The first line of thought is to think the word, Yigba is an acronym. The next is to think it’s a Yoruba word; meaning turn the tide. It also sounds like an Igbo word and perhaps a word from the people of the south-south region of Nigeria.
But Rev Ladi Thompson who is the brain behind the project explains that it is none of those; neither is it an acronym. “It is a seminal expression of unity and original word with a deliberate African twist of tongue,”
The word, according to him was deliberately created not to provoke the dissension programmed into the “southern mix of cultural nations”
But then, as one of the speakers at the launch of the Yigba project noted, the letter Y in Yigba may well be a reflection of the Y that runs through the Nigeria map.
Thompson however insists that Yigba is one of the “algorithms that will help us in the journey towards a new nation.”
Indeed, the men behind the Yigba project are working towards turning the tide for Nigeria. And for them, the problems bedevilling Nigeria could be solved through non-violent communication.
So, on Tuesday, June 15, when the project was launched at the Muson Centre, Lagos, it was clear the direction they were going.
The convener, Rev Thompson who has been consistent in his fight for Nigeria’s emancipation believes there are strategic and wise ways the Nigerian problem could be solved without the warmongering.
He is of the opinion that the Nigeria project was programmed to fail from the onset. He however noted that if the right programme is injected into the system all the agitations and restlessness in the country will be doused.
The launch of the Yigba project which was dedicated to the memory of Oscar Onwudiwe; turned out to be the beginning of the reprogramming.
The programme kicked off with Mrs. Ronke Esho lamenting the sorry state of Nigeria and wondering and the incessant bloodletting.
This was followed by a tribute to Onwudiwe in whose memory the project was launched. Rev Thompson recounted the sterling qualities of Onwudiwe who passed on early in the year. “With Onwudiwe, there is hope for a New Nigeria,” he quipped.
He recalled how, despite being a true Igbo, Onwudiwe exhibited the spirit of one Nigeria. “Yigba is the expression of love which Onwudiwe stood for. It is the first line of defense against the spread of massive bloodletting in Nigeria. Yigba is designed to work as a retardant to the hatred, animosity and fear that facilitates the spread of the terrorism hydra.” He noted.
Yigba: A transcultural programme
The beauty of Project Yigba is that it is a transcultural programme that begins in the south as a precursor to a new national narrative to unite the North and South.
Rev Thompson believes since Nigeria was balkanised through a divide and rule programme, there was a need to first unite the south before extending the same project to the north.
The launch set the pace for the projected unity. The dance drama by the Spirit of David group brought to the fore a graphic expression of that spirit of unity.
The story of a couple, Bridget and Tunde Elesin also demonstrates the essence of the project. The Elesins who spoke at the event recounted how they met in Gombe State during their NYSC programme and got married eventually.
Bridget on one hand was born and raised in the south-south, while Tunde was raised in the north-west of Nigeria though born to parents from the south west. Tunde is thus an amalgam of both the Hausa and Yoruba worldview.
The couple have been married for 18 years and have remained great friends despite their cultural differences. Tunde was quick to puncture the myth that the average Hausa man is only interested in using people. He explained that having lived in the north for years, he could say that the Hausas make good friends.
Tunde and Bridget simply demonstrate the value of coming from different backgrounds and working together as one to make progress. They believe that their marriage is “an affirmation of the Nigeria we all desire, where everyone is a product of love; as the love that binds us is greater than the differences we see.
“We see differently but love deeply. We look out for each other, and we maximise our differences to stay in love, enjoying peace and unity always.”
Indeed, love came to play at the launch of the YIGBA project. Folks drawn from across the south of Nigeria were present. Prominent among them were Professor Anya O Anya, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe, Agu Imo, Yemi Akisanya, Charles Oputa also known as Charlie Boy, Patrick Doyle and a host of others.
What is stimulating about the launch of Project Yigba was the energy that attended the deliveries at the event. Mr. Yemi Akisanya in his paper, The Nigerian Key of Non-violent Communication posits that the non-violent communication approach to solving the problems of Nigeria is the most effective.
Citing instances of how the idea of non-violent communication has worked in other climes, he said there is a need for the integration of four things for it to work.
One is being conscious of a set of principles that support living a life of empathy –“seeking to understand more than being understood”
Another element “is understanding how words contribute to connection or distance. Put differently, words either connect or separate. The speaker possesses the key.”
He reasoned also that there is a need to understand the tool of communication. “Knowing how to ask for what you want, how to hear others even in disagreement and how to move forward solutions that work for all. Being more proactive than reactive in speech conversation.”
