I am always wary of people who claim they know the ‘real story’ or the ‘truth about’ something. I am even more suspicious when someone qualifies an attempt at revisiting a phenomenon with the term ‘bitter truth’. People are no longer content with just giving their opinion about things and leaving it at that. They must declare it to be the truth and other opinions, lies.
Femi Fani-Kayode over the last few weeks wrote at least three articles about or concerning the Igbo. This ex-Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is hardly one that can be ignored especially as media houses seem to be addicted to publishing his mostly shockingly extremist views, from a conservative Christian denunciation of Obama and the American Democratic Party as antichrists and members of the illuminati to an open hatred of the Igbo ethnic group. Some people decide to ignore his views altogether, treating them as the rants of an insane person. I choose not to. Because a little spark is what causes a fire.
I will examine some of the things Fani-Kayode has said about the Igbo in relation to the Yoruba, things in my opinion bordering on hate speech. In the worst of those articles, titled The Bitter Truth About The Igbo, he begins by stating that “some of those that are not of Yoruba extraction but that have lived in Lagos for some part of their lives have tried to claim that they are bona fide Lagosians.” He goes ahead to say that “Lagos and the South-west are the land and the patrimony of the Yoruba and we will not allow anyone, no matter how fond of them we may be, to take it away from us or share it with us in the name of ”being nice”, ”patriotism”, ”one Nigeria” or anything else”.
Certain questions arise from this statement. What is a ‘Lagosian’? Is ‘Lagosian’ a categorization known to our law? What is the legal consequence of not being a ‘Lagosian’? Who ‘owns’ Lagos?
It is my opinion that the constitution is not silent on this matter. The implication of being a Nigerian is clearly set out and it is instructive to consider in full some of the provisions that are fundamental human rights. Sections 41-43 of the Constitution provide as follows:
41. (1) Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.
42. (1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:-
(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or
(b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions.
43. Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of Nigeria shall have the right to acquire and own immovable property anywhere in Nigeria.
In creating the right to freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination, the law does not divide Nigeria into what Fani-Kayode refers to as ‘ethnic nationalities’. The law has created a federalism where, although states are semi-autonomous legal entities, individuals having Nigerian citizenship have equal rights to live and own property throughout the federation.
The law further states that no one because of being a member of a certain ethnic group, shall be subjected “to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, are not made subject”. It cannot get clearer than this.
To say that Lagos is the land and patrimony of the Yoruba and will not be ‘shared’ is to disregard and disrespect the constitution. Fani-Kayode forgets that there are Yoruba all across Nigeria who have become, by virtue of being domiciled for many years, indigenous to those places. In Kano for example, many Yoruba have intermarried with the Hausa and become ‘indigenes’ of Kano. In Kaduna and even Plateau, many who do not originally come from these places now claim those states as ‘states of origin’. This for me is the beauty of our federal structure at least in principle.
The fact that Lagos state appoints an Igbo in its executive cabinet is not magnanimity. It is recognition of the influence and massive presence of the Igbo in Lagos. Lagos by virtue of its geographical location and more than that its status as capital of Nigeria for many decades, means that it cannot escape its cosmopolitan nature. As a capital, the whole nation fed it with human and material resources as it fed the whole nation. To suddenly call it solely the property of the Yoruba is to introduce the same kind of dangerous rhetoric that led to the civil war in the first place.
Fani-Kayode, in probably the most embarrassing line in that article states: “the Igbo continuously run us down, blame us for all their woes, envy our educational advantages and resent us deeply for our ability to excel in the professions and commerce”. He blamed them for getting themselves killed in the pre-civil war pogroms saying that “It is that same attitude of ”we own everything”, ”we must have everything” and ”we must control everything” that the Igbo settlers manifested” that led their slaughter in the Northern pogroms.
And in all of this his reference was one speech by ex-Abia governor, Orji Uzo Kalu wherein he called Lagos ‘no man’s land’. It was this statement that fueled his treatment of the entire Igbo people like a little clan that met in Kalu’s house and came out with a communiqué claiming Lagos as theirs.
If this isn’t hate speech, I don’t know what is. Fani-Kayode may be insane, but all it takes is one insane man to drive us all into the abyss of war.
I hope Fani-Kayode’s political friends in the APC are listening as he continually spews hate and stokes the fires so familiar to us all.
I wonder if Fani-Kayode has imagined what Lagos would look like if all the non-Yoruba currently living in Lagos and calling it home, left together with their money and investment.
My opinion in this matter is simple. A Lagosian as a social term is any Nigerian citizen who is permanently domiciled in Lagos, pays tax to the Lagos State Government and calls Lagos home.
In the end we have a choice. To preserve the unity of this nation or feed on the hate that people like Fani-Kayode, aided by the media, spread.
Posted by Olawande Salam