The outcome of the February 23 presidential election has sparked tension between Igbos and their Yoruba hosts in Lagos. The result showed that the Igbo voted massively for Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the chagrin of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC government in the state which supported its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari.
Alleged attacks on Igbo traders and residents in some parts of the state have further heightened ethnic tension in the city, sparking arguments about ownership of Lagos.
Discussion on the issue on social media has been characterized by irrational outbursts and angry vituperations from both sides.
The Yorubas, who claim to own the state, accused the Igbo traders of voting against their preferred candidate in the presidential election, while some Igbos claim Lagos is a No-Man’s-Land.
Lagos, the commercial hub of Nigeria, is controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. APC National Leader and former governor of the state, Bola Tinubu, as well as the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration have been accused of being part of the plot against Ndigbo, a claim they vehemently denied.
It was similar to what happened in the run up to the 2015 elections when the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu reportedly threatened that non-indigenes who did not vote APC would be thrown into the lagoon. But the monarch denied making such a statement, and said he was misquoted.
The Lagos State Government has also dismissed the accusation that it was behind the alleged attack on Ndigbo in Lagos as “baseless, mischievous and irresponsible”.
“The contents of the alleged report are laughable and ridiculous.
“Gov. Ambode had clearly emphasised at the inception of his administration that he would run a government of inclusion regardless of tribe, colour or creed, which he had not only adhered to, but also sustained it,” a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Kehinde Bamigbetan read in part.
Ahead of the governorship election which comes up on the 9th of March, the Yorubas have asked the Igbos to cast vote for Sanwo-Olu whose major contender is Jimi Agbaje of the PDP, or vacate the state.
This has garnered sharp reaction from Nigerians. While some have said the Igbo have the liberty to vote their preferred candidate, others have maintained that a vote against the APC candidate by the ethnic group will not be accepted.
In his reaction, a chieftain of the PDP, Doyin Okupe, described the anti-Igbo protest as barbaric and alien to the Yoruba culture.
A post on his Facebook page read, “Whoever started this strange and senseless cry that Ibos must leave Lagos because they voted for political party of their choices are not true Yorubas.
“If they are they must have come from our lowest form of human aberrations. Yorubas by definition and history are the most sophisticated and civilized race in West Africa.
“We are naturally tolerant and we have always welcome strangers with open arms.
“The anti-Igbo protests that we have seen in the last few days in Lagos are barbaric and alien to Yoruba culture.
“Politically the Igbos have stood by Yoruba interests at very critical periods
“What is going on in Lagos is evil, sinful, undemocratic and shameful. It must be stopped immediately. This is not who we are as a people.”
On his own part, Ex-Niger-Delta militant leader, Asari Dokubo, called on Igbos in the state to relocate their business back to the eastern part of Nigeria.
He alleged that government has strategically blocked the Igbos from education and employment in the country.
“The government of Lagos is demolishing markets dominated by Igbos and relocating them to outskirts of town. This should be a wakeup call for Ndigbo to return home and create their own Lagos in the East,” he had said.
“The Nigerian system is skewed to sabotage the Igbos economically”.
However, despite the call by the ex-militant leader, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo endorsed Sanwo Olu for Lagos governor, seeking six slots in his government after his victory.
The Ohanaeze leaders also promised to mobilise two million registered Igbo voters to vote for Sanwo-Olu
“We are endorsing him because this is the man that will give us what we have been craving for in Lagos. This is the best that can happen to Ndigbo in Lagos, so come out and vote for him. Hold me responsible for this because I know him and I have seen what he can do,” Solomon Ogbonna, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos President said.
Similarly, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) in a statement by Secretary General, Mr Chidi Omeje and National Coordinator Ifeanyi Ubah said that they were mobilizing Igbos and other Lagosians for the APC candidate.
“For the Igbo in Lagos we are speaking for them, we have consulted them widely. We have told them why it is important to support APC structure and to vote in Sanwo-Olu come Saturday.
“Visible work starts tomorrow but we have done some underground work prior to this press briefing.
“The most important thing is that we will not want to have friction with the Yoruba or any other ethnic group in Lagos. I think we are coming in at this point in time to swiftly get involved by putting in a round peg in a round hole,” the statement read.
What happens in next Saturday’s election could determine whether the simmering tension will explode into a full blown crisis or whether it will dissolve into a positive partnership.