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Identity and Controversy in Lagos

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

The history of the Igbo in Nigeria has been marred with blood. With the consolidation of Nigeria as a formal British colony in 1914 came the proliferation of Igbo communities in various urban centers throughout the country. These educated, diasporan Igbo made a living for themselves by occupying various white-collar occupations as well as by trading and engaging in various commercial activities, much to the chagrin of local indigenes who saw their presence as a threat. Resentment of the Igbo quickly became a national phenomenon described by the term “Igbophobia”—the general fear and hatred of the Igbo on the bases of economic, political, and ideological differences and competition—and by mid-century, the Igbo had been victims in a number of anti-Igbo pogroms particularly in Northern Nigeria.

Despite the peaceful disposition of the Igbo—as the Igbo man is neither known to raise arms against his neighbor nor against his fellow countryman, but is interested solely in the betterment of himself, his family, and his community—the 20th century saw the murder of nearly 4 million Igbo men and women from 1945-1999.

Equally disturbing, last Monday being April 6th, 2015, in an act of wanton recklessness, at a function organized by the APC political party, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the traditional ruler of Lagos, made a statement inciting violence against Lagos’ Igbo population if they failed to collectively vote for a particular candidate which he had endorsed at this past Saturday’s gubernatorial elections. The Oba was quoted to have said: “On Saturday, if any one of you, I swear by the name of God Almighty, Allah, goes against Ambode, who I have picked, that is your end. If it doesn’t happen within seven days, just know that I am a bastard and it’s not my father who gave birth to me. “By the grace of God, I am the owner of Lagos for the time being. This is an undivided chair. The palace belongs to the dead and those coming in the future. On Saturday, if anyone of you, I swear in the name of God, goes against my wish that Ambode becomes the next governor of Lagos State, the person is going to die inside this water.“For the Igbo and others in Lagos, they should go where the Oba of Lagos heads to. When they were coming to the state, they didn’t come with all their houses. But now they have properties in the state. So, they must do my bidding. And that is the bidding of the ancestors of Lagos and God. “I am not ready to beg you. Nobody knew how I picked Ambode. Jimi is my blood relation and I told him that he can never be governor in Lagos for now. The future belongs to God. I am not begging anybody, but what you people cannot do in Onitsha, Aba or anywhere, you cannot do it here.

“If you do what I want, Lagos will continue to be prosperous for you." By his statement, the Oba not only highlights his ineptitude and failure as a public figure, but also blatantly disregards the history of anti-Igbo violence not only in Lagos, where innocent Igbos were murdered openly in the streets by soldiers, civilians and policemen during the Civil War, but in Nigeria as a whole. Over the week, the Oba has made various “clarifications” regarding his statement, but has yet to come out to offer a public, genuine and heart-felt apology to the Igbos and to Nigerians as a whole. If after decades of living in Lagos and contributing immensely to its development as peaceful, law abiding citizens, the Igbo are not able to exercise their democratic and constitutional rights in peace, then what truly is the essence of One Nigeria?#igbohistory


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