Home Memorables The Speech of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in response to the Midwest Invasion on August 12th, 1967
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The Speech of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in response to the Midwest Invasion on August 12th, 1967

The recent coup in the Mid-West has been followed by a massive propaganda offensive from Enugu, which I considered it my duty to counter.

The Yorubas have been called upon to rise up in arms now and liberate themselves from what the Enugu radio termed the Hausa-Fulani domination. Even Yoruba soldiers have been asked by the Enugu propagandists to desert the Nigerian Army and report to the rebel Headquarters in Enugu or Benin.

From the inception of the country, the Yorubas have consistently stood for the unity of Nigeria, and for the equality of status for each of the many and diverse national groups in the country, regardless of territorial or population size.

The Yorubas have never set out to dominate others, but have always resisted, with all the energy in them any attempt however slight or disguised, by others to dominate them. They believe in the Federal Union of Nigerian peoples, and in complete self determination for all the national units in the land.

It is for these causes that they fought valiantly in the past and will fight now and in the future. Indeed it is for these causes that they must now be ready to resist any attempt by the rebel forces from the East and the Mid-West to violate their territory and subjugate them.

Some people, possibly well meaning, have suggested, and others evilly-disposed are already trying to exploit this false suggestion to win Yoruba support for a disloyal cause, that I am on the side of Ojukwu who represents the Ibo people, and opposed to General Gowon who represents the Northern peoples. Those who make this suggestion also hold the view that the interests of the Yoruba people are better served, by aligning themselves with the North.

The truth is that, in the present contest, I am neither on the side of Ojukwu nor on that of General Gowon as representatives of the Ibos and Northern peoples respectively. For on thing, Ojukwu does not seem to me to represent the best interests of the Ibos; nor does General Gowon appear to me to be the agent of the Northern section of our Federation. For another, I am absolutely and irrevocably committed to the side of Nigeria, and of the complete self-determination, autonomy, and unity of the Yoruba people and each of the national groups in the country, within the context of a Nigerian Union.

Futhermore, I firmly believe that the best interests of the Ibos, the Yorubas, the Hausas, and other ethnic groups in the country, will be served in a reconstructed and reconstituted united Nigeria. A Nigeria so reconstituted and reconstructed as to make it impossible for any ethnic group ever again to assay to lord it over the others, or to be in a position effectively to incite division and disaffection among the members of the other national groups. Indeed, a Nigeria so reconstituted and reconstructed that every Nigerian citizen will be able, and be consciously enabled by the Governments of the land, to live and move freely and happily in any part of the Federation, and play an equal role in the affairs of the country.

It is imperative, therefore, that the unity of Nigeria must be preserved by any means which the prevaliling circumstances dictate. And, of course, the best judge of what the prevailing circumstances warrant is the Federal Military Government, and not the many jarring voices of despair which now clamour for audience in and outside Nigeria.

I have no doubt that after the present rebellion shall have been overcome, a new Nigeria, with the existing boundries remaining inviolate, will emerge, and that the Yoruba people will retain their liberty of action and enjoy equality of status in the new dispensation.

To these ends, therefore, all Yoruba people, particularly those in the Western and Lagos States which now face the threats of invasion by the rebels from the East and the Mid-West, must not only be as vigilant as ever, but must also lose no time and spare no efforts in giving every conceivable support to the Federal troops in defence of their homeland, and of the Fatherland.

They must do more. They must continue to give support and loyalty to the Federal Government in the prosecution of the present Military operations, so that the rebellions in the Eastern and Mid-Western States may be brought to a swift end, and the honour, integrity, and unity of Nigeria fully restored.

First Published on  May 19th 2012. Under Memorable Speeches    

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