By Igbonekwu Ogazimora
I had restrained from commenting on the ongoing demolition of housing facilities in Lagos of which 95 percent are said to be owned by the Igbo.
One of the reasons for restraint was the oft-espoused claim by “enlightened” Igbo themselves that the Igbo who obtained illegal permits and built on public areas should have themselves to blame.
The other reason was that it has not come clear, to me, what the claims of Lagos government has been other than that those houses were built on either water ways or areas designed for dualistisation of roads.
These, ordinarily ought to be reasonable tracks of argument if the magnitude of the destruction is not as benumbing as it is.
It cannot be for reasons of building on water ways and road expansions that this magnitude of destruction could be visited on a people. It has to be something else, and i stand to be quoted that it is political.
I have my reasons.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2019 elections, political actors in Lagos had understood, and they stated it, that they had lost the demographic hold on Lagos if any day a free and fair election was conducted. One of such commentators, obviously one of those who considered Senator Tinubu a god, asked me, “if Fashola, a former governor of Lagos State could lose election in his ward in Surulere, on account of these disrespectful Igbo, do you not think that the unthinkable could happen to “Lord” Tinubu in future?”
I tried to remind him that if elections were expected to be Democratic, why would anybody be burdened by cultural allegiances which had no direct import on the way the voters made their choices? He dismissed this as the “typical Igbo culture of disrespect and insolence on their hosts.”
Again, I tried to remind him that if we go by sections 42/43 of the grundnorm, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, TCFRN, no person should actually see himself as hosting another in his or her own country.
He lost it. He flew into a rage and resorted to abuse.
I deliberately added that he too was a visitor in Lagos, having originally come from Osun State where his parents still resided at the time.
He was unmoved. “Igbo must be moved back to the South East,” was the mantra he used in termingling the discussion.
There were other encounters.
Then came the 2023 elections. The high level performances of candidates supported by non-indigenes in Lagos actually shocked many to their bones.
But it should not have shocked anybody.
Any way, it did.
The formerly urbane Bayo Onanuga, erstwhile noted for objective analyses of malaise in Nigeria, soon shirked a toga and unveiled a surprising hold of sectional thinking and desperation to be reckoned with on the side of a Party and its Candidate when he declared, “this is the last time the Igbo would interfere in Lagos politics.”
Of course Onanuga is not even from Lagos State. But that aside, he gave the plan away and revealed the fear that Igbo participation in voting in Lagos amounted to interference.
I refuse to buy the argument that he and the others did not understand that they were creating problems that would grow so big and uncontrollable if they persisted in their deliberate typecasting of the Igbo, just to achieve political supremacy.
Sure, they hold, if the same hand that holds the reigns in Lagos cannot be reined in by the Federal authorities of which they are the foundation, the Igbo should understand that any resort to commensurate response would be met with the most debilitating force.
They may be right. But may have missed some salient points in today’s international politics, especially possible trends in sudden assertion of declarative autonomy and the other forces that join in.
Elsewhere, it had long been filtering in that there were plans to roll back Igbo population in Lagos.
Revelations are also made of designs to ensure their subjugation and achieve their submission to the cultural context on which Lagos politics was being designed to follow.
Elsewhere, also, it had leaked that efforts must be made to find official excuses to not only dismantle Igbo commercial flavour of Lagos, but also to pauperise them if they insist on staying in Lagos.
At the moment, these have now, all, crystallised.
On the Igbo who join others on parroting the claims of “building on water ways and planned dualistisation sites,” I ask you, have you ever had a situation where there were no official reasons for doing evil against the Igbo and other nationalities in Nigeria?
Gowon and his co-mass-murderers watched as Ndigbo were massacred in tens of thousands. The official explanation was that the killers were provoked by a song said to be made by perhaps and illiterate trader somewhere.
Even against other sections of Nigeria, the authorities had their reasons for actions that defied logic and shocked civilisation. Was their ever any coup in Nigeria without “reasons”? Gowon killed Ironsi and millions of Igbos because “Igbos plotted and killed Northern leaders.” Decades later, General IBB declared, “Ironsi did not plot any coup,” and restored his rank and pensions. Others have now accepted that the whole Igbo should not be blamed by the few soldiers who got involved in the January 1966 coup d’tat.
When IPOBians declared many Igbo intellectuals as “otellectuals,” many took offence. I was one of those. But am I not compelled now, at the door of those Igbo who take it up to them to justify the mass demolitions as “otellectuals?”
