Nwankwo T. Nwaezeigwe, PhD, DD
Odogwu of Ibusa & Combatant Political Historian
Research Fellow@Exile, Institute of African Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka
International Coordinator, Nigerian Diaspora Council for Defence of Democracy (NDCDD)
The English man Francis Bacon, the First Baron Verulam (1561-1625 wrote: “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils: for time is the greatest innovator.”
I am looking forward for the day when an Awori will become the Oba of Lagos, a Yoruba the Oba and not Emir of Ilorin, the Hausa Serikin Gobir the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir of Suleja returning as Serikin Zauzau (Zaria), a Nupe man of Tsuede ancestry taking over his ancestral Etsu Nupe throne in Bida, the Hama of Bachama sitting over the throne of Lamido of Adamwa, and all the expelled Hausa Serikin returning to take back all the positions the Fulani jihad Emirs occupy today.
We are gradually moving to this stage of Nigeria’s history—Restoration Epoch. Actions and reactions are equal and opposite; so says Newton’s third law of motion. As our literary icon Chinua Achebe rightly put it: since the bird Eneke-Ntioba has learnt how to fly without perching, hunters have also learnt how to shoot without missing.
A popular saying among the Igbo of West Niger says: “Abochaba akwa agadi-nwanyi abochaputa ife di anyaa.” When you dig into the cloth of an old woman you will definitely discover something messy. This is the case of the current contest over indigenes and non-indigenes of Lagos State and consequently the indigenous status of Oba of Lagos, His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu. To state the obvious, the current contest or debate over Igbo right of settlement in Lagos State is no more no less the contest for political relevant between two sets of non-indigenes of Lagos State and not between the indigenes and non-indigenes.
The aborigines of Lagos State are by right of ancestral heirloom the Awori of the Lagos central axis up to Sango-Ota, the Ijebu of the Ikorodu and Epe axis who were annexed by the British rulers in 1894, the Egun of the Badagry axis who became part of Lagos by incident of Benin conquest and subsequent annexation by the British colonial administrators. Ironically none of these groups is presently in the forefront among those contesting the indigenous right of Lagos State. The Ijebu sub-group who form part of this aborigine class for sure has never been among those groups contesting the Igbo presence in Lagos State because they are as shrewd in business as the Igbo and thus posses the ability to match the Igbo head to head and toe to toe. On the other hand, the Awori and Egun are too estranged with their internal colonization by the Yoruba immigrants of Lagos State that they have never considered the Igbo their primary enemy or the cause of their political woes in their ancestral land.
Most importantly, it is historically necessary to point out that Lagos State is not a Yoruba land by core ethnographic definition. The Awori, Egun, and Ijebu are not ancestral Yoruba people. Those historically known as Yoruba are mainly the people of the present Oyo and Kwara States, popularly known as Oyo sub-group. Every other group of people outside the people of Oyo and Kwara State should be proud to identify themselves as Anago, including the Yoruba of Igboland known as Olukumi. This further explains why the Yoruba people of the Republics of Benin, Togo and, Sierra Leone reject Yoruba identity but adopt Anago as their official ethnicity.
Thus if your ancestry does not fall into any of these Lagos aborigines then you belong to part of the wider group of non-indigenes of Lagos State of which the Oba of Lagos His Majesty Oba Rilwan Akiolu is at the head. This is where the likes of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Femi Fani-Kayode rightly belong; yet these are the same people drumming up the rhythm of ethnic cacophony against the Igbo settlers of Lagos State.
For instance, most of these thugs employed by Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intimidate, attack and burn Igbo dominated markets in Lagos State like M. C. Oluomo are descendants and children of Oyo taxi, danfo and molue drivers who metamorphosed from danfo and molue conductors to agbero and alaye miscreants. Check out their detailed identities and you will find out that no noble Eko, Awori, Egun, Ijebu, Egba, Yewa and other Anago sub-groups of Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Kogi, Edo and Delta States indigenes will allow their children to be part of these Lagos miscreants.
This readily explains why the Oba of Lagos His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu deviously employ these miscreants as their tools of political vendetta against the Igbo in Lagos State; because they, like these miscreants, cannot trace their ancestry to any of these aboriginal groups of Lagos State. The Oba of Lagos claims Edo ancestry while Bola Ahmed Tinubu traces his ancestry to Osun State. If this is untrue let both the Oba of Lagos and Bola Ahmed Tinubu tell Nigerians their true ancestry. So the issue of who owns Lagos State is not a dispute between the original indigenes and aborigines of Lagos State and, the Igbo, but a contest over political relevance between the immigrant indigenes of Lagos State collectively led by Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and the Igbo immigrants of Lagos State.
On the other hand, the British Government had never accepted the Oba of Lagos as a true indigene of Lagos. For instance, in 1898 when the British administrators of the Territory and Colony of Lagos officially commissioned the Lagos-Abeokuta rail-line, they did not invite the Oba of Lagos, then known as the Eleko of Eko as the Chief Host because he was not considered a bona fide Yoruba king; instead the Alake of Egbaland was invited to officially commission the first train transport in Nigeria as a sovereign king then independent of the British colonial administration while the Oba of Lagos attended as an ordinary citizen.
