas, with the Yorubas dominating the more glamorous and creative roles. For every Okala, there was an Odegbami, every Chukwu a Muda Lawal, every Stanley Okonkwo a Fekix Owolabi. But since the 90’s and noughties, the roll of honour in our national game has been claimed by the Igbos. Who have the Yorubas produced to match the profile and performances of Jay Jay Okocha, Emmanuel Amuneke, Kanu Nwankwo, Mikel Obi, Vincent Onyeama. When ability, fortitude, resilience, drive and determination are needed, we see the Igbos. But when patronage, easy living and dissolute lifestyles are on show, enter the Yorubas! 

We can’t even plan coups properly. The most incompetent coup ever planned in Nigerian history was the one plotted by Yoruba officers in beer parlours over pepper soup and big stout against Abacha, leading to its most senior officer grovelling before the dictator pleading for his miserable life. The coup before that was planned by Igbo and Delta officers – the Orkar putsch in 1990 – saw the prime movers defiant to the bitter end, facing death with honour.

How did we end up here? Twenty-five years of flirting with power at the centre, of living off and chasing unearned income, of prostrating before the caliphate have turned us to feudal retainers, men who have lost their manhood. We are cowed into silence when state-sponsored gangs rampage across our lands raping our women, burning our farms, slaughtering our youth. The few who find the courage to fight back we disown, we call them ruffians. When our Youths protest against injustice as they did during the #EndSARS, we attribute it fittingly to an Igbo plot. And why not, seeing the qualities needed to organise a protest so well executed it captured the international air waves for days required courage, initiative and drive. Qualities we are now so enfeebled, so morally vacuous we happily agree belong to the Igbos.

A fish rots from the head. Our legacy was built by giants like Fajuyi, Awolowo and to a lesser extent Abiola. Men who gave their freedom and their lives rather than surrender their principles. But what have we now? Bola Tinubu who keeps quiet when millions of Igbos are put at risk in his city by vicious tribal bigotry and baiting because of his lust for power. Bola Tinubu who buried his head when his own people were being gunned down in churches in their own land by gun men under the protection of his Fulani bosses. In the halcyon days of the founder of the modern Yoruba race the closest Bola Ahmed Tinubu would have got to power would have been organising security at UPN party conferences. Today he is the acknowledged leader of the Yoruba race! 

We have these last few weeks of eternal shame revealed our weakness, our insecurity, the spiritual barrenness that now lies like a void at the centre of our world. We fear a Yoruba man because he has an Igbo mother! That’s how supine, how fearful we have become. We forget the Yorubas killed in their hundreds last year by state-protected Fulani gunmen because we are desperate to be awarded office by those who defile our women and pillage our land. 

Principle counts for nothing. We are up for sale and not for very much. This is how far we have fallen. We have won an election but lost our soul, we are in office but not in power. We are now pound land, okrika wake version of the Fulani elite who in spite of their monopoly of power at the centre feared the commercial acumen and success of the Igbo for five decades so much they turned on them whenever they felt threatened by their own inadequacies as we have done the last few weeks.

We are now a pale imitation of the Fulani, a frightened, insecure, tremulous and second-rate nation clinging like leeches to power we seek at any cost because we have nothing else to offer. The Igbos have not held power for 60 years but they thrive. We have just won it for the third time in the same period and still, like the Fulani, we fear them. This is how low a once great people have fallen.

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