Bayo Onanuga, during the just concluded gubernatorial election, warned Igbos in Lagos against “interfering” in politics in the state. Onanuga, who is the director of media and publicity of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, issued the warning in a tweet via his official Twitter account, @aonanuga1956. He said, “Let 2023 be the last time of Igbo interference in Lagos politics. Let there be no repeat in 2027. Lagos is like Anambra, Imo, any Nigerian state. It is not No Man’s Land, not Federal Capital Territory. It is Yoruba land. Mind your business.” The tweet which was not deleted despite the hue and cry that trailed it, has been described as uncalled for, and a threat to our national unity and corporate existence. Onanuga’s tweet came on the heels of his party (APC), losing Lagos to Labour Party on the 25 February Presidential and National Assembly elections. The president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was defeated by Peter Obi in Lagos, which many considered as Tinubu’s stronghold.
The Igbos who have been in Lagos for centuries, transacting their businesses, contributing to the growth and development of modern Lagos are not to blame for the APC’s defeat. The candidate of Labour Party, Peter Obi, enjoyed massive support not only from his Igbo kinsmen but Christians community and many youths in the country. The 2023 election has been won and lost on the alter of ethnic and religious sentiments. Peter Obi’s love and popularity spread like bush fire into the heart of many Christians. Among the strong contenders, he was the only Christian. And for the fact the ruling party opted for same faith ticket to win the election, Obi had to get the sympathy and votes from many Christians communities. In Lagos, it was not only the Igbos’ votes that aided him to defeat Tinubu but other tribes including Yoruba. Maybe Bayo Onanuga did not witness the voting pattern in the presidential polls. Katsina, Yobe and Osun are APC states but fell into the hands of PDP. While Benue and Rivers which are PDP-controlled states moved to the APC’s kits. Moreover, despite their businesses and other investments, Igbos have never claimed ownership of Lagos. Igbos carry the corpses of their loved ones home for burial in their respective states. During festive periods, especially Christmas, many Igbos travel to their states to spend the time with their kith.
While Bayo Onanuga was busy throwing tantrums and brimstones at Igbos, he is not aware that like other Nigerians, they have the constitutional right to vote for any candidate of their choice. It is unfortunate that our two decades of democracy have failed to cement or promote mutual coexistence among the diverse ethnic compositions of the country. One remembers with nostalgia, in 1952, Alhaji Umaru Altine, married an Igbo woman and became the mayor of Enugu. Umaru Altine was a northern business man from Sokoto who settled in Enugu. In Sabon Gari Kano, many Igbos were voted to the position of councillors. In other states, Hausa people were appointed as special advisers to governors. However, this good development has been thrown to the wind. One has expected the momentum to be sustained for national unity and development. Alas, what Nigerians see today is politics of ethnicity and religion. The Igbophobia during the last election in Lagos has stoked the ember of disunity and ethnic supremacy. The emergency of Sunday Igboho and Nmandi Kanu are products of ethnic baiting. The incubator of this dangerous trend is hatred and politics of exclusiveness.
The president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has stated that he would not form a government of national unity. Instead, he will make his appointments based on competence and merit. While this is a welcome development, the president-elect should be mindful of the mood of the nation over his victory. His appointment should reflect the federal character. He should “belong to everybody and belong to nobody ” to borrow from the speech of President Muhammadu Buhari. Tinubu should hit the ground running by carrying every Nigerian along irrespective of his ethnic, regional or religious affiliation. By so doing, the palpable tension his election generated will be doused. The politics of Igbophobia which played out in Lagos should not be allowed to repeat itself in the future. Our constitution has given every Nigerian the right to live everywhere in the country and exercise his or her civic responsibility.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State