Even though the speech has been widely condemned, it is hardly surprising
Apparently incensed by the inroads made by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos in the National Assembly election where, for the first time, it won five seats in the House of Representatives out of the 24 available, the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, penultimate Sunday provocatively dared Ndigbo who live in Lagos. If they want to stay alive, according to the monarch, they must vote for the candidate the Oba and some other stakeholders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) had long endorsed for the April 11 governorship poll: Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode.
Even though the Oba had come out with a mitigating version of the statement after the uproar that greeted his utterances, a lot of damage had been done. Indeed, many went up in arms against the monarch–some obviously partisan and others in vile details - for denigrating his office. From a custodian of culture who ought to know the importance of building bridges between peoples, the monarch’s statement was not only unbecoming and beneath his exalted office, it is a dangerous attempt at depriving some Nigerians of their fundamental right.
However, as damaging and regrettable as Oba Akiolu’s speech may be, we will be lying to ourselves that many Nigerians are not complicit in what someone has rightly described as “ethnic arrogance.” Nigeria is a vast canvas of misdeeds, sometimes painted with impunity. Oba Akiolu’s hostility is therefore at once part of our unhealthy politics and at another, a reflection of our inability to accept that we are not yet a “normal” nation.
This “end justifies the means” approach to politics has over the years provided the incentive and motivation for politicians and power seekers to believe that all is fair and acceptable in electoral politics. It is very clear that with eyes to the enormous spoils of office attached to the nation’s political positions - from the presidency to local government councillorship - many politicians and their supporters would do anything in order to ensure easy ride at the polls.
But perhaps more worrying is our inability to face up to the truth that we are a divided country. Very central to this is the concept of settler/ indigene dichotomy. Although we know who a Nigerian citizen is, it is something else when that same Nigerian citizen finds him/herself in a different location other than his/her “place of birth” or “state of origin”. Even when such a Nigerian may have no problem “settling” and doing business anywhere within the country, being accepted as a bona fide resident in the adopted state or community is another matter altogether. While the application of the sentiment may be more pronounced in some states than others, the fact remains that almost every Nigerian is today a “settler” outside his or her state of origin.
We will therefore lend our support to whatever measures considered necessary to help confront this monster of indigene/settler dichotomy. We endorse all ideas that will give Nigerians a sense of belonging wherever they may be domiciled within the territory of the country, and urge all the relevant stakeholders to explore all the possible impediments and come up with practical solutions. In an era where our citizens are getting appointed (some even elected) into political offices in several countries across the globe, no Nigerian should face discrimination anywhere in his/her own nation or be threatened on how to exercise his or her franchise either as an individual or member of a group.
We urge our traditional rulers to stay out of politics and avoid any form of divisiveness not only in their utterances but also in their actions. Their present relevance is predicated on the assumption that they are fathers to all and custodians of the best of our higher values.