Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, the first African-owned, US-based newspaper published on the Internet.
By Suyi Ayodele
Someone staked his claim to the presidency of Nigeria with the audacious slogan of Emi L’okan (it is my turn). And, he seems to have got it using the Hausa/Fulani/Kanuri alliance to drive his claim. The real owners of Lagos are on the street now demanding their right to rule themselves. They seem to be saying, “Awa L’okan” (it is our turn), also forging an alliance with southern ethnic groups, particularly the Igbo. Now, the ajoji godogbo (audacious alien) is jittery and threatening the landlord because the owner wants to rule his land.
For those who think only the Igbo are behind the February 25 tsunami in Lagos, if truly they are Yoruba and have roots in the Yoruba cosmology, I recommend them to find out the full meaning of the name of a renowned Babalawo of yore: Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun (leave so that the owner of the house can eat). Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun has two other siblings: Oju (Eye) and Ahinhun (The one who snores). These trio were the powers behind any divination, according to the legend. No diviner, no matter how dexterous, could be successful without giving due recognition to them. Oju spoke for the people. Ahihun represented the poor masses. The third, Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun, was the minister in charge of indigenous (home) affairs. Once a Babalowo had any of the trio against him, he simply packed his divination bag and headed home. Could it be that for the past 24 years, the political godfathers of Lagos have neglected the real people and the day of reckoning is now? There is a saying that amplifies that: “Ko mo oju, ko mo Ahihun, ko tun mo Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun, oluhun fe se awo asedale (he does not know Oju, neither does he recognise Ahihun and completely neglects Kuro-ki-Onile-jeun yet boasts of a lasting divination expedition). If people can be comfortable with the Emi L’okan (it is my turn) philosophy, why should the same people feel bad for Lagosians saying “Awa Lo’kan” – it is our time?
We are in a very interesting time at the moment, political wise. By this Saturday again, Nigerians will file out in their millions to elect governors and state legislators across the 36 states of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Whatever tension we are feeling across the states cannot be divorced from the political tsunami of February 25, when the presidential and national assembly elections took place. That date will remain in history as the night of the long knives for all political gladiators, who were thoroughly demystified by the outcomes of the elections. Great was the humiliation hitherto the lords of the manors suffered that ever since, there has been “no peace for the wicked” in the camps of those who were lords over us for decades. Interestingly, the vultures have momentarily forgotten their feud. They are all back in Lagos begging and asking for mercy from a people they have spent the past 24 years raping with crass impunity. They are scared!
On a personal note, I feel greatly satisfied, and elated that for once, Nigerians showed uncommon resilience and demonstrated their capacity to do that which is right, ideal, and noble. The outcome of the February 25 elections and the attendant disappointments, especially the remarkable ineptitude displayed by INEC, pale into insignificance for me, given the loud messages Nigerians sent to the locust that have eaten up the nation’s political and economic fields over the years. The lessons from the elections are something Nigerians, and this time around, the youths, should keep for future political engagements. The political equation is almost balanced. The APC has 57 senators-elect as against the 42 by the other opposition parties. While APC has 162 House of Representatives members, the opposition parties have a total of 165 members. All the opposition parties need to do is to get their acts together and no single party would be able to pass any anti-people bill in the National Assembly. That is a great win for the people.
Since the February 25 elections, politicians, who in the past would have been sipping cognac in their living rooms, celebrating the ‘victory’ of the presidential election, are practically on the street as vote canvassers. Interesting! We have seen governors in the last two weeks going from one market to the other and from one worship centre to another. One of them in the Niger Delta region was spotted kneeling down to beg traders for votes. The souls of the 28 states where the gubernatorial elections will take place on Saturday, March 18, are up for grabs. Nobody is comfortable again. Governors, ministers, big men and women, are, to use the exact word of a Nigerian billionaire, “pounding the street”, for votes. The commoners are no longer common. Teachers in Delta State suddenly had their service years extended from 60 to 65 years. Wow!
