Nwankwo T Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa Clan & Combatant Political Historian
Research Fellow@Exile, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
“In the midst of battle, while we are all of us in fighting mood, we see only the sins of the enemy and fail to reflect on those predicaments and dilemmas which so often develop and which underlay the great conflicts between masses of human beings.”
With these words Herbert Butterfield appears to underscore the squalid sense of commission of those inchoate-minded Yoruba ethnic bandits cum vicious Igbo-haters who bandy around the delusive contraption that the Igbo said “Lagos is a no man’s land.”
One of the disposable political lackeys and crumb-pickers of Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu called Lekan Sote writing for the Punch newspaper issue of March 15, 2023 under the title: “The Igbo Question in Lagos stated the following words in his provocative ignorance:
“The provocative claim by some Nigerians, of Igbo extraction, that Lagos is a no-man’s land riles the Yoruba, who are the first settlers in Lagos. Some Igbo, probably in retaliation for the hostility demonstrated against them by their Yoruba compatriots, during the recently concluded presidential election, employed rather violent words in return. The Yoruba became even more anxious when Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party, defeated the godfather of Lagos politics, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who won the presidency almost by a whisker.”
I waited so long as I did to respond to such malicious fabrication borne out of sacramental political rejection among one’s people not because I had nothing to say to such intellectual homunculus and addle-brained political idiots like Lekan Sote but because I had expected my urbane brother-Yoruba professional historians whom I respect so much to intervene with incisive intellectual historicism.
Of course there is no gainsaying the fact that the Yoruba ethnic nation parades, more than any other ethnic nation in Nigeria, a timeless legion of astute professional historians with unrivalled intellectual marksmanship. But as the 18th century Anglo-Irish thinker Edmund Burke put it:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Evil is triumphing in Lagos State today because the good men of Yoruba nation are doing nothing. It is therefore a bizarre sight to behold when the most intellectually sophisticated ethnic nation in Nigeria allows itself to be politically driven by a band of misanthropic philistine political bandits.
It is instructive to note that the politics of exclusion in Lagos State does not rest on Igbo presence and the matter of Lagos as a no man’s land alone. It includes the perennial opposition of the indigenous settlers of Lagos against the native Yoruba strangers who now dominate them politically. In their struggles against the dominance of these native Yoruba strangers in Lagos, the former have always looked upon the Igbo stranger elements as their trusted allies. This is the second and invariably more potent arm of the present anti-Igbo syndrome in Lagos State.
Talking about the history of Lagos and the sophistry of “Lagos is a no man’s land”, the question is what level of intelligence and knowledge of history does the likes of Lekan Sote, a native Yoruba stranger in Lagos State from Oyo State scavenging for economic survival; Oba Rilwan Akiolu, a Policeman whose entire career was tainted with bribery, corruption, and lack of diligent moral judgment and, who traces his origin to Benin and had earlier claimed that Lagos does not belong to the Yoruba; Yekini Amoda Ogunlere a. k. a Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a man of questionable identity and dishonourable origin whose grandfather emigrated from Borgu in Nupe land; Femi Fani-Kayode, a descendant of a liberated Sierra Leonean Nupe ex-slave adopted into Ile-Ife by the act of Bishop Ajayi Crowther’s magnanimity; Bayo Onanuga, a descendant of an escapee Nupe slave freed and adopted by the Onanuga family of Ijebu Ode and, who has never excelled in his journalism career; and Segun Agbaje, the leprous INEC evil courier and boorish Iseyin gringo claiming Lagos origin but in truth whose grandfather Salami Agbaje, born around 1880 and whose mother was from Ibadan, was the son of an escapee slave from Iseyin in the present Oyo State?
I want to emphatically state with an element of historical precision that the use of the phrase: “Lagos is a no man’s land” did not either originate from the Igbo or was the context meant to deride or question the right of Lagos indigenes over their ancestral homeland. Those who are conversant with the political history of Lagos will never, in their sublime sense of historical judgment accept such devious contraption.”
I want to state it for the records and I want any professional Yoruba historians conversant with the political history of Nigeria to challenge me, that the phrase “Lagos is a no man’s land” was first applied by Governor Arthur Richards in 1947 when the Northern Delegates of the Nigerian Legislative Council led by Abubakar Tafawa Balewa protested the status of Lagos as the Capital of Nigeria during the First Session of the Legislative Council held on March 24, 1947; which was indeed the first time Northern and Southern political leaders met on one political platform as members of one nation.
In fact the debate over the use of Lagos as the seat of the Legislative Council was so heated that Abubakar Tafawa Balewa concluded in the following threatening notes:
“We shall demand our rights when the time is ripe. We do not want independence and we shall fight for it if necessary, but I should like to make it clear to you that if the British quitted Nigeria now at this stage the Northern people would continue their interrupted conquest to the sea.”
It was indeed at that point that Aja Wachukwu stood up and supported Governor Arthur Richards’ position that Lagos should be regarded as a no man’s land, and not part of Southern Provinces. Yet Aja Wachukwu’s intervention did not stop the Northern delegates from cajoling Governor Arthur Richards into annulling Lagos as the permanent seat of the Legislative Council of Nigeria and consequently adopted rotational seating venues. This was the reason why the Second Session of the Legislative Council of March 23, 1948 was held in Kaduna.
