Thirty-five years ago, I left Nigeria for the former Soviet Union to study on scholarship. Before that time, I did not understand what minority meant, neither did I understand what it means to live outside of your own domain, or what it means to be within the minority population in a foreign land.
The reality dawned on me when I got to the Soviet Union and discovered that I was now in the minority population. I was thrown into the midst of people who did not look like me or speak my language.
I suddenly realized that I missed what I had back home and did not even know I had it nor appreciated it. If while I was back home I viewed the Fulanis and Igbos to be strangers to me, now in a foreign land they became closer to me than I could have ever imagined. They were now my next of kin.
As much as I love my Yoruba people and as much as I am proud to be a Yoruba man, living in Europe for the past thirty-five years has taught me something I could not have learnt any other way, there is a beauty in diversity. The more diverse a people are, the stronger and more beautiful they become. Living among those who do not look like me or talk like me has taught me a lesson about life, nature and human existence. Diversity indeed is a blessing from God which no one must foolishly discard. There is so much wealth and blessing in embracing other people. There is so much joy in being large hearted and generous. There is expansion, enlargement, increase, growth and development that only happens to people whose hearts are big enough to accept and welcome other people. Life has taught me this much, by snatching me from the suckling breasts of my own people at a tender age of 19, and allowing me to be nursed in a different culture and environment.
As a result of my experience in Europe, today even though I am a Nigerian, if I see someone from Senegal walking down the street, I see no difference between the man and myself. I quickly want to greet him and hug him. I see that man as my brother. This is because in Eastern Europe where I am, it is not every day you get to see a “black man” or an African. Thus, every black person you occasionally see gives you a feeling that you have seen your blood brother or sister. When you see a black person or African, you no more care whether he is Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba, South African or East African, all that matters to you is that you have seen someone that looks like you. You have seen a brother or sister, to you he or she is an “omo-ile”.
The reason why it still matters so much to you that your neighbour is Igbo or Hausa is because you have not left your tribal enclave either physically or mentally. You have not had to be a stranger far away from home, where the only similar people to you are not from your tribal or ethnic identity. You have not lived among people wherein your type or tribe is not up to one percent. If you have come to live in such society and you have embraced the people’s culture and way of life, you will understand this point so much more.
Many Europeans and Americans do not even know the difference between Africans. As far as they are concerned, all black people are Africans. It is within Africans that we know some people are West Africans, East Africans and Southern Africans. Then within West Africans, we recognise Nigerians, Togolese, Cameroonians, etc.
In such a situation when Nigerians come together, they don’t care anymore who comes from what tribe, they are just so excited to be able to call themselves Nigerians.
Life has taught me to see beyond fractional lines. Today, where I live, it does not matter to me if I see a man from Burundi or Lesotho, all that matters to me is that I have seen another African. When I see another black person on the street or elsewhere, it feels like I am back to my people.
How much more when I come across Nigerians in foreign lands, you think the first thing to do is ask what tribe they are from, whether Igbo, Yoruba or Hausa? No, all that pales in comparison to seeing a fellow country man or woman. None of our tribal differences matter anymore. All I want to do in that event is to jump on my fellow country men’s neck and greet them like Nigerians. When you’ve not seen anyone like you in a while, it won’t matter at all even if that Nigerian is an Hausa, Fulani, Igbo, Ijaw, Edo etc. You may be from any part of Nigeria or Africa, it will always seem like you are from my within my own family. It will feel like we are from the same village. I have seen an “omo-ile”. We call ourselves brothers and sisters in such circumstances. It’s time to bring this attitude back to Nigeria and Nigerians at home. Let’s begin to see ourselves as a blessing rather than a competitor.
Why some Nigerians always emphasise secession
The reason why people see fractional lines so vividly is because they have limited life experience or maybe they have very small minds. Life has not taught them enough to ditch small minds for large hearts. Many people have even travelled far from home but are still very local in their minds. They have refused to engage other people’s culture. This is why you may see a Yoruba man in London but those he sees and interacts with are other Yoruba people like himself. His entire world can all be contained in a small cup. To leave a village is not a problem but to get the village out of a man is where the challenge is. When I go on social media, I see a lot of the so called Yorubas in diaspora campaigning for Oduduwa Republic, it doesn’t amaze me anymore because living abroad isn’t the same thing as being sophisticated. The village is right there in the center of their world. In their minds they are yet to get the village out, only their bodies are overseas.
It is very sad to see such people, though have lived overseas but still have very small outlook on life. Such people do not have same feelings and understanding as I do as a result of living among a diverse culture where I hardly see anyone to speak to in my mother tongue for decades. Unfortunately some of these so called diaspora agitators have refused to expand their minds beyond their little tribal identity. Even in diaspora most of these people only live among those who look like them and talk like them. They fellowship with those who are from their tribes and speak their language. Most of the time the only place these people interact with Europeans are only at work and in public stores. They go to Yoruba churches, African fellowships, and pray in their ethnic mosques. Those who call themselves pastors only pastor people from their ‘area’. They may be in England but they are still living among Yorubas or Nigerians. In such a scenario you can’t expect much from them. They have not distinguished themselves among the people they live, in most of the cases they are simply manual labourers, and slaves to Uncle Sam in those nations. Hence their biggest desire is to run back to their safety havens, which to them is associated with their language and tribes. These people have not been able to see the essence of their loss when they are not among other black people or their village people. Such people though may be far away in America, but their minds are still firmly buried in their villages.
