Respect Lagosians, Please

The two highlights of dying 2014 were Ebola and Boko Haram, none of which was pleasant to Nigerians. Whereas the good structure of Lagos health services fought Ebola, Boko Haram has been invincible because there is no comprehensible strategy for its containment. It defies the state and creates parallel governments as it claims more territories.

Perhaps, it was this unpardonable blunder collectively by the legislature and the executive that dimmed the excitement in the just-concluded primaries. It is the opinion of people that the legislature at all levels has been a rubber stamp of the executive; in short, non-existent in terms of its essence in what should amount to good governance. And they think that Nigeria’s problem should be tackled at the apex, which has shown no direction since May 29, 1999.

Small wonder that their focus is mainly on who becomes Nigeria’s next president and his message for the re-engineering of the state to regain what has been lost to 15 years of planlessness. I would have been the last to think that demographically some parts and groups of Nigerians enjoy masochism. That appears the only reason for the narrow views of some ethnic groups in Nigeria and their support for poverty.

Well, it depends on our individual evolution as ethnic groups before the British forced us together under its flag. Those who know the journey of the Edos from Egypt through Sudan to Nigeria must grant that they passed primitive levels millennia ago. Some would extend that also to their cousins of the South-west. Perhaps, that is why peoples of those two groups confront bad governments without any ethnic passion because the overall welfare surpasses mere tribal considerations or money.

The Kanuris of the North-west have always shown the same taste for good governance because they share filial ties with people of the Mid-West and the South-west. Remember Bornu State Movement, which defied the myths of the Sokoto caliphate to assert its independence of any Nigerian group. Sai Ibrahim Imam! Perhaps, his soul goes marching on as the North-east crisis dumbfounds Nigeria.

But some group, because of its rural evolution, abuses the hospitality of its hosts to demand the crown when, as a stranger, it should aspire to integrate. This must cause bad blood and strain inter-ethnic relations anywhere. Lagos State is not different.

Lagos, for example, houses about 20 million people. The predominant ethnic group is Yoruba because they own their land. The Igbos are about two million in population, and the Hausa-Fulanis about 900,000 in Lagos.

There were Nupes in the Benin army that established Eko in the 16th century. They have never once vied for the Eleko of Eko stool because they have respect for tradition and appreciate peaceful co-existence. They know that nobody becomes Etsu Nupe who does not belong to the royal family. Their traditional hierarchy does not spring from one strange British official who gave red caps to local leaders as agents of indirect rule. The Nupes have filial ties also with the Edos and Igallas.

It is necessary to avoid generalisation in analysing group behaviour. But rural people who advertise their crudeness in thought and manners compel one to make some declarations. It is being rumoured that a group is asking to be given the deputy governorship slot in Lagos. Does it know that Lagos belongs to the IBILE, that is, Ikorodu, Badagry, Ikeja and Lagos? Only people from this group, really, should aspire to any official position in Lagos. If you are a stranger and have been genuinely integrated, you will not need to demand before you are offered a deserved place in the hierarchy because you have traditionally become part and parcel of the continuum.

Lagos has a voting population of six million. The Yorubas account for more than four million because they own Lagos. Eko is not for everybody as Onitsha and Kano are not for everybody. Bakin Zuwo, a Nupe, became governor of Kano because he had completely integrated traditionally. Tanko Yakassai, from Taraba, represented Kano because he fought and swam side-by-side Kano people in their resistance to oppression and quest for human rights. In fact, he lost his Taraba identity to become a Kano man.

But some group wants to eat from two worlds. That is not sensible. Education is a liberator. This is why I appreciate the comments made by a fellow parishioner, Mr. Pat Obinwa, that Yorubas are hospitable people. Obinwa looks at issues dispassionately because people on the banks of the River Niger have traditionally mixed with other parts of Nigeria for centuries. That is where he hails from.

When Nnamdi Azikiwe rode the waves in Lagos, he was everything traditionally and spiritually a Lagosian. He spoke Anago and knew the culture of the people in which he was immersed. He never ceased to be Lagosian until he died. He was not rural. His expansiveness attracted him to the people he loved and who also loved him. He was not rushing, every Christmas, to a village somewhere in the jungle to belong until the demands of unhealthy British politicisation and machination forced him eastwards.

I always debunk the argument by some people that since Nigeria is a republic, it belongs to all citizens. How one wished that could be true. This is not an immigrant country where the aborigines were driven to the plantations like the Americas, Australia and New Zealand. Some ethnic groups had organised political structures more advanced than those of medieval Europe before the Portuguese came to our shores. Colonisation could not destroy those structures. It only conveniently exploited them for its own gain. You cannot turn some nationalities of Nigeria to what they are not because they have been civilised for millennia to appreciate what is good or bad.

Some group overestimates its political essence because its indigenes flood the streets and try to distort the demography of Lagos. That is an impossible task. These people are not politically advanced enough to appreciate the triumph of humility over unnecessary aggressiveness. Should people even talk of a share for their tribe in a foreign land when they are expected to integrate? Even in immigrant America, people write citizenship examination to belong. People should tread with caution. They should respect their hosts because “when you are in Rome, you behave like the Romans.”

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