Diatribe of Two Tribes – The Yoruba-Igbo War of Words


Governor Fashola definitely got more than he had bargained for. An exercise he had carried out a number of times in the past and which he had dubbed part of a reformatory process has come to at the least take on more sensitive  nomenclatures, such as deportation and at the worst opened up several cans of worms, made demands on history, challenged legitimacy and threatened unity.

I consider it a priority in all of these, to again emphasize an already affirmed fact, which is that in the face of conflicts, truth is usually the first casualty.

Today, most people who have expressed an opinion on this issue cannot really say with confident integrity that we know the exact truth about what transpired. It remains a question, if the Lagos state government truly contacted the Anambra State government about the planned exchange as claimed? Did the Anambra state government ignore as alleged. An ambiguous response with unquestionable veracity to these questions will change the entire face of these issues, without which we would be left only to mourn the demise of truth.

Next to the danger of the demise of truth is the economization of truth. And that becomes most prominent when the question of what tribe the Lagos land space belongs to is asked. Most responses from the Igbo side have been those that emphasize the constitutional right of any citizen to claim legality of space and place in any part of the country based on birth and extended period of stay and that is just infallible. It however leaves a critical question still unanswered. Perhaps, rewording the question in a way that would make responses less ambiguous will save the day, hence, the question, “to which Nigerian tribe is the Lagos land space indigenous to?

Needful to state, closely mixed with those economizations of truth will be outright lies. These lies do not rise to the dignity of a debate.

Lagos, and whoever answers to that name or shares with it an affinity of goodwill should indeed be proud of themselves at these times. A Yoruba adage goes “Owo epo l’araye n bani la”, meaning only the finger that drips with oil, draws other people to a feast.

I am young, so I may be wrong, but I’m yet to know of any other Nigerian state that all the country’s people has tried to lay claims of equal ownership to as with Lagos. At the core of such aspirations is the relentless effort to de-emphasize the indigenous character of the state so as to feel a higher sense of belonging. Not even Abuja, the current federal capital and a more likely permanent one is so desired. Again, “Lagosians”-whoever that is deserve to path themselves at the back.

In response to the Yoruba’s claim to Lagos then, I have these to say. It might be a little too late to seek a high handed grip on Lagos, and it might in fact been unnecessary.

As one of the most populous places in the world, it will be too diminutive to reduce the state to just a Yoruba’s zone. As is typical of most densely populated cities, diversity is key to its existence, expansion and survival. Lagos has not been different, and that can’t change now.

The pride of Lagos is not just about Nigeria, it’s about the world. Lagos is one of those places in the world that comfortably fuses millions of people with millions of differences, differences in tribe and race, in religion and orientation. Lagos is that place that manages its limited land space and resources with them all. Lagos should be, and is one place where any man can fell some sense of belonginging. Lagos should be, and is a pride of humanity.

If all the Yoruba’s wish to be made clear is the indigenous character of Lagos, there is no need to sweat it. History solves it.

A number of Igbo people have expressed their views, and quite rightly so, about this sensitive issue too. While most of them seem to speak with a similar tone and share similar opinions, I would still not assume that these voices speak in the name of the majority of Ndigbo.

Even then, for those who have expressed their opinions, I must commend their aggressive zest to rip Nigerians of our blinding and hateful and retrogressive tribalism. They have done this by emphasizing how by the virtue of a constitution that binds us; no one should claim exclusive reserve over any part of the nation against any other equal citizen, naturalized into the community either by birth or berth. Indeed they have done a noble thing.

We need such equity if we would ever achieve the “One Nigeria” that has so much eluded us. He that must come to equity however must come with clean hands. Should the Igbos decide to champion our one Nigeria course, they also need to with the same aggression deemphasize the indigenous nature of all parts of the country. Generals of this campaign such as Chief Orji Uzor Kalu and their lieutenants need to call Kano, (the bride in Nigeria’s “Lagos-Kano” union in terms of commerce and population) a no man’s land. They need to agitate as much as they do in Lagos for greater Igbo participation in politics and governance in Kaduna, at least no one can deny the strong representation of the Igbos in the state. They need to champion the course of a Yoruba governor in Abia State and Rivers states. The droves of Yoruba people in these states definitely deserves that they get just the kind of participation the Igbos seek in Lagos, and in every other part of the country, just as things should work.

In fact, this noble zeal for “Nigerianisation” cannot end at the level of land land ownsership. It should touch all aspects of our life, and a great place to start will be with regards to our polity. Since we now seek to make Nigeria for Nigerians, based on what the constitution offers, we should also seek that political offices be detribalized and fully “Nigerianised”. How blessed will that just be.

To emphasize these, the Igbos then needs to stop calling for an Igbo president at any time in our electioneering future. Should a candidate emerge that seems would be able to deliver on our needs as a nation, and he happens to be Igbo, that would be just fine. It would not be acceptable to campaign for him though just because he is Ibo. And in fact it would become immoral to clamour for an Igbo president, even before a candidate emerges. Or a Yoruba president, or an Hausa president.  The constituition does not provide for that. It only provides for a qualified Nigerian adult, at anytime, regardless of zonal, regional national divide.

It is imperative to state though, that while most Igbo responses to Chief Fani Kayode’s article “the bitter truth about the Igbos” claims to condemn the ethnically dividing tones of the article, they themselves have not fared better in spitting out their venomous bigotry.

Again, I hope I will be safe to assume their responses do not represent the most views of the Ndigbo.
A recurring word from these writers and commentators have been “Igbophobia”, described amidst words that seem to emphasize the feeling of superiority and arrogance, this an idea most of these writers have only sought to deepen, not expunge.

There is no harm in being proud of your history and achievements. There is all the harm in thinking that makes you a more superior brand to than any other human being.

According to history too, these is a card that they have not fared too well playing.

All that being said, should anyone ask me though, “Who owns Lagos?” I am going to say without any ambiguity, that Lagos belongs to all Nigerians. However, should the question be asked as “To which Nigerian tribe is Lagos indigenous?” I will refer to custodians of history to give us answers for the sake of posterity.

Mayokun Adekola (@Mayokunlm)

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1 Comment

  1. Here’s a problem with your article. You stated your opinion without presenting to the reader the background story. What initially happened and why?
    “An exercise he had carried out a number of times in the past and which he had dubbed part of a reformatory process has come to at the least take on more sensitive nomenclatures, such as deportation and at the worst opened up several cans of worms, made demands on history, challenged legitimacy and threatened unity.” What exercise and why?

    If he deported fellow Nigerians because they came from different parts of the country, on what basis was the deportation?

    For us to claim “one Nigeria”, elected officials cannot act in the interest of their regions only and these actions likely will be started from the most populous (and developed) regions of the country.

    It’s me.