The events that characterised just concluded 2023 general elections in the country have critically revealed the rising anti-Igbo sentiments (also known as Igbo-phobia) occasioned by the acclaimed indigenes of Lagos State and some other parts of the country against Ndi-igbo and this conveys a wide range of negative attitudes and feelings.
These age-long nursed aggressions became manifest in grave and hostile attacks on Igbos during the recent past electioneering period. It obviously showed political, social and religious discriminations, high degree violence and xenophobic attacks on Igbos residing in Lagos.
Pathetically, their offence was that they opted to support and vote candidates and parties of their choice during the general election as provided for, by the constitution of the federal Republic of Nigeria. And, these reckless ethnic bigots got infiriated and reminded the Igbos that they not Yorubas and the urgency to vacate Lagos.
And like jokes, the malady assumed a horrible and worrisome dimension even as our national leaders from Yoruba land and security agencies stood akimbo, watching the situation deteriorate to a suffocating level.
Very unfortunately, this trending vicious and cruel development is a intolerable social threat that will inhibit healthy social, political and economic bonding while unleashing gross violations on the human dignity, as well as abuse the fundamental human rights of a people. It is also creating profound assault in the quest for a united Nigerian nationhood.
Frankly, this kind of psychotic disorder can only be granted for a people consumed by ethno-phobic complex. It is surprisingly turning, to a brutal and frightening reality which is averse to the survival and sustenance of civilized society.
Historically Lagos, is the first Nigeria’s capital and commercial city with all its historic monumental built and made with the nations common wealth that substantially includes the Igbo’s patrimony: Why would any people intimidate and threaten the Igbos who reside in Lagos with violence and eviction in a land they helped in building to stardom? Then, where lies our nationality?
For God’s sake! Is Igbos, the only non-Yoruba ethnic nationals living in Lagos? Why would these greedy ethno-rascals blame and vent the anger of their misadventures and misfortunes on the Igbos? Even, when the Igbos have sacrificed much for peaceful cohabitation.
Probably, that the Igbos are naturally ambitious and enterprising could be the reasons for this obvious and in-depth hatred. Lagos is a cosmopolitan town like many other towns and cities around the world with people from diverse ethnicities including the Igbos living together in harmony; without qualms. Why must that of Lagos be different?
But, common sense should have taught these petit ethnic bigots that if not for the International Airport and Seaport built with our national wealth in Lagos, the Igbos would have no business living there; otherwise,decentralise Nigeria and replicate those facilities in the other parts of the country and see whether anybody would ever wish to live in Lagos. Nonsense!
Again, the anger could still be that despite all the hurdles erected to forestall Igbo development, after the damages of the Nigerian civil war yet the Igbos struggled with doggedness to survival against their imaginations through sheer hard work, sagacity and industriousness; and arose from the dreary abyss of defeat to the very pinnacles of fame and glory dominating the nation’s commercial sector.
Undoubtedly, this feat must have further aroused the envy of these Igbo oppressors who may have proceeded to construct stronger barriers to slow down or absolutely puncture their complete emancipation.
Worst still! Attempting to move or champion for a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction is another phobia of gigantic scale; and no doubt, anti-Igbo sentiments rose to crescendo,when Peter Obi emerged as the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Igbo oppressors became jittery and aimlessly knotted Obi’s ambition to Igbo agenda, even after Peter Obi’s multiple interviews and debates pointed to the contrary yet they insisted on their warped conception that Igbos want to take over Nigeria and create Biafra, dismissing his genuine and objective intentions to redefine Nigeria positively for a stronger and more united entity with a finger wave.
But, when a Presidential candidate emerges from their extraction, it becomes a national project, even when there are open and glaring evidences of tribal agenda, it is shoved aside as needless triviality.
However, the 2023 Lagos State gubernatorial election was the climax as elections were marred by high level violence and intimidation of Igbo voters. In many cases the intimidation stretched to physical attacks on Igbos, some took place in the full glare of the security personnel. Shops and markets of Igbo dominance were razed with people maimed and killed sometimes.
Reports were awash that before and during the polls, thugs had a free day, they threaten and forced residents to either vote for their (Thugs) preferred political parties or rather stay off and forget casting their votes at all.
More painful is that attacks were targeted at anyone who looks like Igbo or presumed to be one. Anti-Igbo sentiments, comments, and videos flooded the social media platforms and these abuses and and assaults stretched into the next day (Sunday) which was also the day Igbos were attacked at Abule Ado in Lagos state.
Paradoxically, there is a phobia for even Igbo songs; and this reminds me, the uncontrolled anger with which a Catholic priest, Reverend Father James Anelu, from Bini in Edo State, who is the Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Ewu-Owa, Gberigbe in Ikorodu, Lagos, stopped a soul-soul-lifting Igbo choruses during a divine mass, last year.
Though, he was later suspended for that sacrilage by the Catholic Church heirachy for banning Igbo songs and choruses in his parish, the priest who couldn’t hide his extreme hatred for Igbo, allowed his ethno-spiritual nature to topple his spiritual personality causing him to angrily stop a soul-lifting chorus abruptly, during the second collection in divine mass, on the premise that the Igbos are dominating other people in his parish arguing that the excesses of Ndigbo must be contained. Oh my God! But, what is the Igbo offence?
In a similar development, the phobia of a possible breakaway had caused the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, to issue an ultimatum on June 6, 2017, during a press briefing in Kaduna, Kaduna State, wherein they ordered the outright sack of all Igbos in Northern Nigeria territory before October 1, of same year. The brief, further called for sustained and coordinated campaigns to remove the Igbo population from the northern region.
The ultimatum was subsequently followed by hate songs and threatening audio messages that circulated on the internet and social media in Hausa language. This venomous threat attracted the attention and intervention of a United Nations Human Rights experts group who expressed grave concern over the ultimatum and as such issued a warning that any incidents of hate speech and incitement to violence had to be investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished. “This includes the people behind the ultimatum and those responsible for the creation, publication and circulation of the hate song and audio message,”
It is no longer news that many Igbos residing in Lagos and some other parts of the country with unpolished sentiments against Ndi-Igbo have had their businesses and shops razed severally even without the least provocation.
And truly, we can’t make a sane and lucid nationhood living like this, hence the need for a more inclusive and tolerable coexistence.
We certainly shall need each other to live well and better. So let’s sue for love and eschew hatred.
Bright Okereke is the Managing Editor,NewsEcho Newspapers Ltd.