Ambode And Ndigbo In Lagos

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, July 17, 2015

Akinwunmi Ambode went through some storms to emerge the current Governor of Lagos State. The last April governorship election threw up a big challenger in the person of Mr Jimi Agbaje of the Peoples Democratic Party. The contest was so fierce that no supporter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)was sure of victory until the final announcement of the result .

The group that made this fierce contest possible was the Igbo. The majority of them campaigned vigorously for Agbaje and the PDP. The tension was so high that the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, reportedly threatened that Igbo would perish in the lagoon if they didn’t vote for the APC candidate.

Fortunately, Ambode won the election and has since assumed office. But barely one month after assuming office, there are rumours and political undercurrents that give room for concern. Some Igbo people are wondering if Ambode is trying to punish Ndigbo for largely voting for the PDP in the last elections.

Let’s examine some scenarios here. First, an Igbo woman, Ruth Uche, gave birth to twins a few weeks ago. The woman had had two other sets of twins previously. Apparently incapable of taking care of his wife and six children, the father of the twins absconded, abandoning his family to their fate. It was Ambode who took over the welfare of this woman and his children. The state government had been pleading with the runaway husband and father to come and take back his family. Could Ambode have done this if he is an Igbo hater?

Secondly, the governor, the other day, appointed an Igbo, Mr. Peter Okonji, as the new General Manager of Lagos Electricity Board. Some of his compatriots criticised him for doing so. As far as they are concerned, such appointments should be reserved only for Lagosians. To the best of my knowledge, Ambode has not reversed the appointment. He simply followed the tradition of his predecessors like Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Raji Fashola who appointed Igbo sons into their cabinet.

On the other side of the coin are some actions which tend to portray Ambode as being anti-Igbo. The demolition of the Ladipo auto spare parts market comes to mind here. A good number of Igbo people have interpreted the demolition to mean punishment against Igbo for not voting the APC. The authorities concerned allegedly did not give adequate notice to the traders before taking the action. This has caused a lot of trauma to the affected people.

Even the Founder/President of the Yoruba Socio-cultural group, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, condemned the action. In an advertorial published recently, Fasehun said, “The ongoing demolition of the Ladipo Auto Spare Markets has all the trappings of political oppression and MUST be stopped forthwith. The largely Igbo businessmen in the complex are even being prevented from accessing and transferring their goods. This step by the APC government in Lagos is vindictive, infantile and malicious. The Igbo people voted according to their conscience during the governorship and legislative polls and they should not be subjected to political victimisation.”

Though the state government has assured traders that it has no plans to demolish the market, there is another disturbing issue concerning the welfare of the Igbo in Lagos. It is called land revalidation in the Okota area of Lagos. Unconfirmed reports have it that the land authorities in Lagos, having discovered that the majority of the inhabitants of Okota are Igbo, allegedly decided to milk the landlords of the area.

What the authorities purportedly do is that if you own a land at Okota, you go for revalidation by paying extra N5m. But what will be written on your receipt is N2m. Whoever fails to do so may lose his property.

Igbo residents of this area also believe government is further punishing them by neglecting their roads. True, most of the roads at Okota are horrible. The Ago Palace Way is a motorist’s nightmare. Fashola’s government started reconstruction of the road, but the work stopped at the Century Bus Stop area because of some legal issues.

Residents heaved a sigh of relief when it appeared that work had resumed there. But now, the new government has stopped the work again. Media reports indicated that the government suspended the work to re-evaluate the contract because the amount of money spent does not equate the volume of work done. While that is being done, the residents continue to groan in agony.

Igbo people are largely migrants who leave their ancestral homes to develop other areas. That is why they are the worst hit whenever there is any crisis in any part of the country. They have lost billions of Naira worth of property in the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency in the north. After the civil war, a lot of Igbo lost their property in Rivers State in the so-called abandoned property saga. It is high time Igbo began to think home.

By and large, I don’t believe Ambode hates Igbo. Neither do I believe that the Yoruba hate Igbo. A great number of my friends are Yoruba. Many Igbo are married to Yoruba and vice versa. Even the so-called abandoned property saga did not affect Igbo as such in Lagos.

Ultimately, we are all Nigerians condemned to live together as one. The hate campaign that reared its head in some quarters during  electioneering and immediately after elections is unfortunate. Agbaje is a Lagosian like Ambode. So, even if Igbo voted for Agbaje, it does not make him an Igbo. He remains a Yoruba. Politicians are the ones fanning the embers of hatred to achieve their selfish ambitions.

Ambode is a gentleman. He has no reason to hate the Igbo in Lagos. But he should look into the fears and concerns of the people so as to reassure them that he is the governor of all.

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