By Ogbuagu Anikwe
Columnist Ogbuagu Anikwe drops a word for boastful Igbos that have forgotten the primary reason for their migration to other places.
A flood of feedback over last week’s intervention on the political intimidation happening in Lagos surprised me. Two of the feedbacks threw me aback. First was from my journalism teacher and mentor, Prof. Onwuchekwa Jemie, who engaged me in a long telephone conversation about what he saw as Igbo foolishness flowering in full bloom in Lagos. When he read my last week’s column entry, The Lagos Intimidation, he immediately fired the following rejoinder in an email:
“Just read your article on Lagos intimidation. It stops abruptly. Leaves hanging my own concern–that Igbos should put themselves beyond manipulation by the contending Yoruba groups: the Aworis/indigenes and the non-Lagos Yorubas. Hopefully, others will chime in–the matter deserves full attention by Ndigbo.
“My position is that virtually everywhere Igbos are, they achieve everything they went there for. We should get smarter, more politically sophisticated in knowing to leave local politics to the locals. Nigeria is still at a point where ethnicity is fundamental and definitive. It will take another generation or two before we develop beyond it–if we ever do.
“Igbos living in Lagos or wherever should run home to campaign for political office, not try to do so in someone else’s territory. JUST THINK HOW FIERCE THE CONTEST GETS BETWEEN CLANS EVEN WITHIN THE SAME MICRO-MINI STATE, e.g., Enugu, Imo, Abia. Bad enough. Why go killing yourself in Lagos or Kano? Didn’t we learn anything from the Carpet Crossing of 70 years ago?”
Before the day was over, the redoubtable Chinweizu fired another email and enclosed his final response to an argument he was having with someone. He and Jemie discussed and agreed that this should be published in Enugu Metro, the community publishing effort we are nurturing for the Southeast. (For those who care to see it, Chinweizu’s intervention, which totally aligns with Jemie’s, is published here)
To be candid, the argument they put forward is reasonable, practicable, and conflict-free. This argument rests on two pillars. One is that Nigerian political overlords – north, east and west – will continue to weaponize ethnicity (and religion) as primary tools to fight election battles. The second is that Igbos enter proxy fights on issues for which they do not have vested interests, thereby momentarily forgetting their primary motivation for migration to new territories.
It is important to stress this primary motivation, for the education of non-Lagos Yoruba antagonists, and as a reminder to the imprudent who get sucked into what the Igbo calls “a war of blame.” I shall return to and conclude with this point.
What Jemie and Chinweizu pointed out hit me powerfully when I considered the different responses of Ndigbo to the Lagos intimidation. Based on what I have heard and read so far, Ndigbo Lagos appear disorganized and thoroughly shamefaced as they once again face a quadrennial quagmire. The pacifists among them ask Ndigbo to take it easy and not do or say anything further to provoke the ire of their “wonderful and accommodating hosts.” Legalists stick to their guns as they continue to view the Lagos Intimidation from a legal standpoint, with its emphasis on the legal principles that ought to define governance and citizenship. Legalists quote the constitution to prove that the law permits anyone who lives and pays taxes in a place to enjoy the privileges of citizenship in their areas of domicile. The third response is the most intriguing. They are the hawks, those whose emotions are easily stirred and manipulated to abrasively challenge the political intimidation and, by implication, noisily meddle in local politics.
The hardline positions adopted by the hawks easily lead to misstatements that rouse Yoruba ethnic pride. This escalates the tension that is manipulated by the media into proxy battles that benefit desperate power mongers. My mentors speak directly to this emotional third group, Igbos that are easily manipulated into intermittent inter-ethnic saber-rattling.
Igbos in Lagos need to learn how this emotional manipulation takes place, given what happened in this election cycle. This is what happened. Out of the blues, the social media army of one of the presidential candidates began posting about Lagos not being a no man’s land. There was no “peg” to the story, nothing that could have justified it as a topical conversation. They were fishing for comments, for or against, by an influential Igbo voice. Unfortunately, one charismatic Nollywood star fell for the bait. It did not matter that he spoke against the notion that Lagos is a no man’s land. The ethnic hounds immediately seized on the comment, escalated, amplified, and inexorably promoted it to foul the political atmosphere.
Every Igbo living in Lagos knows that it has become taboo to say that “Lagos is no man’s land.” This is not even an original Igbo claim; the quote itself is attributed to Baba Kekere, late Gov. Lateef Jakande, in one of his depositions. It should become clear that this claim should never be uttered, in defense of or against the notion. What matters is that the Igbos do not respond to the claim whenever it is uttered, and they resist every prompting to join the conversation – because whatever they say forces the issue into a public diatribe that feeds the ambitious calculations of power brokers.
Many commentators have given examples of the western world where minorities and immigrants dominate land and business ownership. There is a typical Nigerian example in Warri, Delta State where the land is dominated by Urhobo while its ownership is claimed by Itsekiri. I remember visiting Ode-Itsekiri in 1987 when the Kingdom made a transition in its kingship. On arrival at this backwater settlement, I was amused that Itsekiris call Ode-Itsekiri “Big Warri.” This was to distinguish it from the massive township that the world knows, but which Itsekiris regard as their ”Small Warri.” Before we left for Lagos, I asked the late Ologbotsere, Chief Ogbemi Newe Rewane, why Warri township is “Small Warri.” I never forgot what he told me about Urhobo claims to the city:
“You can own a house in London. That doesn’t make you the king of England.”
If Igbos are landlords in Lagos, what sense does it make to proclaim this to the rooftops? It is this boastful attitude that leads to wrong notions that they want “to take over Lagos” and to decide who becomes governor. And I ask: What sense does it make to be singled out as a boastful ethnic group, claiming the power to decide who becomes governor in another region? What is your business?
What is the solution? It is quite simple. The law requires a voter to make a secret and individual choice once they are face to face with a ballot box. No one will ever know who you vote for; we only know who receives the most votes. Every Igbo man and woman should know this and have peace.
If this piece of advice does not sink in to the boastful Igbo, they should consider this final argument.
The reason that most Igbos venture outside their homeland is to make it in life. After making it, most will return to their villages to do two things – hanker after social recognition and construct a massive walled compound that advertises their social standing. All through their sojourn abroad, they scrupulously desist from mixing their business with pleasure. Business is reserved for the places of domicile where it is conducted cold-bloodedly to achieve success. Their villages are venues for a month-long holiday to enjoy the sweat of their endeavor, promote community development, assist the disadvantaged, and meet up with old friends in a convivial atmosphere. Therefore, leaving their business to meddle in local politics at the place of domicile does look like a misplacement of priorities and a dangerous gamble, doesn’t it?
Source: Enugu Metro
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