A major review of Nigeria’s geopolitical alignment is set to take place tomorrow as the Yoruba nation engages the Igbo nation in an embrace that could alter the country’s political configuration in a way as never seen since the 1951 cross carpeting on the floor of the Western House of Assembly.

The meeting of Afenifere, the apex Yoruba socio-cultural body with Ohaneze, the apex socio-cultural Igbo body in Enugu has remarkably also drawn the participation of South-South political elements. Vanguard could not confirm as at Press time the participation of South-South leader, Chief Edwin Clark, but his leading associates, including Senator Bassey Ewa-Henshaw, a former chairman of the Niger-Delta Development Commission, NDDC, are expected at the event.

The seed for the summit was sown in the sacrificial death, 52 years ago, of Nigeria’s first military head of state, Gen. Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi and the first military governor of the defunct Western Region, Brig. Adekunle Fajuyi.

Aguiyi-Ironsi was killed by soldiers mostly of Northern descent in Ibadan while visiting Fajuyi who paid the ultimate sacrifice for a guest when he opted to die with the visiting head of state.

However, the twine that tied Aguiyi-Ironsi and Fajuyi in death was subsequently displaced by animosity and rivalry that have for most of the country’s existence, kept the two major nations as rivals always competing for an alliance with the North.

The prod towards reconstructing the bridge follows the increasing chasm in the polity especially since the advent of the Muhammadu Buhari regime which in the opinion of many stakeholders in the South, has alienated the region through its appointments, policies, and programmes.

Remarkably, one of President Buhari’s leading apologists, Mr. Osita Okechukwu dismissed tomorrow’s meeting as nothing new and perhaps as a distraction to Buhari’s long-term goal of restructuring Nigeria’s economic and political configurations.

He said that quite unlike the agitations of the summiteers in Enugu tomorrow, that Buhari has positioned political restructuring that is to be canvassed tomorrow as a priority for his second term.

“Mr. President has been much engaged in economic restructuring, and you can see that it is his goodwill that has unlocked several aids, grants, and loans to Nigeria to pursue projects that have been in the pipeline for several years now,” Okechukwu, director-general of the Voice of Nigeria, VON and one of Buhari’s longest-serving political associates from the South, deposed.

The framework for the summit, however, hopes to look beyond the political necessity for an alignment towards a cultural bond that drivers for the meeting say flows from similarities in culture between the Yoruba and the Igbo.

The hosts for the meeting are Pa Reuben Fasoranti, leader of Afenifere and Chief Nnia Nwodo, president-general of Ohaneze Ndigbo while the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, will act as Royal Fathers of the Day.

What informed the Handshake Across the Niger initiative?

The whole idea started with some Igbo intellectual Think-Tank coming up with the idea that the time has come for the Yoruba and Igbo nations to come together and celebrate Adekunle Fajuyi and Aguiyi Ironsi, two icons of the nations who were brutally murdered on July 29, 1966, during the revenge coup. Fajuyi laid down his life for his boss and guest when the mutineers did not come for him.

As a proper Omoluabi, he decided to lay down his life for his guest and that deserves to be celebrated by the two nations for the first time. The group that came up with this initiative call themselves Nzuko Umunna.

They then approached Afenifere and Ohaneze, and the leadership of the two groups embraced the idea, and that was how January 11 was fixed for the event in Enugu to celebrate these two icons and to use this as a narrative as the basis for a new coexistence between the Yoruba and Igbo. The two groups share the same origin at some point but have been set against themselves by wrong narratives; it is aimed at helping them see things differently. That is the reason for the conference .

There should be no ethnic conspiracy – Babatope

Former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope has said that Igbo/Yoruba unity ahead of 2019 should be devoid of ethnic conspiracy else it will fail.

He said, “The hand-shake across the Niger meeting is not a bad idea, it is normal for politicians to meet and discuss especially when we are approaching a major election, however, if the meeting is based on ethnic conspiracy, it will fail. We saw such during the time of Chief Obafemi Awolowo when the Yoruba and Igbo tried to form a common front, but it failed due to ethnic differences.”

He said further, “I will want to advise that they should stay away from ethnic conspiracies because if they don’t, the meeting will not only collapse but it’s going to fade away as it happened during the time of Chief Awolowo.”

credit to: Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor.