Lagos: A Time to Exhale – By James Eze

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I am one of those folks who feel that even in our well-known backwardness, certain things are best left the way they are. Things like the amazing otherness of Nollywood and Nigerian music. Things like the now famous Nigerian confidence and well… the cosmopolitan outlook of Lagos. I am incredibly fascinated by the Lagos mosaic; the Lagos energy and the Lagos laughter.

It is always heartbreaking to read comments that appear to strip Lagos of its colour, its vitality and its appeal…comments that seek to reduce Lagos to a narrow tribal enclave with dim aspirations for modernity in the 21st Century. Comments that issue 48-hour ultimatum to Ndigbo to vacate Lagos; comments that bellyache over which tribe has more property in Lekki or Eko Atlantic City and comments that carve Lagos up into little fiefdoms where primitive folks hold courts in stone age supremacy chest-thumping about their tribe.

These comments diminish Lagos at a time when an Arab is the Mayor of London and an Igbo is a Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, and 1.5 million Jews live in New York.  I don’t know if I am the only one who looks at Lagos from the prism of London, Tokyo and New York; not in terms of physical advancement but in terms of its fascinating conurbation and diversity.  I have often wondered what those cities would be like if they were tribal enclaves cut off from the immense enchantments of diversity.

For years, Nigerians have been victims of primitive outbreaks of xenophobia in South Africa. With which face would we have stood up to scold South Africa if some Nigerians have not spoken up to silence these purveyors of ethnic hate who are citizens of the UK but are quick to incite us to kill one another in Lagos in a pathetic show of tribal supremacy? If these men love their tribes so much, why are they not in their Nigerian villages offering domestic animals to their ancestors in a ritualistic cycle of supplication and appeasement? I am often pained at the irony that most folks who incite Nigerians to disorderly conduct and violence do so from the comfort of their homes in Europe and America; far away from the theater they want to ignite. They are not directly affected by the terror they provoke in Nigeria. Yet they induce fear, anger and anxiety among us.

That is why I felt it was time to exhale when the governor of Lagos State told Adeyinka’s Grandson to shut the fuck up. The delusional young man who had come up as a counterfoil to Nnamdi Kanu; spewing vitriol always, had circulated an incendiary video urging a mob action against the Igbo in Lagos if they failed to exit in 48 hours. But governor Babjide Sanwo-Olu had reminded him that his voice was that of an ethnic jingoist on a mission to destroy Lagos by pitching residents against one another.

We must commend Sanwo-Olu for his statesmanship. We must also commend the leaders of Afenifere and Ohaneze Ndigbo, Chiefs Ruben Fasoranti and Nnia Nwodo for finding a common ground to issue a joint press statement to remind the Yoruba and Ndigbo that any attempt to pitch the two nations against each other would not work. History will remember these two leaders. I cannot even contemplate what an ego-clash between them would have led to at a time when tempers rose sky high.

Once again, the Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka showed that age has not tamed his trademark fire. He dismissed the rabid young man as a social dreg. “In the present atmosphere where fake news is so easily swallowed and acted upon without reflection, I feel once again obliged to denounce this recurrent obscenity. As for our brother and sister Igbo, I hope they have learnt to ignore the toxic bilge under which some Nigerian imbeciles seek to drown the nation, roared Soyinka.”  It is also important to commend other Yoruba leaders who rose to wrest the day from the anarchist. The leader of Yoruba Ronu, Mr Akin Malaolu, the Aare Onakakanfo of Yorubaland, Gani Adams, the leader of the Yoruba Ko’ya Foundation, Otunba Deji Osibogun, the chieftain of OPC (New Era), Comrade Sina Akinpelu and of course, the Secretary General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide among many others.

Let me say this; the Yoruba nation has set very high standards with the vociferous denunciation of Adeyinka’s Grandson. This has stilled the roaring waves in Nigeria’s current sea of malcontent. They have deftly given Lagos and Nigeria a chance to exhale. And the rest of Nigeria must acknowledge this. That is the difference between 1966 and 2020. That is the path to the future!

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