How Ndigbo have always Tried to conquer Lagos

By Femi Kusa
(Former Editor, The Guardian)

“Initial Labour Party (LP) thunder claps of ethnic irredentism have diminished to mere flashes in the pan and hopes of a Lagos conquest to mirages. But the t storm weather left many people breathless, oxygen deficient ( Hypoxia), stress up and set for blood sugar blues and depression. If anyone has had his or her health impacted, he or she is to blame, because this column warned over five weeks that those storms were coming and they should all dive for cover.

THE season of unreason, as I call political campaigns and general elections, has taken its leave of us. But before we can rebalance our brains, it may impact us with FORGET ME NOT SIGNS. My wife always made a joke of a FORGET ME NOT sign on my forehead untill about 10 years ago. It was an injury which had healed since the early 1980s, leaving a dark spot.

My childhood heartthrob lmpacted it with a sharp object before she walked away. The FORGET ME NOT SIGN of the season of unreason is a far more dangerous sign.

In the election campaigns, political violence killed some people, raised blood pressure nation-wide. Many people must have experienced blood sugar spikes with complications such as brain, nerve, kidney and other organ damage. Many people may be on the verge of depression. Worried about Lagos State for obvious reasons,

I found sleep difficult on 17 March 2023, eve of the Governorship elections. My mother came to live in Lagos in the 1930s, her mother and uncle 10 years earlier. In 1948, my mother was handed out in marriage in a house on CLIFFORD STREET Yaba,owned by one of my maternal uncles, Pa Torimiro from Ijebu Isoyin. My grandmother’s younger brother left Clifford Street to build his first two houses on 10 and 12 Odunukan Street, Abule – Ijesha, where three of their cousins build theirs.

Violence unleashed by the Ibo- driven N.C.N.C against the Yoruba party, ACTION GROUP, forced us to relocate as refugees in another house of Pa Torimiro on Oke Suna Street, Shomolu. On that Street were many houses built by Isoyin people, including Papa S.A Deru, father of the well known Otunba Femi Deru, I CAN President in his life time and a great figure in the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Community.

Some of us children almost drowned in the swamp behind the house as we fled through the backyard, to, first, to Christ Apostolic Church, near Myong Army Barracks and, from there, through Morocco Road to Shomolu.

The problem with our house was that Mr Ganiyu Dawdu , then Organsing Secretary of the Action Group (A.G), a Yoruba party, was one of the tenants and the N.C.N.C , a former Yoruba Party taken over by the Ibos, sought to kill him. This was in 1959 or 1960.

Refugee life for us was not good life. Thus,my uncle, Pa Alphaeus Taiwo Olunaike, a thrift collector better known by his alaias, ORI MI PE BI TI BABA ALAJO SHOMOLU,decided to build another house in Shomolu. This was a gensis of 77 OLORUNKEMI STREET, SHOMOLU. No fewer than eight Isoyin folks fellows him. My father, too, joined them. This was an Ijebu zone. So was the Fadeyi end of Yaba College of Technology. Ijebu who were done with Abule- Ijesha began to move into Shomolu, to join forces with Ijebus pushing in from Ikorodu town until they met at OJOTA. Meanwhile, the Egbas were pushing in from Sango Ota, past Agege and Mangoro towards Ladipo, Alasia,Oshodi,Matori, Mushin,Idi-Oro e.t.c.

These developments became possible because all these areas were parts of Western Region which the A.G. of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was opening up with housing and industrial estates in Ikeja, Ilupeju, Yaba, Oshodi, Isolo, Apapa for manufacturing companies to flood in from Europe to create jobs in Nigeria.

Two questions grossly unrelated to good or bad governance were the dominant questions in the Presidential and Governorship elections in Lagos.

These questions were:
Both questuons are related.

The Yorubas of South Western Nigeria say Lagos is their political capital and that LAGOS is not a NO MAN’S LAND. Ibos say LAGOS is NO MAN’S LAND.

