Once upon a time there was an obscure little man who wrote a book that inspired the German people and lifted them up from the shame and degradation of their defeat after the First World War. That book and the philosophy that it enunciated gave them hope and delivered them from the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Vesailles in 1919 which effectively turned Germany into a weak, crippled and beggardly vassal state. That man’s name was Adolf Hiteler and in 1934 he was elected in a free and fair election to lead the German people.
In 1923 whilst he was in prison and long before that election ever took place Hitler had stirred up the passions of the German people and replaced their despair with hope by writing his famous book which was titled ”Mein Kampf” which, translated into english, means ”My Struggle”. Hitler’s ”struggle” and ”dream” moved Germany from the shame of defeat after the First World War and transformed her into the greatest political, economic, industrial and military power on the planet in his day in just a matter of ten years.
His views about German nationalism and the rightful place of the German people in the scheme of things fuelled the pride and inspired the vision of every single German of his day. Consequently they sought to transform the world and establish a new world order which would have placed them, as members of the supposedly superior Aryan race, above all others. Thankfully they failed, though it took a Second World War, violent resistance from the whole civilised world (less Japan and Italy) and a casualty list of 50million dead (20 million of whom were Russians) to stop them.
The Aryan race was eventually subdued, peace was returned to the world, history was written by those that won the war and the horrors of the nazi’s were exposed whilst the atrocities that were committed by the Allies themselves were covered up. For example we know about what the Germans did to the jews, the slavs, the homosexuals and the gypsies at Aushwitz and the other concentration camps. Yet how many of us are aware of the atrocities committed by the Allied Forces during the bombing of Dresden where, according to some estimates, close to half a million German civilians were killed and a whole city levelled to rubble in just a few nights. Again how many of us know about the bombing of the Japanese towns of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans with nuclear weapons which resulted in the greatest and most devastating single massacre in human history.
You may well ask what is my point here and what is the relevance of all this to our collective struggle? Permit me to answer that. The first point is that history is always written by the side that is victorious after any struggle or any war and the loser always becomes the demon. Very few people get to hear the loser’s story and all trace of anything that is good or wholesome about him or his cause is wiped out and buried in the rubble of history. The morale of the tale is simple and clear- never lose a war and never fight a war that you are not sure of winning.
The second point is that German nationalism, as enunciated by Hitler’s vision in ‘Mein Kampf’, was a very powerful tool which had it’s finer points and which served the interests of the German people by waking them up and causing them to rediscover their own sense of pride, dignity, self-respect and indeed greatness. I am not a supporter of Adolf Hitler and neither am I a racist or a nazi. I do not believe that one race is necessarily superior to another but I do believe that we are all very different and that some races have greater strengths in some areas than others. I also take great pride in the fact that I am a yoruba man and that my race are second to none and have proved that over and over again during the course of world history.
The contributions of the yoruba to a greater and better Nigeria cannot be disputed and our ability to tolerate the views and excesses of others, even where those views and excesses are detrimental to our own collective interest, are well known. Yet, like the Germans after World War 1, we are beginning to forget who and what we are, where we are coming from and what we are meant to be. That is what the centralised, unitary and hybrid state of Nigeria, which was essentially conceived and established by the post civil-war military powers that were, has done to us. To get us out of that terrible mindset and psychological retrogression is my objective and my own ”struggle”. It is my own ‘Mein Kampf’ and my own dream and I urge the De Rauf Group, the Kurunmi Front and indeed all yoruba nationalist groups including the Odua Peoples Congress, the Odua Liberation Movement, the Odua Descendants Union, the Egbe Omo Yoruba, the Odua Solidarity Forum and others to help me to berth it by spreading the word.
The yoruba have always thrived on a plurality of opinion. That is our way. We debate and discuss all things and we hardly ever agree on anything. There is nothing wrong with that provided we do not lose sight of the fact that we have a common cause and purpose- and that cause and purpose is to protect and preserve the rights, dignity and integrity of our people in a wider Nigeria and to ensure that our values and divinely ordained destiny to be the first in all things in our nation is not thwarted. Nigeria is NOT and was never designed to be a hybrid state where we were meant to forgo our primary identity, forsake the vision of our forefathers and forget our fundamental differences with other nationalities.
Nigeria was meant to be a federation in which there was unity in diversity and in which each of the various nationalities and tribes was gauranteed, by law and the constitution, the right to develop at their own pace, the right to preserve and nurture their own cultural heritage and the right to a certain degree of autonomy and separate development. That was the ethos and understanding upon which our nation was founded and it is my view that that ethos and understanding must be nurtured, preserved and handed down to the younger generation of the yoruba if we are to survive into the distant future as a people and as a race.
