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Attacks On Ndigbo In Lagos: Matters arising

Attacks on Ndigbo in Lagos State following their alleged democratic choices in the general elections remind one of the story of the lizard and grasshopper as told by the people of Ezza Ezekuna in Southeast Nigeria. In the lore, the lizard which preys on insects caught the grasshopper. The lizard discovered that its hope of making a meal out of the grasshopper was not feasible, but in a typical dilemma, refused to let the grasshopper go. As imaginary as the story sounds, it represents the critical dilemma of the Nigerian nation as regards Ndigbo which is playing out prominently in Lagos State in the 2023 general elections.

For people like me who come from Effium Community, an enclave in Ebonyi State wherein the Nigerian constitution does not operate, it is not funny! The 1999 CFRN (as amended) is the supreme law in Nigeria. Chapter 4 of the constitution guarantees every Nigerian the rights to live, acquire, own and enjoy properties in any part of Nigeria. It equally guarantees every Nigerian of the age of franchise the right to belong to any political party of his choice and the right to vote for candidates of his choice in elections.

Ndigbo of Southern Nigeria are basically courageous traders and entrepreneurs without boundaries. Consequently, they live, ply their trades and investments not just in all parts of Nigeria, but in all parts of the world. Because Lagos is the commercial capital of Nigeria, Ndigbo were drawn to Lagos by business inclinations in great numbers in the fashion which nectar draws bees.

So, they are found in large numbers in Lagos where they live and pay taxes and contribute in many ways to the development of the state. For instance, during the COVID-19 lockdown, an Igbo man from Ebonyi State, Chief Ifeanyi Chukwuma Odii, made the greatest individual financial and matethis rial donation to Lagos and Ebonyi State governments to help families manage the shock of the lockdown.

This particular Igbo man had built roads with his private income in Lagos State and equally in his home state. He is just one example of the many Ndigbo and indeed other non-indigenous people in Lagos who go beyond their civic responsibilities to contribute to the development of Lagos State. Politically, Ndigbo have been very supportive to Lagos State in general and to Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In fact, the votes of Ndigbo in Lagos State was the major buffer which protected and preserved former Governor Bola Tinubu from the ferocious political incursion of former President Olusegun Obasanjo into Southwest in 2003, sustained Tinubu through his political recovery and goaded him on to national politics! The respective political trajectories of Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwumi Ambode and Jide Sanwo-Olu will all be incomplete without the mention of the massive support which Ndigbo and other non-indigenous people in Lagos State gave each of them especially as votes.

When the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo withheld the statutory federal allocations of local government areas of Lagos State over the controversial creation of new local government areas by Tinubu, Lagos State thrived on the taxes of Ndigbo and other non-indigenous people in Lagos State for the long period it took to resolve the matter in favour of Lagos State Government in court. However, it is pertinent to point out at this juncture that upon all these support and contributions to Tinubu, his allies and Lagos State, Ndigbo in Lagos State and their properties have always been singled out for unprovoked attacks while Tinubu, Fashola, Sanwo-Olu and the rest of Nigeria usually watched in silence.

This tradition of unprovoked attacks on Ndigbo and their properties in Lagos State has been reinvented over the woes of the Tinubu political camp and All Progressives Congress (APC), in the 2023 general elections. The “crime” of Ndigbo is that they allegedly did not support and vote for Tinubu and his APC! In this piece, I have espoused the origin and nature of franchise in Nigeria to the extent that once franchise is attained; the constitution gives the wielder of franchise the latitude of choice especially as regards whom to vote for. The democratic tradition is to lobby and campaign for votes; and not to attack and compel people for votes. Not voting for a particular political party is a constitutional choice which does not and should not attract punishment. As condemnable as the ongoing unwarranted and unrestrained attacks on Ndigbo and their properties in Lagos State is, it is worrisome that President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) and Governor Sanwo-Olu, who is the ultimate beneficiary of the attacks, have seemingly abandoned their constitutional duties of protecting lives in Lagos State.

The silence of the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, is a disheartening pointer to what his administration portends for the country. PMB has been criticised for his alleged half-hearted commitment to the Nigerian constitution which fed separatist groups all through his administration. Tinubu’s promise to continue from where PMB would stop should not begin with or include nepotism, bigotry and tolerance for unconstitutionalism. Attacks on Ndigbo should be halted forthwith!

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