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Fashola apologises to Ndigbo

By The Rainbow

Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola,  has tendered an unreserved apology to the Ndigbo community over the controversial deportation of their tribesmen.

He regretted that his action which was borne out of clear motives was misunderstood by a segment of Nigerians, especially Ndigbo.

The governor, spoke at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria Island , Lagos, however, insisted that there was a need to discuss factors that could be responsible for under-development in the South East.

The occasion was  a symposium to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Igbo socio-cultural group, Aka Ikenga, said although majority of Ndigbo in Lagos understood and appreciated the action of the state government, it was obvious that some Igbos did not understand  it.

Fashola , who referred to Ndigbo everywhere as 'My kindred',  said it was necessary to put the issue in perspective because he had been grossly misunderstood.

'There are people who clearly do not understand me and they have misunderstood words said or misrepresented actions taken in the way that it has pleased them to do so. To those people, I owe an explanation in defense of what has happened and that is partly why I am here as well'.

Noting that the Igbo and the Yoruba have built a relationship based on tolerance, based on mutual respect, based on trust and love', he declared, 'That relationship was started by our ancestors. It was handed over to us and we have nourished it with a lot of trust and a lot of understanding and a lot of fidelity'.

'Those who misunderstand that relationship, who think that there is no value in that relationship, I have come here to correct that. I put a lot of value in that relationship. And so if those people have misunderstood me or they have misunderstood actions taken by our Government, here, now, today I offer an unqualified and unreserved apology', he said.

The governor, however, said even the apology did not take away the real issue that provoked the misunderstanding pointing out that the real issue lay in the reason or reason why some sections feel compelled to migrate from one part of the country to the other.

Urging Aka Ikenga to rise up to the challenge of underdevelopment in the South-East, Governor Fashola declared that, 'there are questions that caused the misunderstanding and it is those questions the Aka Ikenga must address if it must continue to fulfill its purpose.'

He recalled the remarks of the President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Gary Ighariwe, who made a distinction between the Igbo in Lagos and those at home, adding, 'as he began to distinguish between the Igbo in Lagos and the Igbo at home, I knew there was a real issue; that those at home don't look like those of you here and you don't look like them. They are questions that I think the Aka Ikenga should address.'

Stressing the commitment of his administration to making life better for residents, Governor Fashola said if other state governments and their indigenes should commit to developing their state and making life better for the rural communities, the issue of people being compelled to migrate from their homes to other states, without any concrete plans, would be greatly curtailed, wondering how a state that produced so many great Nigerians could lag behind in development.

'How can development be so difficult in the part of Nigeria that gave us Ike Nwachukwu; that gave us Chinua Achebe, Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Ekwueme and so on and so forth? How can development be so hard in that part of this country? I think those are the real issues,' he said adding, 'and as I listened to talks about Ndigbo, perhaps, we should reflect deeply more about the issues that Bishop Kukah's speech has provoked here. Are we more Igbo than Nigerian or are we more Nigerian than Igbo.'

Governor Fashola debunked the notion that he was on the occasion 'to settle his problem with the Igbos' pointing out that such a 'problem' was non-existent, saying that he had come first to thank the Igbo who, according to him, donated the largest herd of cattle during his father's burial.

'The truth is that I do not have a problem with the Igbo and they know that, because the largest herd of cattle  that I received during my father's burial was from the Igbo. In fact, when the first cow came, my wife was asking me what this rope is about. But in the fullness of time we got educated and rope followed rope. So those people who came under their many colours are not people I have a problem with. They are my kindred, they are my people,' he said.

In his goodwill message, President Goodluck Jonathan paid glowing tribute to the Igbo socio-cultural group, saying, 'for 25 years, you have successfully negotiated the interface between your dictates of care for the Igbo nation and the duty of your unflinching loyalty to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.'

Earlier in his welcome address, President of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, said the 25-year-old group was founded on righteousness, justice and uprightness, all of which are according to him, encapsulated in the name Aka Ikenga, which literally means, 'Hand of uprightness or righteousness.'