In Lagos, the epicenter of the current tension, residents who had their vehicles impounded and auctioned at very ridiculous prices have suddenly become the darlings of the erstwhile tough-talking Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. The almighty LASTMA officials have abandoned their old acts. They are now seen counselling Lagos drivers on “safe driving”. God bless February 25, 2023! More importantly, God bless those resilient Nigerians, who, through their votes, showed that power resides with the people. How are the mighty (godfathers) fallen and the weapons of war (politics) perished. How would Nigerians have believed that the strong man of Lagos motor park, who, three weeks ago threatened those who would come and vote for any other party, apart from his APC, with fire and brimstone, would one day turn a preacher of peace. Oh, you did not see the video of MC Oluomo, begging Lagosians for forgiveness and preaching peace like the one who “preached in the wilderness”.
The most interesting thing to me now is the type of tension brewing every day in Lagos. Eko Akete, Ilu Ogbon (Lagos the centre of wisdom) is no longer at ease. Different narratives are flying all over the place. The Centre of Excellence is no more excellent politically. Those who have held the state by its jugular for over two decades are now changing the narrative. They are yet to come to terms with the devastation visited on them by the avant-garde political movement headed by the underrated Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Labour Party, which to me, is the party of the future, did not only demystify the ‘owner of Lagos’ and proponent of the Emi L’okan political philosophy, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the party, and its supporters ensured that Tinubu did not only lose Lagos on February 25, but that he lost Ikeja, where he voted and lost the polling centres on Bourdillon Road, where he resides. Nobody expected it, not even yours sincerely. But it happened. How? Who did it? Why did they do such a thing? Trust them, the lords of Lagos have a single answer to these questions. Ask them how, and they tell you “Igbo”. Who did it? – same answer, Igbo. Why? They want to take over Lagos, they say shamelessly as if the Lagos votes were cast by the Igbo alone. Now the Igbo race has become the hydra-headed political monster. That is funny.
The abrasive sentiment in Lagos now and to a greater extent in many parts of the South-West, is “we must not allow the Igbo to take over our land”. I hear that tale every day. I shudder at how otherwise educated fellows suddenly turned tribal bigots. I asked a fellow what will be the gain(s) of an average Nigerian in Lagos, if Sanwo-Olu wins the March 18 elections. I asked him to also educate me on what an average Lagosian will lose in case Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour of the LP wins, too. The fella gave me the parrot line: “the Igbo will take over Lagos”. Really! Who is in charge of Lagos at the moment? I asked him. He said I would not understand. And I want to understand. This is why I am probing further. LP scored 582,454 votes on February 25. Are we saying that only the Igbo in Lagos gave Peter Obi that figure? The APC of Tinubu also scored 572,602 votes. Is anybody by any reasoning saying only the Yoruba group did the figure? Did, for instance, a Joe Igbokwe, vote for Peter Obi because he is an Igbo at the expense of his political benefactor, Tinubu, who rehabilitated him such that he can hardly find his way to his native Nnewi hometown in Anambra State? Which ethnic nationalities gave Abubakar Atiku of the PDP his miserable 75,750 votes at that election? Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani community or voters from Mars? Can we just wake up and smell the coffee before it goes cold and stale.
How come the Igbo race is now a threat to the Yoruba land of Lagos? How did that happen? In the history of this political era, who has empowered the Igbo in Lagos more than Tinubu himself? Why are his ‘friends’ of yesteryear now his ‘enemies’ today? Something is wrong and those plying the wares of “Igbo will take over our land” know the truth but it is too bitter for them to either acknowledge or swallow. Fact is that the rabble-rousing crusade of Obidient political war cry is an idea that has come of age. Lagos is peculiar. In the current dispensation, all original Omo Eko (indigenous Lagosians) know that from 1999 till date, ‘strangers’ have been ruling and pillaging their fathers’ farmlands. From Tinubu to Babatunde Raji Fashola, from Akinwunmi Ambode to the current Sanwo-Olu, an Isale Eko man will tell you that the roots of the foursome cannot be found in Iduganran to the backwaters of Agboyi. None of these four governors can boast of original Lagos ancestry. So, if the true Lagosians are now saying they want their land back and they find the remedy in a Lagos Islander, Rhodes-Vivour, it would not matter to them if the vehicle for such actualisation is driven by an Igbo, a Kalabari, an Ibariba or a Tapa from Nupe land. That is the current reality in Lagos today. It would not matter to them if Rhodes-Vivour’s mother is Igbo, his partner’s grandmother is from Kutuwenji and his first cousins are descendants of El-Kanemi of Bornu. All they want is a clear break from the old order; only God can stop that!