There are some important questions you ought to have asked: if indeed those edifying structures were illegally built having illegally obtained the permits, couldn’t there have been one or two in the authorities to act to stop their constructions in earnest?
If they were illegal as claimed, would a government stand by while vast areas marked for other projects were taken without due recourses?
If the builders bribed to build, was it not indicative of a deadly trap set for a set of people for the magnitude of development to take place in the full view of government which is touted as the most active in a country?
What about the magnitude of development already in place. If the people are not targeted, would these level of destruction of personal fortunes by visited the areas if the developers were of the claimants to indigenous ethnicity and population?
In the 1985 Ahoajoku lecture, one the assignees to the colloquium admonished: “Ndigbo must attenuate their presence in other parts of Nigeria as their presence excites strong emotions among other Nigerians.” He was not advocating Igbo exit from parts of Nigeria but conscious Igbo efforts not to be noted as domineering in material possession and opulence.
When I read that work in the early 1990s, I saw the expression, “envy is right” for the first time.
What I found this to mean is that people who are lacking in the energy, perseverance, foresight and courage to pierce or explode the core layers of wealth creation will always be disgruntled, envious and angry against those perceived to have the keys. They will feel oppressed.
Of course, Ndigbo have no keys to wealth. Indeed, they hold the short end of the stick in wealth creation in Nigeria owing to their being kept off the power loop where sharing of the national patrimony is conducted. They are just crump pickers and back water cleaners.
Igbos can afford life, achieve successes and material wealth outside Lagos.
Although there may not be any one individual capable of doing it, the Igbo as a collective can erect a city better developed, better heeled and more prosperous than Lagos somewhere in the South East.
About seven years ago, the idea of a central city in the geographical centre of Igboland was initiated by some minimal-weight developers. A design was developed for Isuochi and environ, as claimed to be the centre of Igbo land. If implemented, it was going to encompass areas of two local government areas in each of the SE states.
A perfect work that would bear almost equal and same distance to every part of Igbo land. The design was so great and quite encompassing, with sea and air accesses made to meld with existing infrastructure at all counts.
The political branch of which I was part, went to work.
Guess what. There was no single State or Local government interest from the five States. When the developers opted to work alone, accepting my position that interest would follow later, no government was prepared to discuss lands. Approaches were made to communities and many were agreeable, but their locations were interspersed with ones which were not buying into the project.
Then came suspicions of land grabbing from government quarters.
The ETITI IGBO CITY, some called it ALABAYI, stalled, if it has not even failed.
What the Igbo must take home with what is going on in areas of Lagos is that the political leaders of Lagos who are also the national leaders of present Nigeria will never back out of this drive to drastically reduce Igbo population and voting power in Lagos. In effect, more of the destructions are on their way.
The acts, which actually qualify to be a genocide, is being carried without fear of any force in Nigeria. In the past, it was said, in the words of Dr. Umaru Dikko, “we live in Nigeria by the protection of others.” It is no longer that way. The Federal government which ought to have been the restraining power looks so much like the actual sponsor of the tragedy on the Igbo.
It is the punishment for the loss of election by the APC in Lagos State.
The Igbo who are gleefully political to declare, “good for them for bribing officials to get the building permit,” should mark my word, the rolling machine may not even be too far away from your own mansion in Lagos.
I respect the present governors of the SE. One or two are my close friends. But permit me to say, it is most bizarre, mildly speaking, that no word has come from you while these vast estates are destroyed. Not even a word of succour.
No one knows if any of them has even considered it worth his while to simply call the governor of Lagos to enquire about what is going on
With due respect, it is possible that they are either intimidated or not even having the right political exposure to understand their responsibilities.
To Ohaneze, you have not disappointed.
I belong to those who do not accept that you can contribute any meaningful to the Igbo situation in Nigeria. And before you foam and thunder, please be reminded that I know your original history. Ohaneze was formed as a National Party of Nigeria, NPN, group against Azikiwe. It did not set out as a pan-Igbo group, and it has failed to achieve any applauded pan-Igbo objective; at least to my limited knowledge.
ETITI IGBO CITY/ALABAYI CITY or not, Oseakwa River way Port, or not, the eventual mobilisation of the Igbo against this endless blow on the nose of the Igbo, ala TY danjuma, will, like other measures in marginalisation, be a matter of waking up.
This page does not advocate violence except in self defence.