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Published On: Tue, Dec 12th, 2017

Non Yoruba in S/West inaugurate forum, vow to take rightful place in zone’s politics

By Obinna Ezugwu

Chief Anselm Njoku

Political and cultural leaders of various ethnic groups resident in the South West, Saturday last week at Ota, Ogun State, came together under the aegis of Non Yoruba Indigenes Empowerment Initiative, to seek ways of working together for a fair deal in the zone’s polity ahead of the 2019 general election.

Various speakers at the event expressed disappointment that despite the enormous contribution of the non Yoruba indigenes to the economic growth and development of the South West states, they were not sufficiently recognised or given slots in government.

In his opening speech, leader of the group, Chief Anselm E.S Njoku, the Akeweje of Lagos State, noted that  the formation of the initiative was informed on the need for the various ethnic groups resident in the South West to speak with one voice. He pointed out that although the Yoruba were very peaceful and accommodating people, more needed to be done with regard to integrating the non Yoruba into main stream politics of the South West.

“The Yoruba are accommodating, we must give it to them. The formation of the Non Yoruba Indigene Empowerment Initiative came as a result of a well articulated survey made by some of us resident in this area, that we need to come together to speak with one voice,” he said.

“That’s the only way we can address our collective challenges. We are here growing our businesses, and growing the economy of our host states in the South West, you cannot divorce the average non Yoruba indegene from the growth in the IGR of the South Western states, especially Lagos. Commerce has been the driver of the growth in the IGR, and that is mostly driven by non Yoruba indigenes. We have also developed the area we live, sometimes we have converted swampy lands and raised buildings there.

“We believe in the development of wherever we stay; everywhere we stay, we take it as home. And if we take everywhere we stay as home, we should also be entitled to the privileges and rights that are accrue to the people within the area we live. The constitution of Nigeria provides that wherever you live, you can vote and be voted for, and if you look at it, politics is a game of numbers, and if you look at the number of non Yoruba indigenes in each of the states of the South West, you find that it’s significant.

“With such teeming number, there is no reason we can’t be voted for. We cannot continue to remain voters without being voted for, and there is no reason we cannot also be represented in appointments. What we are saying is that we are not the owners of this land, but we are partners in progress, and we are law abiding because, we pay our taxes and do other things required of us as citizens, therefore, when it comes to politics, while we are voting for our Yoruba brothers, there should be few of us too that can be voted for.”

Chief Njoku who is also a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), asked that while the non Yoruba indigenes “dance and cheer our Yoruba brothers who have been appointed as commissioners and special advisers,” they should also be considered for such positions.

“There shouldn’t be any discrimination against anyone living in any part of this country who is interested in seeking political office. Nobody should be made to believe that he can vote but not be voted for. We are not saying we want equal share, but if you look at it very well, there are areas that the non-Yoruba indigenes are dominant which ordinarily, anybody who is jovial should be able to concede, to say please bring your people here.

“If there are over 300 councillors and you concede 10 or 20 to the non Yoruba indigenes, it’s not too much. That is why sometimes, some of us will not vote for party A or party B, but party C. Because if party A or B did not accommodate us, then we will not welcome them. So, any party that wants the votes of the non Yoruba indigenes should also want them to be voted for by giving them some positions.

“Lagos have been benevolent because in the last election in 2015, there were about seven non Yoruba indigenes elected into political positions. All those things were achieved when Ndigbo in Lagos decided to come together under Ndigbo United Association which I am the chairman. We achieved monumental progress, to the extent that the owners of Lagos, including the Oba and Ashiwaju Bola Tinubu had to invite us and we talked.”

In his own remarks, leader of Northern residents of the South West, Alhaji Adamu Isa Alkali, while insisting that Nigeria had become too integrated to separate, noted that he had been consulting with the various governors of the zone and expressed optimism that in 2019, the non indigenes would secure political positions in Ogun and other states.

“I have been working with the various governors of the South West, by the special grace of God in 2019, we are bringing the non Yoruba indigenes together to work as a team,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the peoples of Middle Belt, Chief Agama Emmanuel said the forum was born out of the need to speak with one voice for better recognition.

“We have come together in unity to speak with one voice, and wherever people speak with one voice, their voice would be heard. That way there is a force and when that force is established, you will be reckoned with and when you are reckoned with, a place would be found for you.”

Standing for the South South, Comrade TN Odichukwu said the initiative was “a forum where the non Yoruba indigenes gather to present a common agenda; to reach decisions together and be able to speak with one voice.”

Speaking further, he said: “I want to let you know that this forum is not just about two or three tribes. Apart from the Yoruba speaking South West, every other tribe are part of this initiative. You can now understand that when a body is bringing the entire Nigerians together, it is an organisation where unity can be solidified.

In his own remarks, Alhaji Mustafa Nasiru, chairman of the Nupe community in Ogun State said: “This is a forum where the non Yoruba speaking groups in the South West have come together to seek fair share.

“Particularly, those of us who are Nupe, we have not gotten any benefit from the government despite our support. That’s the reason we have decided to come together to speak for ourselves. We have many of our brothers with good certificates, but they have not been able to find meaningful job, they are now driving “okada”.

Former governorship candidate in Ogun State, and President of non indigenous people in the state, Ogbuefi Austin Nkeze, in his own speech, said the initiative had started long ago, but the day’s event was a step forward.

“By statistics, I think we the non Yoruba indigenes constitute over 35 percent of the total population of Ogun State, and we contribute immensely to the social and economic development of the state. By this gathering therefore, we want to speak with one voice and be able to contribute in deciding who governs us.

“We started a long time ago, we have been coming together. But we have now decided to come together under this platform with a view to bringing together all the non indigenes under one umbrella so we can replicate what has happened in Lagos State. ”

Mrs. Victoria Bako, leader of the Northern Women Forum in Ogun State in her own contribution said: “I believe that every Nigerian has a right to live anywhere he or she wishes to live. As non Yoruba indigenes of Ogun State, we reside here, pay our tax and are law abiding. To that extent, we believe that we should be accorded some recognition.”

Other speakers at the occasion included Mr. Ken Nwankwo Nwazeigbo, Chief Jerry Nwakaeze, Lolo Uche Dominion Onyeisi and Mrs. Agnes Odeh.

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