It is important to let the likes of Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Bola Ahmed Tinubu that the original indigenes of Lagos State and the entire Anago (Yoruba) nation have always seen their Igbo immigrants as allies and brothers. History is replete with this fact. Herbert Macaulay groomed Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and from that moment Lagos remained the stronghold of the defunct NCNC.
The minutes of the meeting of the Aburi Accord penultimate the Nigerian civil war showed that the then Administrator of Lagos Capital Territory Major Mobolaji Johnson not only declared the neutrality of Lagos in the conflict but openly supported Lt. Colonel Ojukwu’s position. He went further to protect the Igbo residents in Lagos and their property throughout the period of the civil war. Can Oba Rilwan Akiolu and Bola Ahmed Tinubu change this historical truism?
Thus it will not be strange to history if Labour Party led by an Igbo wins Lagos State Governorship election the same way it won the Presidential election. Furthermore, it is striking to note that while the current Governor of Ondo State Rotimi Akeredolu is married to an Igbo woman, the current Governor of Osun State Ademola Adeleke is the son of an Igbo woman. Those having unending running stomach with Igbo population in Lagos State should ask Oba Rilwan Akiolu the whereabouts of his staff of office and if the Igbo residents in Lagos State were responsible for its sacrilegious disappearance? Bola Ahmed Tinubu should further be asked if the Igbo were responsible for the EndSARS movement that destroyed his Lekki Toll Gate.
In April 2015, Oba Rilwan Akiolu the Eleko of Eko threatened to drown all the Igbo residents in Lagos State in Lagos Lagoon section of the Atlantic Ocean. In April 2017 Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Eleko of Eko snubbed the Ooni of Ife and King of Kings of Yorubaland Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi in a public function. His reason was that he owes allegiance to the Oba of Benin and not the Ooni of Ife.
Invariably Oba Rilwan Akiolu was telling Nigerians that he is not a Yoruba man but Bini of Edo ethnic group. In September 2020, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu sat down against Yoruba customs and tradition in a public function while the Ooni of Ife Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi stood up to greet him. This is the vile unity of Oba Akiolu and Ahmed Tinubu.
Now let us take a look at the historical mathematics arising from Oba Rilwan Akiolu’s actions, first against the Igbo of Lagos and second, against Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife. Oba Akiolu claims to owe allegiance to Oba of Benin and not the Ooni of Lagos, while the Oba of Benin owes allegiance to the Ooni of Ife and the Ooni of Ife owes allegiance to the Igbo aborigines of Ife-Ife.
If the whole Yorubaland recognize the same Ooni of Ife as the King of Kings of Yoruba nation, between Oba Rilwan Akiolu and the Igbo, who has better historical link with Lagos State and Yoruba nation as a whole; bearing in mind that those appointed kings in conquered territories by Oba of Benin did not have to be members of the Benin royal family?
The fact is, those Igbo and Yoruba elements who contest mutual Igbo-Yoruba political conviviality are either uneducated, semi-educated or have not ventured into Igboland if they are Yoruba, and into Yorubaland if they are Igbo. Oftentimes those political elites among the Igbo and Yoruba who drum up this mutual ethnic obsession against the other are those who are morally corrupted and politically hypnotized with false flags of Fulani invincibility. Among this group are the Oba of Lagos Oba Rilwan, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Femi Fani-Kayode and a host of others with questionable ancestral Yoruba identity from the Lagos axis and, Orji Uzo Kalu, Rochas Okorocha, Hope Uzodinma, Devil (Dave Umahi and, Charles Chukwuma Soludo from the Igbo axis.
There is something I always tell my friends which most of them are yet to comprehend. If another civil war breaks out in Nigeria and I find myself as a commander, I will prefer to have Yoruba warriors around me rather than my Igbo kinsmen. I am not saying all the Igbo people cannot be trusted, but when comparing the response of your kinsmen to your problem in comparison to that of foreigners to the same problem, the principle of moral judgment demands a fifty percent bonus to the foreigners ahead of your kinsmen.
I state this from my collective experience first from my father’s personal account when his Yoruba friend helped to save his life during the 1966 pogrom in Bauchi and second the unequalled interactive support in both financial and non-financial terms from Yoruba friends and supporters including those I have never met face to face both as a scholar and activist. In fact in my present predicament in struggles, I have received more benevolent interventions in terms of financial support from known and unknown Yoruba supporters than my Igbo kinsmen.
Needless to conclude by stating that, the core-son of Oodua is the most sophisticated political animal in Nigeria, the most humane in interaction with his guests and hosts and, above all the most objective in political equity and moral judgment. This explains why the Yoruba overwhelmingly objected to the purported Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim Presidential victory and Atiku Abubakar’s Fulani-again Presidential candidacy. And this is why the Labour Party victory in Lagos State in the coming Gubernatorial election cannot be stopped by the on-going wicked intimidation and burning of Igbo markets.