We must not give an inch and we must not allow our benevolent disposition to others to become our albatross or the vessel of our own undoing. Be good and be kind to those from other climes and nationalities and be gentle and generous to those who derive from a deficient culture and that have no history. Showing kindness to such people in the name of God, of fraternity, of national cohesion and of nation-building is indeed a virtue and we must continue to do that.
However we must never forget who and what we are- proud sons and daughters of Odua that share an ancient and noble heritage and that come from a long line of innovators, great warriors and noble emperors and kings. Unlike some other nationalities that reside in the Nigerian state, the 50 million people that make up the yoruba nation can trace our ancestral roots and heritage for many centuries back. We know that we existed as a distinct and clearly defined race as far back as 3000 years ago and we were loved, honoured and respected by many all over the Middle East, the Sudan, Egypt and north Africa for our numerous contributions to science, the arts, religion, philosophy and all manner of human endeavour.
We must never forget and we must never sacrifice that noble heritage or that concept of who and what we are on the alter of a new Nigerian state where we are, more often than not, envied, despised, held down, held back and cheated by so many others that do not understand and cannot poosibly fathom our ways.
Worst still some of our very own have begun to espouse the ungodly philosophy of the mongrel nation where they regard themselves as being Nigerians before being a yoruba. Such people despise and seek to demonise those of us that are yoruba nationalists even more than any non-yoruba seeks to do. They are the enemy within- misguided souls that have forsaken their noble heritage and racial foundation for a pittance and that have been hopelessly seduced by the Nigerian dream of a harmoniuos, peaceful, happy and functional multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state which is simply an illusion and which does not exist. Such a state exists only in their minds and in the minds of those that sought, and failed, to establish it.
We must not only guard against those from outside our shores that covet our land and that happily proclaim that even one inch of yorubaland is “no man’s land” but we must also guard against the misguided few from within our own ranks that seem to agree with them. Such people are the enemy within. They are filled with more error and poison and are more dangerous than any outside aggressor or indeed the snake that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There is nothing more pitiful and repugnant to me than a self-hating yoruba man who joins forces with outsiders to disparage his or her own. As far as I am concerned such people are to be pitied and are hardly ever worthy of a response.
The good news is that they are very few of them in our ranks and the overwhelming majority of our people have fully espoused the yoruba nationalist philosophy and imbued the yoruba nationalist spirit. It is that spirit and that majority that will keep the flag flying, that will keep our hope alive and that will lead us into the glorious future that the God of Heaven, who alone rules in the affairs of men, has promised us. This is an eternal covenant and it shall not be broken. The vision may tarry but it shall not fail, for it is for an appointed time. As surely as night follows day, God shall honour His word, He shall grant us our hearts desire and He shall liberate us from the cruel chains of the Nigerian state which seek to hold us in eternal bondage and perpetual servitude. Our hope and glory reside in our own hands and in the power of our God. We must take that glory and live forever in honour because it is ours to take. We must pray for it, fight for it and stand for it or we shall live forever in eternal shame.
Permit me to end my speech with a few words about the war that took place and broke up the eastern European nation of Yugolavia into 5 different countries in the 1990’s. For many years before that war broke out many saw it coming because the country, much like Nigeria today, was badly divided on religious and ethnic lines. Many called for a sovereign national conference to settle their differences at the time or for a peaceful and orderly break up of the nation along ethnic lines but the die-hard centralists and unitarists, led by the all powerful dictator Col. Broznan Tito, silenced their voices and, more often than not, locked them up and gave them long sentences in jail for expressing their desire to break up the Yugoslavian state. Every single one of the 5 major ethnic groups that made up Yugoslavia, except for the Bosnians (who happened to be muslims), began to prepare for war and to stock up massive arms catches and stock piles long before that war eventually broke out simply because they all saw it coming.
The Bosnians however always hoped for the best and they were by far the most open, accessible, accomodating, friendly and tolerant of all the ethnic groups in Yugolavia at the time. They allowed the Serbs, Croats, Kosovars and Monte Negrans to live in their territory without molestation and they regarded themselves as Yugoslavians before being Bosnians. It even got to a point that some Serbs were claiming openly that parts of Bosnia was actually Serbian territory simply because so many Serbs had moved there and contributed to it’s development. Sounds familiar? Yet the Bosnians did not complain because they believed that their liberal and accomodating disposition was a mark of civilisation and they refused to accept the aggressive nationalist philosophy that the Serbs and the Croats in particular had wholeheartedly espoused.
