Afenifere, a socio-cultural organisation of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, has described as divisive a statement by the Chairman of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Council of Elders, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, describing Yoruba as “political rascals.”
In a short video clip that has since gone viral, Mr Iwuanyanwu, while speaking in Awka, Anambra State capital, at a forum to mark the first anniversary of the administration of the state governor, Charles Soludo, had angrily reacted to the reported clashes between Yorubas and Igbos in Lagos during the 18 March governorship election in the state.
The elder statesman had condemned the reported violence and informed the gathering of the efforts made by Igbo’s apex organisation to address it, even as he warned the Yorubas against further provocation.
But in a statement issued on Sunday and signed by its National Organising Secretary, Kole Omololu, Afenifere fumed at Mr Iwuanyanwu’s statement while appealing to Nigerians and particularly Yorubas to eschew violence and embrace people of all races, cultures and backgrounds.
Meanwhile, earlier on Sunday, the leadership of Afenifere’s counterpart in Igbo land, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, denied that Mr Iwuanyanwu referred to Yorubas as political rascals in his statement, describing the report as a lie from the pit of hell.
Mr Iwuanyanwu’s statement
As a statesman, Mr Iwuanyanwu was handed the microphone on Saturday for a remark, and he commended the governor for his work in the state.
He said the Council of Elders of Ohanaeze Ndigbo appreciates and supports him, “and we are very proud of you.”
However, after applauding the governor, the businessman turned politician delved into the reported tension between Igbos and Yorubas in Lagos, and assured the people of continued protection by the apex Igbo body.
For the avoidance of misinterpretation, the transcript of the short speech is reproduced below:
He said: “Now, I saw the various associations coming here from Lagos. I want to let our people in Lagos to know that on Wednesday, I called a meeting of the Ohanaeze Council of Elders Worldwide and we x-rayed the events in Lagos, and I want to tell you that people attended from America, Canada, Europe, and Nigeria. So I want those who are from Lagos to go home and tell those in Lagos that we have resolved that never again can we allow anybody to take the life of any innocent Igbo person. All of us are going to fight the person. We are going to fight the person. Never again!
“We are in Nigeria and we have invested in Nigeria, and our investments are so much. We are not going to take it when people tell us to go; we are not going anywhere. And I want to tell those who are in Lagos to realise that there is no war between us and Yorubas. Yorubas are just political rascals, and we are going to handle them.
“The elders have directed the Secretary General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Emuche… to set up a commission of inquiry, to find out things destroyed, people are going to pay.
Meanwhile, I thank you for this opportunity, I’m very grateful and I want you to give Soludo support so that he will continue to concentrate on his job and do well. Thank you very much.”
In its statement titled: “Re: The Divisive Awka Comment by Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu,” Afenifere said it has been inundated “with complaints by several Yoruba sons and daughters from all over the world regarding the comment made by the Chairman of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Council of Elders, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu.”
The statement read in part: “We have since reviewed the video recording of the event and our leadership will be reaching out to the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo to seek clarification on why Chief Iwuanyanwu made the comment and whether his view is a reflection of what Ohanaeze Ndigbo indeed think of the Yorubas.
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“We hereby call on Ohaneze to warn the Chief not to insult the Yoruba. We are a proud nation. We are a hospitable race. All these should not be interpreted to mean weakness. In fact, it is a sign of being civilized. Enough of the provocation.”
The statement further noted that in line with the race’s ethos of good upbringing, it urged Yorubas, “and indeed all Nigerians, to remain calm and continue to show love to their Igbo compatriots and members of other ethnic nationalities.”
It noted that the Yorubas have a long history of association and partnership with Igbo counterparts and that “diversity is one of Nigeria’s strengths in the comity of nations and we should not allow politics, religion, ethnicity or anything else to divide us.”
“We urge all Yorubas to continue to relate well with all other ethnic groups in Nigeria and abroad. Our common humanity is more important than the divisive antics or careless remarks of any individual or group. The Yorubas are known worldwide as promoters of peace, unity, and orderliness. We should hold on strongly to those virtues in the interest of peace, progress, and prosperity in Nigeria and the world,” the statement added.
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