Is Lagos really no man’s land?

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Lagos, the economic nerve centre of Nigeria and the New York clone of Africa – the city that never sleeps used to be the political capital of the country from 1861 to 1991 when the then military Head of State relocated it to Abuja in the wake of the Gideon Orkar coup that nearly snuffed life out of him.

The fact that the state was the erstwhile capital and the enormous economic opportunities in it attracted all the tribes of the country who came there to do things that will bring home the bacon.

Historically, the Aworis are the original owners of the land. The indigenous name ‘Eko’ which means war camp was given to it by the ancient Bini empire as the place now known as Lagos used to be the military base for the empire as the latter was then a vassal state of the former.

The Yorubas whose language dominates the state are largely very accommodating people by nature. Some people even point to it as a form of weakness. As long as you are of good behaviour and you possess the requisite skills needed to make a decent living, they will welcome you with open arms irrespective of your tribe or tongue.

Given the vagaries of the treacherous human nature, it is natural to misinterpret accommodation for weakness. Good students of history will recall the infamous statement credited to Justice Daddy Onyeama which was published in the West African Pilot that ‘Igbo domination of the country was only a matter of time.’ In the early 1950’s Mazi Mbonu Ojike of the ‘boycott the boycottables’ fame was the Deputy Mayor of Lagos. The Great Zik of Africa nearly became the Premier of the Western Region but for a last minute cross carpeting by some of his fellow NCNC members.

While acknowledging the contributions made by other tribes to the economic and political development of Lagos, I feel it is wrong and extremely insulting to boldly assert that Lagos is no man’s land as it robs the indigenes of their historical identity and cultural heritage. Other cosmopolitan cities like Abuja, Port Harcourt, Warri etc attract all Nigerians because of the economic potentials inherent in them yet the settlers have immense respect for the indigenes. Why should the case of Lagos be different?

Since the return to democracy in 1999, the Governors of the state have recognized the diversity and have made strident efforts to co-opt other tribes in the governance of the state. Ben Akabueze, former Managing Director of the now defunct NAL Merchant Bank was the Commissioner for Economic Planning under the administrations of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babatunde Raji Fashola. Sam Egube is the current Commissioner for Economic Planning while Joe Igbokwe who used to be the spokesman of the APC in Lagos state in the Special Adviser on Drainages to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu. They are all from the South-East which shows the accommodating nature of Lagosians. In the 2015 elections, Mrs. Rita Orji, Mr. Tony Oghene and Tony Nwulu won elections into the Federal House of Representatives defeating the Yorubas in their homestead without the Heavens falling. The accommodation of the Lagosians enabled them represent them effectively without any form of rancour. Lagosians are also accommodating towards other Yorubas when it comes to holding sensitive political appointments in the state. The current Minister for the Interior and former Osun State Governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola was the Commissioner for Works for eight years under Tinubu. The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was the State’s Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice for eight years also under Tinubu. He is from Ogun state. Olawale Edun was the State’s Commissioner for Finance in the first tenure of Tinubu. He is also from Ogun state. Dele Alake from Ekiti state was the Commissioner for Information under Tinubu. The current Information Commissioner, Gbenga Omotosho is from Osun state. The list is endless of the large-heartedness of Lagosians which makes it akin to the reincarnation of the United States as it welcomes its migrants with gargantuan arms.

Some Nigerians opine that we should do away with state of origin and deal strictly with state of residence citing its success in the United States. What they forget is that Nigeria is a forced amalgamation by the British colonial masters which made the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo describe her as a mere geographical expression. Because of our forced marriage, it is still necessary to protect our individual cultural heritage which explains why regionalism is the best form of government for the nation. In the US on the other hand, it was the voluntary association of willing migrants who left their homesteads mostly in Europe to settle in the newfound land. Despite the sturdy nationalistic sentiments in Uncle Sam, there is still the maintenance of individual cultural identity especially among the Asian-Americans and Hispanics.

For more peaceful coexistence, it is best the settlers acknowledge the graciousness of their hosts and not take their love for stupidity.

Tony Ademiluyi writes from Lagos

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Articles by Anthony Ademiluyi