An attempt to delve into what is the place of Ndi Igbo in Lagos and contemporary Nigeria is vital on account of its currency – most especially as the nation goes through yet another electioneering process. The need to know is anchored on the false narrative bandied in the public spaces about the Igbo man planning to take over Lagos. This is utterly amusing. The allegation is specifically borne out of selfish interests and political mischief. Why is it only during elections that the issue of Igbo domination of cities and take over come up? The nation needs to come to terms and examine the utterances and positions of political, traditional and opinion leaders in Lagos and Nigeria regarding the Igbo man before and after the presidential election. The ominous signs of an imminent “Igbophobic” attack in Lagos is patently visible. The governor of Lagos state, Babajide Sanwo-olu and the security agencies should as a matter of urgency rise up to their responsibilities. Another pogrom against the Igbo people under any guise is unacceptable this time around. A wise man should avoid trouble rather than trying to resolve it afterwards. Igbo people are legitimate Nigerians and law abiding, thus; should not be treated as outcasts and or second class citizens in Nigeria.
For the avoidance of doubt, Nigeria is a breeding ground for ethnic based politics. It was played before and it continues. The emergence of Peter Obi as the Presidential candidate of Labour Party and the surprises thrown up has ruffled the political feathers of many. The unexpected defeat suffered by Bola Tinubu who was eventually declared the winner of the manipulated presidential election in his own acclaimed territory was unbelievable. The albatross of men stoking the embers of discord is the imminent collapse of decades old belief that; Lagos is the property of one man. People are tired of Tinubu factor in Lagos thus his defeat. It was an expression of peoples’ desire for a better Lagos and a new Nigeria. All well-meaning individuals resident in Lagos including the Yorubas jointly made the bold statement. Any attempt to isolate Igbo people and make them scapegoats, create animosity between them, the good people of Lagos, their friends and neighbours is an effort in futility.
The Igbo man is industrious and daring in all ramifications. He sees himself as an equal partner in the project called Nigeria. Why shouldn’t an Igbo man be president of Nigeria? I am aware you understand what equity means. However, the political class views the Igbo tribe as a subjugated group who should not be allowed to join the league of national royalty. Others view them as “arrogant usurpers” who have come from far away land to dominate. The perception is almost the same everywhere in Nigeria especially during any crisis or election periods. The Igbo man bears the brunt of almost all the crisis in Nigeria. His shop is either raided or burnt down by hoodlums who were made to believe that a peaceful trader is their problem. One good thing about an Igbo man is that he emerges from the ashes of his predicament a better and stronger individual. The events of pre-and post-presidential elections especially in Lagos is an isolated case which has compelled one to ask once again – what is the place of Ndi Igbo in Lagos and even Nigeria?
Lagos, the former capital of Nigeria is a cosmopolitan city and a rallying point for all ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. It had a dual status of a state under the federation and the capital of Nigeria. The state enjoyed double rations of the national cake. With this unique status, opportunities abound in Lagos as result. This has propelled people from all walks of life including Igbo men to seek greener pastures in Eko. In fact, trade as a means of livelihood and survival was the major reason Igbos are found in Lagos and other parts of the country. After the unfortunate civil war, Igbo people like every human beings deserves to live. They took advantage of the status of Lagos and Nigerian space to hustle like others to eke out a living. With sheer determination and discipline, many Igbo men who left their homes with nothing have made tremendous success and are counted among men. Wherever an Igbo man finds himself becomes his second home. He invests without looking back and does everything at his disposal to improve his environment. They do businesses without rancor, marry, are honoured for their community and selfless services and live peacefully with their host communities. The Igbo man sees the environment he finds himself as his. He opens up rural communities, builds bridges and with altruism buys the confidence of his host community.
Before independence, the role of Lagos as the centre of commerce and the value addition of the sea for trans-atlantic trade was already acknowledged. The leverage Lagos had in commerce turned out a regional concern when the north demanded that Lagos should be under separate administration to safeguard it from becoming a Yoruba preserve. This was captured in a letter sent to the British Cabinet by Oliver Lyttleton who was the Secretary of State for Colonies in 1953. Advising the British cabinet on what to do regarding Lagos, Lyttleton wrote; “The north with their deep but already somewhat shaken trust in the British and distrust of their ‘brothers’ in the West and East fear that greater autonomy now suggested for regions will lead to the West seceding when it suits them, especially as the West incorporates Lagos, at once the commercial and political capital and only effective outlet to the sea for the trade and commerce of the North… The North now insist on Lagos being a federal area under separate administration to safeguard it from becoming a Yoruba preserve and to make sure their access to the sea remains open…” From the above, it could be deduced that both the Igbo man and even the north see Lagos as a vehicle to promote their trade and not for politics let alone domination.
However, whenever it is election season, false narrative of Igbos trying to take over Lagos or cities of their residence resonates. Although a typical Igbo man invests outside his home more, he was aware even at age ten that he is a sojourner anywhere he is. That was why no Igbo man is buried outside his ancestral land. Have you asked yourself why almost every Igbo man compulsorily travels home at the end of the year? The culture and ancestral bond have to be maintained. The dangers of promoting ‘Igbophobia’ in Lagos is an evil wind which blows nobody any good. Societies grow and develops in its heterogeneity and accommodation of others. Those who clamour for the eviction of the Igbo man do not contribute as much as the Igbos do to the economy of Lagos and Nigeria.
An average Igbo man nurtures his trade from nothing to something but most of the big names in Nigerian business ecosystem climbed up using political powers at their disposal at some point or ride on the shoulders of men in power to the top. Those maligning the Igbo people do so to protect their political and economic interests which they feel are threatened by the number of Igbos in Lagos and Nigeria. Nigerians deserve to know that the fear of a bulk vote from the larger population of Ndi Igbo against the status quo gives some politicians sleepless night. The people of Lagos know who has held them hostage and wants to buy the state whole sale. They are definitely not Ndi Igbo.
Sunday Onyemaechi Eze is a Media and Development Communication Specialist. He can be reached via email@example.com and 08060901201
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