Recently, members of Non-Yoruba Indigenes Empowerment Initiatives, NYIEI, launched the group in Ota, Ogun State. In this piece, ANTHONY AWUNOR who witnessed the inauguration looks at the essence, impact and what the society stands to gain from such an organisation.
With over 250 ethnic nationalities spread across Nigeria, inter-ethnic struggles have remained one of the country’s greatest social problems since independence. To put the problem to rest, particularly in the south western part of the country, a group, known as Non-Yoruba Indigenes Empowerment Initiatives, NYIEI, has emerged in the region. To formalise their existence, the group, which was founded since February 2017, inaugurated the body on December 2, in Ota, Ogun State.
The colourful ceremony took place on Honda Playing ground, Ota and was attended by people from all walks of life which cut across all the ethnic groups in Nigeria.
Founded by Chief Chris Orie, the body comprises of people from the South-East, South-South, North-Central, North-West and North-East extraction of Nigerian who live in the South-West states, irrespective of party affiliations, religion or gender.
Speaking at the media launch and inauguration of the group, the South-West chairman of NYIEI, Chief Chris Orie, said the vision of the group is to unite all non-Yorubas in the region so they can speak in one voice adding that grassroots mobilisation of all non-indigenes plus the empowerment of all, is paramount for the organisation.
Orie, who described NYIEI as a child of necessity, pointed out that there were issues and anomalies the group would address within the domain where they live, particularly as they concern multiple taxation, non-recognition of their input, marginalisation, and so on.
He also pointed out that the population of non-indigenes is overwhelmingly (about 50 to 60 per cent) high in some of the South-West states, adding that it is obvious that with this population, it is likely possible for any politician to emerge a winner in an election with just the votes of non-Yorubas in these states.
Lamenting on the threats that face the non-indigenes, Orie said: “The greatest undoing of the non-Yorubas as a whole has been the case of the ‘lone ranger’ approach. We have for decades, tried in vain to draw the attention of successive governments in Ogun State and other South-West states to us with our petty, parochial and like I always say ‘sectional politicking.’ but with NYIEI on board today, we the non Yorubas are saying goodbye to our weaknesses and failures and welcoming our strength and victory.”
According to a co-founder and leader of the organisation, Chief Anslem Njoku, the purpose of the non-indigenes coming together is to ensure unity.
Njoku, who is also the chairman of Ndigbo United Association, said the non-indigenes need to speak with one voice and also ensure to live in harmony with their host community.
For him, their coming together would promote peaceful co-existence and swift response should conflict arise since the organisation would also serve as a platform for reconciliation.
He said, “I want to say that Yoruba land is a blessing to us, non-Yorubas. Most of us who have become somebody today came to Yoruba land with nothing. If you are the most hardworking or the most intelligent person in the world but the environment you are in is not conducive, there isn’t much you can do. So, whatever achievement non-Yorubas make in the South-West, is not just as a result of hard work or intelligence but the conducive environment plays a major role too. Our host community has provided a conducive environment for us, we have to reciprocate by organising ourselves so that there would be harmonious relationship between.”
He said after the inauguration, the next step would be the launching which would be done in all the states in the region.
Addressing journalists at the event, leader of the Hausa community in Lagos, Alhaji Adamu Isa-Likali, said as the leader in Lagos, he had been working with Osun and Lagos state governments to ensure that there was peace and harmony amongst residents.
Isa-Likali said NYIEI, by the special grace of God, would bring all the tribes together in 2019, adding that they had demonstrated such move before following a peace forum organised at the National Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Lagos.
Speaking on the position of NYIEII, President General of all non-Indigenes and General Patron /Apex Leader of NYIEI, Ogun State, Chief Austine Azuka Ikeze, said “The impression of the association in our own understanding and the purpose of initiating it is that it is going to be a kind of political platform for all non indigenes in different political parties to come under one umbrella and speak with one voice. And then we the parent body are apolitical. So they themselves are the ones to discuss politics but when it is time they bring the same idea to us, then we look at it and how we can digest, refine and advise them on the best way to go. We also look at it as an avenue for us to be part of the decision-making process.”
According to Ikeze, there are quite a number of issues that need to be put in the right perspective, particularly on the use of the Yoruba Language in CDA meetings, even in situations where non-indigenes are more in number, high fees charged to students who are not indigenes in tertiary institutions and the issue of denial of automatic citizenship to children born in the region whenever the need arises.
With about four zones of non-indigenes in Ogun State, Ikeze who is also a former governorship aspirant under the CPP in Ogun said the number of non-indigenes in the state is quite high and that, they require good treatment despite the fact that they are not indigenes.
In her remarks, the Ada Di Ora Nma of Ndigbo, Ado-Odo Ota, Her Royal Highness, Queen Tessy Nwaobi Nnadi, stated that over time, non-indigenes were not recognised and therefore, were not given their rightful place in the region.
Noting that it is only during elections that they are called upon after which they are dumped again. “It is only election period they come to us because they need votes. The non-indigenes population is more than the indigenes. We found out that we are used and dumped. That is why we decided to come together to claim our right because they can’t be using and dumping us at will.”
On the impact of NYIEI to the society, Nnadi who is also the Ezenwanyi Ndi Igbo of Ogun State added, “It will have a lot of positive impact because when we speak with one voice, we will always get the necessary attention. I foresee no problems in terms of cultural differences. I believe we are one and we should work as one. The body has come to stay. It is not just for 2019 but for generations to come. I want Nigerians to embrace peace and love.”
In his own views, Chief Agamah Emmanuel, a member of the organisation from Benue State pointed out that NYIEI is not all about Igbo, Yourba and Hausa but cuts about all the tribes apart from Yoruba. He emphasised that every state is part of NYIEI.
“The body is bringing the entire Nigeria together and it is going to bring unity. When we come together in unity, we would speak with one voice. And when we speak with one voice, our voice would be heard. When it is heard, there would be a force to make the authorities reckon with us,” he added.
Agamah, however, pointed out the major challenge in Nigeria is division adding that that NYIEI wants to address dichotomy among the people.
Also speaking was the Obi of Iyana Iyesi-Mupin and the Asiwaju of Ndigbo in Ado-Odo Ota, Chief Sunny Nwaebuka. Both pointed out that the emergence of NYIEI would benefit the people.
To the Obi Ndigbo of Iyesi, Chief Chukwuemeka Ugwunta, the non-indigenes association would grow after they begin to accept non-Nigerians like Ghanaians, Togolese and even Cotonou citizens.
Describing the group as God’s intervention for non-indigenes in South-west, Women Leader of NYIEI, Lolo Dominion Uche Onyeisi, said it was time for the non-indigenes to say enough is enough.
She, however, added that the group would bring good things. She said, “It can bring down the multiple taxation levied on non-indigenes which has been on for some time. Other issues it will address include non-recognition of non-indigenes even though they generate revenue for the states.”
The group appealed to non-Yorubas in the South-West who are not members to join them. To the government, NYIEI said, “The organisation wants to state unequivocally that the non-Yorubas in the region will remain law abiding and will continue to contribute their quota to economic and political development.”