As a result, you see that a lot of Yorubas who are agitating for the Oduduwa Republic are Yoruba people who are in diaspora for survival rather than for impact. Their relevance is only feasible among their own culture. If they had been able to subdue the culture of the new society where they find themselves, they won’t be proponents of separation especially in their own continent where they know we are all one people. That mindset is not possible for me where I pastor a church of 98 per cent white Europeans, even in my own house I and my family are in the minority, more people live in my house who are different from me and my origin. But failures in diaspora push them to want to rather go back to their own cultural shell. For these people it’s only their children or what we call the second, third generation diaspora who will better embrace the lessons of living abroad. As for their parents the first generation of in diaspora unfortunately most are in diaspora but they have not distinguished themselves. They are in diaspora but they have not excelled in their new environment. They are in diaspora but most do not even have a voice where they live. Such people have only one solution which is just being local champions to their village brothers and sisters either home or abroad. This is because in those countries they live in once you place them among a diverse culture, they are nothing. When you visit England and America particularly, this picture becomes clearer. I’m saying all these to answer those who can’t understand why so many diaspora Yorubas are the ones calling for Oduduwa Republic.
The question that I have for these people remains, how could you live so far away in a diverse culture, yet you are not able to integrate as much as to teach those at home the value of living with others in honour and harmony. If truly being Yoruba is very special, why don’t you demonstrate it to the rest of the world where you live by becoming the best as Omoluabis we ought to be. Why must your voice only be loud among your kinsmen agitating for separation while you are enjoying in a country built on diversity of culture and ethnicity. If you truly believe in your own culture as a Yoruba person in diaspora the best way to demonstrate this is by becoming a huge success where you are, proving the fact that your culture is valuable enough for others to learn from it. Endeavour to have a global platform as big as your diverse environment, there let your success and exceptionalness speak loud of your culture and heritage. This is how to gain significance, this is how to glorify your culture and people, not by sowing discord and strife among other cultures. It is this exemplary and exceptional distinction that makes you to be respected. As true Omoluabis it is among the rest of the world that we are to raise our voices for them to behold our brilliance and cultural distinction.
Many so called Oduduwa Republic agitators cannot take a stand and lift their voice in a diverse setting as the best in their fields. Those who are the best sons and daughters of Yorubas are busy creating greater success for themselves and their nation, they are not on social media trying to bring cheap relevance to themselves. This is because they have achieved great success in difficult circumstances. To have a voice in a multi cultural setting, you would have lost taste for ethnic divisiveness and tribalism. Life would have tutored you properly. Your mind would have been enlarged and you would have grown a large heart. The moment you see a man calling for division and separation, you have seen a man with a very small heart and a little mind. You have seen a man who cannot raise himself to amount to anything on a larger platform, but in a small ethnic setting. You have seen a man who cannot raise the banner of his people before the world, he is so short that his height can only be appreciated among small thinking minds and dwarfs like himself.
It is rare for you to see a high achieving, high profile Yoruba son or daughter calling for secession. Have you seen any global voice lend credence to the narrative of those calling for Oduduwa Republic? It is not that these high achieving individuals are not dispassionate, neither is it that they are afraid. Rather, they understand what what to emphasise in life. Life is not about division and magnifying of difference, life is about building bridges. They are busy showcasing the “Yoruba wonder” to the world through their exceptional achievements. They are not interested in just being a ‘local champion’ among their tribe.
I dare you to throw any of the loud voices in the secession struggle into a multi-cultural setting, and see if that voice would still be loud enough. Let us throw them to a place where only White people and high achieving individuals are and let us see how they succeed or excel in that kind of setting. Will their contribution still be a campaign for separation even in a foreign land? Here is the bottom line people who are cosmopolitan in their thinking don’t fight for secession and division, they don’t lend their voices to tearing peoples and cultures apart. They rather bring people together. They understand the strength, power and force in diversity.
Therefore, it is no surprise that many of the early African leaders spent most of their lives fighting for the unity and unification of Africa. Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Thomas Sankara, Jomo Kenyatta, Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Toussaint Louverture, Haile Selassie are some of the greatest names from the shores of Africa. They are great because they spent most of their lives fighting for Africa to be one and United. They understood that the greatness of Africa resides in togetherness and shoring up our fractional lines. A major motive for the formation of the African Union.
Some great Yoruba sons and daughters who were also Pan-Africanists and fought for the good and well being of a United Nigeria include Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Ladipo Solanke, Olusegun Obasanjo, Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem to mention only a few.
In their time, there were secessionists too whose names can no longer be remembered. The world will remember you for building up, not for tearing apart. I again choose to go back to Chief Obafemi Awolowo: “A man whose personality is fully developed never fears anything; he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone; His breadth of mind enables him to exercise his freedom in such a manner as not to endanger the interests and freedom of others. He is a citizen of the world, free from narrow prejudices. He is what he is because the three main constituents of his entity, his body, brain, and mind are fully developed. Mens Sana in Corpore Sano!”
. Dr. Sunday Adelaja is the Founder and Senior Pastor of the Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations, an evangelical-charismatic megachurch and a Christian denomination in Kyiv, Ukraine.