“I offer unqualified and unreserved apology, if the action taken has been misunderstood… I cannot take the Igbo for granted because we have built a relationship based on tolerance, mutual respect, love and trust” – Governor Babatunde Fashola.
With the above remark credited to Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola which he reportedly dished out on September 26, 2013, during the 25th anniversary of Aka Ikenga, a group of Igbo professionals and intellectuals, one is bound to be somewhat inclined to say that it is commendable that it has finally dawned on him to publicly apologise to the good and peaceful people of Igbo nation over his ill-advised, absurd and unwarranted deportation of scores of Igbo kith and kin from Lagos to Onitsha, Anambah state, and whose only “offence” against Fashola borders on their being far less endowed with good health coupled with their lack of basic material things of life (unlike the Fasholas), a development Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode had naively cashed in on to foment trouble and thereby fanning the embers of the ever smoldering cold war between the Yoruba and the Igbo. Yet, this seemingly politically motivated apology can hardly be properly situated in isolation of certain other associated remarks with it as well as all manner of earlier insolence incurred by Ndigbo from certain groups and individuals whose only reason for coming out of their cocoon to hold brief for such abysmal and deplorable action of deportation or dehumanization of the less privileged by the Lagos State Government could be traceable to either their irredentist disposition to jingoism or their sheer concern about losing the pecuniary advantages that accrue from their political and social fraternity with the Lagos State Government. Of course, one even wonders if this apology of Governor Fashola is sufficient to atone for the “sins” of all those garrulous elements who hurled all sorts of insults and tirades at Ndigbo consequent upon this deportation blunder.
In fact, to be specific, from where do we even begin to situate this political apology vis-à-vis its elusion on the part of the national leadership of All Progressive Congress (APC) and some of its members who in their hitherto desperate efforts to impress the Governor by way of defending his untenable and dastardly action, had to further add insult to injury? For one, Lia Mohammed, the spokesman of the All Progressives Congress – who mischievously tagged this deportation “the home return for proper integration” has not till this moment deemed it necessary to take a cue from Mr. Fashola’s contrite apology nor even tried in any way to show regret over his snide denigration of Igbo groups and people who had swiftly risen to the pressing demands of the time to roundly deplore this unlawful action of the Lagos State Government. Surely, fulfilling this expectation has become imperative or inevitable for Mr. Lia Mohammed given Governor Fashola’s unreserved apology to Ndigbo. Honestly, anything short of this will imply that the APC is by no way less guilty of stoking the fire of ethnic tension, bias and hatred that was triggered off fashola. This is critical given certain seemingly derogatory words employed by Mr. Mohammed during the heat of the debate. This in part accounts for why Fashol’s apology may not just be enough.
However, this is not to say that Ndigbo may not have forgiven Fashola. Nay! It is possible that some have forgiven him. But the truth is that it does appear that the APC is in for trouble in the Igbo areas, despite all entreaties by the party’s South-East chapter to Ndigbo to forgive and forget. It is therefore not unlikely that this incident of deportation would constitute itself into an albatross to the current aspiration of the party – through its gubernatorial candidate Chris Nwabueze Ngige – to grab power in Anambra state.
Meanwhile, as things stand now, it seems easier to even forgive Mr. Lia Mohammed on account of Governor Fashola’s apology – despite the former’s superfluous remark in respect of the issue of deportation of the less privileged persons from the South- Eastern origin to upper Iweka in Onitsha, Anambra state, than forgiving some APC chieftains of Igbo extraction over their positions taken in the wake of that ugly incident and which they unfortunately seem to maintain, judging from their conspicuous silence towards tendering their own unreserved apology to Ndigbo. For instance, Engineer Joe Igbokwe – a Chieftain of APC from Anambra state by origin and the erstwhile publicity Secretary of the Lagos state chapter of defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN) as well as the General Manager of the Lagos State Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency – has not up till now seen any sense in handing his own unreserved apology to Ndigbo and his Anambra state folks in particular over his questionable and unguarded utterances blurted in the heat of the debate concerning Fashol’s deportation saga. For clarity, this was a man who believed or perhaps still believes that the genuine public outcry against the deportation action of the Lagos State Government was merely an unnecessary attempt by concerned citizens to “play politics with it” and that such dehumanization of fellow humans and compatriots, as if they were animals, was aimed to “re-unite” the deportees “with their families”. And assuming that was the intention, one therefore wonders why the officials of the Lagos State Government chose the wee hour of the day to “re-unite” these less endowed persons “with their families” by dumping them at the upper Iweka at Onitsha, Anambra state, for them to “find their way” – in the words of Mr. Igbokwe. Indeed this Lagos state concept of reunion is, to say the least, incongruous.
Now let us take a look at the issue associated with Fashola’s apology pertaining to why Ndigbo would often leave their homeland for other people’s land/states. But first, let me say that I have read with reservation and, in some cases, surprise the litany of reasons advanced by some seasoned and regular Journalist/writers. Whereas some of these reasons are relevant to the facts in issue, others are nearly little far from hogwash. To be precise, much as one would wish to see more Igbo investments in Nigeria and/or elsewhere being located in Igbo land, I do not subscribe at all to that submission by Amanze Obi in his back page write-up in Daily Sun of October 3, 2013, titled Fashola’s constructive apology wherein he asserts that: “The problem here is that the Igbo have not even harnessed their energy towards developing their home land”. On the contrary rather, Ndigbo have always harnessed their energy, individually and collectively, towards the development of their home land, more than any other group in Nigeria. But then, we must not forget in a hurry that the various government policies over the years, especially since the end of the Biafra-Nigerian civil war, had never made life relatively easy for Ndigbo and neither had the investment environment been conducive for people of the South-East geopolitical zone. As it were, if not the case of neglect of the dilapidated federal road network in Igbo land and the ones linking the zone with their neighbors, it would be the deliberate policy of “pull them down” - for just no cause - as in the case of Obasanjo’s administration verses Ibeto Cement company, and a host of other malicious policies.
