– Professor Pat Utomi urged the Yorubas and Igbos to foster a better relationship
– He narrated how Lagos became a haven for Igbos after the Biafra war
– He hinted that Igbo governors may suffer in 2019 for failing to support Kanu
Professor Pat Utomi has said that the Yoruba and Igbo nations need to work together in unity in order to help develop the rest of the country.
In an interview with The Punch, Utomi spoke about the relationship between the Yorubas and Igbos and also the release of Nnamdi Kanu.
He said: “All politics is opportunistic. I don’t understand it, but I think that all this touchiness in the politics of the South-West/South-East needs to blow over. In my view, we have two stages of quick moves in Nigerian politics now: we need to build a South-South/South-East zone of development, where all of the South-South and the South-East works as a zonal development and it should go into a quick partnership, in terms of development strategy, with the South-West, and then engage other parts of the country that are interested in such a partnership. And I believe that there are many elements reaching for progress in the North that would like to engage with these kinds of partnership for development and the whole of Nigeria can profit from it.
“What people miss, which I find very sad, is that the story of state capture in Nigeria is the story of opportunism by a few people. Then people will say that they are representing northern interests. It is just a couple of 100 of them in their own self-interest. If not, the North would not be as poor as it is today. If they (northern ruling class) really represented northern interests, the North would flourish. But that is not the case. This is a group of selfish people who have taken the possibility of progress for Nigeria and have hurt their own people even more.
“People forget that one of the great heroes of Biafra was (Prof.) Wole Soyinka. He was actually jailed for speaking up (against) the injustices of 1966/1967 that happened to the Igbo people. He was harassed. So, it is not a new tradition from Yorubaland that people of conscience recognise that something is wrong somewhere. Therefore, wherever there are opportunistic people who try to capitalise on these in their own interests, there are people of goodwill and strong conscience who recognise differently. And I think this must be the project now, to get those people of good conscience to break this thing.
“The reason Lagos is as developed as it is, to the envy of everybody, is every simple. During the Civil War, the divide-and-rule game played by the Federal Government led to Igbos being eviscerated in Port Harcourt (Rivers State), which is part of Igboland. Igbos then turned to Lagos and the people of Lagos were welcoming of the Igbo people, and that is why Lagos is the way it is today as a strong centre of commerce in the world. I think that the lessons from that, which is the point I tried to make when the Oba (of Lagos) made a joking remark during the election that people took too far.
“Nowhere in Nigeria has been more welcoming of the Igbo nation than Lagos. The consequence of this welcome should be a bridge across the Niger, a handshake across the Niger, which has been used in terminology previously. The Yoruba nation and Igbo nation, which share a lot in terms of enterprise and values, should be able to work together and engage any other part of Nigeria, because it is in the interest of Nigeria to build a whole of all.
Asked whether Igbo governors could be affected for abandoning Kanu in 2019, Utomi said: I don’t know. It could. It may. But what matters is that there should be accountability for everything. There must be a time to account.