I have argued here on the rights of the minority in a piece titled; “Oodua Anthem and the Rights of the Minority Groups”, published on May 18, 2021, which was in defense of the Ijaw people of Ondo State. It is rather unfortunate that an Ikechukwu Ibeto, who has lived his past 50 years in Lagos is no longer regarded as a Lagosian because a gubernatorial election is in the offing and his distant cousin is on the ballot. It is equally more unfortunate that an Adebayo Omosule, who sold his grandfather’s grave to an Uzoma Nwokeabia, to build a warehouse on Ikorodu Road, is now the one shouting “Igbo will take over our land”. How did we, for instance, allow the political class to brainwash us that their fight for political survival is the survival of the poor people on the street? The early 70s, especially after the civil war, were fascinating to me.
A room exists in my father’s house today which we, all the children, know as “Yara Ibo” (the room for the Ibo). The room was so named because it was where all the Igbo people who came for casual jobs in our fathers’ cocoa plantations, after the civil war, were first housed before being distributed to other cocoa farmers in the town. We called those Igbo “Onise Odun” – A year-labourer- because they were not paid for their labour until December of each year when cocoa would be at its peak. Their children attended the same L.A. Primary School East, Saint Andrew Primary School and Saint Thomas’ Catholic Primary School with us. They ate our pounded yam, and we shared their akpu (fufu) and ofe’onugbo (bitter leaves) with them.
I went to Lagos during my undergraduate days to see a friend around Mafoluku. My would-be host was on morning shift when I got there. The couple who received me and entertained me before my friend arrived, were Igbo husband and wife. There were Yoruba and other tribes in that building, who knew me as a regular caller but never catered to me. Is that fantastic Igbo couple part of the ‘strangers’ we are being told want to take over Lagos? For the five years I spent in Lagos in my last employment, I can count the number of times I paid transport fare from Ketu, my base, to Victoria Island, my office. Why? A friend, an Igbo, from Imo State, would always pick me up at the bus stop in the morning and drop me off in the evening. When it rained, he would take the extra effort, veer off the expressway, to drop me off in front of my house. On the job itself, one of the greatest supports I got came from another Igbo fella from Anambra State. I can bet that many people share the same experiences as mine. Now the political class and its nauseating selfish disposition is asking us to do away with that love and some people are clapping! Can’t we distinguish between good governance and ethnic jingoism, anymore?
It is true that we have some very bad Igbo guys. There are very many of them. It is equally true that not every Yoruba person on the streets of Lagos is without faults. We have them in large quantities too. No tribe is extremely bad, and no tribe is extremely good. We are like the proverbial talking drum (Gangan), which backs some people and faces others. The locust political class should go and wean itself of the fallacy of hasty generalisation. There are so many people who are angry with the hegemonic hold of the Lagos biggest landlord in the state. They want the lord’s knees off their necks so that they can breathe. Among them are the EndSARS victims and their parents. You have the Lagos elites and those who are genuinely tired of the shenanigans of the past 24 years. The real Lagosians (Omo Eko gangan) are in that group, too. The huge Igbo population, with their misplaced aggression, are there also. Aggrieved APC members queued behind the LP during the last elections. Undecided voters, who were pissed off by the activities of the many MC Oluomos of Lagos numbered among the lot. These were joined by other ethnic groups.
The only thing is that an Igbo man led the revolution. But that is not limited to Lagos. LP has about six senators and 34 House of Representatives members from that election. These guys won across the states of the federation; voted for by all Nigerians who seek the good of the land.
March 18 is another day to circumcise the New Nigeria born on February 25. Let the consolidation be nationwide and let Nigerians have a fresh breath of life in many states across the country, Lagos inclusive. Let Awodi (hawk) soar and let Alapandede (Swallow) fly; whoever says no to the other, let its wings break!
(This is the unabridged version of Suyi Ayodele’s trending piece, published first in the Nigerian Tribune on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. It is published here on USAfricaonline.com with permission).