They behaved in the same way that some of our own yoruba brothers and sisters have insisted on behaving in Nigeria today regardless of what is going on around them and despite the continous provocations and insults from those that are not from our land, They continued to believe that they were safe in their artificial world where nationality or tribe had no meaning and where all that mattered was that they were Yugoslavian. Sadly they were also plagued with a set of weak-minded, intellectually-defective, cowardly and visionless political and military leaders who could not muster the courage to accept the unfolding reality and who failed to appreciate the fact that the manifestation of weakness simply attracts aggression. They did not learn the basic lesson of statehood and history which is that in order to avoid and deter war you must prepare for it.
When Tito died and the civil war eventually broke out the Bosnians paid a terible price for their lack of foresight and understanding. They were slaughtered like flies by all the other ethnic groups for a long period of time and they were not in a position to defend their own people because they had no arms, they had not prepared for war and there was a United Nations arms embargo put in place which prevented anyone from supplying arms to them. They were literally sitting ducks as their civilian population and women and children were slaughtered before their very eyes or raped and taken into slavery. It was so bad that after some time the U.N. was compelled to lift the arms embargo just so that the Bosnians could acquire weapons to defend themselves and their people. They lost so many and this was the terrible price that they had to pay for their indolence and their lack of understanding of what was unfolding in their nation long before the war broke out.
It was a failure of leadership on the part of the Bosnian intelligensia, elite and political leadership who were so eager to prove to the world and to their fellow Yugoslavians that they were good liberals that always put the interest of Yugoslavia before their own interests as Bosnians. This was regardless of the fact that no other nationality in that country thought that way or did the same thing. It is my prayer that the yoruba people and the leadership of the yoruba nation learn the lessons of Bosnia and do not make the mistakes that the Bosnian leaders made before the war broke out in Yugoslavia in the name of liberalism or anything else. If they do we will all pay a terrible price and may God forbid that.
No matter what lies ahead for Nigeria, we the yoruba, must be ready and we must be in a position to defend the people of the south west and their interests in the event of war or conflict. Let me make this clear. This is not a call for violence because I do not believe in violence and I abhor bloodshed. As a matter of fact I am a pacifist by nature believing more in the power of the intellect than the power of the gun. However I do believe in the right of self-defence. .
We must not, in the name of liberalism, generosity or accomodation, be found wanting in this respect. We must find the courage to accept the reality of the Nigerian situation and in order to preserve the peace and ensure the security of the yoruba people and defend our illustrious heritage we must prepare for the very worse and indeed any eventuallity. If we were to do anything less than that our forefathers and our children would never forgive us and our people will pay a terrible price.
It is left for groups like yours to spread the word and to get the message across to our people. As Iago said in Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’, ”tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus” and as Cassius said in ‘Julius Caesar’, ”the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”. By the grace of the Living God and the power of He that sits above the circles of the earth and rules in the affairs of men, we the yoruba of south-western Nigeria, awa omo karo jire, have never been and will never be underlings. It is left to you and I to ensure that.
Let me end my speech with the words of one of the greatest yoruba men that ever lived. He was a man that is largely uncelebrated but that contributed more to the welfare of the yoruba and their destiny than most. His name was Sir Adeyemo Alakija and he, together with a handful of other very well educated and prosperous lawyers and businessmen in his day, were the patrons and financers of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa. It was Alakija that supported the young Obafemi Awolowo and backed him to become the Secretary General of Egbe Omo Oduduwa which was founded in London in 1945. He was one of the richest men in his day and he certainly knew what to do with his money.
Without him and a handful of others the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, and later the Action Group (which was founded in 1951), would not have had the necessary resources and funding to fight the NCNC in the Western Region and defeat them. In 1948 at the inaugral conference of the Egbe Omo Oduduwa in Ile-Ife Alakija said-
”Henceforth the yoruba people will never be relegated to the background in the future. The object is to create and actually foster the idea of a single nationalism throughout yorubaland and to co-operate with existing ethnic and religious associations in matters of common interest to all Nigerians. We shall oppress no-one and would not allow anyone to oppress us”.
This surely was a man of great vision and understanding. What was true for that time is also true for today. A word is enough for the wise. God bless the sons and daughters of Ile-Ife and Osun state, God bless the yoruba people and God bless Nigeria. Shalom.
Written By Chief Femi Fani-Kayode
(being part 2 of a speech delivered by Chief Femi Fani-Kayode to the De Raufs Volunteer Group at Ife Town Hall, Ile-Ife, Osun State on 24th September 2013).