By Dike Chukwumerije
With every election (where people are really interested in coming out to vote), the ruling party in Lagos is having to use methods that are growing more and more brutal and crude to win. That in itself is a sign of a party in decline. Still, the most dangerous lion is the wounded one.
Yes. It reminds me of those two women in the Bible arguing over which one was the real mother. Sulayman’s test still stands. The woman that is ready to kill the child rather than lose the child cannot be the mother. It is the same. Anyone who is ready to destroy what Lagos has always been, rather than lose political power over Lagos, cannot be the real Lagosian.
For the real Lagos is no different from a London or New York, a Rio or Shanghai. Yes. Every country has, at least, one Lagos. And nobody gets to randomly pick where it will be. The choice is made by geography and fate, not culture. If it were different, every Yoruba city would be Lagos. But Lagos, wherever found, is a child of peculiar historical circumstances. So, yes, you cannot deny the Yoruba origins of Lagos. But so too can you not deny its evolution since.
But Lagos, like many other parts of the country, has been hijacked by an alliance between unscrupulous politicians and thugs. This unholy alliance is the only real existential threat in the room. Because good governance cannot be the primary focus of a government rooted in thuggery. How can it be when your performance in office is constrained by the path you took, and the debts you incurred, to get there?
Yes. And what is the struggle? Not for power. For Lagos will always be governed by someone from the Yoruba ethnic group for the foreseeable future. Yes. Nobody is dragging it with you. After all, in spite of its long history of cosmopolitanism, London just got its first Asian Mayor. Yes. So, what is the struggle? Not for a non-indigenous Governor. No. But for all Nigerians, wherever resident, to have the uncontested right to vote – freely and in accordance with their conscience – wherever they are. That is the struggle.
That is the basic right the APC in Lagos tried so hard to deny Igbos, and everyone else who they believed would not vote for it. This – what was done to Igbos, this assumption that ethnicity is a sure indicator of character and political affiliation – is ethnic profiling. And there is a reason why the Electoral Act forbids it. Do you know the reason? I will tell you.
It is because of our history as Nigerians. The memory of 3 million souls perished in a war sparked, ultimately, by ethnic profiling. It is because of our history as Africans. The memory of 800,000 people consumed in a genocide sparked, ultimately, by ethnic profiling. It is because of our history as human beings. The memory of 6 million Jews murdered in a holocaust sparked, ultimately, by ethnic profiling. That is why our laws forbid it. For ethnic profiling, in a multicultural society with a history of inter-ethnic conflict, is like lighting a cigarette in a fuel station.
And yet INEC said nothing, the Government said nothing, as politicians – desperate for power – tried to spark a war between Igbos and Yorubas in Lagos. The same Lagos where Herbert Macauley, H.O Davies, J.C Vaughn, Ernest Ikoli, Sa’adu Zungur, Samuel Akinsanya, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and so many other restless dreamers, gave birth to a movement that gave us a country. Imagine?
But, to quote a good friend of mine, there are times when society progresses because of government, and there are times when society progresses in spite of government. This was – and is – one of those times. So, to every Yoruba who did not take the bait to hate, and to every Igbo who will not take the bait to retaliate, the future is in your hands. And what is that future? To keep the pressure where it should be. Yes. Let those politicians who say they own Lagos – or any part of Nigeria – have the courage to demonstrate this through free and fair elections. That is all…
Dike Chukwumerijeis a Nigerian spoken word and performance poetry artist and author.