This means every-one can come to Lagos and do whatever he or she likes with Lagos. They cite the cases of Nigerians becoming Mayors in the United States. But they forget to remind us that the U.S IS NO MAN’S LAND because Europeans who fled their continent when life became unbearable for them there forcibly took the land from American Indians. In Nigeria,save for the Funlani conquest of the Hausa states, no other nationality conquered another and colonized it.

Yorubas do not even have land boarders with Ibos. On 1 January 1852, Oba AKINTOYE of Lagos, not THE OBI OF ONITSHA, signed off Lagos to Great Britain which declared Lagos a colony on 5 March 1862. This ended quarrel for the throne with Kosoko who fled to Epe, his mother town, to become Paramount Ruler under the Awujale of Ijebuland. The Eletu Odibo blocked Kosoko way to the throne. Kosoko avenge this later by putting the old Eletu in a drum of oil,set fire on it and throw his reminds into the lagoon. Eletu himself had exhumed the reminds of Kosoko’s mother from her grave and throw them into the Lagoon.

This was Yoruba royal politics, not Ibo politics, almost 200 years ago, to which the incumbent Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Babatunde Osuolale Aremu Akiolu, alluded in 2019. AKINTOYE himself had once fled to Badagry and, from there, to Egba. Relationships among Lagos, Egbe, Ijebu-Ode and Lagos, Badagry and Egba shows Lagos has been an integral part of Yoruba land, and not Ibo land, for hundreds of years. Yoruba land has a large Moslem population. Ibos are predominantly Christians.

The first Mosque in Yoruba land was built in 1850 in OYO ILE OR OLD OYO. Iwo town built the second in 1865. Lagos built its own, Shitta Bey, between 1894 and 1897.
Nnamdi Azikiwe cunning tried to become Premier of Western Region but the Yorubas prevented him and made Chief Obafemi Awolowo their Premier. Lt.Col Emeka
Odumgwu-Ojukwu, the Biafran leader, tried to militarily invade Lagos and the Western Region, but the Yorubas stopped him at ORE. For some time since then, the Ibos have joined forces with opposition to the establishment in Lagos to take it over.
But each time, they failed.

Thus, the 2023 general elections was another such effort to,this time, directly through the Labour Party (LP)” conquer Lagos”.

Ibos jubilated when the 25 February 2023 Presidential election gave LP a 16,000 win over the establishment APC.

The victors did not realize the victory was an amalgam of Ibo and Prostest Yoruba votes and that Yorubas could solve their local problems and politically re-assert themselves in their land.

Ibos are better propagandist than other Nigerians. In Biafran War, Uche Chukwumerije and OKOKON NDEMI sold Biafra better to the world than did Nigeria. In their quest to conquer Lagos in 2023 and secure Presidency for PETER OBI, their Presidential candidate, aggressive lie telling on the internet knew no bounds. Recall a few…:

