Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why I Love Yorùbá People

I love Yorùbá people, because they have proved to be more faithful and grateful to me and my family since my great father, Sunday Eke was brought to Lagos city from Umuahia in Abia state of eastern Nigeria in 1930.  He was only a 9-year-old boy who had just lost his father in a bloody land dispute and his own life was threatened being the oldest son. To save him, his uncle who was a police officer brought him to Lagos.
After primary school of standard 6 of those colonial days, he learned how to drive and with his driver's license he later joined the Royal West African Frontier Force and fought in Burma during the Second Chindits operation of 1944.
My uncles told me how my father returned as a hero, because he was one of the two soldiers from Ohuhu in Umuahia who fought during the Burma Campaign of World War II in 1943–1944. They said two of them would visit each other, marching in their uniform and blowing their bugles aloud to the administration of the villagers.
They were proud of them.
The last Chindit left Burma on August  27, 1944. Annually,  August 15 is celebrated as V- J Day anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, because Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945; because of time zone differences,
on August 14, 1945 (when it was announced in the United States and the rest of the Americas and Eastern Pacific Islands) – as well as to September 2, 1945, when the signing of the surrender document occurred, officially ending World War II.

Troops of the Nigeria Regiment, 3rd West African Brigade (Thunder), board an RAF Dakota.

Read more in Bugles and a Tiger: My life in the Gurkhas (Cassell Military Paperbacks).
Click here to read "Remembering Nigeria’s ‘Burma Boys’" published by Nsibidi Institute.

My father settled in Lagos and even during the Nigerian uncivil war, he remained and worked for the Lagos City Transport Service  whilst my mother, Mrs. Gladys Eke left for the south east with their six children as many Igbos fled to the eastern region after the massacre of thousands of Igbo people in the pogrom in the predominantly Muslims northern Nigeria following the ill-fated January 15, 1966 military coup d'etat that derailed Nigeria's nascent democracy and introduced military rule to the country.

The Yorùbás in Lagos loved and respected my father who had become the first non-Yorùbá Ifá and Ògún priest among the Ijebus. Before he passed on to eternal glory on November 19, 1983, he already taught me everything about Ifá, but I refused his initiation. I chose to be a Roman Catholic and later became a born again Christian and Pentecostal evangelist.
When my father passed on, the Yorùbá neighbours and friends of my parents supported my poor mother who worked for the Etí Ọṣà Local Government of Lagos state and died in a ghastly auto accident on the way to her office on May 26, 1993. She was on a "Molue" 911 public transport bus that fell from the highest flyover at Ijora on the way to Apapa Wharf. Nine of the passengers died in the crash. My elder brother survived with other fortunate  passengers. The Yorùbá colleagues of my mother made sure she had a good Christian funeral from the wake keeping in Lagos to her final terrestrial resting place in my father's village in Umuekwule Aforugiri of Ohuhu in Umuahia North Local Government of Abia State.

After the transition to glory of my father and mother, I have worked for both Igbos and Yorùbás. But the Igbos cheated me and were very ungrateful to me. In fact, one of them threatened my life after hijacking the annual international film festival I founded and drafted the constitution and registered it with an international association for film festivals in 2009.

In contrast to the ungrateful fellow Igbos, Yorùbá employers never cheated or robbed me. They respected and treated me like a Prince. Thanks to Hon. Bàbàtùndé Ẹrẹọlá from Ẹdẹ in Ọṣun state who provided me Valentino suits and shirts when I worked as the Arts/Features Editor of his nationwide Kiddies World magazine and also provided a Toyota Land cruiser SUV with driver. I was a vegetarian and his wife, Eno (of blessed memory) served me vegetarian foods whenever I was in their house in the 1004 Estate on Victoria Island.
When I later worked for the outstanding Alhaji H. O. Ṣhittàbèy, the retired award winning Program Specialist for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Nigeria, she was also good to me as the IEC Program Officer of her NGO, Center for Education on Population AIDS and Drug Abuse (CEPADA) from 1993-1995. She made sure I travelled by air on ADC Airline and with one week all expenses paid accommodation in the Metropolitan Hotel during an assignment for a WHO/Africare workshop in Calabar, Cross River state in July, 1993. And when I lived with one of my best friends, Tolu Ọládipọ for five years, our Igbo neighbours mistook me for a Yorùbá until the beautiful Igbo damsel upstairs came downstairs to see me in our flat and found out my state of origin.
My most dedicated friend is Mr. Bisi Daniels, the leading Nigerian thriller novelist and author of other bestselling books, including The Stories of Pastor E. A. Adeboye: The Power of Testimony, Harvest of Beauty, Conspiracy of Lagos and other novels in the Peter Abel's crime series.

The Yorùbá people are the most accommodating tribe in Nigeria. That is why I love them.

~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima, author of "The Victory of Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian Dream: My Testimony on the 2015 Presidential Election", "In the House of Dogs" and other books.

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