By Emeka Duru
Events in the country, keep proving late Prof Chinua Achebe right that Nigerians of all other ethnic groups will probably achieve consensus on no other matter than their common resentment of the Igbo. Achebe added that in trying to attach a tag of guilt on the Igbo, their fellow countrymen often accuse them of being aggressive, arrogant and, clannish – a case of giving a dog a bad name in orto it.
This has become the norm at every election cycle in the country, especially in Lagos State, where the Igbo has literally become the metaphorical scapegoat. The scapegoat in African Traditional Religion (ATR), is a male goat upon whose head is symbolically placed the sins and transgressions of an entire community. It wanders around the community and bears a burden of atonement for sins it did not commit.
This is what the Igbo in Lagos, are goinishrough in the hands of narrow-minded chieftains of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party in the state. Since the conclusion of the party primaries in which Peter Obi, former Anambra state governor, emerged as the press identical candidate of Labour Party (LP), the Igbo who had hitherto lived peacefully with their Yoruba neighbours, have been targets of attacks. Obi was perceived as the obstacle to the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu realizing his presidential ambition. For this, his kinsmen living in the state, must pay the price. Suddenly, the rootless allegation of the Igbo claiming that Lagos is no man’s land, sprang up, in a bid to protect the people as covetous.
As if that was not enough, with the governorship election slated for tomorrow and Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour flying the Labour Party flag, the Igbo are seen as his major backers and must pay dearly for it. Two factors majorly inform the unreasonable hostility. Rhodes-Vivour’s mother is Igbo and his wife is also Igbo.
These are considered capital sins by the Igbo, according to the foot soldiers of the APC ethnic jingoists. For these, the Igbo living on the Eti-Osa side of the state were summoned by the local chief of the community and handed a threat that they must vote for the APC or face the consequences.
At the Ije-Ododo axis of the Ojo Local Government Area, similar threats were allegedly made. In Oshodi, the Chairman of Lagos State Parks Management Committee, Musliu Akinsanya, otherwise known as MC Oluomo, was caught on video, spitting fire against any Igbo that would attempt voting for another party other than the APC. Some younger irredentists took to social media, issuing all manner of threats against the Igbo. In the face of these assaults, the government does not guarantee the people’s safety or protection.
Rather, by strange coincidence, LP supporters and business premises of the Igbo have been attacked by hoodlums, suspected to be on commissioned missions, the latest being the motor spare parts market in the slums of Ajegunle where at least one person was murdered.
A similar violence took place in the Isolo/Ikotun area of Lagos where the selective destruction of shops and merchandise owned by Igbo traders was said to have been supervised by a royal father of the community, the Baale.
The question, therefore, is; what are the issues? What have the Igbo done to deserve this undisguised animosity? A leading Igbo group, Anya-Ndi- Igbo, has answered, eloquently, that there are no issues. What we are rather seeing, are desperate manifestations of the erroneous belief that the Igbo will not vote for the APC. This is hogwash! In fact, the assumption flies in the face of logic and begs the question. The Igbo ethnic group is not a political party. It is not contesting the election. As a distinct ethnic group, the Igbo has no preferred candidate in the governorship election in Lagos state. Igbo people are members of numerous political parties including the APC on their individual choices and are supporting their parties’ candidates.
No Igbo man is contesting the election for the office of governor. They have no dog in this fight and should not be made the victim.
The politicians of the Lagos State APC should desist from pitching Yoruba against Igbo with vicious falsehoods. APC or any other party can win the governorship election and any other contest without shedding Igbo blood or any other blood for that matter.
Perhaps, it may suffice, at this juncture to recall the immortal words of former governor of the state, Lateef Jakande, that: “any party that has been in government for one term of four years does not need to campaign for votes. It is the visible work it has done for the people that should constitute its campaign.” With many years in the saddle, APC as a ruling party should have a profile of accomplishments to market its candidate. Trying to set the Yoruba against the Igbo, is the most disingenuous in the campaign.
The Igbo and Yoruba have lived happily together in love and mutual understanding and respect. Any attempt at breaking this cord, will have disastrous consequences. The two ethnic groups and other Nigerians are facing the common enemy in bad leadership across the land.
The parties and their candidates need to tell the people their programmes for tackling insecurity, youth unemployment, dilapidated infrastructure, the comatose health sector and falling standards in education, among others. These are challenges confronting the average resident in the state, not stoking the ambers of ethnic unrest.
There must be an end to the routine harassment of the Igbo in Lagos. They cannot be continually treated as scapegoats of Lagos politics. In 2015, it was the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu, threatening to drown the people in the lagoon, if they did not vote for the APC.
This is not the way to go. The Igbo are Nigerians. The laws of the land permit them to live in any part of the country they choose and pursue legitimate livelihoods. The constitution also permits and guarantees them freedom of association, freedom to belong to any political party or none at all, and freedom to vote for any party of their choice.
Nobody should deny them these rights under whatever guise.