My dear Leaders,
Pardon me for taking the unusual step of writing to you through the media, which is rather unconventional. I wish I had a choice. I am constrained to use the organs of public communication because of the broad implications of the subject matter for public policy and public safety; I am also conscious of the fact that it would be pretty difficult to have all of you under one roof and address you on this issue.
I have allowed considerable time to pass so that people would be in a position to examine this matter. The subject of this open letter is the need to check the tendency of our incumbent governor, His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi, to toy with the security and future of his people in the name of party politics. Ever since agents of the Lagos State Government returned beggars of Anambra, Katsina and Akwa Ibom states stranded in Lagos to their states of origin, our governor has mounted a mindless propaganda campaign against the Lagos State government, especially on state radio and among various interest groups like community unions and traders associations.
I often wonder if he doesn’t care about the security of his people in Lagos State where millions of Igbo people live and work and prosper. The governor was doing business in Lagos until 2006 when he became governor. Like most people who came to Lagos in search of the good things of life, Mr Obi was a man of modest means when he left Onitsha and arrived in Lagos in the mid 1980s, but he had become a billionaire before he went into politics. Lagos welcomed him heartily like millions of others.
Yet, the impression his government is creating on state radio and elsewhere is that Fashola has marked out both Anambrarians and all Igbo people in Lagos “for deportation”. He is creating an atmosphere and culture of paranoia. My two younger brothers who live in Lagos sometimes receive telephone calls from people at home wondering what they are still doing in Lagos when the government is “driving all Igbo people away”. The day after the proprietor of The Young Shall Grow Motors, Chief Vincent Obianyido, escaped from assassins bullets on August 29, 2013, in Festac Town in Lagos– though his driver and police orderly were not so lucky– a nasty character named Stanley but who uses the pseudonym of Odera Igbo in his work as Gov Obi’s Internet propaganda agent, asserted that the heinous act was perpetrated by Lagos State agents as a warning to Igbo people that they are now personae non grata in the state.
Gov Obi’s sole reason for creating this siege mentality in our people is to stop Senator Chris Ngige from succeeding him after the November 16 gubernatorial election. All Obi wants is to portray Dr Ngige as belonging to the same party in control of the Lagos State government “which is anti-Igbo”! Still, everything shows that millions of Igbo people feel more at home in Lagos than in, say, Abia State where Governor Theodore Orji has in the last one year carried out the worst anti-Igbo policy by any person in recent times by dismissing all Igbo people from the state service who are not indigenes of Abia State, despite the fact that many of them were born there and pay their tax there. Ironically, Gov Obi, who is the chairman of the Conference of Southeast governors, turned a blind eye to Gov Orji’s irresponsible policy.
If our governor had just criticized the Lagos State government’s relocation in July of 14 destitute persons from Anambra to their state, as some Nigerians did, the action would have been understandable. But he did go overboard. First, he gathered some 58 very poor people in the state, dressed them in rags and coached them to act in the streets of Onitsha for several days as beggars picked up from Lagos streets and forcibly taken home in a bus! The governor quickly assembled a battery of journalists to take photographs of those “deported from their homeland” , and then “mobilized” the journalists with a very generous welfare package to do endless and breathless reports and commentaries on “this act of man’s inhumanity to man”.
In a country where ethnic relations are not exemplary, it was easy to turn the return of destitute beggars into the notorious Igbo-Yoruba altercation. Unsavory characters like Femi Fani-Kayode tried to cash in on the situation to gain relevance by seeking to be seen by unthinking people as a Yoruba nationalist . In the mass hysteria generated by this development, a lot of Nigerians seemed to forget that the removal of beggars from Lagos streets is part of the effort to beautify the metropolis so that it can assume the status of a megacity. So-called area boys who are from Lagos Island and who had been harassing mostly Igbo traders at Idumota and Balogun markets were the first to go. States like Oyo, Osun, Ogun, Kano, Yobe, Zamfara, Bornu, etc, have had their own destitute indigenes returned.
My greatest worry is that in the determination to stop Ngige by all means, Gov Obi does not care that he is , through propaganda, compromising the safety, security and future of millions of Igbo people in Lagos who form the largest collection of eminently successful Igbo people anywhere in Nigeria. What our governor ought to do is to win friends for the Igbo people, and not to create, simulate and stimulate crises for them. Worse, it will be tragic to turn a particularly Igbo friendly governor like Fashola into an enemy. Most often when Igbo elements in the North are attacked, they run to Lagos and other parts of the Southwest for safety. Why should our governor want to jeopardize this relationship? Are there any records where Lagosians or the Yoruba have gone out of their way to kill the Igbo? Isn’t Yorubaland one place where there was no abandoned property syndrome after the civil war of 1967-70?
It is not in the interest of Ndigbo to turn all Nigerian ethnic groups into their enemies. We should court the friendship and support of all groups as our governor’s obsession with Senator Ngige could produce catastrophic consequences. Our dear Leaders and Elders, I am of the humble opinion that you advise His Excellency accordingly. Politicking must have limits.
Nwabichili is a retired deputy director in the public service and lives in Awka, Anambra State.
I mean no disrespect but the whole world should see and not just read, how Gov. Peter Obi mismanaged Anambra state for 8 years. And still walks freely, no question , no probe.
The picture above is Awka the capital of Anambra state.
Long live Nigeria.