Towards Communal Understanding in Complex Nigeria

The past week has been rife with stories about the alleged disrespect of the Deji of Akure, Oba Aladelusi Aladetoyinbo by the Eze Ndi Igbo of Akure, Sir Gregory Iloehike.



The allegation stemmed on the effrontery of the latter to appear before the Yoruba king in a ‘crown’. It is disappointing that even educated people helped re-echo the so-called disrespect thereby spreading hate speeches around.

Although I’ve not been to all states in Nigeria, I do understand that each ethnic community outside their region do form a communal union to strive a common cause wherever they find themselves.

I don’t see any reason for the basis of the fuse about the commonality of these folks in Akure except if there is more to the issue than what we’ve read or heard.

In every non-Hausa community outside Hausa land where a sizeable number of Hausas are, there is always a Sarkin Hausawa. In every non-Igbo community outside Igbo land, there is a communal leadership of the Igbos headed by Eze Ndi Igbo.

During my service year in Minna, Niger State, I had the opportunity of getting to know the Oba of Minna. This Oba runs the Yoruba community almost like any Oba back in Yoruba land. In his ‘palace’, they have (Yoruba) chiefs.

They even award traditional titles to local politicians there who are clearly non-Yorubas. (The Yoruba community in Minna is so large that you won’t miss being outside Yoruba land a bit.) Take note that Minna is the land of the Gwaris and Nupes.

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All the leadership structure developed outside their lands of origin by the non-natives is simply to give a people with a common origin a sense of commonality, a voice and an identity of where they came from.

They do not in anyway represent a parallel traditional leadership to the ‘owners of the land’. So, there is no question of usurping the powers of the native traditional powers of the rulers of the host communities. These people all know and accept that.

According to reports, Iloehike was summoned by the Akure substantive king over the installation of an Igbo man as the head of a market. One must commend the Deji for his resilience in stamping his authority over his subjects. His invitation of the head of the Igbos portrays that.

The appearance of the man in native Igbo regalia shouldn’t however have been taken an offense.

That probably wasn’t the first time the man was visiting the Deji’s palace.  Unfortunately, he was reportedly beaten up over the matter. I believe if some civility had been applied by the youths who reportedly did the beating, it would have been better.

People are quick to make reference to Lagos where the Oba ‘threatened’ the Igbos during the last elections in an attempt to lay credence to Igbos disrespect for Yoruba kings.

If such people could just watch the video again, they would see that the Igbo indigents/chiefs summoned before Oba Akiolu equally adorned their traditional regalia before the king.

The same applies in Kano. Whenever the Igbo community visits the Emir (they’d  visited Emir Sanusi earlier in the year), they still wear their traditional clothing and are led there by their Eze.

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The kings understand each group as  representatives of non-natives visiting. So, they have no problem with the regalia.

What about the market leadership crisis? The market in concern is reportedly dominated by Igbos. Who else should head it if not Igbos (where matters are put to a vote)? Before you tell me about them being in another man’s land, check on Ogba Ewu (Goat Market) in Onitsha which is dominated by Hausas.

Despite the fact that there are Igbos among the goat sellers, Hausas have always been the heads of the market. In Oluwole Market, Lagos, an Igbo woman is the current Iyaloja (chief of the market women).

Nobody is worried or threatened about the tribe of who heads there. What is required is simple mutual understanding that everyone is a role player in developing the community they do business.

Let’s not make it sound as if it is only Igbos that have a communal leadership wherever they find themselves. Attacking people because of where they come from is not a way to go. I’m not ruling out the complicity of the Igbos in the crisis at hand but I believe the matter could be settled without anyone getting hurt.

Every Nigerian is guaranteed the right to live and associate with whoever they like in any part of the country within the limits of the law. I’m Yoruba and I’ve met a lot of my tribes men based in the east and the north who live in peace with their hosts.

Nigeria is a complex nation where our strength lies in our diversity. While we can’t forget our differences, we should try understanding them.

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It wouldn’t be right we victimise others on the basis of them being ‘visitors’ in our lands. As much they contribute to the development of our communities, let’s join hands together with them to make our nation great.

By Abdussalam Amoo, a freelance writer is @ibnamoo on twitter.

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