Apart from having only about 700 soldiers in the country’s army about half of whom were non – combatants, there were other reasons that made it difficult or impossible, if not senseless, for the Yoruba of the Western Region to have joined the Eastern Region, which had over two thousand troops, in seceding in 1967. The first is that most of the Yoruba in the North were from Oyo and Osun provinces of the Western Region and most of them had tribal marks.
As a result, only a few dozens of the Yoruba lost their lives during the large – scale killing of southerners in the North. Since the people of the ethnic group were not targeted for wholesale elimination like the easterners, particularly the Igbo including their kith and kin of mid – western origin, the Yoruba could not have been angry against the Hausa – Fulani to the extent of teaming up with the easterners in seceding.
The second reason why the Yoruba could not have joined in breaking away from the country was that Lt. Colonel Yakubu Gowon not only released Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the Calabar prison in August 1966, he was personally at the Ikeja airport in Lagos to receive him. Something heads of state do to only a visiting counterpart from another country. As a matter of fact, some of them at times send either their prime minister of a senior minister in their cabinet to receive them at the aerodrome.
Lt. Colonel Emeka Ojukwu, the Military Governor of the Eastern Region did not accept Gowon as the leader of Nigeria. Does it therefore make sense and is it possible that he would be the one who freed Awo and Gowon, the Head of State, would have gone to the airport in Lagos to receive the Yoruba leader? So, how could Awo, a private citizen, whom Gowon accorded the honour reserved for a head of state and later made the Commissioner (Minister) for Finance and Vice Chairman of the Federal Executive Council (the cabinet), five or six months after his release had made the Western Region to join the Eastern Region in pulling out of the country? That it was Gowon who released Awo from prison and was at the Lagos airport to receive him are in the book the Yoruba leader published before his death in 1987 with the title: My march through prison. Is it possible that he would not have known who of Gowon or Ojukwu that freed him? Or that he would have given the credit to Gowon instead of Ojukwu in a book that came out years after Gowon had been toppled from power in July 1975. Awo left his government in 1971.
Mr. Gabriel Onwubuya who was an undergraduate at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in 1966 said it was in the newspapers that he read fifty years ago that it was General Thomas Aguiyi – Ironsi’s government that took the decision to pardon Awo, which I reported in last week’s column. But in spite of the fact that this information is documented, the supporters of Ojukwu were still claiming last week that it was their hero who pardoned Awo, not Ironsi and that he and not Gowon released the Yoruba leader from prison.
The third important and crucial reason why the Yoruba could not have seceded in 1967, even if like the Igbo they had grievances against Hausa – Fulani leaders, was that about 80 – 85 percent of the soldiers in the barracks in the Western Region were northerners and mid – westerners. In other words, most of the seven hundred Yoruba soldiers in the army were in barracks in the North, Mid – West and Lagos, the federal capital.
Given the overwhelming number of northern and mid – western soldiers in the Western Region would it not have been stupid and suicidal for Awolowo to have caused the Yoruba to join Ojukwu and the Eastern Region in seceding in 1967? He had no private army of his own. Where would he have gotten the money to raise enough troops and buy adequate weapons to fight in a war?
•To be continued
8 history–making juju bandleaders (3)
Juju is a Yoruba word that means and is associated with fetishism and the worship of idols. In consequence, most Nigerians, including the Yoruba, wrongly assume that juju music must have gotten its name from spiritual and diabolic background. But it is not so. The appellation derived from the acts of the members of juju bands in 1930s in throwing the tambourine from one person to another as part of an exhilarating display during performances.
Throw in Yoruba is ju. So what they were doing they called ju si mi, kin ju si e (throw it to me and I throw it to you). When anyone delayed in passing it on to the next person, the others would shout ju, ju (throw it, to throw it). So, it was from ju, ju that this brand of Yoruba beat got the name juju music.
As a corollary, let me use this opportunity to reveal how fuji music which originated from the Islamic beat called were (which sounds as wayray in English pronounciation) obtained its appellation. Contrary to popular belief fuji is not a Yoruba word. It is Japanese. I got to know of this and how it became the name of this brand of Yoruba music, when for an article published in the Sunday Concord Magazine in 1982, I interviewed Sikiru Ayinde Barrister who invented it in the early 1970s.
He told me he came up with the appellation after seeing on some vehicles in Lagos in the late 1960s the name of a company called Fujikura Cable Works (Nigeria) Ltd, situated in the Ilupeju area of Ikorodu Road. He also learned that there is a mountain in Japan called Fuji and that the name was very popular in that Asian country. He said he was fascinated by the word and so decided to call the new music he was introducing as fuji.
Next week: The names of the eight juju bandleaders and what each of them did to become history-making legendary juju maestros.