An elder statesman-cum former Assistant Publicity Secretary of the defunct Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, has expressed fear of instigating the Ibos to commit what he called ‘another suicide’ by the Yorubas.
Yakassai, who is chairman Northern Elders Council, NEC, made the revelation in an interview with our correspondent alleging the Ibos were instigated by the Yorubas to go into secession for Biafra.
He said, in case the Ibos are unaware, he has to inform them as a man who was star witness to all that took place at the time of secession declaration. According to him, “But if this agitation is coming this time when Ibos, including their intellectuals, are all over Nigeria, it shows they were not born. Even if they are not in true position of all these things, people like me happened to know the 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 of Reps, the riot that followed the plan to turn Nigeria to confederation, and those who protested. In fact, I was among 18 people arrested and latter, 15 convicted after 3 of us were set free. So I know the history and feel I should tell the younger generations to know.
He added that, “So, if you look at agitation for restructuring that is coming, by and large, is from the Yoruba. Now, the Biafra agitation is in the South East,” noting that, “they were made to leave, and Yorubas took over; and look at Yorubas. I’m not anti-Yorubas.
According to him, “Only two people are everywhere in Nigeria – Ibos and Hausas. This is because Ibos 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 Ibos 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; i.e., 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 overrun Midwest in Yorubaland. A Yoruba man (name forgotten), captured Ore.
“The places Ibos left were occupied by Yorubas, particularly the Civil Service. Till today the Yorubas are the dominant elements in the bureaucracy of Nigeria. The Ibos lost that position almost forever. At that time the Ibos were in business; they were the leading elements in business. Now, the Ibos are back again. Today, they are 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 surroundings areas are owned by Yorubas, 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 Ibos. I didn’t know until that time when I read it.
“If the Ibos said 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 Ibos doing their business without anybody harassing them. So, if they go, Yoruba will take over. Even if it’s Alaba Market the Yorubas will gain control, for, it’s a plus for them.
“Ibos are new colonialist. Their goods are everywhere in the country; if they go, their place will be down. If they come back to sell with their goods, it 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 leaving together in unity using motto: ‘Together we strong, Divide we fall.”