Akisanya who is the coordinator of Project Yigba says there is also a need to understand the means of influence. “We must learn how to share power with others rather than using power over others. The application of NVC, de-emphasises self-interest, at least the priority of it and makes us more inclined to share resources to everybody’s benefit with equity.”
He stressed that NVC is the key adding, “This is the ancient version of non-violent communication. Thus, Yigba is essentially inviting us to draw back, to drink from the wells of ancient African wisdom and translating same to address the experiences of our modern society.”
Nigeria is at war
Agu Imo went philosophical in his paper titled, “Understanding and defeating the hydra”
He observed that many have come to conclude that Nigeria’s problem is the educational system, religion, economy and corruption. Some believe it is the structure while some believe it is a lack justice.
While dismissing the notion that Nigeria’s problem is any of those, he stated, “Our studies indicate that these manifestations are just various heads of the hydra.
“Any attempt to focus on the various heads will bring about an attack from the others. If indeed you are successful in cutting off any of these heads two more will grow in the stead of the head that has been cut off.”
He noted that Nigeria had been dealing with the issues of corruption and bad economy for years adding however that in the last 20 years terror has come to make its home with us.
“Nigeria has now become home to three of the most dangerous terrorist groups in the world: Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and now Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP).
“Even to the blind and somebody impervious to external stimuli, Nigeria is at war. Our security apparatus has no answer to this enemy.”
Imo observed further that Nigeria has been slow in understanding “that we are dealing with a hydra-headed operation that is ruthless, unrelenting and merciless. We have refused to accept that our local face of global terrorism is primarily a supremacist agenda with an Islamic religious cover.
“Essentially, we are all victims and if a superior architecture of thought is not put together, we may all end up as prey to the mighty.”
He reasoned further that help would only come to Nigeria if all Nigerians realise that the problem bedevilling the country is everybody’s problem.
The way forward according to Imo is what Yigba has began to do, by building a new block of engagements; first from the southern extremities of Nigeria as a people with one God and one destiny emphasising our similarities and de-emphasising our differences.”
He reasoned that “we must begin to recognise our humanity and Africaness and that the persistent failure of Nigeria is a failure of the black man.”
The senior citizens who spoke at the event injected a dose of wisdom into the entire discourse. They recalled the events that led to the civil war in the 60s praying Nigeria does not experience such again.
One of the Burdened Elders, Pastor Shyngle Wigwe said at the forum that the prospect of another war in Nigeria must not be entertained.
He expressed great pleasure at the Yigba initiative recalling the events of the 60s. “If you remember the state of this nation before the Biafra war and after the war, it’s like we fell from a great height.
“We have started seeing similarities between what happened then and now. Any nation that goes through war a second time is not likely to stand.”
He said whenever he does not get calls from people, he gets worried. “In July 1966 when they struck, I thought it would just be for a week but it lingered for months. Then, I got a call that my brothers and sisters have run home. And that was it. So, when I start noticing some quietness around me, I get scared. When people are talking about war, they really don’t know what it means.
That is why when some are talking about peace I am encouraged. Wisdom is better than weapons of war. When I got to know about the Yigba Project, joy filled my heart. What we need is a little bit of peace to turn the equation around. I stand here to encourage all those here to press on. The warrior wants peace. Peace is the antidote to war. We should press on with Yigba. It will bring solutions to our agitations.”
Professor Anya.O. Anya expressed a similar sentiment. He recalled why he and some concerned elders are called burdened elders. “The first statement we issued to the public began with; we are burdened. That is why the media chose to call us the Burdened Elder.
“We must appreciate that whatever we are going through as a country, other nations have gone through it. The most successful countries in the world have managed their diversities. There is more we enjoy working together.”
He counselled that, “We must Cooperate on those things that unite us. It has been done in other countries. We can do it in Nigeria. Nigeria is more blessed than many of the countries that have succeeded. There is something here that makes us special. That is what Yigba stands for”
Pastor Wale Adefarasin who joined the event via zoom, said he was delighted that discussions about peace in Nigeria was going on. He recalled the pre-war situations in the 60s warning that all hands should be on deck to prevent the occurrence of another war.
Going forward, Rev Thompson said there are series of programmes that have been lined up to engineer a reprogramming of the Nigerian mind.
He suggests for instance that there is a need to train journalists on how to report terror activities. He noted that the way terrorism is reported contributes a lot to its spread. He said also that Yigba will celebrate couples with a diverse cultural background who still radiates love.
He informed, “Our Yigba provides an umbrella for the common interests, needs and desires of all cultural nations that hitherto were programmed to fight among themselves.”
*Story by Gbenga Osinaike