Contrary to popular belief especially among Igbos that Yoruba people have treacherous attitude carefully ingrained somewhere in their DNA and that the Yorubas are chronic backstabbers, my finding leads me to believe that the Yorubas are not traitors and they are nothing close to that, they are just people who understand when to surrender, although sometimes they fail to understand that running away may not always mean that you get to fight another day.
Before the advent of the military era, the Igbos and the Yorubas had been in a healthy competition but not in outright hate situation, in the golden days of Southern Nigeria, When the Azikiwe, the Akintola and the Awolowo only engaged in brainpower and politics to game the North, although Awolowo had fear of a possible Igbo domination as he feared that the Yoruba people were losing their lead in business, university and administration in Nigeria to the Igbos, such ideology could not have penetrated among most Yorubas as even at then other Yoruba leaders like Akintola did not buy such ideology this shows how much Yorubas value ideologies and then, Awolowo was not hiding his view, he made it clear to Akintola and moved his ideology into a political strategy, this goes to show that Awolowo was real as a man and that was why he had an outright disagreement with Akintola, he was not going to say otherwise and do otherwise.
Fast forward to the Ojukwu and the Awolowo era, the Ojukwu Impact was an initial correctness hampered by a tragedy of errors as after the death of General Aguiyi Ironsi and the emergence of Gowon as the new head of state, there was a rejection of Gowon as the new Head of State by Ojukwu and then Ojukwu made a move to remove the Eastern Region from Nigeria, given that there had been a pogrom and a coup, then Ojukwu clearly understood the consequences of his rejection of Gowon as the new head of state and vowing not to take orders from him, he needs to prepare for a showdown.
Ojukwu as a smart general knew that he could not fight Gowon without the Yorubas then he made a move to seize Lagos from Gowon by facilitating the release of Awolowo from prison hoping that Awolowo will help him to seize Lagos or at least destabilize Lagos but Ojukwu could have made a deadly mistake to think that a man just released from prison could lead the Yorubas to a revolt no matter how influential he could have been. Many people believe that Awolowo betrayed Ojukwu but my studies on the Yorubas show that Yorubas don’t know how to betray but they know how to surrender.
When we look at the life of some important Yoruba people in the Igbo Yoruba relationship, a man like Adekunle Fajuyi who died alongside Aguiyi Ironsi we could see more of what Yorubas are more like, we can also look at the life of Fela Kuti, he lived an influential life uncommon for a musician, in recent times we had seen Yorubas like Ayodele Fayose, Femi Fani Kayode, Olusengun Obasanjo and Asiwaju Tinubu all leading a clear and contradictory ideology and they are willing to defend these ideologies even over their own people, for example, Ayodele Fayose and Femi Fani Kayode are people who have outright rejection of General Mohamed Buhari and his government, it does not matter to them if their people hate or love Buhari the same goes with Tinubu he loves General Mohamed Buhari and it does not really matter to him what his people’s view of Buhari is, what we can observe is that in the case of Fayose, for example, he has surrendered but that does not mean he betrayed his ideology or betrayed anybody, the fight is just bigger than him and he had to keep calm, in this case, we can see a sophistication of the Yorubas that Ojukwu did not see.
The truth is that Yoruba people will put their ideology first before anything else which may include themselves and to some extent their people and if the people reject his or her ideology he keeps calm, in that case, the Ideology that Ojukwu and Awolowo created could not have been welcomed by the power block of the Yorubas as at then and then Awalowo had to swallow his pride and surrender. With Awolowo’s surrender then there is no way he can seize or destabilize Lagos then Ojukwu could have naturally called off the war if there was still chance to do so.
Anybody who really thinks that Awolowo did not make an attempt towards what he discussed with Ojukwu may not have really understood the real behaviour of the Yorubas, the truth is that even if he tried so much, he could not have been able to do much, with lots of Nigerian military personnel then in Lagos he has no such capacity to lead a revolt against the Government and as the popular saying goes, if you can’t beat them you swallow your pride and kiss their foot.
By Alex Bells