By Ochereome Nnanna
WHEN strong presidential candidates of Igbo and Yoruba extractions, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC, respectively, emerged from the primaries in the just-concluded general elections 2023, I knew we were in for some trying times. I wrote on this several times. I warned that Lagos would be the worst hotbed of tensions. While the tensions in other parts of the country would be political in nature, I reasoned that that of Lagos would be both political and ethnic. Some of the Yoruba elements would be programmed by desperate politicians who had lost the love of their people to beef the Igbo. The objective would be to unsettle the nationalistic Obidient Movement by stirring anti-Igbo in Lagos, and hopefully save Tinubu and his APC from losing power in the nation’s economic capital.
Let’s look at what was at stake. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu signed a 2023 budget worth N1.76 trillion. In 2022 it was N1.758 – almost the same figure. No state comes anywhere close to such a budgetary profile. Tinubu’s defeat in Lagos by Peter Obi in the presidential election jolted the Jagaban’s political establishment to its marrows. The only thing that cushioned the effect was that Tinubu had already been declared as President-elect by the Independent National Electoral Commission. Had he lost the election the situation would have been much more dire.
The saving grace was that in truth, there is no real war footing between the Igbo and Yoruba. Indeed, Afenifere Yoruba had campaigned for Peter Obi because they felt the need to reciprocate the friendly gesture the Igbo had extended to their Yoruba friends on two previous occasions when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo contested for the presidency in 1999 and 2003.
When the Yoruba was the beneficiary of this magnanimous gesture, nobody remembered how the Igbo wanted to take over Lagos. If anything, Obasanjo was branded as “an Igbo man from Onitsha” just before he completed his eight years in 2007. This false and comical narrative was being peddled as if to show that the Yoruba hadn’t taken their turn in the rotational arrangement.
As Tinubu’s continued dominance of Lagos came under threat another set of false narratives was let loose. Again, the Igbo residents were singled out. They were accused of saying that Lagos was a ‘No Man’s Land’. They must be shown that Lagos belongs to the Yoruba. Even if it is true that some people say that, why should it be a problem? It is mere hot air. In volatile Kano City, there is a place called “No Man’s Land”, even by the indigenes. But in Lagos, it is found as a useful tool to stir anti-Igbo sentiments among the gullible, some of whom include some otherwise “educated” members of society.
In truth, the people pushing this narrative on the Igbo are the ones treating Lagos as a ‘No Man’s Land’. Ahmed Tinubu, Sanwo-Olu, FFK, Bayo Onanuga and the rest of them are not even Lagos indigenes. The real indigenes of Lagos are crying of being marginalised by their Yoruba kinsmen from Ara Oke. The real Lagos indigenes who participated in the governorship elections were Gbadebo Vivour-Rhodes, Abdulaziz Adediran (Jandor) and Funke Akindele, his running mate; Funsho Doherty and the others.
The authentic Lagos indigenes feel oppressed by their own kinsmen. They often run to the non-indigene, non-Yoruba residents, especially the hugely populous, influential and wealthy Igbo, for support to reclaim their state from their own non-indigene kinsmen. That is one level of the falsity of this narrative. The second level is that nobody argues the fact that Lagos is Yoruba land. Who is “dragging” Lagos with the Yoruba? They own the government 100 per cent.
Nobody is contesting their traditional patrimony. They are firmly in control of the economy. The Igbo only control the commerce and the markets. The Igbo control the markets in most big towns, not only in Nigeria but also many parts of West Africa and beyond. In Lagos, the Yoruba control their lands, which they sell to willing buyers, including the Igbo. The Tinubu political group has lately tapped into the sentiments of people whose families sold off their lands over the past 50 years or so. They enlisted them to join in the futile agitation for the Igbo to abandon their hard-earned investments and “leave Lagos”.
Those stirring these primordial sentiments must stop because it is percolating into dangerous corners. Cross-cultural marriages are now threatened. If GRV, who belongs to a prominent Lagos Island family can be “disowned” as a Yoruba man because he has an Igbo mother and wife, and all because he legitimately challenged a non-indigene Sanwo-Olu, you can see the sick comedy of it all. How will inter-ethnic marriages fare henceforth? Unfortunately, this will not go away any time soon. Ethnic profiling will deepen in Lagos and other places where non-indigenes form a significant proportion of the population.
Asking Ndi Igbo to “leave Lagos” is clearly an impossible demand. As long as Nigeria remains, non-indigenes in Lagos and other parts of the country will continue to live, thrive, vote and (where possible) be voted for. The constitutional rights of Nigerians must be upheld. Otherwise, dissolve Nigeria. Now that he has been named as “President-elect”, Tinubu is adding to himself the heavy burden of ethnic hatred spurred by his political family.
He is already toeing the footsteps of Muhammadu Buhari whose extreme nepotism and Fulanisation agenda fuelled the IPOB’s gradual descent to armed struggle. The ethnic profiling and harassment of non-Yoruba in Lagos is bound to further exacerbate separatist agitations. If Tinubu is sworn in as president, he will have to fight the fire he set.
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