  • 1. Before the voting for President opened, a viral post said that President Mohammadu Buhari had voted Peter Obi, to generate bandwagon votes for Obi. Buhari had to show on camera his vote for Tinubu.
  • 2. An internet post went viral in which Chief Bode George, a leader of the PDP, said INEC chairman,Mahmood Yakubu, flew to Lagos in the night hours after Presidential voting to see Tinubu at home and then flew back to Abuja before dawn in Tinubu’s private jet! This was to discredit the polls. Bode George denied the post.
  • 3. An internet post went viral in which the DSS (Secret Police) found billions of Naira in Tinubu’s Lagos home. The idea was to paint Tinubu as a vote buyer and to discredit the polls. The DSS said its never searched Tinubu’s house.
  • 4. Another viral post said Nigerian Chief Justice Olukayode Ariwoola camouflage in wheelchair in London to meet with President-elect Bola Tinubu at a time Tinubu was in France and the CJN was in Abuja. The motive was to discredit the Supreme Court in advance if Obi lost its appeal before their Lordships.
    *5. Iwuchukwu Oknowo gave reasons in the internet why Ibos should not look back on the “conquest” of Lagos. The ideas was to strengthen Ibo imperialist intent on Lagos. Iwuchkwu Oknowo said:
    “Lagos is an Island, adjacent to Yoruba territory, Kaliningrad is an enclave adjacent to Germany. If Russia can own Kaliningrad far away from its boader, and US can own Peal Harbour in Asia, Why would it be impossible for Easterners to own Lagos Island near Western Nigeria? Anyway, the weak will have their say, and the strong will have their way. Like nature, we do not hurry. Like nature, we accomplish our objective, as the wind as the Earth as the water and as fire we keep the pressure, untill our opponents cave. Igbo are as inexorable as death,the Masters of Africa”.
  • 6. On 19 March 2023, CHARLES IDEHO, a presenter on JORDAN FM radio station in Lagos, offered another ammunition for campaigners that LAGOS IS NO MAN’S LAND. He said Chief Lateef Jakande, Governor of Lagos State from 1979 to 1983 made the statement in his inaugural speech, and promised his largly pro-Ibo callers that he would post the full text on a website. As Mr Richard Olawole, 73 a retired Nigerian U.S. soldier posted:
    “We voted in Lagos today not along political lines but along the lines of Heritage. We voted for our pride. We made a statement that our liberal nature should never be abused. What we won’t attempt in yours, do not force on us. We voted to retain Lagos”.

The trumph of APC in Lagos and Abuja should not dampen Ibo Nigerian spirit.

Yorubas do not “carry” victory on their heads, “wear” it on their faces or swirl the sword any how. They will be the first to scream if anything is going wrong. They are not clanish. They are equitable, accommodating and trustworthy. Were they not the leading fighters for Vice-president Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan to become Acting President and, later, encouraged him to be President ?

Many IBOS, too, are good and reliable people. The trouble is that a people can be stereotyped by the persons among them who negatively impact on other persons. A respectable , helpful and Christianly Ibo woman and I had a long talk on Governorship election day. She is married to a Yoruba and asked me a question which touched my heart.

In such situations, I am blunt. How would I, too, feel if everywhere I go I am negatively stereotyped?
I told her:
” Every nationality has its own good, bad and ugly persons. The are miscreants among Yoruba and Hausa/ Fulani as there are among Ibos. A nationality may run into trouble with others if it does not check its ugly ones who are disturbing the peace of other people. The Ibos ought to have checked those among them who are creating tension in relationships with their hosts in Lagos”.

I mentioned to her IFY ONYEGBULUE, a radio presenter in STAR FM station in 2019 when the OKOTA CRISIS broke. Frankly, she told her people on radio several times that they were ” tenants” in Lagos and that “tenants” must respect their “Landlords”.

My journalism training began on 8 March 1971 under Mr GEOGE OKORO, Chief sub Editor of the Daily Times.He was a rare professional and gem of a trainer. We came in with Higher school Certificate of Cambridge or London universities. Many of our Yoruba seniors did not show interest in our on- the- job training. Not GEORGE OKORO.

For some of us, our training did not end on the desk at work. He took us to clubs and, because I lived near him, I always ended up in his apartment. I owe alot to him.

Before I went to university, I had the priviledge of coming under another Ibo, Mr ANGUS OKOLI, a thorough gentleman. How can I ever forget Prof. HUMPHREY NWOSU at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka(UNN). He did not care who you were or where you came from if you could stand up to him and challenge his opinions. In his exams, I took positions contrary to his, especially in the turbulent course such as GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS OF NIGERIA, which his own Professor, EME AWA, also taught.

I wasn’t surprised, therefore, that, as the electoral umpire in the 1993 Presidential election, he withstood physical assault by soldiers to let us know Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola (a.k.a.M.K.O)won the polls.

