During the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections, there were clear cases of voter suppression in many states across the country, including Lagos. In many parts of Lagos, in a monstrous replication of the violence of previous years, there were violent attacks on non-indigenes and members of the opposition. They were beaten, bruised and grievously wounded, their clothes crimson with blood. Indeed, in a particular instance, an unnamed thug announced in the presence of policemen that anyone who would not vote for the All Progressives Congress (APC) should not dare to visit his polling unit. It is traumatizing that all the violent criminals who assaulted law-abiding voters have not been arrested, let alone prosecuted, by the law enforcement agencies. Depriving people of their democratic rights through such in-your-face criminality is an act of terror, and ought to be resisted by all people of conscience.
At the root of the tension are ethnic, political and economic considerations. First is the insinuation, entirely unreasonable, that a takeover of Lagos by another party other than the APC represents a takeover by Igbo people and thus ethnic and cultural suicide. Those who belong to this school of thought, among them very educated people, buttress their arguments with the tensions between Nigeria’s founding fathers, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and the history of Igbo-Yoruba wrangling. But while the fear of a takeover may be genuine, the underlying assumption that any Yoruba person who does not subscribe to the dominant political tendency in the state is somehow a bastard or sellout is egregiously false and insufferably arrogant.
For one thing, the advocates of this thoughtless thesis ignore Yoruba thinking while claiming to fight for Yorubaland (that is, their economic survival). The Yoruba say that we cannot all sleep and face the same direction, indicating that independence of thought is at the core of Yoruba existence. How reasonable is it to claim that only one political party can represent or protect Yoruba interests in Lagos? Is that to say that Yoruba people operating on other platforms are not Yoruba or not Yoruba enough?
On the other side of the coin, because in today’s Lagos there is a multiplicity of ethnic groups and political tendencies, there are non-indigenes, many of them Igbos, who assault Yoruba cultural sensibilities by making statements that would be wholly unwelcome in their own states of origin. Such people, who claim that Lagos is no man’s land, provide an excuse for political buccaneers to launch assaults on Igbo residents in Lagos under the guise of cultural preservation. Yet while one cannot condone the murderous activities of these political terrorists, it still amounts to dishonesty to skirt around the subject of Lagos ownership. In this regard, I declare without hesitation that Lagos is 100 percent Yorubaland.
The British may have “owned” parts of the state by force of arms for almost a century but that does not make them the aboriginal owners. They met some people on the land when they invaded it with guns and daggers, enslaving the indigenous populace. I am waiting for the Englishman who would trace his ancestral roots to Lagos. The facts are so clear that anyone who doubts Yoruba ownership of Lagos needs psychiatric examination. If you cannot go to Kano or Aba and call it no man’s land, it amounts to utter contempt for the Yoruba people for you to call Lagos no man’s land. Lagos is no more no man’s land than Sambisa, and I hope that Senator Shehu Sani was only joking when he made that funny quip about Sambisa. If I contested that space with him, even the land would reject me. It is criminal to take the accommodating nature of the Yoruba people for granted and claim that Lagos is no man’s land. I say this because it is at the root of some of the ethnic tensions in Lagos. By the same token, it is an act of terror to perpetrate arson and electoral brigandage against Igbos, citing assault to Yoruba sensibilities when your real interest is the preservation of political privileges.
This inevitably leads to the question, who should run Lagos? The aboriginal owners of Lagos and those who have lived in Lagos for years and who have huge stakes in it are Lagosians regardless of their state of origin. Giving due regard to the aboriginal owners, the latter can and should be able to aspire to any office in Lagos, although the former should be at the forefront. Most of those who have governed Lagos since 1999 were originally from other states, but their stakes in Lagos made them governors. Still, no one has the right to call the aboriginal owners strangers on their own land. In this regard, I dismiss any insinuation that the governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in today’s election, Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour, is not a Lagosian. It is lunacy to call Rhodes-Vivour a non-Lagosian because his wife is Igbo, then call Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an Iragbiji native who married an Itsekiri woman, the ultimate Lagosian. Politics should never be allowed to cloud our sense of reasoning. Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour is a purebred Lagosian and so is Olajide Adediran.
Looking at culture, history and philosophy, I must state that if Lagos is to be a model of excellence, then it cannot be the property of one man or the exclusive preserve of a political party. It must be a state run by the people, not a political dynasty. Subjecting Igbo residents of Lagos or non-indigenes to bodily harm on election day merely because they choose to vote for opposition parties is dictatorship, not democracy, and can only breed catastrophic results. Besides, anyone thinking that only one ruling party can secure their economic future is intellectually crude and culturally crippled. The world’s most prosperous states are run by different political platforms and with contending philosophies, with people most of the time going for those with the most compelling visions. In this regard, I must declare, with history as a mirror, that even if Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu does secure a second term of office today—he is a fantastic guy, by the way—the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party of those who have run the state in 1999, will inevitably lose its hold on Lagos. While this is not an anti-APC piece, history tells me that the seed of dissolution of any empire always comes from within, not without. That is to say, whereas outside powers may help bring an empire to an end, the seed would first have been sown through internal wrangling.
It is uncharitable—in fact, criminal—to attain federal power while thinking that you can retain state power. The Yoruba say you do not eat two things in Alade’s homestead; if you eat yam, you cannot eat pounded yam, and if you eat pounded yam, you cannot eat yam. Proverbs are the horses that words ride.
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