Opinion: Who Will Help The Igbos In Nigeria?

Opinion: Who Will Help The Igbos In Nigeria?

By Opinions | The Trent on April 16, 2015
Igbo Traditional Institutions, Emeka Umeagbalasi igbo stereotypes
An Igbo traditional dancer

by Sunday John

The recent verbal threat against Ndigbo in Lagos by the Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu, has brought to fore, once again, the endangered position of Igbos in Nigeria. It is foolhardy for anyone to pretend about this.

For the Igbos themselves, it is self-deception not to face the reality of this precarious situation. From the North, and now down to the West, hangs the foreboding cloud of hostility against them. It has always loomed, hence they are made scape goats at the slightest displeasure of their fellow Nigerians.

I am not an ethnic jingoist or apologist. I do not believe in ethnicism, as a matter of fact. I am not writing this article because I am an Igbo, not even because I am a Nigerian. I am writing it because I am a civilized human being who understand and believe in the ethos of a civilized society. The records of the victimization of Ndigbo since after the independence of Nigeria is very glaring.

From the holocaust against them in Northern Nigeria preceding the civil war and during the war to the abandoned property saga in Port Harcourt; from the infamous twenty pounds to every bank account holder irrespective of how much was in the account before the war to the post war intermittent riots and ensuing massacre and destruction of properties in the North, the Igbo man has been the sacrificial lamb of Nigeria. Count all that the Igbos have gone through in Nigeria and it will be surprising to many that they are still existing and surviving.

The only thing strange about the appalling utterances of the Oba is that it came in a democratic era and bothers on the inalienable rights of the people to vote according to their conscience. Voters are wooed by every legitimate means to vote for candidates in election but not by threat. A ruler at his level and in a cosmopolitan city like Lagos is expected to be up to date with prevailing social realities.

There is nothing wrong for him to summon Igbo leaders and solicit for their votes for his candidate, but to resort to threat belies all civilized norms. It smacks of primitivism for anyone, no matter how highly placed, to arrogate to himself the power of life and death. It is also shameful when a despot announces to the whole world that he single handedly picked a candidate for a position as big as a state governor. It makes mockery of APC’s internal democracy.

The so-called power brokers, it does not matter in what guise they operate, are the problems of Nigeria. They pretend to be benefactors but they are rather destroyers. What message was the Oba sending across to Nigerians with his unguarded utterances against a section of the country? He thought he was helping his candidate, but he was unknowingly hurting him, creating enemies for him, robbing him of some valuable votes. Some decent Lagosians who would have voted for him might have had a rethink. When a person in authority refuses to recognize the limit of his power, he becomes a nuisance to himself and others.

There are some questions that should beckon on us at this time. What happens to the polity if Sultan of Sokoto, Emir of Kano, Obi of Onitsha, Oba of Benin, Obong of Calabar and all notable traditional rulers in Nigeria issue the same threats to non-indigenes in their domain? War drums will sound everywhere and our democracy will become a charade.

Those who should be guardians to all Nigerians in their domain should not succumb to divisive tendencies to denigrate their offices. Covert partisanship is not known to traditional institutions like obaship.

The conspiracy of silence that has followed the threat of the Oba is quite worrisome. Since the hate speech was made last Sunday, I have been following Nigerian papers to see the reactions of people. Apart from Lagos state chapter of PDP, Femi Fani-Kayode, Ohaneze Youth Council and a section of the Catholic Church, no notable Nigerian or organisation said anything about it.

Newspapers and columnists have not commented on it. Shallow minds may give political or ethnic interpretation to it, but discerning minds will give realistic perspective to it. If Lagosians from other ethnic groups are silent because they are not involved, they are living in a fool’s paradise. It can be their turn tomorrow. If all Nigerians had read, or rather understood, the hand writing on the wall in 1966, the country wouldn’t have been at the crossroads it is today.

The ever loquacious APC media team is quiet because the Oba campaigned for them. Self-delusion, isn’t it? The bane of Nigerian politicians who think about themselves only and not about the country. They are insincere at keeping quiet about evil when it benefits them, forgetting that they may be at the receiving end in future.

This hate speech is not about Ndigbo, it is not about politics; it is about a Nazist, a Hitler endangering the rest of the world because of his obsession for superiority. This is about the tyranny of one man which can compromise our electoral process and the unity of the country. Nigerians should arise to condemn it so that it does not happen again.

I just imagine if this threat had emanated from an emir in the North or an Eze from the East,by now the papers would have been awash with reactions and calls for the arrest of the Emir or Eze. Where are the Lagos based human rights activists and lawyers? Where are the newspapers and their columnists? Where are the commentators on public affairs? Are the Igbos not part of Nigeria?

This conspiracy of silence over this “verbal holocaust” as someone called it, is a grim reminder of how endangered Ndigbo are in Nigeria. Sadly enough, they do not seem to realise this. The Oba feels threatened by a people that have come to own more than half of Lagos. It is only a blind man that stumbles twice over the same stone.

Sunday John is a social analyst.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


  1. I am not igbo and I agree with this writer. The igbo’s are an endangered tribe in Nigeria and should therefore start thinking of how to get independence. Minority tribes should also read the handwriting on the wall, what goes around, comes around.

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