There was a gentleman I remember now simply as EARNEST. He was our office assistant at the Lagos Weekend newspaper. REMI GBADEBO was our Secretary. One day, she paid Junior staff the monthly salary via pay envelopes but forgot about 20 of them on her desk in her rush to catch a free car ride home. To her shock on Monday morning, all the envelopes were intact!. Later, he died in a vehicle crash between his village and Lagos. I was at UNN then. Tears ran down my cheeks when I learned that a Yoruba woman in the office adopted his children and kept them in school.

Can I also forget Uncle Maurice? He was my day security-man when I was Editor of THE GUARDIANS newspaper. He was so honest and trustworthy I gave him keys to my house. He took my children to school and brought them home. Every months, I personally topped his official pay.

If Ibos we interface with are like such men, who would ever feel uncomfortable with an Ibo? Unfortunately, it is the business class Ibo we frequently meet. He sells fake spare parts and pharmaceuticals,Tramadol, Codeine,import Cocaine, takes his landlord or landlady to court when his rent is due or topped, brazenly tells you your people are stupid because Ibos have bought up your land and they are the new owners and, during an election such as this, provokes you, believing you are a spineless simpleton who would flee at the slightest flex of muscles. He forgets how the Biafran Army was defeated at ORE, how Dr Azikiwe was shown the way back to the Eastern Region. He is poorly educated. All he does is count and worship money which single public policies may evaporate. He tells you Ibos built Lagos.

You wonder what the Aworis did from Badagry to Lagos, what the Ijebus did from Ikorodu to Yaba, if he knows the Yorubas built SURULERE to re-settle persons relocated from congested Lagos Island. He sees only the property acquired with drug money. He does realise Lagos has built an export Free Processing Zones (EPZ) on which is sited the biggest petroleum refinery complex in Africa. He does not realise Lagos has built a sea Port near Epe and is building another in Badagry. He probably does not appreciate what it means for Lagos State on its own to build the FOURT MAINLAND BRIDGE, one of the longest in Africa, or of IMOTA RICE MILL, the fourth largest world-wide which would create about 250,000 jobs. This man does not realise that when Lagos trains begin to run at full steam, his motor spare parts business would be gone.

What, also, would happen if Lagos State, builds 5,000 corner street Eko PHARMACY stores and empowers Yorubas Pharmacy graduates with soft loans to acquire them and end the era of fake medicines? Can we flash his mind back to the first Republic Chief Obafemi Awolowo built industrial and residential estates in Ikeja, Yaba, Ilupeju, Oshodi, Isolo, Apapa, Matori. Was it the Ibos who built them and brought manufacturing companies there to create jobs which brought many Ibos to Lagos? What did Dr Azikiwe do in Ibo States outside the UNN ?

We need to prevent ethno-political tension in Lagos now and in future. There are about 25 million people in Lagos. There are just about seven exist routes out of lagos( Lagos-Ibadan/Lagos- Ota- Abeokuta/Lagos- Epe/Lagos-Ikorodu/the air ports and the seaports. If trouble explodes, and they are blocked, how are we 25 million inhabitants going to survive food bockade, and how many of us will be able to escape through whichever route we choose? Let learn from history.

This was a great challenge in the 1966 northern riots and in the Ibo exodus from Lagos during the ABIOLA death crisis and the Jonathan- Buhari succession fears. We pray it never happens. The semblance of it I experienced as a 10 year-old in Abule-Ijesha is still fresh in my memory.

Thanks to Ify Onyebule and to that chairman of the Ibo market in Ladipo who promptly denied Ibo claims on the internet that Yorubas were killing Ibos in the market! They deserves a peace award of Lagos State Government. Finally, Ibos meet regularly nation-wide on village or town basis.

That woman I spoke with who asked: “WHY DOES EVERY-ONE HATE US ?” asked an appropriate question.

The “ugly” Ibos or “red” Nigerians clash with their hosts in South-Africa, Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, China, Lybia, Ukraine,India and even Dubai. Can the good Ibos not check these bad eggs in their basket ? Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in Awka recently, said people who say people everywhere are afraid of them should make friends of people who fear them.

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