Also, come to think of it, apart from being a former Federal Capital Territory developed with our collective wealth in addition to having a long existing Sea port and International Airport that are both key attractions of international business interest and development, what other major cynosure makes Lagos thick? And why is it that until the ascendancy of President Goodluck Jonathan, no successive military regime and democratically elected government ever made genuine attempt, beyond playing politics, to open up the economic potentials of the South-East geopolitical zone by building an International Airport in Enugu and/or dredging the River Niger? And if one even ask, what major single project did Fashola’s brother Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, throughout his long years in power as a military Head of State and democratically elected President of Federal Republic of Nigeria, put in place in Igbo land, at least as something economically meaningful for the sake of which the people of the zone would remember for? More importantly, what did Fashola’s brother Obasanjo do to discourage Ndigbo from emigrating en mass into “their Lagos”, just mention one? Interestingly, it was even the same Obasanjo who was allegedly reported to have unconsciously expressed his great delight and amazement at the level of housing and other developmental projects that he saw when he visited Onitsha decades after the civil war. And the situation was such that he was said to have asked whether the new Onitsha he had met was the same place they had slugged it out with Biafran forces before succeeding in pushing themselves into Abagana, where their troops ultimately met waterloo. Incidentally, this expression of amazement by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo tells a great deal about the fallacy associated with the submission of Amanze Obi concerning the issue of the Igbo not harnessing their energy towards turning their homeland around.
Besides, as if his deportation insult was not enough, Governor Fashola has been recently reported to have asked: “How can development be so difficult from the zone that has produce people like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alex Ekwueme, Ike Nwachukwu, among others?” Please, somebody should help me tell Fashola that Ndigbo and Igbo land are not more underdeveloped than his South-western region as a whole. Meanwhile, what parameter does Fashola use in measuring underdevelopment? If Mr. Fashola and his ilk think or want to believe that the rationale behind Igbo penchant for migration has more to do with “bad governance” in their homeland or the lackluster performance of their political leadership, then – with due respect – I make bold to say that they are all not at home with historical facts about the nature of Ndigbo and their historical idiosyncrasies. Honestly, one had thought that by dint of the existing historical records of the experience and expedition of the Aro people of Igbo extraction, for instance, during the slave trade era, Fashola and like minds would have first availed themselves the opportunity of understanding the true nature of Ndigbo before going public to make certain comments. Nevertheless, it is pertinent to state without fear of contradiction that Ndigbo are by nature adventurous and itinerant, and would never cease to explore and expand business opportunities. Apart from the fact that this was partly the reason that gave rise to the emergence of Eze Chima figure in the history of Benin Kingdom vis-à-vis that of Onitsha, this also accounts for why Ndigbo are seen in virtually all nooks and crannies of the world. Again, this is why it is often reflected in their social maxim that: Akuluo uno, okwoo ebeosi (meaning that only the wealth that reaches home, tells where it is coming from). By the same token, this is no less attested to by the popular notion in Nigeria and elsewhere that cautions that wherever you go and an Igbo man does not reside there, then better rethink your stay there for the place is not worthy for the living. At this juncture, therefore, I want to believe that we all are now in good position to disabuse our minds of this wrong notion about the question of Igbo inclination to emigration from their home land?
However, it even makes no sense for anybody to pretend not to know that the real political power at the center or the presidency that has eluded the South-East for decades now is yet another factor that one had expected Governor Fashola to raise or discuss while harping on and/or bemoaning factors responsible for Igbo emigration from their land. There is therefore no gainsaying that the series of marginalizations that were visited on Ndigbo and which still bedevil their place in the Nigeria enterprise forms part of the reason for Igbo emigration which Governor Fashola, in the characteristic manner of Femi Fani-Kayode, may have wittingly or unwittingly evaded to speak about. In fact, a cursory look at Daily Sun of October 7, 2013, under the rubric: Echoes of marginalization in South-East will further help those who want to locate some real answers to Governor Fashola’s posers articulated during the 25th anniversary of Aka Ikenga. And based on this catalogue of decades of Igbo marginalizations as contained in this Daily Sun edition, among others, one cannot agree less with Herold Lasky that “exclusion from power means exclusion from the benefits of power.”
But be that as it may, it is instructive for the political leadership in Igbo land to realize that it is though not our Igbo convention to advise an adult to move out of the scorching sun, we must not forget that for any lampoon over whatever inadequacies or shortcomings comes with it the underlying need for positive change.
Though Governor Raji Babatunde Fashola’s “unreserved” apology over his deportation blunder demands from all of us – Ndigbo - to practically demonstrate the Christianity we are wont to profess every now and then, yet this does not obviate the urgent need for us to unreservedly advise him (Governor Fashola) to spare us further insult (based on his wrong perception of issues of underdevelopment in Igbo land vis-à-vis the Igbo emigration inclination) arising from his contrite apology.
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