Why Yoruba People Are Suffering Today.
In 1999, I boarded a plane from New York to Syracuse. It was in December, and the weather was freezing cold. I was happy that the weather forecast indicated it was not going to snow, though I knew that the temperature in Syracuse was going to be well below zero, even colder than the weather in New York where I boarded the plane.
I was going to the University of Syracuse for a job interview. The advertised job was going to almost double my salary, if I got it.
I took a look at the plane and was surprised. It was the tiniest commercial plane I had ever seen with the capacity to carry a maximum of 30 passengers.
I liked the aircraft because the small size made it look like a private plane. There were only about ten passengers, and the cabin crew of one woman.
We all spread out on the plane. I noticed a mother with two children. Her children went and got their own separate seats, after protesting loudly that they did not want to sit next to their mother.
It was a night flight and I was tired. I decided to seize the opportunity to catch a nap rather than look over the lecture I planned to deliver the following day for the job interview.
The flight attendant got up and went through the routine of flight safety. “In case of emergency and the cabin pressure goes down” she said, “an oxygen mask will drop from the ceiling of the airplane. The mask fits over your nose and mouth. It has an elastic strap that goes around the back of your head. Tighten the mask by tugging at the elastic strap, and by pulling on the hose, air will flow into your hose.”
What always surprises me is the next line of the announcement. “You must put on the mask first before helping others.”
I looked at the mother with her two children. What would she do if there was an emergency? A mother’s instinct is to help her children first. Would she actually put on the mask first before helping her two daughters to put on theirs?
During meals, when I was a child, my mother would make sure that all of us had enough to eat before giving herself whatever remained in the pot.
I fell asleep.
Suddenly a turbulent woke me up. The wind was blowing the plane all over the place. The body of the plane rattled, as if was about to shake the seats off the screws. I was alarmed.
The cabin attendant said, “But it’s not supposed to snow today.” She was not speaking to anybody in particular. And I knew we were in trouble.
I wondered if we were going to crash, or if the cabin pressure was going down, and we would need our oxygen mask. I threw a glance at the mother and her children. Her face looked troubled. One of her daughters unstrapped herself and ran to sit next to her, frightened. What was she going to do if the cabin pressure went down, and the oxygen mask dropped from the ceiling of the aircraft? Save herself first.
This is the point we are in Nigeria today.
Nigeria is a highly-distressed country. The British did not design it to survive any turbulence. It is a tiny craft crammed with two hundred million people, all huddled together, in this turbulent weather. The wind is tossing Nigeria all over the place, just as the British designed it.
Between 1884 and 1886, Europeans came together in Berlin and carved up Africa into colonial spots that they distributed among themselves. They did not consult with any African when doing this dissection of the continent. The portion that Britain got included what they named Nigeria, which began as a trade post of the Royal Niger Company, a commercial enterprise built to maximize the exploitation of the region.
Part of the portion the British named Nigeria to optimize its consumption is a really fertile section in the southwest, which is the homeland of the Yoruba people.
Now that the plane of Nigeria is heading toward a crash, as the cabin pressure has now gone down, and the entire occupants of the country face asphyxiation, should Yorubaland die with the rest of the others?
Or should it save itself first, and after ensuring that it is secure, reach out to save others? It is true that Yorubaland is a part that generates a large proportion of the income of Nigeria. But should it go its separate way to ensure that it does not go down with the aircraft; or should it try to save others first, and die with the others?
That is the question faced by those agitating for a Yoruba nation today.