By Emeka Obasi
Lagos is too sophisticated for any group of individuals to divide along ethnic lines. Politicians are also tricksters, so the drums of war will not achieve anything at the end. The uninformed should learn from the experience of Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe.
Zik was the first President of Nigeria. Born in Zungeru in the North and moulded in Lagos, he was determined to make it anywhere he stepped his feet. After studies abroad, Azikiwe returned to Africa and gained prominence in Ghana ( Gold Coast) as a newspaper editor.
Azikiwe left Accra for Lagos where he felt journalism could be combined with politics in those heightened years of nationalism. And it paid him. His tabloid, West African Pilot, appealed to everyone who wanted power to change hands from white to black.
Lagos was where everything happened. The young man climbed from the Nigerian Youth Movement ( NYM) to the National Council for Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC). Zik was ambitious and did not want to be a peripheral politician.
That was what pushed him to the Reformed Ogboni Fraternity ( ROF). Founded in 1914 by an Anglican Priest, Rev. T.A.J. Ogunbiyi, it was a sure way of ascending the ladder. One prominent member, Sir Adeyemo Alakija was all over the high table where decisions were taken.
By 1933, Alakija sat on the Board of the Nigeria Football Association as Vice Chairman. It was a feat then for an African. When Zik relocated from Accra, he used soccer to gain ground. After gaining a place in the Lagos and District Amateur Football Association( LDAFA), the road to fame was wide open.
With support from MRB Ottun, the Zik’s Athletics Club (ZAC) was born in 1938 and by 1940, Azikiwe built a stadium in the Sabo area of Yaba. ZAC had three formidable teams, Bombers, Spitfire and Hurricane, in the Lagos league. Bombers were Nigerian champions in 1942.
With fame all over Lagos, Azikiwe won election into the Western Region House of Assembly. He was more Eko than Igbo and could speak Hausa. Not many remember that Zik left the NYM in 1941 when Samuel Akinsanya was not favoured by the party leadership.
Ernest Ikoli was chosen to represent the NYM in the Legislative Council. Azikiwe felt other Yoruba groups were not fair to the Ijebu. There was no talk of Zik being an Igbo man who wanted to dominate Lagos.
Politics wore its name later and the man whose children Chukwuma, Emeka and Nwachukwu bore Yoruba names, Bamidele, Ayo and Abiodun, was forced to carry his ambition to the Eastern Region. Zik became Premier, Senate President, Governor General and President, later.
He had joined the Agbalanze society of Onitsha, as Nnanyelugo in 1941. As a titled man and Ogboni member, a lot was attributed to Zik. One legend said he went to the belly of the ocean to trick a mermaid. It was also peddled in bars and markets that the politician was invincible.
One young public servant who got so close was bold enough to ask Zik about his association with Ogboni and the metaphysical powers attributed to him by supporters and opponents alike. The response was like an exclusive story.
“Zik admitted he was an Ogboni member because when he returned from the US to settle in Lagos, almost everyone that mattered in Nigeria belonged to the fraternity. The returnee did not want to be left behind so the best way to climb up was to join them,” my source told me.
However, Zik would later withdraw from the group when ” ethnocentric considerations began to feature excessively in its activities and beclouded the supposed favour available to members. Thus, continued membership did not hold much rationality. ”
Zik tells the story of Lagos and Ndigbo. Mazi Mbonu Ojike was Deputy Mayor in 1951 when Dr. Ibiyinka Olorun – Nimbe was Mayor of Lagos. Was an Ebubedike not in the Western House when the Wild Wild West played out? Oba Adeyinka Oyekan’s first daughter, Kofo, found love across the Niger.
All those who fan the embers of war are people with complex. Yoruba and Igbo are too close to be deceived or divided. You cannot sequester Queen Modupe from the Asagba of Ahaba or Princess Bunmi from Chief Emeka Anyaoku.
Prof. Adebimpe Ike’s bones lie beside the ashes of her love, Prof. Vincent Ike in Ndikelonwu. Chief Philip Asiodu and Olajumoke are one. Vincent Maduka was given a Yoruba name long before he married a Yoruba engineer. Sherifat Fafunwa swam for Nigeria and remains drowned in the heart of Okey Ndibe.
Brig. David Bamigboye could not let go of Chinyere Asagwara. They got married in Zaria, in 1962. The first Igbo Four – Star general, Paul Dike chose a Yoruba wife. The second Igbo Chief of Naval Staff bears a Yoruba name. Meet Dele Ezeoba.
Zik was right, afterall. The Ogboni Lord of Lords, Adeyemo Alakija continued to tower even in death. He married the daughter of Justice Olumuyiwa Jibowu, first Nigerian High Court judge. His only daughter, Aduke, was married to Kofo Annan, first black Secretary General of the United Nations.
If a Molade Akiwumi could be Speaker of Ghana’s parliament in 1958 and Olufunmilayo Adegoke, first Black Mayor in the UK, there should be no rift. When Zik escaped from Biafra, he landed in Lagos. Ten days after his post humous 92nd birthday in 1996, Azikiwe’s buddy, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, departed. The story is deep.