I refer these ignoramuses to the British Intelligence Report CO583/287/5, no 12 A [Political Development]: Note by H. M. Foot on the Kaduna Legislative Council, 30 May, 1948; which reads inter alia:
“The Legislative Council met on the morning of 23rd of March at Kaduna. This was the first time that the Council had met outside Lagos under the arrangement whereby the annual budget session of the Council is to take place in the Regional headquarters in rotation. Next year it will meet at Ibadan, in 1950 in Enugu and in 1951 in Lagos.”
Apart from the divestment of Lagos as the permanent seat of the Legislative Council of Nigeria, Governor Arthur Richards further promised the Northern Fulani leaders that so long as the British remained in Nigeria, they would have a Northern administrator in charge of Lagos. This again explains why successive Ministers of Lagos Affairs were Fulani—Muhammadu Ribadu and Mallam Musa Yar’Adua. Ironically, the first Yoruba-born administrator of Lagos Federal Territory Major Mobolaji Johnson was appointed by the Igbo-born Major General Johnson Thomas Umunnakwe Aguiyi-Ironsi.
Beyond the foregoing narratives, the term “Lagos is a no man’s land” had been freely used by prominent Yoruba indigenes to describe the cosmopolitan character of Lagos State; yet there was no contemptible reaction from the likes of the present Islamic Yoruba political bandits. In his acceptance speech as the first democratically elected Governor of Lagos State in 1979, Alhaji Lateef Jakande applied the same metaphor of Lagos as a no man’s land without relating it to the Igbo in any manner.
Similarly, Prof Wole Soyinka in his article titled “Unshakeable City” in 2017 employed the same term to describe his perception of the historical development of Lagos from a rugged cosmopolitan city in his childhood days to its present status of a State. Yet even in his response to Prof Wole Soyinka over the statement in an exclusive interview with Punch newspaper issue of November 26, 2017, the respected native of Lagos Chief Musliu Anibaba did not make any reference to the Igbo.
The question here is based on moral judgment, should it have been right to condemn Aja Wachukwu or applaud him for his role in supporting the Governor’s position on the status of Lagos as a no man’s land? This question is particularly thrown to the likes Oba Rilwan Akiolu, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Femi Fani-Kayode, Bayo Onanuga, Segun Agbaje and Lekan Sote. I invite them to tell Nigerians their own detailed version of the metaphor “Lagos is a no man’s land” for posterity to judge between them and the Igbo.
On the matter of indigenous Lagosians’ resistance against their domination by the native Yoruba strangers, anyone conversant with the political development of Lagos will agree with me that right from the period of constitutional reforms under British Colonial administration to the end of First Republic in 1966, the people of Lagos Federal Territory had always remained allies of the Igbo residents in Lagos. This further explains why they vehemently opposed the inclusion of Lagos to Western Region.
Chief Obafemi Awolowo had always respected this fact and that was the reason he advised prominent native Yoruba strangers of Lagos to go back to their home bases to seek political relevance. An example in this regard was Chief Bode Thomas who returned to Oyo where he was immediately given the title of Balogun of Oyo. Indeed to Chief Obafemi Awolowo as James S. Coleman put it, Lagos “was a cesspool of intrigue, petty bickering, and confusion.”
To Chief H. O. Davis however, Lagos should remain the symbol of the Nigerian nation without attempts to compromise its national character by introducing exclusive Yoruba ethnic politics. In fact, this was one of the reasons of the periodic disagreements between H. O. Davies and Chief Obafemi Awolowo during the embryonic stages of Egbe Omo Oduduwa and Action Group.
In February 1950 Chief Davies resigned from Nigerian Youth Movement over the organization’s support for the inclusion of Lagos in Western Region. Going by the minutes of the inaugural meeting of Action Group in Ibadan on March 26, 1950, the fear of the indigenes of Lagos over their political domination by native Yoruba strangers of Lagos led the organization to avoid any deliberation on the status of Lagos. This was again reiterated during the third meeting of the Action Group in Ibadan on June 4, 1950 as recorded in its minutes of meeting.
It is therefore important to conclude that the current APC-led anti-Igbo hostility in Lagos State goes beyond the orchestrated accusation of the Igbo saying that Lagos is a no man’s land. Of course no sane Nigerian will agree that in a Lagos State where even street urchins and motor park miscreants could demand commissions on any landed property purchased by an Igbo man without being the agent, the same Igbo will come out to say that Lagos is a no man’s land. I might not be believed, but the truth of the matter is that Fulani jihad is under way.
It takes the heinous demobilization of the Igbo in Lagos State to pave way for a smooth ride over the entire Yoruba Christian faithful. Let Yoruba Christians find out how many Christians are among this notorious anti-Igbo NASFAT vanguard? I have associated with the Yoruba from revolutionary angle and I can rightly say that it will be difficult for a Yoruba born of Christian parents to set fire on the property of another fellow human being. It takes a Muslim indoctrinated with the heinous pill of jihad to do so in Lagos State. At any rate, no amount of destruction of Igbo property in Lagos State will surpass what they passed through in the civil war. I leave it to posterity to judge.